"Grey is attuned to the many resonances of the Silk Road"– The Australian
"A historical novel exploring a popular legend of the Silk Road, that locals in the Gansu province in Western China are descendants of Roman legionnaires due to their Caucasian features" – Sydney Morning Herald
The Tortoise in Asia
By Tony Grey
Published by John Libbey Publishing on 19 October in paperback. Priced at £25.
The Tortoise in Asia by Tony Grey is published today, on Wednesday 19 October.
The Tortoise in Asia is 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 descendants of Roman legionaries who travelled along the Silk Road.
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, with a few others, survives. 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 Huns.
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.
About the author: 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.