Romans Everywhere! - Even in China?!

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Romans Everywhere! - Even in China?!

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Fri Jan 21, 2005 4:33 pm

Avete Amici,

At the "who's reading what" thread we already started this discussion, where the Romans could have been to proposedly. I have heard that a Roman delegation made it even to China, but don't know if they ever came back.

Mari, you already dug out loads of info on that topic at the other thread. Maybe you could post it here as well because I assume that some others might be also interested in this discussion and haven't seen it at the other thread.
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Postby Q Valerius on Fri Jan 21, 2005 11:57 pm

I do recall that about the Romans in China, and something else about Mediterranean blood mixed in Japan? You know, dark curly hair... I wonder what the human mapping genome has brought.
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Delivery!

Postby Aldus Marius on Sat Jan 22, 2005 9:41 am

Ave, amica...

--or should that be, "Ma'am, Centurion Marius reports as ordered!!" For I promised you my previous notes on this topic if you made a separate thread for it, and you have...so here they are. (In the Air Force, I began as a supply trooper...!)

Posted: Mon Jan 17, 2005 6:55 pm Post subject: Here's One!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ave iterum, amica!

I've got just the thing: Mortimer Adler's Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers. (I may be a little shaky on the author's last name, but that is the title.) There's a Penguin Books edition, so it should be readily available. He talks about Romans and people who had dealings with Romans in Persia (Iraq), India, way-north Scotland, and other places.

The Romans-in-China thing has been going around for quite some time; I believe we even have a thread here about it, or it might have been mentioned as part of the 'News Flash!' topic (in which we share archaeological discoveries). The version I got (back when the stars were coalescing) has a few thousand survivors of the Legions of Crassus being taken captive after their defeat at Carrhae. A cohort or two were sold as slaves by the Parthians to peoples further east. And further. And further...("My, what an interesting souvenir you've got there, Chandra!")

Fast-forward about two hundred years. A certain Chinese warlord spanked a certain other Chinese warlord on the Mongolian border. In the process of kicking over everything he could (they're very thorough, these Chinese warlords), he encountered a town, all laid out in straight lines (hard to do anywhere near Mongolia!), whose inhabitants were definitely not Chinese or even Asian, but who were damn good builders if I do say so m'self.

The name of the town was Li-jien.

That's also the Chinese name for Rome. China was trading with Rome (indirectly, over the Silk Road) right up until the time of the Triumvirate or a little before, so they'd have a name for it. Then the Chinese Emperor (unsure which dynasty...Han?) decided he wasn't going to send any more money or goods to anybody...and it was the loss of this income, as much as anything, that made financial trouble for the late Republic.

I've read, also, that a Chinese delegation was sent Way West around Marcus Aurelius' time. They were supposed to be sounding out territories for conquest. They called it quits less than 500 miles from the border of the Roman Province of Mesopotamia...

...Least that's what I heard, as best as I remember it, which ain't good. The essence is accurate, but don't quote me on any figures!

In amicitia,
_____
Marius


Posted: Tue Jan 18, 2005 6:13 am Post subject: Erratum

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Salvete iterum,

A correction: I have since unearthed my copy of Rome Beyond the Imperial Frontiers; the author's name is Sir Mortimer Wheeler.

My apologies for any prior confusion...
_____
Marius


Posted: Fri Jan 21, 2005 9:06 am Post subject: Li-jienaries

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Salvete iterum!

I was working in my Boxen today and, quite by accident, I came upon my source for the Li-jien story. It's in a book called East and West by one C. Northcote Parkinson, published by London's John Murray Press in 1963.

As I thought might have happened, I have rather badly misremembered the story as recounted in this book. Parkinson's account (which he in turn got from a Homer H. Dubs) has the Chinese warlord, Yen-shun, capturing the town of Jzh-jzh from a rival chieftain in 38BC.

"Of the prisoners taken," (says Parkinson) "145 received special treatment. They were settled in a newly-founded frontier city called Li-jien; the Chinese name for Rome. There can be little doubt that these soldiers were Legionaries taken prisoner at Carrhae who had served afterwards in the Parthian armies and then came to enter the service of Jzh-jzh. As Dubs writes in conclusion: 'The presence of Romans in ancient China indicates how small the world actually was, even in those days.'

