Rome and China

August 18 2013

The Roman Empire and the Han Empire [established 206 BC] had coexisted, not only on the face of the same planet but within the bounds of the same continent, for some two hundred years [27 BC-AD 220] without ever coming into direct military or even political contact with one another – if the diplomatic mission from Marcus Aurelius, whose arrival in A.D. 166 [Footnote: See Franke, O.: Geschichte des Chinesischen Reiches, vol. i (Berlin and Leipzig 1930, de Gruyter), p. 404.] is recorded in the Posterior Han Dynasty’s annals [tenth century], is to be written off as having been in reality perhaps no more than an isolated private commercial venture – and in this classic case even the convulsions of one of the two contemporary empires in its death agony did not impinge upon the survivor, as a post-Sumeric Völkerwanderung had impinged upon the Egyptiac World. When the Han Empire went to pieces at the turn of the second and third centuries of the Christian Era, the inhabitants of the Roman Empire remained unaware that an earth-shaking event was occurring at the opposite extremity of the Old World; and conversely, when, some two hundred years later, the Roman Empire in its turn went to pieces at a time when, in the Far East, a new society was beginning to emerge from the Han Empire’s ruins, this nascent Far Eastern Civilization was not thrown back into chaos by the Roman Empire’s fall. In the days of the Han Empire and the Roman Empire, human destinies had not yet been gathered into one basket, and so, though some eggs were constantly being broken, there were always others left intact.

Romano-Chinese relations: records possible post-Han contact and other matters, but contradicts nothing here.

A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954

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