View Full Version : Descendants of Alexander the Great’s army fought in ancient China

31-10-12, 17:17

A recent article is examining the possibility that a contingent of soldiers from the Mediterranean fought at the Battle of Talas River in 36 BC, but instead of being Roman forces, new research suggests they may have been descendants of the armies of Alexander the Great.

Christopher A. Matthew’s proposes this idea in his article, “Greek Hoplite in an Ancient Chinese Siege”, which appears in the latest issue of Journal of Asian History. It re-examines a theory put forward more than 70 years ago by Homer H. Dubs, in which the historian believed that Roman legionaries were serving as mercenaries in a city besieged by Han Chinese nearly 2,000 miles to the east of Roman territory. When the city fell, these men were captured and take east and eventually settled in a town on the fringes to the Han Empire.

Historians have since been debating this possibility, which is based on surviving Chinese accounts of an event that happened in 36 BC. In that year, Ch’en T’ang, a military official in the western frontier provinces of the Han Empire, set out with an army on a 1000-mile journey to the east to confront a Hsiung-nu warlord named Chih-chih. This warlord had founded a city on the Talas River, in what is now Kyrgyzstan, and was threatening the disrupt trade along the lucrative Silk Road. When Ch’en T’ang arrived at the city, the accounts said he observed:
[...] more than a hundred foot-soldiers, who had come to the gate in a “fish-scale” formation, [who] were practicing military drill.

After intense fighting, Chih-chih was killed and beheaded, and the city fell. Chinese accounts state that 145 men were “captured” while more than 1,000 “surrendered” and that these men were taken by Ch’en T’ang back to China, where they were settled in a town named Li-chien, which a generation later was renamed Chieh-lu (which can be translated as “prisoners captured in the taking of the city”).

A major component to Dubs theory was that ‘fish-scale formation’ being used by these troops corresponded to testudo formation used by Roman soldiers. Furthermore, the word Li-chien, which was first used for the town where the defeated soldiers were settled, can mean Rome in Chinese.

Matthew, a lecturer at Australian Catholic University and a leading authority on ancient Greek warfare, believes that the ‘fish-scale formation’ corresponds with how Greek hoplites fought. He writes:
It is only the large aspis carried by the classical Greek hoplite that can be used to create a formation which resembles the overlapping scales of a fish. When standing in a close-order formation of 45 cm per man, a shield with an average diameter of 90 cm (as the aspis possessed) will sufficiently extend to either side of the space that each man occupies, and so effectively overlap with those on either side. When the right edge of the aspis is presented forward and then pulled back on top of the shield carried by the man to the right, this creates a strong, interlocked, shield-wall. The uniform manner in which the shields interlock strongly resembles the overlapping scales of a fish.

Matthew goes on to suggest that the soldiers using Greek hoplite tactics may have been descendants of soldiers that served Alexander the Great as he campaigned in Asia between the years 330 BC and 328 BC. During his campaigns in Asia, Alexander settled several garrisons, which he named Alexandria (as he did with the more famous city in Egypt). Matthew adds, “it is reasonably safe to conclude that the descendants of many of the mercenary garrisons and settlements which Alexander had established in the area would have also continued the Greco-Macedonian style of life, including their methods of warfare.”

The idea that the soldiers of Alexander the Great’s armies remained in Asia is not new. Matthew points to oral traditions among the Kalash, a people living in northern Pakistan. One of their legends state:
Long, long ago, before the days of Islam, Sikander e Aazem came to India. The two horned one whom you British people call Alexander the Great. He conquered the world, and was a very great man, brave and dauntless and generous to his followers. When he left to go back to Greece, some of his men did not wish to go back with him but preferred to stay here. Their leader was a general called Shalakash. With some of his officers and men, he came to these valleys and settled here and took local women, and here they stayed. We, the Kalash [...] are the descendants of their children. Still some of our words are the same as theirs, our music and our dances too; we worship the same gods. This is why we believe the Greeks are our first ancestors.

Another piece of evidence that supports Matthew’s theory is that while the word Li-chien does refer to Rome or Roman, it also can mean Alexandria. The historian concludes:
The true identity of the men in the strange formation before the walls of the city on the Talas River in 36 BC may never be fully established due to the limited source data that is available to researchers. Historians examining this strangely fascinating chapter of history can only deal in probabilities rather than absolutes. With the multiple interpretive possibilities that the name Li-chien could refer to either an “Alexandria” or to “Rome” or to some region of the Roman Empire or merely to some region of the non-Chinese west (which would include the regions of Sogdiana), the origins of these men cannot be ascertained with any certainty and the preference for one location over the other will ultimately come down to a matter of personal interpretation of the sources on this aspect.

31-10-12, 22:17
Alexander's army reached Uzbekistan which very near China so it is more plausible than Romans being involved in China at that time period. The Han period is way before Marco Polo who traveled to China during Mongol rule under Kublai Khan.

