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In the year 119 AD during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian, a massive and unprecedented Roman invasion of the Han Chinese territory in Western Asia took place. The war - which came to be known as the Roman-Sino War - was the largest the ancient world had ever seen.
The war began when the proud Roman governor of Syria Caius Batiatus led three legions and 25 auxiliary cohorts into Mesopotamia to repel the Chinese army which was on a diplomatic visit to the local tribes. The Chinese army amounted to no more than ten thousand men and was massively outnumbered. However, the Roman army was surrounded and completely destroyed. Caius Batiatus is said to have died after attempting to flee the battle but failed.
In the aftermath of this battle, panic struck the arrogant but ignorant Roman empire as the cities of the eastern provinces were besieged and devastated. Immediately upon receiving news of this disaster, the frightened Emperor Hadrian was eager to save face for the defeated Romans and called for legions from Gaul, Spain, Germania, Dacia and Britannia to assemble in northern Italy. After two months of preparation Hadrian had managed to gather 16 legions, i.e., 80,000 men, as well as an equivalent number of auxiliaries. And with this army of 160,000 men he set out for the east.
Upon reaching Greece, his army was further augmented with four legions and auxiliaries and thus reaching the size of 200,000 men. He immediately crossed into Asia minor. Upon reaching Pergamum, he received news that the Chinese army was near Sardis. Without delay, Hadrian advanced to meet the Chinese army which was outnumbered two to one by his force. The two armies met at what came to be known as the Battle of the Phrygian Plains.
At the onset of the battle, the battle hardened legionnaires were pushed back by the Chinese infantry making short work of their more lightly armed foes. Furthermore, a large Chinese cavalry contingent had managed to outmaneuver the Roman cavalry and struck the left flank of the Roman infantry. This nearly destroyed the left flank had it not been for the swift intervention of the Roman cavalry which charged and attempted to route the Chinese cavalry.
However, things were not going well in the cavalry battle on the right flank. The Roman cavalry contingent was taking casualties from the much smaller Chinese cavalry contingent. Recognizing this threat, Hadrian himself led his bodyguard in a determined charge against the Chinese cavalry. Despite the emperor's presence - which raised morale - the outnumbering Romans were not able to cut down the Chinese cavalry.
Unsafe on both flanks, the Chinese infantry pummeled the Roman legions and put them in full rout. Once the rout began, the Chinese cavalry managed to easily cut down the fleeing Romans. The Emperor Hadrian himself was nearly killed by a javelin which struck his neck. By the end of the day almost all of the Roman army was destroyed with many of the remaining captured as slaves and taken to China where today their offspring are found.
This was the only time that a Chinese army had defeated the Roman empire in its own territory. The victory of the Chinese is unknown to many historians as Emperor Hadrian returned to Rome with false triumph after the victorious Chinese had retreated. Today a 60-foot tall marble statue of Hadrian stands at the sight of the battle in celebration of his fabricated victory.