January 25, 2014 By Joseph P. Farrell

There is a new genetic study out, and it is calling into question the hypothesis of Professor Tenney Frank about the genetic and racial stock of the late imperial period of the western Roman Empire, and I have to mention it here by way of a "revision and extension" of remarks, since I referred to this hypothesis in my book Babylon's Banksters. (And my thanks to a reader of my books and website for sharing this article with me).  For those who are unfamiliar with Professor Frank's hypothesis, a brief review is in order, and the topic is timely, since yesterday's blog was about the new genetic findings concerning Denisovan man.

Briefly put, Tenney Frank's hypothesis was constructed on two foundations: the first are the statements in the Roman satirist Juvenal, who complained that the "Orantes" River, through Roman conquests in Mesopotamia, flowed into the Tiber. This was Juvenal's metaphor for the fact that when the Empire conquered the old post-Alexandrian Seleucid empire in the Fertile Crescent, many slaves where imported to the Italian mainland. Following the Roman custom, these were often freed upon the death of their owners. In Frank's hypothesis, these then became the backbone of the imperial bureaucracy, and this in turn accounted for the well-known "orientalization" of Roman imperial ritual.

In support of this, Frank introduced his second consideration, and that was a careful examination of grave markers and other records indicating a growing preponderance of Greek names  after the Seleucid conquest by Rome, indicating or corroborating the orientalization of the population of the suburbican dioceses of the Italian peninsula.

With that in mind, recent genetic studies are calling into question Frank's hypothesis, to such an extent that it is in danger of being refuted, or at least in need of extensive revision:

Tenney Frank's "Orientalization" Refuted

The crux of the new trends in scholarship appear to be suggested by these paragraphs:

"...the sepulchral inscriptions studied by Tenney Frank extend over a period of three centuries: suppose that Rome had during the early Empire a population of some 800,000 with an annual mortality of 20 per cent: in those three centuries the deaths would number 4,800,000. Tenney Frank has examined 13,900 inscriptions and those are derived from imperial and aristocratic columbaria: here the slaves would be better off and the percentage of accomplished foreign slaves would be higher: what of the nameless dead whom no record preserved, whose bodies lay in the vast common burial pits of the slave proletariat? These 13,900 dead who left permanent memorials behind them cannot be regarded as really representative of the general servile population of the city: we are not justified in using the percentage obtained from these records and applying it as though it were applicable to the whole class of slaves and of freedmen.

"In the light of this criticism Tenney Frank's statistics are vitiated, and it must be admitted that the nationality of the slaves of Rome under the early Empire remains a matter of conjecture. There must have been a far greater number derived from Western Europe than are allowed for on Tenney Frank's calculations."(Bold Emphasis in the original, bold and italics emphasis added)

With this said, I think it may be a bit early to speak of outright "refutation" of Professor Frank's hypothesis, as does this article. Note that one thing missing from the review of modern trends, versus professor Frank, is that his hypothesis was based on a complaint by the satirist Juvenal, who, notwithstanding the other slave populations, singled out the Chaldean(Mesopotamian) influence within the Empire in his day.

Frank's hypothesis does make sense of the orientilization of the Empire, and the citation above hints at why this is so, for it would appear that slaves of Chaldean/Mesopotamian origin were somehow preponderant among the aristocratic class, and that in turn would magnify their influence and importance vis-a-vis other slave populations. In short, Frank is far from being refuted.

Nonetheless, it is fairly clear that Frank's hypothesis is in need of extensive revision, and that a more comprehensive view is necessary, and it is also clear that perhaps the type of data to be considered should be expanded to include things such as heraldry and so on. In any case, it is to his credit that Frank did not limit himself merely to graves and other markers, but also was guided to formulate his hypothesis by the complaint of a contemporary Roman.

See you on the flip side...

(My thanks to the individual who shared this important article)