Σάββατο, 16 Δεκεμβρίου 2017

The Sino-Roman relations in Antiquity and the Roman descendants of the lost legion in modern China

Sino-Roman relations comprised the mostly indirect contact, flow of trade goods, information, and occasional travellers between the Roman Empire and Han Empire of China, as well as between the later Eastern Roman Empire and various Chinese dynasties. In classical sources, the problem of identifying references to ancient China is exacerbated by the interpretation of the Latin term Seres, whose meaning fluctuated and could refer to several Asian peoples in a wide arc from India over Central Asia to China. In Chinese records, the Roman Empire came to be known as Daqin or Great Qin. Daqin was directly associated with the later Fulin in Chinese sources, which has been identified by scholars such as Friedrich Hirth as the Byzantine Empire. Geographers in the Roman Empire such as Ptolemy provided a rough sketch of the eastern Indian Ocean, including the Malay Peninsula and beyond this the Gulf of Thailand and South China Sea. Ptolemy's Cattigara was most likely Óc Eo, Vietnam, where Antonine-era Roman items have been found. The first group of people claiming to be an ambassadorial mission of Romans to China was recorded as having arrived in 166 AD by the Book of the Later Han. The embassy came to Emperor Huan of Han China from "Andun" (Emperor Antoninus Pius or Marcus Aurelius Antoninus), "king of Daqin" (Rome). As Antoninus Pius died in 161 AD, leaving the empire to his adoptive son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and the envoy arrived in 166 AD, confusion remains about who sent the mission, as both emperors were named "Antoninus". The Roman mission came from the south (therefore probably by sea), entering China by the frontier of Rinan or Tonkin (present-day Vietnam). It brought presents of rhinoceros horns, ivory, and tortoise shell, probably acquired in Southern Asia. The text states that it was the first time there had been direct contact between the two countries. Yule speculated that the Roman visitors must have lost their original wares due to robbery or shipwreck and used the gifts instead, prompting Chinese sources to suspect them of withholding their more precious valuables. The historian Homer H. Dubs speculated in 1941 that Roman prisoners of war who were transferred to the eastern border of the Parthian empire might later have clashed with Han troops there. After a Roman army under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus decisively lost the battle of Carrhae in 54 BC, an estimated 10,000 Roman prisoners were dispatched by the Parthians to Margiana to man the frontier. The Battle of Carrhae was fought in 53 BC between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire near the town of Carrhae. The Parthian Spahbod ("General") Surena decisively defeated a numerically superior Roman invasion force under the command of Marcus Licinius Crassus. It is commonly seen as one of the earliest and most important battles between the Roman and Parthian empires and one of the most crushing defeats in Roman history. In a slaughter known as the battle of Carrhae the Romans lost nearly their entire army and Crassus was killed. The remaining 10,000 or so Roman legionaries were captured. The Parthians had a standard practice of employing captured soldiers as border guards. By transferring the 10,000 legionaries to the eastern borders they prevented any realistic chance of escape for the Romans who likely would have simply accepted their new lot in life. Some time later the nomadic Xiongnu chief Zhizhi established a state further east in the Talas valley, near modern-day Taraz. Dubs points to a Chinese account by Ban Gu of about "a hundred men" under the command of Zhizhi who fought in a so-called "fish-scale formation" to defend Zhizhi's wooden-palisade fortress against Han forces, in the Battle of Zhizhi in 36 BC. He claimed that this might have been the Roman testudo formation and that these men, who were captured by the Chinese, founded the village of Liqian (Li-chien, possibly from "legio") in Yongchang County. The Battle of Zhizhi was fought in 36 BC between the Han Dynasty and the Xiongnu chieftain Zhizhi Chanyu. Zhizhi was defeated and killed. The battle was probably fought near Taraz on the Talas River in eastern Kazakhstan, which makes it one of the westernmost points reached by a Chinese army. Record of the soldiers vanish for about 17 years when the battle of Zhizhi was fought as a Chinese army under Chen Tang assaulted a border town known today as Taraz, located in Kazakhstan near the border of Kyrgyzstan. Chinese historians note that the defenders held their shields in a “fish scale” pattern. The fight for the town was intense but the Chinese prevailed. The Chinese, under the Han Dynasty at this point, were near the height of their power; this battle represented their greatest Westward expansion and their victory was achieved in part because many of the locals defected to the Chinese out of fear. The Chinese were so impressed by these foreign warriors that they put them into another border town, this time guarding the border between China and Tibet as Tibetan raids were not uncommon around this time. Anywhere from 100 to 1,000 or more soldiers established themselves in this town that was known by the Chinese as Liqian/Li-Jien, which is pronounced as “legion”. These men were known to use tools such as tree trunk counterweight construction devices, and to reinforce the area into a square fort, a common site in the Mediterranean but quite rare in Asia. It seems these Romans lived peacefully in Liqian, and 2,000 years later we have DNA evidence that over 50% of the villagers in modern day Liqian have Caucasian ancestry including green and blue eyes, increased average height and other distinguishing characteristics such as distinctly Roman noses. The people in the small village are aware of and proud of their ancestry, celebrating the Romans and showing a fond interest in bulls, a heavily worshiped animal of Roman legions. Their “fish scale” formation at the battle is almost certainly the well-known Testudo formation, and the professional practice points to seasoned soldiers. These Romans would have had just each other for company through these many years so it’s understandable to think they had outstanding discipline and kept up their training, which would lead to them having such an impressive showing at Zhizhi that the Chinese used them to guard their own territory. The modern descendants of the Romans are decent evidence of the Roman’s presence but two other theories are possible. The town of Liqian was near the multicultural Silk Road, therefore the Caucasian DNA could be from travelers along the road. The other possibility is that the soldiers at the battle and settlers of the Chinese town were actually descendants of Alexander the Great’s army, though this seems even more unlikely as the events are multiple generations removed from Alexander’s campaigns and the army at Zhizhi was clearly fighting in a professional and western way. Genetic testing of villagers in a remote part of China has shown that nearly two thirds of their DNA is of Caucasian origin, lending support to the theory that they may be descended from a 'lost legion' of Roman soldiers. Tests found that the DNA of some villagers in Liqian, on the fringes of the Gobi Desert in north-western China, was 56 per cent Caucasian in origin. Many of the villagers have blue or green eyes, long noses and even fair hair, prompting speculation that they have European blood. A local man, Cai Junnian, is nicknamed by his friends and relatives Cai Luoma, or Cai the Roman, and is one of many villagers convinced that he is descended from the lost legion. Archeologists plan to conduct digs in the region, along the ancient Silk Route, to search for remains of forts or other structures built by the fabled army.
Πηγή : https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Roman_relations

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