A little further down Parkinson adds:

"They were connected by the Trade Route and the fact that Mithridates had talked with ambassadors from China as well as Rome would seem to suggest that more direct contact may have taken place. Roman jugglers reached China if no other free Romans did, and Parthian envoys went both East and West. Indirectly, at least, Rome and China were in touch."

So there it is. Li-jien ('legion'!) was supposedly founded by survivors of Carrhae after a Chinese general made their lives just a bit more interesting, rather than him tripping over their descendents a couple hundred years later. Can't you just see those poor Romans, taking cover when the crossbow bolts started flying? "I don't know what that is, but it don't look friendly and it's headed this way!!" (ducks) >({|;-)

Of course, I'd give my fangs for a look at Dubs' work. And where did Parkinson get the bit about Roman jugglers? And other sources say the whole thing's been disproved, and I haven't seen any of that work either. So as far as I'm concerned...? It is still within the realm of possibility. Very exciting possibility!

In fide (and No, there is no separate thread on this subject; I looked...),
_____
Marius


But of course, now there is...! >({|;-)

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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sun Feb 06, 2005 1:17 pm

Since we started some time ago the discussion about to where the Roman have been I found now an article in the December/January issue of a German re-encactor magazine called "Karfunkel"which deals with this topic. Because their articles on history are well researched I will give you a summary of this particular one:

Romans in America?
In February 2000 a article was published in "New Sientist" dealing with a Roman artifact, a bearded terracotta head found 1933 in a tomb of the pre-hispanic settlement Tecaxic-Calixtlahuaca 40 miles north-west from Mexico City.The anthropologist Roman Hristov took a sample from this head which is now in a museum in Mexico City. The result was that the head is really 1800 years old which corresponds with the estimation of two classical archaeologists, who dated the head of the 2nd to 3rd century CE. Other objects found in that tomb were much younger, but date shortly before the Spanish conquest.

Due to the fact that the found was sealed under three floors Hristov sees this as the proof of pre-Hispanic contacts between the Old and the New World. The archaeologist David Grove of the University of Illinois agrees that the head is Roman but assumes it could originate from a ship wreck at the coast. Trade connections therefore hadn't been necessarily existed. The publisher of "Current Archaeology", Andrew Selkirk, doubts that the Roman ever reached Mexico City because he thinks they even never reached the Canary Islands. He made this statement before the recent Roman founds on Lanzarote were known.

What happened with the head in the 1300 years between its manufacture and the funeral? The ship-wreck-theory would help because it is unlikely that this head would be passed on from generation to generation, but this couldn't be excluded as well. Another rumor was that they put the head there at the 1933 excavation to play a prank on the leader of the excavation.

It is only very little known that in North America ancient coins, especially Roman ones are found. J.F. Epstein though collected 40 coin founds and assumes that they were all lost by modernday collectors. W. Cook doubts this theory because on the Westcoast aren't any coins found. But there aren't any treasure founds known in America.

A though controversial exception might be the hoard found at the "Great Gully Site" in Venezuela in the years 1928-1929 under the direction of C Follett and G. Selden. C.Follett describes esp. one coin as a gift to a pre-Columbian grave the Epstein remarks that the "Cayuga Mission" of Fr. René Menard (1605-1661) was only two miles away and suspects that the frère could've given the coin to the Indians. But why should a missionary pass a Roman coin on to the Indians?

All pros and cons have their rights. Why should have a Roman ship deviated so far off from its course? It could have been on its way to the Provincia Britannia or to the Canary Islands.
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Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Sun Feb 06, 2005 1:26 pm

To complete this I would like to point out that at the "Newsflash" thread is a discussion about the Romans in Brazil.
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What the Man Said

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Feb 07, 2005 6:18 am

Ave amica...

Perhaps we can get Tiberius Draco to 'port the original Brazilian article over to this thread...? Then I could 'port mine, and so could anyone else who contributed and who doesn't mind.

If not, I can post a summary of that discussion...

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Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Feb 07, 2005 7:32 am

Avete iterum!

And now to address Domina Aelia's actual article:

I have always, as indicated in one or two other spots on this Board, been very sceptical of any claims of a Roman presence, even an accidental one, in the Americas. Finding Roman artifacts is one thing; it's a long way from finding Romans. Tell ya why...

