Romans may have learned from Chinese Great Wall: archaeologists





The construction of the Roman Limes was quite possibly influenced by the concept of the Great Wall in China, though the two great buildings of the world are far away from each other, said archaeologists and historians.

Although there is no evidence that the two constructions had any direct connections, indirect influence from the Great Wall on the Roman Limes is certain, said Visy Zsolt, a professor with the Department of Ancient History and Archaeology of the University of Pecs in Hungary.

Visy made the remarks in an interview with Xinhua as he attended an international conference in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province recently, and his opinion was shared by some Chinese and foreign scholars.

The Roman Limes are Europe's largest archaeological monument, consisting of sections of the border line of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent in the 2nd century AD.

All together, the Limes stretch over 5,000 kilometers from the Atlantic coast of northern Britain, through Europe to the Black Sea, and from there to the Red Sea and across North Africa to the Atlantic coast.

Vestiges include the remains of the ramparts, walls and ditches, close to 900 watchtowers, 60 forts, and civilian settlements which accommodated tradesmen, craftsmen and others who served in the military.

The long distance and the great number of different peoples and cultures in Central Asia made any connections between the two ancient Roman and Chinese empires almost impossible.

However, curiosity and the challenge of covering great distances and seeing remote lands excited people in the past, Visy said.

"Indeed, more information about each other could be gained exactly in times as the one or the other became stronger and could start some programs toward the other," Visy said.

As for the Roman Empire, the silk trade started during the reign of Augustus. The trade became intensive both on the Silk Route and in the sea.

The Chinese chief commander Ban Chao led an army up the Caspian Sea in the 1st century AD and sent a delegation to the west to get information about Rome (called Daqin in Chinese).

Visy noted that there are a lot of similarities between the Roman Limes and the Great Wall. Both empires wanted to launch a strong barrier against "barbarians" and to prevent their invasions. In doing so, the Han Dynasty (226 BC-220 AD) built a continuous wall, but Rome built a wall only in special cases.




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Jim Williams - 12/21/2005

I am very skeptical of the claim of Chinese influence on Rome's border fortifications. To me it seems probable that each empire developed its own independent solution to its strategic needs. We should not assume influence just because these solutions had some similarities.

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