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The Difference Between an Italian and a Roman

The Difference Between an Italian and a Roman

The ancient Romans of the Italian Peninsula were geographically Italian. At that time, the Peninsula was already called Italy, but Italy was recognized as a place name, but it was not a political entity.

The political unit was Rome, followed by the Roman Empire. So the citizens of the empire were called Romans. At some point in the history of the empire, they were all Romans, no matter how far their place of birth was. All Italians were Romans, but not all Romans were Italians.

Keep reading for a deeper dive!

A Quick History of Rome


The Roman Empire is often associated with one of the most glorious moments in the history of the Italian Peninsula. But do we know that modern Italians are the genetic descendants of the old inhabitants of the Eternal City?

Before diving into the topic, here’s a fun little fact, according to the study Ancient Rome: A genetic crossroads of Europe and the Mediterranean by Stanford University, University of Vienna, and the Sapienza University of Rome, a great number of European genetics may have once converged in Rome.

In 753 BC, the Roman Kingdom was founded and it wasn’t until 509 BC that it became a republic. At the heart of the Roman Republic was public representation, so much so that scholars considered it as one of the earliest examples of democracy.

During this period, Rome would grow in power by dominating Western Europe, Northern Africa, and the Near East. It was at this point Rome expanded all throughout Italy, often clashing with its Etruscan neighbors.

However, it all went downhill when the Roman dictator Julius Caesar was assassinated. The Republic ended and thus rose the Roman Empire, which continued to dominate all throughout the Mediterranean Sea. Despite the instability of its predecessor due to political wars, the Roman Empire actually had a period known as Pax Romana, often called the golden age, where Rome spent around 200 Years in prosperity. It was during this period when Rome reached a population of 70 million people due to the massive regional expansion done throughout Europe.

However, when 3rd century came, Rome began to rust, and by AD 476 and AD 480, the Western Roman Empire saw its fall. The Eastern Roman Empire, however, stood its ground for a thousand years until the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Due to the many years the Roman Empire stood (estimated to be well over 1,000 years), it left quite an impact in the arts, science, architecture, and basically almost everything. In the 18th century, the modern Italian state was formed by unifying most of the Peninsula into the Kingdom of Italy, and by 1871, Rome became the capital of Italy.

 For more information, have a quick look at this video on how Romans became Italians:

Here’s a quick comparison of Italians and Romans:

Latin LanguageItalian or English Language
Culturally considered as Barbarians or RoyalsCulturally considered as gentlemen
Rome was considered a political unit instead of a geographical capitalItaly existed at that time but was not as dominating and famous as its capital Rome.
All Italians were RomanNot all Romans were Italians
Autocratic Leadership: Kings and Monarchs with supreme authorityDemocratic Leadership

What is Italian Culture?

A statue on a building

Italian culture is mainly defined by family values. Its main religion is Roman Catholic and its national language is Italian.

Italian culture is rich when it comes to food, arts, and music. It has housed many significant historical figures and is home to the empire that greatly influenced the world.

According to the Italian National Institute of Statistics, as of January 1, 2020, there were approximately 59.6 million people living in Italy. According to Jen Green, author of Spotlight on Italy (Gareth Stevens Publishing, 2007), about 96% of the Italian population is Italian. Although many other nationalities live in the country too.

“Family is of a very important value in Italian culture,” Talia Wagner, a family therapist based in Los Angeles researched. Their familial solidarity revolves around the extended family, not the Western idea of ​​a “nuclear family” just made up of a mother, father, and children, Wagner explains.

Italians often gather as families and love to spend time with their families. “Children grow up to be close to their families and to include future families into larger networks,” Wagner said.

Italy gave rise to several architectural styles, including Classical Rome, Renaissance, Baroque, and Neoclassicism. Italy is home to some of the world’s most famous structures, including the Colosseum and  Leaning Tower of Pisa.

What is Roman Culture?

Just as with Italy, Rome is quite rich in its culture. Especially when it comes to art and architecture. Rome is a place of several iconic buildings like the Pantheon and Colosseum, and its literature consists of poetries and plays.  

However, most of it was influenced by various cultures during the time of Roman expansion, especially Greek culture. Just like Italy, the main religion Rome is centered around is Roman Catholic, and just like Italian culture, the Romans were heavily dictated by family-values.

Rome is dubbed as the Eternal City. This was because Romans took great pride in their city and believed that its fall would be catastrophic for society as a whole. However, the nickname was believed to have been coined by the poet Tibullus around the first century BC.