As some of the scholars have noted, Roman coins and minor artworks show up on this side of the Water all the time. They are more likely to be of modern or pre-modern origin than otherwise. I myself lost a medallion of Hadrian in the sands of Maui five years back. I'm still waiting for someone to find it, and maybe I'll even get a good 'Romans In Hawai'i!' frenzy out of it. (Would that count as a 'West Coast find', amica?)

Hey, I don't do Ludi but...I still like a good show!

So: Clumsy collectors drop them. Or Spanish missionaries run out of beads and trinkets to trade with the Indians, and go for the shiny stuff. Or maybe they deliberately let the Indians, once the latter are on their way to being properly 'civilized', use the coins as examples of what a minted coin ought to look like, so the natives can either start producing coins for Spain or minting their own. (Thus putting their economy on a radically-different footing...something the missionaries would have encouraged.)

This is not actually very far-fetched. In England at about the same time, a fellow named Becker was in a whole lotta trouble with the Queen for his exquisite forgeries of Roman coinage. He made them, he said, out of an appreciation of Roman coins as works of art, infinitely to be preferred to the uninspired numismatics of his own day. His copies nowadays are worth nearly as much as the real things!

"But," many say, "a Roman ship could have been blown off-course." Bene, that's the one I always hear. But a study of the prevailing winds and currents off the Atlantic coast of North Africa does much to discourage this notion. A Roman ship could have reached the Canaries; but much further southwest and you run into the Doldrums, a wide zone of calm which was an effective barrier to navigation right up until the Age of Steam. The currents are not much more cooperative; the strongest one in the area trends southward and hugs the African coast, and the southwesterly current only goes that way for part of the year--and even then it is too weak to carry a ship clear across the Atlantic.

And then, too...if all these Roman ships are wrecking themselves off the coasts of Florida, the Yucutan, Cuba and Brazil...why are we only finding scattered trinkets, and not the wrecks? All those people who go diving at these places, including deep-sea diving...and nobody's spotted anything?

And then, three: Romans are not exactly low-archaeological-impact people. If a Roman settlement of any size ever existed out here, wouldn't they have left a bit more of a footprint on the landscape? --Even a cluster of grass huts meant to house a handful of stranded sailors for the one lifetime they expected to survive in the New World would share certain hallmarks with Romulus' hut and the milecastles on Hadrian's Wall. There would have been a pomoerium. The goatpaths would have met at right angles. There would have been a shrine of some sort, perhaps to whichever God they credited for having survived the trip, and the bones of sacrificial beasts all collected in a pile. A clever canal arrangement to bring in fresh water? A system for dividing the land? --All these are not unknown in a community of dirt-grubbing farmers. But hardly anybody but a Roman would think to do them that way.

These things leave footprints. Even the postholes for the huts. Why haven't we found them?

Now I'll flip the equation end-over-end; it doesn't add up that way, either...

-- If Rome had actually established trade with Mesoamerica (or if an archaeologist wanted to prove they had)...wouldn't it be a good idea to look for Mayan, Brazilian, etc. wares in Roman places? (BTW, most of the great Native-American civilizations reached their apex long after Rome fell...)

-- These terracotta heads: Was Rome even still making those at the time these voyages supposedly took place? I've been under the impression that none but the oldest statues of Gods were still made of this material. It would have been much more common in household objects used by the everyday classes. What role in such a household would a terracotta head play, and why would one get put on a ship headed for far away? Was it some sailor's personal lar, perhaps? Something for a child to play with? Was it hollow, maybe meant to put things in?

So...I, of all Romans, would love to hear that there were every any Romans in the Americas. However, my history with these articles is that they do not address these things. Until they do, I shall find it very difficult to take their claims seriously.

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Postby Aulus Dionysius Mencius on Mon Feb 07, 2005 11:16 am

Salve, mi Mari et alii

I must say that I share in Marius' scepticism. But I will adress it from the Chinese point of view, since their presence was spoken of as well.

Like Marius, I find it hard to believe that, when artifacts are found, the assumption that whoever made them, must have been there themselves, is an automatically and irevokeable conclusion.

I would like to refer to the book '1421, how the Chinese discovered America' by Gavin Menzies. Artifacts of presumeably Chinese origin were found in Amerca, so Menzies states that the Chinese were there, and even more: they were the ones that discovered America. Eat that, Columbus!

It was a matter of interest to me before publication of said book, because I found some recurring patterns in Chinese bronze art and the Precolumbian societies' artistic accomplishments.

