Russo, Italian from Medieval Latin, a Russian, from Rus, the Norsemen, the original founders of the Russian principality from Norse he rows, or the men who row.

It is a Sicilian name, where it originated and is the most common name in all of Sicily. It originally denoted Nobility. It is also common in Southern Italy. Why? The Vikings, aka Normans.

An interesting fact about the Normans, which we know is French for Norsemen, is that in the Byzantine world of Magna Graecia in Southern Italy and Sicily, all Vikings were called Rus.

The most common name in Sicily, Russo, originally denoting nobility, is not a variation of Rosso, which means red but is medieval Latin for a Russian from Rus, from Norse, the men who row, the original founders of the Russian principalities.

The name Russo should never be taken out of the context of the Byzantine world when the Rus Vikings were bodyguards and mercenaries to the Emperors of the Byzantine Empire, and later Byzantine Greeks of Sicily and Southern Italy. One can not remove Magna Graecia nor Byzantine Southern Italy from the context of Southern Italian culture, history, language nor names. Many Southern Italian words and last names are themselves Greek names and words.

The Southern Italian States were all part of ancient Magna Graecia and the later Greek Byzantine Empire. In these Southern Italian States and Sicily there are to this day pockets of people still speaking Greek, or Albanian. See also The Griko People of Southern Italy .

This Magna Graecia part of Italy was conquered from the Greek world by the Romans and incorporated into Rome, then later lost to the Goths and then later recovered by the Byzantine Greeks. See The Gothic War (535-554) between the Byzantine Empire during the reign of Emperor Justinian I and the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy which took place from 535 until 554 in the Italian peninsula, Dalmatia, Sardinia, Sicily and Corsica when the Byzantine general Narses recovered the southern Italian provinces from the Goths.

Next came the Muslim Arabs who took a lot of Southern Italy. Then enter the Normans and the Norman Conquest of Southern Italy and Sicily. All Vikings, or Normans (French for Norsemen, i.e., Vikings) were called Rus by the Byzantine Greeks, the Arabs, the Sicilians and Southern Italians at that time throughout that region.

Checking any map of Italy for the time period one finds the name in exactly the regions where the Normans conquered the lands from the Byzantines and Arabs. The first Western European source to mention the Rus' are the Annals of St. Bertin. These relate that Emperor Louis the Pious' court at Ingelheim, in 839, was visited by a delegation from the Byzantine emperor. In this delegation there were two men who called themselves Rus (Rus vocari dicebant). Louis enquired about their origins and learnt that they were Swedes (suoni). Fearing that they were spies for their allies, the Danes, he incarcerated them, before letting them proceed after receiving reassurances from Byzantium.Another telling source comes from Liutprand of Cremona, a 10th-century Lombard bishop who in a report from Constantinople to Holy Roman Emperor Otto I wrote that he had met the Rus whom we know by the other name of Norsemen.It was in exactly these lands in Sicily and Southern Italy that these Norsemen or Vikings, saw a great opportunity to advance themselves and take title to lands as war lords, just the same as Rollo had done centuries before in France. Rollo was the famous Viking “who emerged as the outstanding personality among the Norsemen who had secured a permanent foothold on Frankish soil in the valley of the lower Seine. Charles the Simple, the king of West Francia, ceded them lands between the mouth of the Seine and what is now Rouen in exchange for Rollo agreeing to end his brigandage, and provide the Franks with protection against future Viking raids.”

200 years after the land in France was given to Rollo the Norman people there were still speaking their Scandinavian languages. And these were made up of not only one tribe of Vikings, but many different ones, making a confederation which later invaded England from that very region in France. See the Norman Conquest of England.

Seeing this great opportunity for land and title for themselves like Rollo had done for himself, the Norsemen adventurers enlisted into the conquest of Sicily and Southern Italy. First defeating the Muslim Arabs and then turning on the Greek Orthodox Byzantines. They then turned the land over to the Roman Pope. It is in exactly these lands that the name Russo is found. By turning the land over to the Pope, the inhabitants were then under the influence of the Roman Catholic Church and not the Byzantine Greek Orthodox Church. The Pope then gratefully granted land and title to these Norman Warlords. The first recorded entry of the Medieval Latinized form of the name Russo is in the documents of Sperlinga Castle in Enna, Sicily, dated 1132. Under the Norman rule of Sicily, King Roger II had granted the land title of Sperlinga Castle to one of his descendants, Ricciardo (See the Language Gallo-Italic of Sicily from the French pronunciation of Richard) whom the King had made a Baron for his defense of the Castle against the Muslims. The Normans (French for Norsemen) were descendants of the Viking Norsemen who conquered Sicily, and Ricciardo was a direct descendent of the House Hauteville (Altavilla in Italian, in Sicilian, d’Autavilla). As a Baron, Ricciardo then presumably took the surname Russo Rosso and bestowed to the castle a coat of arms featuring a comet against a red backdrop with the motto Serenet. Prior to the Norman invasion of England, there was no recognizable system for hereditary coats of arms, but it was following that conquest that the Middle Ages saw the dawn of heraldry.

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