In his book Elegies, Tibullus wrote “‘Romulus aeternae nondum formaverat urbis moenia, consorti non habitanda Remo”, which if translated, means “Not yet had Romulus drawn up the Eternal City’s walls, where Remus as co-ruler was fated not to live”.

Most of the Roman Empire is gone, however, remnants of their culture still remain. Like:

  • Colosseum
  • Gladiators
  • Roman Theater


The coliseum at night

The Colosseum in Rome is an amphitheater commissioned by the Roman emperor Flavian in 70-72 AD. Designed to improve Circus Maximus for gladiator fights, fights with wild animals (venationes), and simulated naval battles (naumachia).


In ancient Rome, gladiators often fought to the death to please their spectators. Gladiators were trained as Rudis ([sg. ludus ) to fight well (hence the name “the arena”), either in areas where the ground sucks blood or in sandy circuses (or colosseums).

Roman Theater

Roman theater began with translations of Greek forms combined with local song and dance, comedy, and improvisation. By the hands of the Romans (or Italians), the material of the masters of Greece was transformed into standard characters, plots, and situations recognizable by Shakespeare and even modern sitcoms today.

Are Italians the same as ancient Romans?

Of course, it is. However, the Romans were a genetically mixed group. Like medieval Italians, they were closer to us than they were. That is why today we can say that we are genetically diverse and beautiful.

Do Italians still call themselves Romans?

They never did. Romans still exist and are Roman citizens. Rome is the capital of Italy, so Romans are Italians. Today you can say: “This Italian is a Roman” (meaning he lives in Rome or is an Italian from Rome); Or Tuscany (from Tuscany), Sicily, Sardinia, Lombardy, Genoa, etc.

Italy and Italian were primarily Roman concepts designed to distinguish them from the Etruscans and Greeks. They were independent of their last king as their last king when their history begins and independent in Etruria.

If the question is when did the Italians stop calling themselves Romans… it depends. The real Romans (like they came from Rome) never stopped. Conversely, during the 4th Crusade in 1204, Venetians are known to have started referring to themselves in Latin and stopped referring to themselves as Romans (however, Italian was rarely used, and even the term “Italian” was used in 300 BC and Roman Its popularity declined after the beginning of the declining phase for Rome).

Are Rome and Italy still the same?

Italy is a European country located in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea. It is a sovereign state with its own government that controls the administration of the country’s internal affairs. Rome, on the other hand, is managed by the Italian government and is one of the most important cities in Italy.

Therefore, they can be related and considered the same to some extent because even today they are connected together.

Italy didn’t without a doubt turn out to be a unified united state till 1861 whilst a group of states and areas have been delivered collectively because of the Kingdom of Italy. The procedure of unification took a while and become commenced in 1815.

Whilst the decreased peninsula of what’s now referred to as Italy become recognized as the Peninsula Italia as lengthy in the past because the first Romans (humans from the City of Rome) as lengthy approximately as 1,000 BCE the call most effective cited the landmass now no longer the humans.

The Italian peninsula was inhabited by several so-called Italian tribes, one of which was known as the Latin people from Latium,  the area around the River Tiber where Rome was located, from which the Latin name was derived.

Latins are believed to have migrated to this area from the east during the Late Bronze Age (c. 1200-900 BC). Latin remained a separate tribal or family grouping until about 753 B.C. when Rome (then known as Rome) was built and developed as a city.

Rome began to gain power around 600 BC. Converted to the Republic in 509 BC. By this time (750-600 B.C.E.) the Latino living in Rome became known as Romans.  As you can see the Italians (from Italy) did not exist for 2614 years!

Rome, like many other countries, was originally a small kingdom from 753 BC. Until 509 BC, the Roman monarchy was overthrown and the last king of the Romans, the unpopular Lucius Tarquinius the Proud, was expelled during the political revolution.  The point of all of this is that the worldview or ideology of the time was not about the idea of ​​a nation or nation, but about a tribal region, hometown/village, and village. Basically, the identification of a person or family was based on a “home” tribe. Although the Romans controlled vast territories on land and sea, their identity was based on their “hometown” city of Rome.


Therefore, in the light of historical-based evidence and facts provided, we can sufficiently say that at some point in the history of the empire, they were all Romans, no matter how far their place of birth was. However, we conclude by saying that “All Italians were once Romans, but not all Romans were Italians.”

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