It is clear that throughout its history, Italy has been subject to several invasions by predominantly Nordic peoples. The first of these invasions laid the foundations for ancient Rome. The early Patrician class was constituted from Nordic racial elements, as Coon affirms:
“Their facial type is not native to the Mediterranean basin, but is more at home in the north....
...the movements from the north introduced Nordics of two varieties; the classic Hallstatt type, and the Keltic Iron Age type which was later to form the basic racial element among the Roman patricians.” [Coon (1939) 194; 554.]
The French author Rochat, examined portraits of the ancient Romans, and concluded that the Roman type was essentially Nordic. [Günther (1957).] The Swiss physical anthropologist His (1866), after studying both sculptures and skulls, determined that the true Romans had been Nordic.
There also exists a considerable body of evidence in relation to pigmentation. The German classicist Sieglin (1935), studied ancient Roman records, and demonstrated that the family names of most Patrician clans, denoted Nordic racial features, when they were translated from their original Latin. For instance, there were numerous Rufii, Rubrii and Rutilii, names which refer to red hair. There were also Flavi, Flaviani and Fulvi, which reveals blond hair. Sieglin studied all the references that were made to noted Romans, throughout the history of Roman literature. He compiled the following list of individuals, whose names are indicative of their possessing fair hair; Sieglin found: 7 Flavi, 20 Flaviani, 10 Fulvi, 121 Fulvii, 27 Rubrii, 26 Rufi, 24 Rufii, 36 Rufini, 45 Rutilii and 13 Ahenobarbi. He also observed that the names Flavius, Rufi and Rufini, were frequently employed by several Patrician families. [Sieglin (1935) 53.]
We also possess descriptions of famous individuals. In his Life of Cato the Elder, Plutarch states that the Censor had red hair and blue eyes; in the same author’s Life of Sulla, he declares that the Dictator possessed golden-blond hair and blue eyes. Suetonius, in his Lives of the Twelve Caesars, said that both Augustus and Nero had blond hair and blue eyes, that Galba had blue eyes, whilst Domitian not only had a ruddy complexion, but also composed a poem about an elderly, red-haired Roman that he knew. Suetonius also notes that Nero’s gens were referred to as the Ahenobarbi, (Copper Beards), because his clan continually produced men who had red beards. Finally, we can observe that the name “Caesar”, derives from the Latin word caesius, which means “blue-eyed”. [Günther (1957) 147—162.]
It is interesting to note that the Romans thought that Aeneas, Romulus and Remus, as well as Roma, the goddess who symbolised the Eternal City itself, were all golden-haired individuals. It would seem that the Romans could only have thought that the mythical founders of their people were blond, if they were themselves an originally blond-haired nation. [Ogle (1929).] In his researches Günther (1927; 1929a, b; 1957), has examined in great detail, the racial history of the Romans, and has successfully demonstrated that the origins of Rome’s greatness lay in its Nordic racial elements.
This essentially Nordic trend continued into the Early Modern Period. The Germanic invasions refreshed Italy’s Nordic stock, and in time gave birth to the Renaissance. It is significant that the Renaissance flowered in the north of Italy, where the Nordic element was strongest, and not in the predominantly Mediterranean south. Throughout the Renaissance period, the ideal of beauty was Nordic. Dante’s Beatrice, and Petrarch’s Laura, were both blondes. Botticelli’s and Titian’s paintings depicted the blonde woman as being the most beautiful.
However, the blond element was not solely confined to images of the ideal. It is equally clear that the many geniuses the Renaissance produced, throughout several different fields of expertise, were also predominantly Nordic. Ripley (1899), thought that because Northern Italy is predominantly Alpine today, most of the great Renaissance figures must also have been Alpine. However, the facts do not confirm his speculations. Sergi and Frassetto (1925), examined the crania of several great Italians, including Dante, Petrarch, Raphael, Foscolo and Volta, and observed that all were either dolichocephalic, or mesocephalic. Of course, the true Alpine is brachycephalic. [Welcker (1884).]