But they are due to a shared animistic belief, not in actual contact. I have talked about this with several of my teachers, and they without exeption said that Menzies book was pseudo science. Complete nonsense, even. It makes good selling statistics, but that is all there is to it.

Also, the presence of Romans in China, and if they were actually there, their importance, was met with scepticism.

Some sources have been mentioned in this thread, so I will try to get my hands on at least one of them to see what they have to say.

This reminds me of a private discussion I had with one of the members about Greek presence in China, or in Central Asia. Said person stated that the giant buddhas of Bamiyan, which were blown of the face of the earth by the Tailiban, were actually constructed by Greek sculptors, or at least with their assistance. An archeology professor, specialised in Central Asia, told me that there may have been Greek influence through the Greek-Bactrian Empire, of which I was aware, but that actual presence of the Greeks has yet to be attested, let alone their part in building the Bamiyan Buddhas...

My point is that speculation must never be taken for facts.

As a last remark, please remeber that I do not mean to chide or anything :wink: . I have my opinion, others are entitled to have theirs.

Freedom of speech, no?

Alright, I am off.

Iubeo aliquem valere

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And then again...

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Feb 07, 2005 11:47 am

Salvete iterum!

I am reminded by mi Mencius' post that one can also go too far in the assertion of non-relevance. No one claims that there was a Far-Eastern presence in Roman Britain; yet nobody knew what to make of the Corbridge armor finds, either, until a specialist in Japanese armor--which was also often constructed this way--took a casual look; saw much more than he missed; and gave us the now-accepted reconstruction of the lorica segmentata.

If the tabloid-writers had their way, the similarity in armor construction alone would be proof positive that Rome and Japan were doing a brisk little business in personal-protection gear, and we'd all be on our hands and knees looking for Damascus-steel gladii. Well, like I said, no one claims this. But that doesn't mean someone from another discipline might not come in real handy when the profs in your own field are trying to figure out something the likes of which they've never seen before...!

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Re: What the Man Said

Postby Tiberius Dionysius Draco on Mon Feb 07, 2005 5:35 pm

Salve Alde,

Aldus Marius wrote:Perhaps we can get Tiberius Draco to 'port the original Brazilian article over to this thread...? Then I could 'port mine, and so could anyone else who contributed and who doesn't mind.


Right away:

Tiberius Draco wrote:Salvete,
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

- Titillating Trivia -
"The First Europeans to Reach the New World"
By Gary Fretz


Q. With all of the new technology available today, we should be able to know precisely when the first European ships reached the New World. What is the latest news? It was a group of Vikings who made landfall around 900 A.D., right?

A. Wrong! It is now confirmed that a Roman ship reached Brazil around the year 19 B.C.! Here is the whole story ...

Two thousand years ago, the most valuable commodity "known to man" was salt. This is because most fresh meats and fish were preserved by packing in salt. The Romans had a large salt production facility on Ilha do Sal (Salt Island) in the Cape Verde Islands, which are 350 miles off the coast of West Africa. This location is directly in the path of the hot, dry winds of the Sahara Desert, which can easily blow 60 knots from the east. It is believed that this Roman merchant vessel was heading for Salt Island to pick up a load of salt and to provision the local army garrison when a fierce Sahara storm started. Roman ships were clumsy by modem standards and would have no choice but to lower their sails and to run with the winds to avoid capsizing. The Sahara winds can blow for many days and the Salt Ship was carried to Guanabara Bay (near Rio de Janeiro) in Brazil. In the middle of the Bay is a large submerged rock lying 3' below the surface called Xareu Rock. The ship appears to have been travelling at a high rate of speed when she struck the rock. She broke into two pieces and settled in 75' of water near the base of the rock.

