Roman soldiers who disappeared after a famous defeat founded a city in eastern China, archaeologists say .
The phantom legion was part of the defeated forces of Marcus Licinius Crassus, according to the current edition of the Italian magazine Archeologia Viva .
The famously wealthy Crassus needed glory to rival the exploits of the two men with whom he ruled Rome as the First Triumvirate, Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar .
Crassus decided to bring down the Parthian Empire - a fatal choice .
His forces were routed in 53 BC outside the Mesopotamian city of Carre - today's Harran - and he was beheaded .
According to the Roman historian Pliny, the Romans who survived were taken to a prison camp in what is now northern Afghanistan .
When Rome and Parthia sued for peace in 20 BC - 33 years after Crassus's last battle - all trace of the prisoners had disappeared .
The survivors of Crassus's legion became a mystery, walking ghosts in Roman legends. A Chinese historian in the Han Empire, China's second dynasty, provided an answer to the riddle in the early 3rd century AD .
The historian, Bau Gau, wrote that a Chinese war leader defeated a group of soldiers drawn up in typical Roman formation .
Crassus's old troops must now have been in their fifties and sixties .
Bau Gau said the foreigners were moved to China to defend the strategically important eastern region of Gansu, near today's city of Yongchang .
This is where the survivors founded the city of Liquian, the only site in China where the mark of Ancient Rome can be seen. 'Liquian' is said to mean 'Roman' .
The city has been virtually unknown outside China although hundreds of people visit it each year, admiring traces of defensive wallworks and pieces of broken pottery .
The number of visitors is certain to rise. Crassus, celebrated as the richest Roman of them all in pre-Imperial days, was never satisfied with his wealth and had an undying lust for glory .
Eighteen years before his doomed expedition to Parthia he put down a slave revolt led by the Thracian slave Spartacus. In Stanley Kubrick's epic film he was played by Laurence Olivier .
There's a nice page over at UNRV on the background to this (continue on to page called Battle of Carrhae).