In 1957, American sinologist Homer H. Dubs published A Roman City in China, a book detailing the academic’s theory that a group of Roman soldiers worked as border guards for the Western Han Dynasty at the empire’s western edge. These ancient expatriates, Dubs suggests, were survivors of Rome’s catastrophic loss to Parthia at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE, afterwards moving to the eastern front of the Parthian Empire before eventually finding their way into battle with Chinese troops. In defeat, Dubs claims, the out-of-place legionaries were moved by the Western Han Dynasty to “a specially created frontier city, to which the Chinese of course gave their name for Rome, which was Lijien (now Liqian).”
Today, Liqian is a small village of earth-rammed homes located in Gansu province and, in the decades since the publication of A Roman City in China, Dubs’ theory has led researchers, archeologists and even geneticists to visit the town, all looking to answer the same tantalizing questions: did a Roman legion settle in ancient China? And, if so, are those living in Liqian today the descendants of these lost troops?
In this week’s episode of the China Untold podcast, host Matt Bossons explores the theory in detail and attempts to answer these fascinating questions.
For more information on China Untold, visit the podcast’s official website.
The China Untold podcast is a bi-weekly program that aims to introduce listeners to lesser-known stories from the Middle Kingdom. From urban legends and extinct religions to the PRC’s role in the global quest to discover extraterrestrial civilizations, this podcast is your essential guide to the weird, wonderful and mysterious aspects of the world’s most populous nation.
[Cover image via Wikimedia]