I was talking with a young friend, a recent high school graduate, about the movie Gladiator. She said that while she was watching the movie, she wondered if she could have been related to anyone who would have been there at that time and place in history.

Although this question is probably typical of the one many viewers had, I was struck with how different this question was to the question I had. When I saw the scenes at the Coliseum, I wondered how few of the people there were not my ancestors.

I have come to believe from growing the A&E Family Forest, and seeing the patterns of human pathways over the course of many centuries, that most of the people in the Coliseum at that time were our ancestors (not just relatives, but people we are actually descended from).

Anyone there who eventually had grandchildren who had children most likely set in motion an ever-growing group of descendants that is now so large that it can now only be stopped by the extinction of the human race. It seems to me that a couple living at that time could easily be the ancestors of more than a billion people living today.

Looking at it from the reverse angle, if it were possible to know all of one’s ancestry back to the time setting of Gladiator, one would have to fill in more than one million times one trillion boxes (1,000,000,000,000,000,000) on a pedigree chart. The entire population of Rome at that time would only be a small blip on a chart that size.

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