In the late 1970's, a local fisherman using nets around Xareu Rock kept "catching" some large (3' tall), heavy earthen jars which tore his nets. He mistakenly thought these were "macumba" jars, which are used in local voodoo ceremonies and then thrown into the sea. So, as the jars were hauled up, he smashed them with a hammer and threw the small pieces back into the water in an attempt to prevent tearing his nets in the future. If he had only known what treasures he was destroying! In recent years, a scuba diver was spear fishing around Xareu Rock and found eight similar jars that he took home. He sold six jars to tourists before the Brazilian police arrested him with the two remaining jars for illegally selling ancient artifacts. Archaeologists immediately identified these as Roman amphorae of the 1st century B.C These containers were originally used to carry water, grain, salted fish, meat, olives, olive oil and other foods necessary to feed the ship's crew and to provision Roman outposts. One of the world's foremost authorities on Roman shipwrecks, Robert Marx, found more artifacts and confirmed this as an authentic Roman shipwreck. The world's foremost authority on Roman amphorae analyzed the clay in the jars and confirmed that these were manufactured at Kouass which was a Roman seaport, 2000 years ago, on the coast of modem-day Morocco. The Institute of Archaeology of the University of London performed thermo luminescence testing (which is a more accurate dating process than Carbon 14 dating) and the date of the manufacture was determined to be around 19 B.C. Many more amphorae and some marble objects were recovered, as well as a Roman bronze fibula (a clasp device used to fasten a coat or shirt).

So, why haven't we heard more about this fantastic find? One would think this news would make headlines around the world... The short answer is "politics". At the time the amphorae were confirmed to be "Roman", the large Italian faction in Brazil were extremely excited about this news. The Italian ambassador to Brazil notified the Brazilian government that, since the Romans were the first to "discover" Brazil, then all Italian immigrants should be granted immediate citizenship. There are a large number of Italian immigrants in Brazil and the government has created a tedious and costly citizenship application procedure for Italians that does not apply to Portuguese immigrants. The Brazilian government would not give in and the Italians in Brazil staged demonstrations. In response, the Brazilian government ordered all civilians off the recovery project and censored further news about the wreck hoping to diffuse the civil unrest. The Brazilian Navy continues to excavate the wreck in secret. We only know about it because of what Robert Marx learned before he was dismissed and what the University of London has leaked. This shipwreck may help explain some other intriguing Brazilian finds:
- Several hundred ancient Roman silver and bronze coins were unearthed near Recife, Brazil. Did these once belong to the castaways of the Salt Ship?
- A tribe of white, mostly blonde haired, blue-eyed "Indians" has been found in a remote region of the Amazon jungle. Could these be the descendants of the shipwrecked sailors of the Xareu wreck? DNA analysis of these "Indians" will surely bring some interesting facts to light!

Stay tuned for more "Titillating Trivia&".....
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Did anybody else know about this? It is quite shocking, no? Not that it changes much though, it's as the title says: a trivia.


original link

I'm posting the rest of that discussion as well:

Aldus Marius wrote:
Well, well, now I know. I'd been hearing bits and pieces of the Romans-in-Brazil story over the last decade, but never seen it all put together. I will reserve final judgement until I am more certain of where these salt-works were exactly--I don't think the ancient Romans ever reached south of the Sahara except by accident, and I have trouble picturing a wind north of that great desert that would blow anybody south and west. But then, I am no sailor. It's something to check out.

The greatest weak spot is in the description of the so-called "Indian" tribe. There are far more Asian Indians fitting that description than there are either South American Indians or Romans. Romans were only rarely "white, blonde and blue-eyed", if at all (no matter what Hollywood says). Blondeness in particular was considered so exotic that there got to be a brisk little industry in the City in the shorn locks of captured German women. To be blonde has been desireable for many millennia now; a thing that would not be true if it were very common. But the Roman phenotype in general trended towards olive skin, dark hair and eyes, strong features, and no great height. As always with a large population, there were certainly exceptions, and moreso as more northerly populations jumped into the gene pool. But we were Southern Europeans before anything else--not the classic Caucasian variety, and consequently, just as often looked down on as the Spaniards and Italians who most resemble us among our descendents.

I dare say a group of stranded Romans would blend right in, appearance-wise, with a band of Brazilian Indians. It is in custom and tech level that the greatest disparity would lie between them.


Gnæus Dionysius Draco wrote:The white-haired indians story has another origin. And the indians in question are not blue-eyed. In fact, "true" indians never have white hair. It's often believed this tribe of indians that has white hair as they grow old descends from shipwrecked Chinese mariners. Not Europeans. How on Earth would Europeans have ploughed their way through the Amazone forest, by the way, without being killed? Highly unlikely. Chinese people however, coming from the other side, would be more likely.


Publius Dionysius Mus wrote:There is indeed a problem with these winds: around the Equator there is a large windless zone between 5° north latitude and 5° southern latitude, and it was not until the sixteenth century that technology allowed to cross this zone. I can also not imagine a storm blowing so hard it could take a ship over the Atlantic Ocean. Besides, the Roman ships, being nothing more than little nutshells about 10-20 metres long and 5-10 metres large, does not seem capable to me of such journeys.

