About Southern European Ethnicity
Modern Day Location
Italy, Spain, Portugal
Did You Know?
One of the most common Italian surnames is Russo.
About Your Region
If you had to choose one region of Europe that has wielded the most influence over the course of western history, a strong candidate would be the land of your ancestors—an area that includes modern day Italy, Spain, and Portugal.
In ancient Italy, the Romans and their empire set the stage for modern European culture. After adopting Christianity in the 4th century, the Romans spread (along with their Latin language) to all corners of their realm. Centuries later, Italy again stepped to the forefront, leading the way out of the Middle Ages as brilliant artists and philosophers like Machiavelli, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Michelangelo ushered in the Renaissance.
Spain and Portugal experienced periods of great strength and influence during the Age of Discovery. Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand II of Spain funded the voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World in 1492, initiating an era of global colonization and great wealth and influence. Today, as a result, Spanish is the second most spoken language on Earth. Portugal kept pace with its neighbor, establishing its own colonies around the world, most notably Brazil.
In the modern era, all three counties saw tumultuous transitions from monarchies to authoritarian dictatorships to modern republics. While their modern day borders may be much smaller than in the days of their powerful empires, their legacy still reaches around the globe.
Migrations into this region
Southern Europe shares a substantial amount of genetic affinity with North Africa. This is mostly because the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Moorish (Berber) invaders, from present-day Morocco, in about 711 C.E. Their legacy can still be seen in Spain and Portugal, ranging up to 15% in some individuals.
Migrations from this region
During the Last Glacial Period, beginning about 21,000 years ago, glaciers and windswept tundra made much of northern and central Europe uninhabitable. Populations retreated into the southern glacial refugia of Spain and Italy. Then as the climate warmed, these Mesolithic people expanded out of southern Europe to occupy the entire continent, as far north as present-day Finland. The south-to-north pattern of genetic differences in Europe is attributed to this post-glacial expansion. Additionally, Iberia was the historic source of migration into the Americas. Populations throughout the Caribbean, Latin America, southern USA and South America can trace their lineages back to Spain and Portugal, usually through their paternal side.