Such an hypothesis should be possible to test.

I know that graveyards dating back to the pre Roman civilization of Latium can be found : those who allegedly were the descendants of Trojans. Certainly the DNA of the locals (Etruscs for example) can also be retrieved, as well as the Turk-greeks of back then.

Can DNA tests prove/disprove their origins? Has it been tried? Why?

The only result I found was in an article published in the Guardian newspaper, titled The enigma of Italy's ancient Etruscans is finally unravelled. However the article contains no link to the study, it remains quite vague. As far as I understand, it was done on modern Italians who "have been in Italy for at least 3 generations", which seems risky if we're going to test what happened 3000 years ago. I found nothing with ancient skeletons DNA.

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    Are you asking if the Trojans were the ancestors of the Romans? I don't recall how many generations elapsed between the two, but I think there was enough time to throw the results into a lower confidence bracket. And the Romans practices of adoption, slavery, rape, conquest and assimilation are going to make the results more complex to interpret. I am not an expert, but I would be interested to see how these issues are addressed. – Mark C. Wallace Sep 11 '18 at 10:52
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    @MarkC.Wallace : Yes, this is a shortcut. And obviously it won't refer to all Romans from the Empire period, but the very start of Rome, before any conquests. But in Roman mythology, Romulus was the descendant of the people who escaped from Troy. Arounf 450 years elapsed between Troy downfall and the creation of Rome. The idea is to take skeletons from before Rome was created, in the Latium civilization, which mythology pretends are of Trojan ascent. – Pierre Sep 11 '18 at 10:58
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    But where would one get Trojan DNA to compare to (this predated the arrival of Turks by 2000 years)? And even in mythology the Trojans mingled with native Italians way before Rome's founding, so there's no real reason to expect a discernible link in DNA. Though setting aside the genetic aspect of the question, one might plausibly conclude that from the historical / archaeological record calling Trojans Roman ancestors would be a stretch, but it's possible refugees from the Trojan War did settle in Italy. – Semaphore Sep 11 '18 at 11:15
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    @Semaphore : there has to be some 3000 yo human bones remaining in Turkey. Obviously the current Turks are genetically not at all like the Trojans. And it is more than plausible that even back then, the people from the western coast were genetically different from those from the middle of the land. – Pierre Sep 11 '18 at 11:28
  • On one hand, no one knows what happened to the Trojans, and, on the other hand, no one knows where the Etruscans came from, so such attempts are certainly understandable, but whether they are also plausibly defensible is an entirely different matter altogether. – Lucian Sep 12 '18 at 17:55

The 2007 study referred to in the Guardian article was carried out by the Italian geneticist Alberto Piazza et al. The study was fairly big news in 2007, and received a lot of international coverage. Another example was the article Origins of the Etruscans: Was Herodotus right?, published in the New York Times.

The 2007 study, which had the catchy title Mitochondrial DNA Variation of Modern Tuscans Supports the Near Eastern Origin of Etruscans, showed that modern populations living in three formerly Etruscan communities, exhibited a residual genetic link to communities in Turkey.

About the same time, another study, The mystery of Etruscan origins: novel clues from Bos taurus mitochondrial DNA, had found that a local breed of cattle also shared a genetic link with Turkey.

These results were discussed in context, and in rather more depth, in the paper DNA and Etruscan Identity, by Philip Perkins of the British Museum.

One significant problem with the conclusions that we saw in much of the media in 2007 was succinctly summarised by the archaeologist Anthony Tuck:

“The architecture of the Etruscans, the language of the Etruscans — virtually every aspect of the physical and material behavior of the Etruscans — doesn't look anything like that which we see in Lydia.”

A more-recent study, Origins and Evolution of the Etruscans’ mtDNA, was carried out on the same groups but this time included mitochondrial DNA from 14 individuals buried in two Etruscan necropoleis and DNA from medieval skeletal remains. This was published in 2013.

Now, it is important to note that this study examined only maternally inherited mitochondrial DNA. However, with that caveat, this study showed no genetic link to populations in Turkey. The authors therefore concluded that their evidence strongly suggested:

... that the Etruscan culture developed locally, and not as an immediate consequence of immigration from the Eastern Mediterranean shores.

Now, as far as I know, there has been very little detailed DNA analysis on human remains from ancient Etruscan graves. Recovery of ancient DNA is difficult, and burial conditions are a significant factor in that. I am not aware of any whole-genome sequences from Etruscan remains, and the only published mitochondrial DNA sequences that I could find are those referenced in the 2013 study cited above.

So, to answer the question in your title, "Were Trojans the ancestors of the Romans?", the answer is probably not, but we don't know for certain.

As you say, there are limits to what we can infer from tests on modern populations, but there seems to be no evidence of a wholesale migration of an Eastern Mediterranean population to Tuscany.

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    This answer is entirely about the Etruscans, rather than the Romans. I guess that means it addresses the text of the question fairly well, but ignores the rather basic fact that the Etruscans and the Romans were completely different peoples. – T.E.D. Sep 11 '18 at 12:38
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    @T.E.D. "Completely different peoples"? I'm not so sure. Completely different civilisations certainly, but probably with a lot of shared ancestry. – sempaiscuba Sep 11 '18 at 13:22
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    Their languages are unrelated, which at least tells me they certainly felt at the time they were different peoples, and that vital part of their culture at least came from completely unrelated sources. There does seem to have been some cultural mixing though (and they were after all neighbors). – T.E.D. Sep 11 '18 at 13:38
  • Put the TL;DR at the top..... – Adrian773 Sep 11 '18 at 22:01

(Greek) Trojans and Romans shared common ancestors, and that's the full extent of their relationship. They are otherwise no more closely related than they are to Germans and Gauls*.

First off, the Romans and the Etruscans were two unrelated peoples. It is probably true that at points early in their history, Rome was a client city, paying tribute to Etruscan cities, but that doesn't in any way imply they were the same people. Etruscan was not even an Indo-European language. So whatever you might find out through other means about the Etruscans, does not apply to Romans.

Livy and Virgil do mention a Roman creation myth that makes the claim that Rome was founded in part by Trojan exiles, but that's pretty much the sum of all the evidence that the Romans and the Trojans are related.

The Roman language is most decidedly not a descendant of Greek. Linguists will tell you it was spoken in the Italian peninsula, likely by recent immigrants from over the Alps, as early as 1800 BC.

Archaeologically there appears to be a continuity from the early republic back to the Villanovan culture, which appears to have evolved seamlessly from the Hallstatt culture of central Europe, after it was imported to the peninsula (presumably via migration).

The setting for the myth of the Trojan war is variously taken to be some time between 1135 and 1334 BC, which means all evidence we have is that there were pre-Roman Latin peoples in that area doing their pre-Roman Latin things long before peerless Helen would have been a gleam in Zeus's eye.

* - If Romans were in fact closely related to any other peoples, most linguists and archaeologists will tell you it would be Celts (Gauls), not Greeks

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    Archaeologically, the Villanovan culture also seems to be the precursor to the Etruscan civilisation. Hence my point about a shared ancestry. :) – sempaiscuba Sep 11 '18 at 13:43
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat. – T.E.D. Sep 11 '18 at 16:28
  • Could you cite a source for contemporaries of Livy and Virgil who scoffed at the idea of a connection between Troy and the founding of Rome? – b a Sep 11 '18 at 17:19
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    @ba - I'm removing it instead. I know where I read it, but that kind of claim should really not be made without directly quoting the primary sources (and thank you for pointing that out). If/when I can do that I'll put it back. – T.E.D. Sep 11 '18 at 17:49

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