In addition to this, we should not neglect the researches of Woltmann (1905). Woltmann studied portrait paintings, busts and written descriptions, to ascertain the physical features of the great men of the Italian Renaissance. He revealed that many of the individuals in question, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Tasso, Galileo, etc., were of Germanic descent, and that they possessed Nordic racial characteristics. The results of his investigations, were as follows: of the 125 men whose eye colour could be discerned, 102 had blue, blue-grey or blue-green eyes; 18 had brown or brown-grey eyes; and 5 had eyes of mixed pigmentation. Of the 108 men whose hair colour could be accurately determined, 68 had blond or red hair; 26 had brown hair; and 14 had black hair. [Woltmann (1905) 143—144.] Woltmann also discovered that most of the noble families who ruled over much of Northern Italy, produced blond individuals throughout their generations. Such families as the d’Este of Ferrara, the Bentivoglia of Bologna and the Sforza of Milan, were all largely blond-haired and blue-eyed. [Woltmann (1905) 42—49.]
We should also note the words of Bartolomeo Las Casas; in his Historia de las Indias, he depicted Christopher Columbus in the following manner:
“He was tall, had a long, striking countenance, aquiline nose, blue eyes, and a light skin, inclined to be ruddy; his beard and hair in youth were fair, but care soon whitened them.” [Günther (1927) 215.]
Even in modern Italy, during the period of the Risorgimento,
many of the great politicians and artists were Nordic: Garibaldi had red hair,
Cavour was blond, Canova had blue eyes, etc. [Woltmann (1905) 133—141.] If you
are interested in this subject, and wish to know more about it, then I suggest
that you also read the following works: Cogni (1937), De Lapouge (1899), Los
(1968), Plumb (1961) and Reche (1936).
Cogni, G. (1937) I valori della stirpe italiana (Milan: Fratelli Bocca).
Coon, C. S. (1939) The Races of Europe (New York: Macmillan).
De Lapouge, G. V. (1899) L’Aryen: Son Rôle Social (Paris: Albert Fontemoing).
Günther, H. F. K. [G. C. Wheeler, trans.] (1927) The Racial Elements of European History (London: Methuen).
Günther, H. F. K. (1929a) Rassengeschichte des hellenischen und des römischen Volkes: Mit einem Anhang — Hellenische und römische Köpfe nordischer Rasse (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
Günther, H. F. K. (1929b) Rassenkunde Europas: Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der Rassengeschichte der Hauptvölker indogermanischer Sprache (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
Günther, H. F. K. (1957) Lebensgeschichte des römischen Volkes (Pähl: Verlag Hohe Warte).
Plumb, J. H. (1961) The Horizon Book of the Renaissance (London: Collins).
Reche, O. (1936) Rasse und Heimat der Indogermanen (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
Ripley, W. Z. (1899) The Races of Europe: A Sociological Study (New York: D. Appleton).
Sieglin, W. (1935) Die blonden Haare der indogermanischen Völker des Altertums (Munich: J. F. Lehmanns Verlag).
Woltmann, L. (1905) Die Germanen und die Renaissance in
Italien (Leipzig: Thüringische Verlagsanstalt).
His, W. (1866) “Beschreibung einiger Schädel altschweizerischer Bevölkerung nebst Bemerkungen über die Aufstellung von Schädeltypen.” Archiv für Anthropologie, I, 61—74.
Los, F. J. (1968) “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire: The Biological Background.” Mankind Quarterly, IX, 3—19.
Ogle, M. B. (1929) “The Blonde Aeneas: Vergil, Aeneid 1.592.” Classical Weekly, XXIII, 28—30.
Sergi, G. & F. Frassetto (1925) “Esame antropologico delle ossa di Dante nel VI centenario della sua morte.” Rivista di Antropologia, XXVI, 3—17.
Welcker, H. (1884) “Der Schädel Rafael’s und die Rafaelporträts.” Archiv für Anthropologie, XV, 417—440.