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Did the Romans Know About America?

Did the Romans Know About America?

The Romans expanded their empire far and wide, conquering Greece and even moving to Asia. It’s obvious to wonder if they knew about America and whether they visited it.

With no concrete evidence to suggest that the Romans knew about America, most historians suggest they never stepped into America. However, the discovery of some Roman artifacts hints that they probably discovered the American continents.

Did the Romans Know About America? Infographic.

Roman Artifacts in America

Several unexplained Roman artifacts exist throughout the Americas, both in North and South America. However, these findings, with no reputable sources to validate their authenticity, don’t imply that the Romans landed in America.

It’s more likely that the artifacts did, but not the Romans.

Holding these anomalous finds as evidence, some historians suggest that the ancient mariners visited New World well before Columbus.

According to the Ancient Artifact Preservation Society, a Roman sword (pictured below) was discovered in a shipwreck off Oak Island, south of Nova Scotia, Canada. They also found a Roman legionnaire’s whistle, a partial Roman shield, and Roman head sculptures. [3]

Roman sword discovered in a shipwreck off Oak Island.
Roman sword discovered in a shipwreck off Oak Island
Image courtesy:

This led the researchers to believe that Roman ships came to North America during or even before the first century. Despite history clearly stating that the first non-indigenous person to step on the continent was Columbus, they insisted that the Romans came much before that.

In the caves of an Island in Nova Scotia, many wall-carved images showed Roman legionnaires marching with swords and ships. 

Carved by the Mi’kmaq people (the indigenous people of Nova Scotia), there were around 50 words in the Mi’kmaq language, similar to what ancient mariners used in the past for nautical sailing.

Also, the bush Berberis Vulgaris, listed as an invasive species in Canada, was used by ancient Romans to season their food and fight scurvy. This seemingly evidenced that the ancient mariners visited here. [2]

In North America

Throughout North America, several Roman coins have been found buried, mainly in Native American burial mounds, and date back to the 16th century. [4] These findings are indicative of European presence pre-Columbus. However, the majority of these coins were planted as hoaxes.

An experienced botanist identified a pineapple and squash, plants native to the Americas, in an ancient fresco painting in the Roman city of Pompeii.

In 1898, the Kensington Runestone was discovered in Minnesota. It had an inscription that described Norsemen’s expedition (possibly in the 1300s) into present-day North America.

Ancient Celtic artifacts and inscriptions were found in New England, possibly dating back to 1200-1300 BC. Also, rock tablets were recovered from Raymond in New York, North Salem, Royaltown, and South Woodstock in Vermont.

In South America

In what appears to be the remains of an ancient Roman ship, a sunken shipwreck was discovered in Brazil’s Guanabara Bay. 

There were also several tall jars or terracotta amphorae (used to transport olive oil, wine, grains, etc.) dating back to the Roman times, possibly between the first century BC and the third century AD.

Ancient coins found in Venezuela and Roman pottery, dating back to the second century AD, unearthed in Mexico, are some other Roman artifacts found in South America.

Near Rio de Janeiro, an inscription dating to the ninth century BC was found 3000 feet high on a vertical rock wall.

At Chichén Itzá, Mexico, a wooden doll with some Roman writing on it was found in a well of sacrifice.

Interpretation of the marks on Pedra da Gávea by Bernardo de Azevedo da Silva Ramos, from his book Tradiçoes da America Pré-Histórica, Especialmente do Brasil.
Interpretation of the marks on Pedra da Gávea by Bernardo de Azevedo da Silva Ramos, from his book Tradiçoes da America Pré-Histórica, Especialmente do Brasil.
Bernardo de Azevedo da Silva Ramos (1858 – 1931), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

In the early 1900s, a Brazilian rubber tapper, Bernardo da Silva Ramos, found several large rocks in the Amazon jungle with more than 2000 ancient inscriptions about the old world.

In 1933, in Calixtlahuaca near Mexico City, a small carved terracotta head was discovered at a burial site. Later, this was identified as belonging to a Hellenistic-Roman school of art, possibly dating around 200 AD. [5]

Despite these findings, going by authentication, there is nothing concrete to prove that the Romans discovered America or even made it to the Americas. There aren’t any reputable sources to validate the authenticity of these findings.

How Much of the World Did the Romans Explore?

Rome spread far and wide from being a minor city-state in the Italian peninsula in 500 BC to becoming an empire in 27 BC.

Rome was founded around 625 BC in ancient Italy’s Latium and Etruria. The city-state was formed by Latium villagers coming together with the settlers from the nearby hills in response to the Etruscan invasion. [1]

Rome was in complete control of the Italian peninsula by 338 BC and continued to expand through the Republican period (510 – 31 BC).

The Roman Republic conquered Italy by 200 BC. Over the next two centuries, they had Greece, Spain, Northern Africa, much of the Middle East, the remote island of Britain, and even modern-day France.

After conquering Celtic Gaul in 51 BC, Rome spread its borders beyond the Mediterranean region.

They surrounded the Mediterranean Sea at the peak of the empire. After becoming an empire, they survived for 400 years more.

By 117 AD, the Roman empire had spread to most of Europe, Northern Africa, and Asia Minor. The empire was split into eastern and western empires in 286 AD.

The Roman Empire ca 400 AD, map.
The Roman Empire ca 400 AD
Cplakidas, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The mighty Roman empire seemed almost unstoppable at that time. However, in 476 AD, one of the greatest empires fell.

Why the Romans Wouldn’t Have Come to America

The Romans had two means of traveling: marching and by boat. Marching to America would’ve been impossible, and they most likely didn’t have sufficiently advanced boats to travel to America.

While Roman warships were quite advanced for the time, traveling 7,220 km from Rome to America wouldn’t be possible. [6]


As much as the theory of Romans landing in America before Columbus may seem possible with so many Roman artifacts being recovered from the Americas, there is no concrete evidence.

This implies that neither did the Romans know about North or South America nor did they visit there. However, they were one of the most powerful empires and expanded across multiple continents till their fall.