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Ancient Greece & China Relations

 
 
cello
 
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 01:52 pm
Is there any evidence of relations between Ancient Greece and China?

Although we know that the Romans and Chinese had relations through the Silk Road, I have not read anything mentioning that the Ancient Greeks knew about the existence of Chinese people.

Does anyone know?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 3 • Views: 17,937 • Replies: 13
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contrex
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 02:11 pm
There is not much convincing evidence that the Ancient Greeks knew about China. (Of course it all depends on what you mean by "Ancient Greeks", but that's a whole other question)

There is a Greek archeologist called Theresa Mitsopoulou who believes in a link, but many people think she is crazy.
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dyslexia
 
  0  
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 02:13 pm
the greeks had no relations with china, nor did Bill Clinton.
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cello
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 02:31 pm
Thanks, contrex. By Ancient Greeks, I meant around 2,000 years or more before, in general. The time of Herodotus or Alexander The Great.
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Setanta
 
  -1  
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 07:03 pm
Alexander "the Great" was not only not great, he wasn't Greek, either. However, that is not germane. Suggesting that there were "relations" between Romans and China is a stretch--just because there was trade in the Red Sea which brought trade goods indirectly from India, and therefore indirectly from China is not a plausible basis to say that there were relations between Rome and China. This is roughly equivalent to suggesting relations exist between the victim of a burglary and a receiver of stolen goods. I don't suggest that there were any criminal aspect to the extended trade, simply that the final consumer of a Chinese product can't be reasonably said to have "relations" with the Chinese producer, who would have been equally as ignorant (and probably indifferent to) the eventual destination of his or her production.

On the same basis, there is even less reason to suggest that there were any relations between classical Greece and China.

Alexander's lust for continuing slaughter and "conquest" lead him to cross the Oxus, descend into what is today Afghanistan and from there to the valley of the Indus River (today's Pakistan). The evidence from sources in the subcontinent is that this event actually dried up trade with the West from India, which was nascent in that period anyway. Both the "silk road" and the primitive sea-borne commerce with the Indian subcontinent were exercises in multi-point trading schemes. The probability that at any time before the Mongol blight descended upon Eurasia there were any one person who knew the entire process and links of trade from China to Europe is so low as to make the statement that there were none very reliable in historiographic tersms.

The final nail in the coffin of the idea of there being any "relations" between China and anyone else you care to name is the fact that the Chinese considered themselves the culturally superior inhabitants of "the Middle Kingdom." This didn't mean in the midst of other nations; it meant that they saw China as being between Heaven and Earth, and all other peoples as irredeemable heathens inhabiting the howling outer darkness of a disgustingly savage world. Throughout most of Chinese history, the trade which eventually made a way to India to be traded through the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf, or overland by what is far too casually referred to as the silk road was technically illegal. Almost all Chinese dynasties forbade by law trading with the barbarians outside the Middle Kingdom, and those who traded silks overland or by sea were, in the eyes of the Mandarins, criminals. Even those among the Mandarins who winked at it (and perhaps personally profited by it) very likely had no knowledge of, or any interest in the Romans, never mind the Greeks.
cello
 
  2  
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 08:35 pm
An interesting article from Wikipedia on Ancient Chinese and Roman relations. It is Wikipedia, so to be read with caution as to its accuracy. However, it is a good read.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sino-Roman_relations
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cello
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 08:50 pm
My interest in this is more the aspect of whether the ancient civilizations knew of the existence of each other and where would be the limits of the ancient "known" world. Although it is clear that the Silk Road linked China to Rome, I was curious why Ancient Greece is never mentioned, since it is so close to Rome.
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Walter Hinteler
 
  1  
Reply Sat 13 Oct, 2007 10:46 pm
Well, when you read the wiki-text, you notice the times, years.

And when you remember that from 187 BC onwards onwards Greece was de facto Roman ...

I friend has co-organised one of the most important exhibitions about the silk road, which is on show next year.

According to the leaflet, there has been a contact from China to Mediterranean region, but only rare findings and less sources.

I might see him within the next few weeks, and will ask him about that (if I don't forget it, that is :wink: )
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Setanta
 
  2  
Reply Sun 14 Oct, 2007 07:17 am
cello wrote:
My interest in this is more the aspect of whether the ancient civilizations knew of the existence of each other and where would be the limits of the ancient "known" world. Although it is clear that the Silk Road linked China to Rome, I was curious why Ancient Greece is never mentioned, since it is so close to Rome.


You run into the problem of the ambiguity of your terms once again. What exactly to you mean by "known" to each other? Did anyone in China know there were an extensive empire (the Roman Empire) far to the west? That seems likely. Did anyone in Rome know there was an extensive empire far to the east? That also seems likely. Did your average Pleb in the street know that? Far less likely. Did your average Chinese peasant know that? Far less likely.

As for Greece in the period of Alexander III of Macedon--it was probably fairly widely known that there were societies to the east that produced very valuable consumer goods. The Greeks, were, after all, successful merchants and traders. Whether or not they would have been able to distinguish, however, between India, which in addition to the gem stones produced there was also an entrpĂ´t for spices from the islands of the east, and for the silks and bronzes of China--and China, the source of those silks, is far more doubtful. They probably only had a hazy idea of distant lands with valuable trade goods. I doubt if the Chinese, even those with arcane knowledge of the world, knew much about the Greeks, if they even knew of them at all. I also suspect they would not have cared.

