Study reveals huge genetic diversity among ancient Romans, who had more in common with people from Greece, Syria and Lebanon than western Europeans

  • Analysis from 127 Roman remains show close links to the Middle East 
  • Samples were taken from 29 archaeological sites across Rome
  • ‘Rome was like New York City,’ one of the researchers says 

A new study found that Romans were a much more genetically diverse population than previously believed. 

Researchers at Stanford and several Italian universities discovered that at the height of the Roman empire, citizens had more in common with people from Greece, Syria and Lebanon than with western Europeans. 

The remains over more than 127 individuals were collected from 29 different archaeological sites across the city of Rome for this analysis. 

The samples were collected by drawing DNA out of the ear bones of each body. 

The earliest samples came from the hunter gatherer populations in the region thousands of years before Rome was first founded. 

Genomes taken from these specimen are broadly similar with findings from other inhabitants of Europe. 

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A new study has found that at the peak of the Roman empire, its inhabitants were more closely linked genetically to people in Greece, Syria, and Lebanon than they were western Europe

Genetic samples taken from bodies dating to Rome’s early years between 900 BCE and 200 BCE show the beginnings of a genetic divergence from other European populations.

Researchers suggest the divergence could be linked to an influx of new immigrants from what is today Turkey. 

Rome’s genetic diversity appears to have peaked between 27 BCE and 300 CE, when the Roman empire encompassed around 70 million residents across Britain, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Approximately 48 samples were analyzed from this period and only two showed strong genetic links to Europe.

The genetic findings match other archaeological findings that showed Roman’s diverse population, including texts, wall carvings, and more

‘Rome was like New York City … a concentration of people of different origins joining together,’ researcher Guido Barnujani told Science. 

‘The genetic information parallels what we know from historical and archaeological records’ researcher Kristina Killgrove, from University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, said.

These records include ancient texts and wall carvings that show a wide mix of different immigrant groups living side by side in Rome.

Signs of genetic diversity began to diminish again once the Roman Empire declared a second capital in Constantinople.


55BC – Julius Caesar crossed the channel with around 10,000 soldiers. They landed at a Pegwell Bay on the Isle of Thanet and were met by a force of Britons. Caesar was forced to withdraw.

54BC – Caesar crossed the channel again in his second attempt to conquer Britain. He came with with 27,000 infantry and cavalry and landed at Deal but were unopposed. They marched inland and after hard battles they defeated the Britons and key tribal leaders surrendered.

However, later that year, Caesar was forced to return to Gaul to deal with problems there and the Romans left.

54BC – 43BC – Although there were no Romans present in Britain during these years, their influence increased due to trade links.

43AD – A Roman force of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius arrived in Colchester with reinforcements. Claudius appointed Plautius as Governor of Britain and returned to Rome.

In 43AD, a Roman force (artist’s impression) of 40,000 led by Aulus Plautius landed in Kent and took the south east. The emperor Claudius then arrived in Colchester with reinforcements

47AD – Londinium (London) was founded and Britain was declared part of the Roman empire. Networks of roads were built across the country.

50AD – Romans arrived in the southwest and made their mark in the form of a wooden fort on a hill near the river Exe.  A town was created at the site of the fort decades later and names Isca. 

When Romans let and Saxons ruled, all ex-Roman towns were called a ‘ceaster’. this was called ‘Exe ceaster’ and a merger of this eventually gave rise to Exeter.   

75 – 77AD – Romans defeated the last resistant tribes, making all Britain Roman. Many Britons started adopting Roman customs and law.

122AD – Emperor Hadrian ordered that a wall be built between England and Scotland to keep Scottish tribes out.

312AD – Emperor Constantine made Christianity legal throughout the Roman empire.

228AD – The Romans were being attacked by barbarian tribes and soldiers stationed in the country started to be recalled to Rome.

410AD – All Romans were recalled to Rome and Emperor Honorious told Britons they no longer had a connection to Rome.

Source: History on the net


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