Romans in China?




 
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April 18th, 2009  
Del Boy
 

Topic: Romans in China?


Did the Romans ever make it as far east as China?
April 18th, 2009  
Jilly
 
 
That's an interesting question. I don't think so, but I'm no expert.
April 18th, 2009  
bren122
 
 
the question might be better if it were asked did the Chinese make it to Rome? there is some sketchy evidence that Chinese serving various Indian potentates in various capacities steadily moved west in pursuit of greater opportunities; that some of these were captured by Persians and Parthians and that they were subsequently sent to Rome as prisoners, slaves,etc. there is more solid evidence, but hardly conclusive, that both China and Rome attempted missions on several occasions. they were certainly aware of each other as Chinese silk was to be found in Rome, eventually to be overtaken by Persian silk apparently acquired by siezing silk workers from the Indians who had in one form or another taken them from the nomads who raided into the Chinese Empire. the various trails always seem to break down in India and Parthia where modern scholars have yet to determine the language(s) used by the two groups. oh for a Corbisier when you need one!
the above information is from memory but i can reference the sources in a day or two if you would like.
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April 19th, 2009  
Del Boy
 
Your memory serves you well it seems!

The Roman Empire never extended beyond the conquests of Trajan AD 98-117 into Parthia. However, in AD166 Marcus Aurelius sent a delegation to Luoyang to greet the chinese Emperor Huan, an event recorded in Chinese archives.

Tradewise, Chinese silk is said to have been recovered from excavations at Cochester UK. But the most intriguing story is the defeat of Marcus Licinius Crassus by the Parthians. 10,000 Roman soldiers captured at the battle, who included auxilieries from Gaul, had disappeared when a peace treaty was secured with Parthia in 20BC.

But in 36BC, in Uzbekistan, the Chinese captured prisoners at a Hun city called ZHizhi who seem to have had the fighting characteristics associated with the Roman army. Could these have been the remnants of of the Roman soldiers lost in 53BC?

The Chinese took some prisoners and settled them in a place called Li-jien, which sounds somewhat like legion.This has been tentatively identified as the place now known as Zhelaizhai, on the basis of Roman-style fortifications and other finds.

Perhaps this might eventually be confirmed by DNA analysis of local inhabitants which reveals European characteristics.
April 20th, 2009  
A Can of Man
 
 
Hmm 20 odd years later? Considering that people of that day didn't live very long it's doubtful it was the same people. Perhaps prisoners of officer rank were used to teach Roman tactics.
April 20th, 2009  
Del Boy
 
Yes, my reference was from a Time Team response to the question, and, as you can see, does include awaiting confirmation and 'tentative' on the theoretical aspect.

Nevertheless, I found the whole quite interesting and hoped we might be able to add to it with our world-wide spread of myth and legend etc. etc.
April 20th, 2009  
LeEnfield
 
 
There was nothing to stop a trader from Rome travelling the silk road right into the heart of China. People of all nations travelled that road and there could have easily been an exchange of ideas along the way
April 20th, 2009  
Del Boy
 
But not The Roman Empire it seems.
April 21st, 2009  
A Can of Man
 
 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LeEnfield
There was nothing to stop a trader from Rome travelling the silk road right into the heart of China. People of all nations travelled that road and there could have easily been an exchange of ideas along the way
Bandits, pirates, nomads, thieves, corrupt government officials of local provinces...
April 22nd, 2009  
bren122
 
 
sorry for the delay in the sources; work, work, work.

Cathedral, Forge & Waterwheel by Frances & Joseph Gies- a general discussion in the introduction deals with the transfer of technology between China and Europe (Greeks and Romans) from Ancient times, with the role of Persia and Parthia and India discussed. a chapter on clocks, of all things, also makes mention of scholarly exchanges between the West and China on astronomical matters, with the spread of years including Rome, but whether Rome was in fact the source of this exchange is not mentioned.

The History of the Ancient World by Susan Wise Bauer- numerous references to various exchanges between Roma and Persia and Parthia on the one side and India and China on the other. Most of the information cited on the exchanges between India and Persia and Parthia are based on archeological finds and supposition. she also gives several references to a number of planned expeditions from both Rome and China, but fails to mention if any even started much less made it. She does, however, detail the military efforts of various Chinese emperors to protect the trade routes as far west as their military power allowed. this would suggest that trade, at least, between the East and West had become important to China.

There is a periodical in Australia called Quadrant that deals with a number of issues but also includes some preliminary historical works by Australian scholars- mostly thoughts in an early stage of development. I can not find the issue i was looking for but it was definitely from 2006 and it discussed the fact that the West and China both had access to works by Aristotle but apparently not by Zeno/ Xeno in thier original Ancient Greek- possibly a legacy of Alexander in India/ Afghanistan. (Bauer suggests that earlier Greek mercenaries established the first Indian kingdoms) however recent evidence indicated that a Spanish monk discovered Zeno's work in Latin, but that the Chinese had not translated it. as the only reference came from the monk's personal account (written in the 1800's) it was deemed interesting but not conclusive proof of regular official exchanges between Rome and China.

HAL Fisher and John Julius Norwich both make oblique references to exchanges between the two empires, but this may be nothing more than a "it seems likely that..."
 


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