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)


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Joseph P. Farrell

Joseph P. Farrell has a doctorate in patristics from the University of Oxford, and pursues research in physics, alternative history and science, and "strange stuff". His book The Giza DeathStar, for which the Giza Community is named, was published in the spring of 2002, and was his first venture into "alternative history and science".


  1. marcos toledo on January 25, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    When have we been able to tell a person ethnic background by their name. Hermann the victor over Varus in 9 ACE went under his Roman name Arminius though he was German by birth. The second name denoted he held citizenship and would have been tried for treason if he had been captured. A modern version of this is the president of Bolivia his facial features denote his Andean ancestry but his name is Spanish. So who called the shots in the Roman Empire short of DNA tests on their remains is unknown. It is interesting that Varus is not in any of my two dictionaries but Arminius is.

  2. LSM on January 25, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    what still baffles me to no end is how freed SLAVES from the middle east became Romes’s/Venice’s banksters-

    just as an aside after having finished “Financial Vipers” a few months ago I got into a conversation with my Italian co-worker (she’s from Rome) about finances and I mentioned how I just learned (thanks to the book) that the German Turn & Taxis family previously was known as Torre & Tassos in the Venetian Republic;

    she was already aware of this; said she learned this in school in Italy…


    I kid you not- my jaw dropped to the floor

  3. Robert Barricklow on January 25, 2014 at 2:22 pm

    The Banksters of Babylon, Venice, or indeed, Rome – have nothing on those of today’s Rotten Crew of Internation Bansters(I realize that term incorporates a lot of scoundrels, under said umbrella of larceny/writ globally). For on this globe, in the 21st century, there are more slaves than-ever-before(at least in “recorded history”).

  4. bdw000 on January 25, 2014 at 9:40 am

    “There MUST have been a far greater number derived from Western Europe than are allowed for on Tenney Frank’s calculations.” (caps added)

    I like how, in a case where the answer is completely unknown (the precentage of slaves that came from the East vs. the West), this writer uses the word “MUST” to support his or her thesis !!!

    So many academics are nothing more than blatant liars. They interpret a complete absence of evidence either way as “I win, you lose.”

    • bdw000 on January 25, 2014 at 9:43 am

      The correct way to put it is, “it is therefore POSSIBLE [as in, not even close to being proven] that a far greater number derived from Western Europe . . .”

  5. DanaThomas on January 25, 2014 at 6:14 am

    For the purposes of the “Bankster” investigation, the presumed aggregate “ethnic” character of the population in the city of Rome is secondary, since it had phases of significant discontinuity, with the population somtimes falling to a mere handful of people during the Dark Ages.
    Re-examining the background of the elite in the Late Roman Empire could be interesting. There is clear evidence as to the “orientalization” process from the religious point of view (e.g. Franz Cumont and others). And now we realize that religion has gone hand in hand with finance since the time of Constantine, How does this connect to Byzantine Italy and its territories where Venice was later founded?
    There are lots of areas worth reviewing, such as: – the shift Rome’s elite families from the Roman religion (“paganism”) to Christianity, and the resistance by a handful of traditionally-minded senatorial families; – and then the early phases of the Lateran Curia…

  6. MattB on January 25, 2014 at 5:58 am

    I smell a Bernal style Eurocentric revision in the wind. The article seems to omit the fact that many administrative ‘slaves’ in the late empire were still moving between Italy and Byzantium.

    Byzantium was obviously heavily Hellenized AND Orientalised. Greek may have been the lingua franca, but the ideas were not necessarily ‘Greek’.

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