It is also very difficult to cross the Atlantic Ocean on the ocean currents. As you can see on this map, there are two circular currents in the Atlantic Ocean. One in the north clockwise, and one in the south counterclockwise. And their is also the Guinea current which is very strong and which pulls ships towards the African coast.

With these currents, and with the windstill zone around the equator, it seems very unlikely to me that a Roman ship crossed the Atlantic from Cape Verde and reached Rio de Janeiro. I would await scientific research and publication of this shipwreck.

However, I will try to get some information on this from some classical archaeology professors at the university here.


Publius Dionysius Mus wrote:A web search gave the following articles on the strange topic of Romans in Brazil:

http://www.mysteriousearth.com/archives/000131.html

A discussion around the previous article:
http://209.157.64.200/focus/f-news/1038045/posts

Another small article:
http://www.creationmoments.com/radio/tr ... ack_id=704

The man who claims to have discovered some fragments:
http://www.auas-nogi.org/marxsr.htm


I spoke to one of the classical archaeologists at the university today, and he also thinks it's highly unlikely that Romans should have crossed the Atlantic to Rio. He said the most frustrating with these articles is that none of the show pictures of the wreck, or the exact location where the ship lies.

It has been suggested that the amphorae found (which is the very basis of the whole theory) could be simply jars that *look* like Roman amphorae.

Everything is however speculation, and I will keep searching the web for good proof on this theory.


So there you have it, the entire discussion that took place.

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Permission Slip

Postby Aldus Marius on Mon Feb 07, 2005 7:54 pm

Ave, mi Tiberi!

...Now there's a man who didn't have to worry about permissions too much. He authored the original Brazil article; I had already posted my willingness and desire to 'port my material over here; and everyone else who took part...is family! >({|:-D

The Dionysian Empire Lives!!!

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Postby Gnaeus Dionysius Draco on Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:05 pm

Salvete omnes,

I also share the scepticism wrt the 'Romans in America' topic. My idea has always been that Roman vessels never had the same quality as those who eventually reached the 'New World', or those of the Vikings who went from Greenland to Newfoundland. A trip like that would take quite some time, and why would the Romans even WANT to go further west than the pillars of Hercules? Everything they needed was in the Mediterranean. It was not like the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where four or five city-states and kingdoms were battling for control and dominance. The situation was totally different.

Still, I'm not saying that it could not have happened. Who knows? But like Marius, I would also like to see more evidence besides pottery shards and coins.

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Postby Quintus Pomponius Atticus on Tue Feb 08, 2005 2:09 pm

Gnæus Dionysius Draco wrote:My idea has always been that Roman vessels never had the same quality as those who eventually reached the 'New World', or those of the Vikings who went from Greenland to Newfoundland.


The ships Columbus used when he discovered America were rather small and primitive, I dare say. Here's a description (source : http://www1.minn.net/~keithp/ships.htm

As everyone knows, Columbus had three ships on his first voyage, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. The flagship Santa Maria had the nickname La Gallega. It was a nao, which simply means "ship" in old Spanish; today, we might call such a ship a carrack. She was fat and slow, designed for hauling cargo, not for exploration. Some sources say that the Santa Maria was about 100 tons, meaning that it could carry 100 toneladas, which were large casks of wine. There has been much speculation about just how large such a ship would be; the best current thinking, by Carla Rahn Philips, puts the length of Santa Maria at 18 meters, keel length at 12 meters, beam 6 meters, and a depth of 3 meters from keel to deck.

The Santa Maria had three masts (fore, main, and mizzen), each of which carried one large sail. The foresail and mainsail were square; the sail on the mizzen, or rear, mast was a triangular sail known as a lateen. In addition, the ship carried a small square sail on the bowsprit, and small topsail on the mainmast above the mainsail.

The Pinta was captained by Martín Alonso Pinzón, a leading mariner from the town of Moguer in Andalucia. Pinta was a caravel, a smaller, lighter, and faster ship than the tubby Santa Maria. We don't know much about Pinta, but it probably was about 70 tons. Philips puts the length of Pinta at 17 meters, keel length 13 meters, beam 5 meters, and depth 2 meters. She probably had three masts, and most likely carried sails like those of Santa Maria, except for the topsail, and perhaps the spritsail.

