- Master Scholar (Juren)
- 86 posts
Military Commissioner (Jiedushi 节度使)
- Location:Florida, USA
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Posted 23 August 2008 - 09:49 AMJust a few caveats - the fall semester has started so I am being lazy and going from memory. Two ideas that are being muddled - genetic descendents vs. cultural descendents. In many ways, all of Western Europe is a cultural descendent of the Roman culture.
But, I am assuming the question is about genetics.
Before the Roman Empire, Northern Italy was Celtic, Southern Italy and Sicily were Greek (they still speak a form of Greek in parts of the "boot"). At the time of the Roman Empire, Rome had a large slave population (estimates 10-40%, recall how hard it was to put down Spartacus). At the later part of the Western Empire, many Emperors were not even born in Rome (of course they did not last long anyway). At the height of Rome, many people migrated to the city of Rome.
At the end of the Western Roman Empire,an influx of various barbarians changed the genetic makeup further - some by travelling through (killing, raping, changing the power structure - freeing slaves) or in the case of Lombards by staying and mixing with the population.
As far as the Byzantine Empire goes - it was genetically mostly Greek (Anatolia and Greece were mainly Greek). Culturally it started out Roman but changed to mostly Greek (they adopted Greek customs, language and had little in common with Rome except for the name). Invasions of Slavs were devastating (I recall reading that the modern Greeks are genetically Slavic not Greek) and of course the Turks took over Anatolia.
So talk of genetic purity must be taken with a grain of salt. Personally, I cannot tell much difference between Greeks, Italians, Spaniards and other Mediterranean people - until they open their mouth to speak.
I am not sure if anyone has studied or even found genetic markers for these ancient populations but that would be an interesting contribution.