31-10-12, 23:19
Makedonian coins have found in China in Yunan, and some remnants of Emporium style cities,
there is an unatested theory about Naxi tribe in China as allies of Alexander.
Yet some traces can create theories, but sometimes if documents are few or poor remain as possible to had happened.

Historically Ευθυδημος (Euthedemos) tried to explore Turkestan and colonize the desert,

Στραβων (Strabo) mentions that Greeks reach a nation called Φρυνοι Fruni.

there is a mention in chinese documents that Greeks visit Huan-Ti emperror, and manage to reach Vietnam.

a captain named Ευπαλος (Eupalos) at 14 BC is mention to travel with a Roman captain sended by Romans so to establish connection with Chinese.

there is a mention about 138 AD by a chinese historian that chinese ambassadors travel reach Sella (greece)
the History say that this man named like Sima Kian (or Ziang Kian) or Quan escape from Huns and pass the desert (tacla Makan) so to be accepted by the Danaans (? δαναοι?), for some shearchers
Danaans are the Greeks of Bactrian.

the description that Sima kian gives is that these tribe had no chinese or Turkish charceristic (white people, no narrow eyes etc) they were Horse breaders and had 30 000 army. and their cities architecture and statues send us to Greco-Persian style.

according the geography of Ziang kian the city was in the passage of Pamir, possibly the one is known as Alexandreia the last (Εσχατη).

found and posses 2 000 scripts about the Silk roads in which Greek cities in Bactria and Sogdia are mentioned,

some archaiologists believe that flying horses and some other figures in chinese culture are after the exchange through Merchant with the Greeks.

an Interesting case is the excavations at a city called Νιγια Nigia Niwia (something like 640 km south east of Kashgar.
the wall paintings show Homeric poems scenes, and the city shows Makedonian symbols and furniture architecture. and Mycenean style decoration (maianders)
Pity that excavations stop.

03-11-12, 01:00
Long, long ago, before the days of Islam, Sikander e Aazem came to India.

Most scientists and anthropologists dispute the legend: No genetic ties between Kalasha and Greeks have been discovered, and scientists believe the Kalasha are Indo-Aryans whose religion has some commonalities with pre-Zorastrian Iranians.


There is controversy regarding the connection between the Kalash and "Greek" heritage. Hmm, the people do not take into account that Alexander's army were mostly Macedonians and Anatolians. Since Alexander, Anatolia and Greece went through tremendous changes such as the Roman Empire that mixed people and with its collapse Slavs moved into the Balkans and there was the Ottoman Empire which employed Janissaries who were from the Balkans whose parents were so poor that they sold their children to the Turks so the genetics in this part of the world went through a great upheaval. In Afghanistan since Alexander, the Kushans conquered Afghanistan and India and controlled the Silk Road. Then the Mughals took over and finally the British. The Hg of the Kalash people are R1a, G, (H, L from the Harappa Civilization), J shows maybe the Macedonians of the period were composed of R1a, G and maybe J. The lack of E shows there were no Greek soldiers.

A genetic study published led by Firasat (2007) on Kalash individuals found high and diverse frequencies of :Haplogroup (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup) L3a (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_L_%28Y-DNA%29) (22.7%), H1* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_H_%28Y-DNA%29) (20.5%), R1a (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1a_%28Y-DNA%29) (18.2%), G (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_G_%28Y-DNA%29) (18.2%), J2 (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_J2_%28Y-DNA%29) (9.1%), R* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R_%28Y-DNA%29) (6.8%), R1* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1_%28Y-DNA%29) (2.3%), and L* (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_L_%28Y-DNA%29) (2.3%).[39] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalash_people#cite_note-Firasat2007-38) Haplogroup L (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_L_%28Y-DNA%29), Haplogroup H (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_H_%28Y-DNA%29), and Haplogroup R1a (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haplogroup_R1a_%28Y-DNA%29) are thought to have originated from prehistoric (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prehistoric) South Asia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Asia).[40] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalash_people#cite_note-39)


04-11-12, 07:17
Janisaries or Yenitsari (Γενιτσαροι) were not sold children, but blood taxation,
according area was the 1rst or the second boy of each family,
it was a blood tax in areas were no islam expand.

the case of Kallasha as culture shows clear Makedonian, and less South Greek influence,
but also mix from East part of minor Asia,
and mainly a language which sounds is more closer to Indo-Aryan than Indo-Iranian, which is an evidence indicates areas West of Persia. and non Persian.

there are 2 theories developed about their ethnogenesis,

1. is connecting them with Alexanders army as rebels who enter India, but after the Indus river battle took the mountains,

2. is connecting them with Seleukids (Σελευκος), the Makedonian rulers of Syria.

surely the female population is mostly local and Indian.

06-11-12, 00:00
it was a blood tax

Thanks for correcting me. It seems likely Alexander could be Hg R1a.

07-11-12, 22:24
Greco-Buddhism practised by Kushans