In 53 BC, the Roman General Marcus Crassus suffered a sound defeat at the hands of the Parthians, a nation that sat in what is present day Iran. He was captured, kept, and ultimately beheaded while his troops were scattered to the wind, effectively halting Roman advances Eastwards. No Parthian records were kept about the fate of his troops. They were written off as a lost legion, most likely killed by the local people or environment. Perhaps they made their way back westward, towards home.
However, evidence from a small village in China may prove that a few of them could have taken a quite more remarkable journey. During the time China too was a great empire, although contact with Rome was sparse and mostly consisted of indirect trade, and it too was focused on expansion. In 36 BC the Han found a group of mercenary soldiers were fighting for the Huns. There were about a hundred and fifty of them and they fought in what was described as a “fish-scale formation”. This would have been similar to a phalanx-like maneuver used by the Roman legions to protect their heads and flanks. The troops were released later to continue their wanderings.
Which leads us to the village of Liqian, China. The villagers here look quite different from the major Han ethnicity. They are often tall, not short, have green eyes, instead of brown, and blond or ruddy hair, not black. The villagers have long suspected that they may be descended from the Roman troop. To this end genetic testing was performed. Indeed, over half of the population did have Caucasian ancestry.
The scientists have been quick to caution against overenthusiastic conclusions. There are a great many other possibilities. However, the villagers have embraced these results as proof. And indeed, it would be a remarkable story to tell if it is true. The legion would have crossed thousands of miles of hostile terrain, some of the most mountainous terrain on the planet, and ended up surviving and thriving in what would have been to them an alien empire.