Smallest of the fleet was the Niña, captained by Vicente Añes Pinzón, brother of Martín. The Niña was another caravel of probably 50 or 60 tons, and started from Spain with lateen sails on all masts; but she was refitted in the Canary Islands with square sails on the fore and main masts. Unlike most ships of the period, Niña may have carried four masts, including a small counter-mizzen at the stern with another lateen sail. This would have made Niña the best of the three ships at sailing upwind. Philips puts her length at 15 meters, keel length 12 meters, beam 5 meters, and depth 2 meters.


I don't know how exactly that would compare to the usual Roman ship. Does anyone here have any reliable information on their length, tonnage, sails construction, speed etc. ?

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Postby P. Scribonius Martialis on Wed Feb 09, 2005 1:11 am

Does anyone here have any reliable information on their length, tonnage, sails construction, speed etc. ?


I'm sure you're as capable as I of googling up something, but just in case:Link

In order to satisfy the various requirements of commerce, ship tonnages were quite variable. According to written sources, ships with a capacity of 10,000 modii of grain (that is, about 70 metric tonnes) constituted the lower end of vessels whose tonnage was considered sufficient to be used for Rome’s food supply and thus to benefit from government concessions. These were the smallest among the medium-tonnage ships. They must have constituted the majority of vessels utilised in commerce, with a capacity which could easily exceed 100 tons, such as the 3,000-amphora (150-tonne) vessels mentioned in written sources, and as also confirmed by numerous underwater discoveries. However, there were also ships with higher tonnage capacity. The hull of the Madrague de Giens shipwreck in France (1st century B.C.) originally measured 40 metres in length and had a capacity of 400 tonnes. In this case we have confirmation of ancient written sources which considered the muriophorio -- the “10,000-amphora carriers” (500 tonnes) utilised at the end of the Republic or the beginning of the Roman empire -- to have been the largest ships of their time, and which set the threshold of these vessels at 50,000 modii (330 tonnes). We must wait until the sixteenth century before we see vessels of similar tonnages plying the waters of the Mediterranean again.


I seem to remember hearing that one of the reasons the Romans/Carthaginians/Greeks could not make it across the Atlantic* was that ships manufactured for the calm waters of the Mediterranean were not sturdy enough for the ocean (or even the North Sea - so says my introduction to De Bello Gallico). Is there any truth to this?

* Aside, of course, from not thinking to look.
Last edited by P. Scribonius Martialis on Wed Feb 09, 2005 2:31 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby P. Scribonius Martialis on Wed Feb 09, 2005 1:43 am

Habeo! In The Economist, December 18th, an article appeared detailing this possibility.

It starts by detailing the efforts of Zhelaizhai, a village in Gansu province, to put itself on the tourist map by claiming a Roman connection. It mentions the well known contact in 166 by an emisary of Marcus Aurelius, and also the none-too-convincing evidence for Romans in Zhelaizhai (atraight ramparts, bodies with long lower limbs etc).

Apparently, the main promoter of the Roman connection was a Homer Dubs, professor of chinese at Oxford University. In a lecture to the China Society in 1955, he asserted that several legionaries captured by the Parthians in 53BC escaped from their servitude (Pliny the Elder relates that they were used as guards on their eastern frontier in what is now Turkmenistan) and joined the Huns. In 36BC, Chinese troops defeated the Huns in a punitive attack and found, Dubs said, 145 Romans. These were settled in Liqian in what is now Gansu.

Proof? Not much.

- There is reference in Chinese archives to a fish scale formation by soldiers used in Zhizhi's (the name of the Hun ruler) army, which Dubs said could only have been the well known testudo

- Zhizhi's town had a double wooden pallisade outside it's wall. Used by Romans but not by Hun.

- The name of the town, Liqian, "may have been used at the time to refer to the Roman empire". Since the first recorded contact was in 166 this must surely rank as one of history's least convincing collections of evidence. It appears that Liqian, at least according to Chinese scholar Liu Guanghua, derives its name from the second and third syllables of Alexandria, not conquered by the Romans until 30BC.

I'm afraid that, romantic as it all is, the evidence is a bit too meagre to eke out any conclusions. It probably didn't happen.
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To America in a Nutshell?

