A million British men may be directly descended from the Roman legions which came, saw and conquered England and Wales almost two thousand years ago, a DNA study suggests.
The Romans departed abruptly in the early 5th Century AD, leaving behind relics of their rule including Hadrian's Wall along with a host of towns, roads and encampments.
But, according to a report in THE TELEGRAPH, perhaps the most enduring sign of their legacy is in British genes, with an estimated million British men descending from the invading forces.
A genetic study of 5,000 people found that up to four million men in England and Wales carry distinctive genetic signatures which are most commonly found, and likely have their origin, in Italy, the newspaper report said.
Although it is impossible to prove whether any individual person's genes were introduced during the Roman occupation of Britain, and not before or after, researchers estimate that the influx of tens of thousands soldiers was responsible for at least a quarter of the total.
Following their arrival in 43 AD Romans are thought to have accounted for between four and eight per cent of all men in Britain – a much greater proportion than at any other point in history.
The DNA markers are much rarer in Ireland, where there was no Roman invasion, and Scotland where the armies' presence was limited to a brief occupation of some southern regions.
Researchers examined DNA from the Y chromosome, which is only passed on by men, and identified five rare patterns which are unusually common among English, Welsh and particularly Italian men.
The figures, which will be announced at the Who Do You Think You Are? roadshow in London on Sunday, only represent men whose Roman descent has been passed down from father to son, so the true total must be even higher, the newspaper report added.