The most educated and well-informed people in China, as a class, were the Mandarins. They were a class, and were for more than 3000 years, having established themselves as a power behind many thrones because of their literacy more than a thousand years before the first true Chinese empire was founded in about 200 BCE. However, quixotically, it was the policy of the Mandarins themselves to exclude foreigners and to prohibit trade with foreigners and travel to foreign lands. So the very people who were most likely to obtain information about foreign lands and peoples were responsible for the tradition of turning inward and ignoring the outside world. When, in the history of any particular dynasty, the members of the dynastic family gave up governance, and turned policy and governance over to Mandarins, foreign travel and foreign trade were banned--those who traded with foreigners in such times were considered criminal.

Mandarins may have known about Greece, but it is doubtful, because Greece was not even important in it's own world until a few centuries before Rome conquered them. A few Mandarins may have known about Rome, but it would have been specialist knowledge, and likely of little or no interest to other Mandarins. Other Chinese were, even including members of the ruling dynastic clan, very likely illiterate. It is possible that literacy was more common among Greeks (because, once again, so many were involved in commerce) than had ever been true in any civilization, but the majority of the population were bond servants or slaves, who likely weren't literate. Even for the literate, accounts of "the mysterious East" would have been few and hazy, and likely very unreliable. The same applies to the Roman Empire, with 80% or more of its population bondman or -woman or slave, and literacy no more common. The Romans had a similar, if less severe, attitude that nothing and no one outside their empire mattered as that which pertained among the Mandarins.

Probably some people in each society knew of the other (except perhaps that the Chinese were unaware of or indifferent to the Greeks), but is doubtful if anyone on either side of Eurasia had accurate information, or very much information at all.
cello
 
  0  
Reply Mon 15 Oct, 2007 07:33 pm
Walter, that looks like a nice exhibition. Yes, please do ask your friend, if you remember. Thanks in advance.

I think you might have explained the reason, if Greece was under de facto Roman control by that time.

Setanta, by "known", I meant cognizant of, being aware of, much like if we would "know" if there are aliens living on other planets if we "discover" them. Also, I think in those far away times, knowledge would remain within the ruling class and kept pretty much hush-hush, I don't expect every Joe Bloe in the street to know about distant lands and peoples.

From what you said, I also think that the knowledge, if any, would have been limited from either side. I have found nothing in what I have read to indicate such knowledge.

When one looks at the Buddhist statues along the Silk Road, they definitely have a Hellenistic appearance. But maybe that was considered to be Roman civilization, who knows?
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Manuspark
 
  1  
Reply Mon 20 Aug, 2012 07:13 pm
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greco-Buddhism
yes, there is a hellenistic influence in the early mahayana buddhist arts and maybe ideals due to the indo-greek kingdom (after alexanders death).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dayuan
alexander the great had found a fortified city called alexandria eschate (today called dayuan, south-west of china). this city became later the greco-bactrian kingdom. it is said that this kingdom even expanded to the north towards xinjiang (representations of greek soldiers have been found there). after a few centuries this kingdom was invaded by the sai-wang due to conflicts with the southern indo-greek kingdom.

there has been more than just contact or relation! there always have been cultural mix-up knots Smile

greetings manu
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bam bam
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jul, 2014 12:41 pm
@Setanta,
alexander the great was greek and also great. he spoke greek dressed greek and worshiped greek gods. what part of that is not greek. his town where he is born is in Greece. Skope who changed their name to Macedonia never spoke greek in ancient times or now trying to steal a countrys name is a country desperate for an identity which never had. alexander considered himself greek.
bam bam
 
  1  
Reply Mon 28 Jul, 2014 12:54 pm
@Setanta,
alexander was GREEK AND GREAT HE WAS WAS BORN IN PELLA WICH IS GREECE HIS MOTHER WAS BORN IN EPIROS WHICH GREEK SPOKE GREEK DRESSED GREEK EDUCATED GREEK WORSHIPPED GREEK GODS,LOOKS LIKE A DUCK WALKS LIKE ADUCK ITS A DUCK. GREAT BECAUSE HE SPREAD HELLINISTIC WAY OF LIFE TO A WORLD WICH LIVED LIKE ANIMALS AND UN CIVILIZED IT WAS THE WAY OF LIFE ALEXANDER BROUGHT THE KNOWN WORLD UNDER ONE LANGUAGE WICH THE BIBLICAL TEXTS WERE WRITTEN IN GREEK FOR THE WORLD TO UNDERSTAND AND SPREAD. THERE IS ONLY ONE MACEDONIA AND ITS GREECE. CHANGEING YOUR COUNTRYS NAME TO A STATE OF YOUR NEIGHBORING COUNTRY IS TO ONLY CAUSE CONFUSION AND TO STEAL THEIR IDENTITY, SKOPE NEVER SPOKE GREEK AND DO NOT SPEEK GREEK KING PHILLIP DID MACEDONIA IS GREEK FROM BEGANING TO END .
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Sandiago
 
  1  
Reply Sun 14 Dec, 2014 10:23 am
@bam bam,
Who is saying that Alexander was not Greek? He was ancient Greek from Macedonia. By the way, why there is a country named Macedonia? It is kinda confusing. I have visited Vergina and Salonica. Vergina was amazing. As far as I remember that place is still called Macedonia. Feeling confused. Imagine Canada decides to change their name to New York. People may get confused that Knicks are from Canada.. jajaja
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