Postby Aldus Marius on Wed Feb 09, 2005 4:30 am

Avete Sodales...

...and Welcome, Scriboni Martiale! Wow--You've hit the ground running! I'm really looking forward to your Latin spreadsheet! (Those are, in part, my pitiful remnants it'd be replacing.) >({|:-)

On any trans-Atlantic voyage(s)...I wouldn't discount the possibility just because of the way Roman ships were built. (For lots of other reasons, given above; but not for that one.) Remember, nobody believed the Polynesians could have navigated so extensively across the Pacific on what were little more than rafts...until a European, Thor Heyerdahl (I believe), tried it on the Kon Tiki expedition.

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contemporary Chinese name for Rome

Postby Aulus Dionysius Mencius on Thu Feb 10, 2005 1:40 pm

Salvete omnes!

I searched for the information that was given by mi Mari, but alas I could not find Li-jien (supposedly the ancient chinese translation of Rome) or any reference to that warlord, Yun Shen. I also searched in my historical atlas for a town called Li Jien, but without the characters, it is hard to find the place.

Anyway, the contemporary version of Rome in Chinese is Luo ma. I'd give you the characters, but they are not accepted, sorry :roll:

Still on the lookout,

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Postby Q Valerius on Thu Feb 10, 2005 2:48 pm

If you learn the unicode you could figure it out. I'd do it, but there are so many Luo Ma's that I can't figure out which one is which! :oops:
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Lost Medaillon

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Fri Feb 11, 2005 9:09 pm

Avete Omnes,

Aldus Marius wrote:As some of the scholars have noted, Roman coins and minor artworks show up on this side of the Water all the time. They are more likely to be of modern or pre-modern origin than otherwise. I myself lost a medallion of Hadrian in the sands of Maui five years back. I'm still waiting for someone to find it, and maybe I'll even get a good 'Romans In Hawai'i!' frenzy out of it. (Would that count as a 'West Coast find', amica?)


I would consider a West Coast find would be if you lose something in the Mojave Desert. Hawaii would be a off-shore West Coast find maybe :wink:

But isn't there a way to determine the age of a piece of metal even where it comes from? So if some one finds for example Marius' medallion on Maui he should find out if he sends it to a laboratory that it's just a replica.
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Shipwrecked Romans

Postby Cleopatra Aelia on Fri Feb 11, 2005 9:27 pm

Avete iterum,

Gnæus Dionysius Draco wrote:I also share the scepticism wrt the 'Romans in America' topic. My idea has always been that Roman vessels never had the same quality as those who eventually reached the 'New World', or those of the Vikings who went from Greenland to Newfoundland. A trip like that would take quite some time, and why would the Romans even WANT to go further west than the pillars of Hercules? Everything they needed was in the Mediterranean


They just dig up on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, a site called El Bebedero which was at least a trading post. Here's the link to that:

www.archaeology.org/9705/newsbriefs/canaries.html

And as an answer to that if the Romans sailed to the Canaries and even to the Capverdian Islands they might got off course in a storm. It was nowhere mentioned that the Romans got on purpose to America like the Vikings did when they went there for settlement - their first trip too was accidentally when sailing from Iceland to Greenland and they got cought in a storm and blown off course - it was also rather accidentally only that - if they really landed in Rio or elsewhere - never made it back unlike the Vikings who didn't land at the first time and found their course back to Greenland where the crew of that very ship reported to their fellows what they had found.

Somewhere else in this article was mentioned that the Roman have left no evidence of their being there like remnants of settlements etc. But how could they if they were just a bunch of castaways. Maybe all their tools which they might have got on board sunk with the ship.

Concerning the ability of Roman ships to sail across the Ocean I found somewhere on the internet the following comment but can't trace the source at the moment - mea culpa:

The Canary Islands can be seen from the coast of Africa and are not very far from Gibraltar, entrance to Med. The further west you go you see more islands. Once you get to the most western island you may assume that there should be another one. Go six more miles and you get caught in the Canary Current which sweeps you into the trade winds. If your ship could not sail against the wind, and the Roman ships could not, you end up in Central or South America in about 30 to 40 days or less on that type of ship. There is plenty of rain, plenty of fish and no storms. It is a very easy trip. The problem is you can't get back unless you know about the Gulf Stream and how to find your latitude. My guess is after 30 days at sea without seeing land, if they made the trip, there would be no way to get them back on the boat.
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