Scientists have conducted the first genetic survey of the inhabitants of Ancient Rome, which showed that in the epoch of the Roman Empire the Eternal city was mostly inhabited by immigrants from the Middle East and Greece, not the native Italians or Western barbarians. The study was conducted by geneticists from the United States and Italy, the results have been published in the journal Science, reports TASS.
“We were really surprised how quickly varied genetic “portrait” of the city of Rome, reflecting the progress that relations between the city and its allies. We were struck by how cosmopolitan was its population. Even in ancient times it was mixed a variety of cultures and populations,” said Jonathan Pritchard at Stanford University (USA), whose word brings the press service of the University.
Pritchard and his colleagues, analyzing the fragments of DNA extracted from the bones of the 127 Roma people who inhabited the city in the different epochs of its existence, starting from the Mesolithic to the mid-nineteenth century, confirmed that the migration has indeed transformed the city in every sense of the word.
Rome was founded around the eighth century BC by the representatives of the italic tribes lived on the territory of Latium. Until the second century BC Ancient Rome was relatively small and modest force to the state, which vied for regional supremacy with the ancient Greek city-colonies of southern Italy and Carthage in North Africa and southern Spain.
By the first century BC the Roman Republic became a vast Empire thanks to the conquests and reforms of Maria, Caesar, Pompey and other great generals, consuls and dictators. The new territories provoked a mass migration in which large flows of people, mainly slaves and craftsmen, moved to the Eternal city, whose borders have grown rapidly in that era.
A genetic analysis showed that before the first Millennium BC, a genetic history of the ancient Romans is almost no different from how other Nations of Western Europe. Their ancestors were local hunter-gatherers and middle Eastern farmers and nomads from the steppes of the Caspian sea, penetrated into the territory of Rome and mix with the local population about 9-8 thousand and 4.9 thousand years ago.
The situation changed dramatically during the heyday of the Roman Republic and the formation of the Empire, when the boundaries of their holdings increased dramatically. Prior to this, most of the inhabitants of Rome came from the local italic and Etruscan tribes, whereas after the Punic wars the city population began to grow rapidly Greek and middle Eastern component.
This growth continued over the next three hundred years. In General, it reflects what territory was conquered by Rome, and with what powers of the time, he was in friendly or allied relations.
Following a typical Roman citizen of the early Empire became more similar in genetic terms to the inhabitants of ancient Lebanon and Syria than to the Italians of the early iron age, or other Western European Nations.
Such shifts in the genetics of the ancient Romans, as scientists assume, indicate that the Romans not only imported slaves from the conquered regions, but also entered into a close relationship with their residents and invited them to live in the city.
According to Pritchard and his colleagues, such a strong influence on the genetics of the city can be attributed to the fact that at that time the Eastern regions of the Roman Empire was more closely populated than the West of Europe, which could further stimulate their movement to the metropolis.
Interestingly, the level of genetic diversity decreased slightly after the partition of the unified Ancient Rome into two competing empires, but recovered in the middle ages when the city became the centre of the Holy Roman Empire that included dozens of Italian and Central European principalities. It secured for Rome the status of a “genetic intersection” between Europe and the Mediterranean, concluded the scientists.