What did the Romans give to the Chinese
Dialogue about Limes / Wall
In 97 AD, a Roman merchant and a Chinese silk merchant met in the oasis city of Merv (in today's Turkmenistan) on the famous Silk Road. With the help of an interpreter, they find out that they are both former soldiers: the Roman Gaius Caddimarus served on the Limes and the Chinese Bing on the Great Wall of China. In the evening they talk about their experiences:
Gaius: Actually, we Romans say that our rule knows no limit. We then regard rivers and mountains as natural obstacles for our opponents to attack us. But where I was stationed, in Germania, we built a dead straight palisade out of wood and even stone to scare off and ward off the wild Germanic peoples. We took no account of the terrain and just built 500 km over mountains and valleys. Roman technology is so great!
Bing: You are quite a show-off! We Chinese also believe that our superior rulership and culture knows no borders: Along our northern border, however, there are peoples on horseback - these people are more animals than humans - who want to threaten and plunder our empire. Therefore our great emperors built a great wall, 6000 km long and up to 3m high and 2m wide!
Gaius: I can not believe that! There is not so much wood and stone in all of China, and you need millions of people for the construction!
Bing: Believe it! But we don't use wood or stone, but clay pressed out of earth, which is everywhere. And of course we adapt to the terrain, i.e. we use mountains and hills. But you're right about one thing: Hundreds of thousands had to work on the construction, including me. One was not asked, but obliged to do so. And sometimes the working conditions were so harsh that people died.
Gaius: And did you put up with that? I went into the army voluntarily: I am actually a Celt by birth, hence my name Caddimarus, which means something like great fighter. But after 25 years of service you get Roman citizenship, and so I'm now a Roman merchant with the first name Gaius.
Bing: Oh! Such a career would not be possible with us. I am a native of China and had to serve 10 years on the wall in the far west. I was a crossbowman on a watchtower, 10 m high, with 4 comrades. The nights were icy, the days dusty and dry in this wasteland. When we saw enemies, we closed the entrance to the ground floor and gave signals.
Gaius: Just like with us! During the day with smoke, and at night ...
Bing: ... with fire, exactly. Sometimes there were messengers running back and forth between the watchtowers.
Gaius: The watchtowers were up to 2km apart and thanks to Jupiter there was always a troop with 50 or 100 soldiers stationed nearby in a fort, which could drive away the enemies.
Bing: I think you copied from us when building the border: Fortunately, there was also a unit with 100 soldiers near my tower who saved our lives several times. In the worst case, even the large army could be summoned from our capital Chang'an: It was 1000 km away, but could be notified in one day by the fire signals!
Gaius: Just say! That was not possible with us. The Romans tried to bring Roman life into the provinces: The army was with us near the border, and with the soldiers, Roman culture also came to us: My Celtic family now also grows wine, bathes in large thermal baths and worship the same gods as the Romans in Rome.
Bing : Pah, that doesn't exist with us: The barbarians in the north are unable to take over our culture, our scripts and our language. These monsters will NEVER become real Chinese, so our culture and our exalted Emperor will remain in his magnificent capital. A few of the savages have settled under the protection of the wall, but they have to serve us as slaves and pay high taxes.
Gaius: But now you're the arrogant show-off. How do you Chinese then see us Romans? Are we just stupid monsters for you?
Watchtower of the Limes near Mainhardt
Reconstruction of the Limes
Great Wall watchtower
Remains of the preserved wall of the Han dynasty
all pictures deleted for copyright reasons. You can find them under:
lesson ai / prehistoric times / rome / limes wall /
- In the dialog, mark the differences (red) and similarities (green) between the Roman Limes and the Great Wall of China.
- In pairs, assign these to the comparison aspects on your results sheet and enter them there.
- Finds further comparison aspects.
Dialogue about Limes / Wall: Download [odt] [3.8 MB]
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