The Info List - Maes Titianus

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Maës Titianus was an ancient traveller of Macedonian culture.[1] He was a Greek speaker who came from a family of merchants who had both Syrian and Roman identity.[2] Maes sent an expedition that is recorded as having travelled farthest along the Silk Road
Silk Road
from the Mediterranean world.[3] In the early 2nd century CE[4] or at the end of the 1st century BC,[5] during a lull in the intermittent Roman struggles with Parthia, his party reached the famous Stone Tower, Tashkurgan,[6] in the Pamirs.[7] Nothing is known of him, apart from a brief credit in Ptolemy's Geography, 1.11.7, whose knowledge of Maës was gained through an intermediary source, Marinus of Tyre:

"Marinus tells us that a certain Macedonian named Maen, who was also called Titian, son of a merchant father, and a merchant himself, noted the length of this journey [to the Stone Tower], although he did not come to Sera in person but sent other there" — Claudius Ptolemy, I-XI[8]

When Maes' expedition reached the Pamirs, the Chinese general Ban Chao of the Han Empire intercepted the group and ensured they were taken eastward to the Chinese capital Louyang. They were brought before the Han Emperor He. The travellers spoke Greek and were with Parthian merchants and so did not identify themselves as Roman. Thus, the Chinese did not realise they were dealing with subjects of Da Qin (the Roman Empire). Chinese records written in the Hou Hanshu state that the encounter took place in AD 100. As was standard protocol the Maes merchants offered tribute to Emperor He by giving rewoven Syrian silks and imperial gold coins that bore the image of Emperor Trajan. They were given Han silks as diplomatic gifts and then sent back on their long way back to Syria. It would take them 12 months to return home, totalling two years for the whole round-trip. When they returned, knowledge of their experience spread around the Roman world and for the first time Romans in Egypt and Syria knew of a superpower in the Far East that produced large quantities of silk and steel. Maes Titianus wrote a full account of the journey taken by his merchants but only a brief summary of his work survives in the writings of Claudius Ptolemy.[9] However, a brief article by Max Cary[10] teased apart some probabilities, notably that the purpose of the expedition was to organize the import of Chinese silk by controlling or eliminating some of the middlemen through whom trade goods were passed, among whom the least dependable were the Parthians. The Stone Tower was located in Xinjiang, the westernmost province over which the Chinese periodically attempted control. The incursion of the nomadic Kushan
ca 50 AD blocked Chinese access to the West, but conditions improved ca 75; consequently the window in which, Cary suggests, Maës found his opportunity lay either before or after the Kushan
irruption. At the western end of the trade route, Parthian cooperation could be expected only after the termination of their war with Trajan, 117 CE, too late for Marinus to incorporate the new information, at the close of their war with Nero, 65 CE, during the Kushan
interruption, or, the date Cary offers for consideration, after their settlement with Augustus, 20 BCE. The Maesii Titianii were a family documented in Italy and Sicily, ca 150-210, and Cary considers the possibility that the governor of Roman Syria from ca 13 BCE, M. Titius, who had been consul suffectus in 31 BCE, and through whose hands the Parthian princes passed to Rome for their education, acted in some way as a patron to the enterprise (Cary 1956:132-34). See also[edit]

Sino-Roman relations


^ He is described as a Macedonian by Ptolemy, but his "Macedonian" origin may betoken no more than his cultural affinity, and the name Maës is Semitic in origin (Cary 1956:130). ^ The Roman Enpire and the Silk
Routes, Raoul McLaughlin, ISBN 1473833744 ^ In Antiquity, other unnamed Greeks may have gone further east before the formal establishment of the Silk
Road: there are indications that from Alexandria Eschate
Alexandria Eschate
the Greco-Bactrians
may have led expeditions as far as Kashgar
and Ürümqi
in Xinjiang, leading to the first known contacts between China and the West around 220 BC. The Greek historian Strabo
writes of the Greco-Bactrians
that "they extended their empire even as far as the Seres
(Chinese) and the Phryni" (Strabo, Strabo XI.XI.I). Also in India, the Indo-Greeks
under Menander I
Menander I
led conquests as far as Pataliputra, probably the farthest known eastern foray of the ancient Greeks. ^ The mainstream opinion, noted by Cary 1956:130 note 7, based on the date of Marinus, established by his use of many Trajanic foundation names but none identifiable with Hadrian. ^ This is Cary's dating. ^ Centuries later Tashkurgan ('Stone Tower') was the capital of the Pamir kingdom of Sarikol. ^ J. Oliver Thomson located the Stone Tower in History of Ancient Geography (Cambridge University Press) 1948:179–180. ^ Trans. Edward Luther Stevenson, ISBN 0-486-26896-9 ^ The Roman Enpire and the Silk
Routes, Raoul McLaughlin, ISBN 1473833744 ^ Cary, "Maes, Qui et Titianus" The Classical Quarterly, New Series, 6.3/4 (July–October 1956), pp. 130-134.


Max Cary, "Maes, Qui et Titianus" The Classical Quarterly, New Series, 6.3/4 (July–October 1956), p