In a tiny, remote Chinese village, an ancient Roman bloodline may live on. The town of Liqian sits on the edge of the Gobi desert, 200 miles from any metropolis, and 4,500 miles from Rome. But for half a century, scientists and archaeologists have been trying to prove that the ruddy-skinned, light-eyed, and fair-haired residents of Liqian are lost relatives of a missing Roman battalion of mercenaries that fought against the Chinese long before Marco Polo started east.
The theory was first floated in the 1950s by Professor Homer Dubs of Oxford University. In a lecture to the China Society in London, he theorized that Liqian was connected to an ancient battle between the Huns and the Chinese that was fought, in part, by Roman mercenary soldiers in 36 B.C.
According to lore, 145 of these original soldiers of fortune either fled battle or were captured and settled in the area. Lending proof to this theory was a set of Chinese documents which show, 2,000 years ago, the city was renamed to mean “prisoners taken in storming a city.” Another legend claims the villagers descended from a 6,000-person army led by famed Roman General Marcus Crassus’s son that disappeared without a trace.