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The Tortoise in Asia
The Tortoise in Asia
By Tony Grey
Publication date: 2016
Total pages: 280
ISBN: 9780 86196 725 4
Price: £ 28.95
The Tortoise in Asia is a piece of historical fiction based on a
legend popular in Gansu, the far western province of China. Some people
there have Caucasian features, a curiosity that has given rise to a
thriving tourist attraction based on the belief that they are
descendents of Roman legionaries who travelled along the Silk Road.
It is an adventure story beginning with the lead up to the battle of
Carrhae (in Anatolia) in 53 BC. Marcus, a young and upwardly mobile
centurion tutored in the Greek classics is the adviser to Crassus, the
general in charge of the Roman invasion of Parthia (ancient Iran). He
gives self-interested advice and the Romans lose the battle. Crassus
suffers a grisly fate.
Marcus survives along with some of his cohort. Taken prisoner by the
Parthians, they are marched along the Silk Road to the eastern frontier
to be border guards. While there, Marcus meets Sogdian merchants who
know the ferocious Hun warlord operating in Central Asia. One of them
brokers a deal for the Romans to be mercenaries for him. But first they
must escape. They do and go further east along the Silk Road, through
Bokhara and Samarkand into the steppe. Various adventures occur with the
The Romans are given agricultural land in Gansu where they settle down as farmers and marry local women. Marcus has gradually changed his view of home to accommodate his situation and gained an appreciation of a civilization that he has to admit is on a par with his own. In conversations with a Confucian scholar attached to the Han army, Marcus uncovers the startling similarities between the Greek and Chinese philosophies.
Tony Grey was born in London, England to British parents who were classical actors in the Old Vic. They brought him to Toronto as an infant and settled there where they founded Canada’s first Shakespeare festival, an event that led eventually to the establishment by other people of the Stratford Ontario Shakespeare festival, which is going today. When old enough, he acted in his parent’s festival, playing Edgar, Malcolm, Ferdinand, Lorenzo, Demetrius, Salanio, and Hamlet. He also played in several hour-long TV dramas on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the lead in one of Canada’s first feature films. His acting career coincided with university (where he studied classics and history) and law school.