Experts Studying Roman DNA Uncovered Details That Are Rewriting History

No matter what, history always reveals its secrets. Even thoroughly studied periods, such as Ancient Rome, have hidden details that take years to uncover. With modern DNA testing, though, experts realized some truths about the Eternal City’s bygone population. What we thought we knew about them has been upended by the genetic information they left behind.

Assembling the team

Heading up this new look at the Ancient Romans was study senior author Jonathan Pritchard, who also works as a professor of biology and genetics at Stanford University. He and the rest of the team — which included researchers in Italy, Ireland, Austria, and France — hoped to learn more about the legendary civilization through the DNA its people had left behind.

Staking the region

Not only did the team analyze genetic information directly from Rome, but they looked at specimens from areas adjacent to the Eternal City too. The research team hoped to find out more about the Romans’ ancestral origins, and they did that and more. As it turned out, the people’s DNA had an unexpected story to tell.

Founding of Rome

The founding of Rome is the stuff of legends – quite literally. Twin brothers, Remus and Romulus – supposedly fathered by Mars, the god of war – washed up on the shores of the Tiber nearly 3,000 years ago. The babies had been sent down the river in a basket to drown, but they survived the journey instead.

She-wolf to the rescue

Of course, the helpless babies would need help to survive, whether on land or in the water. The story goes that a she-wolf rescued Remus and Romulus, helping them grow strong enough to exact revenge on the person who had sent them down the Tiber to die: the king of Alba Longa.