As a nation state, Italy has emerged only in 1871. Until then the country was politically divided into a large number of independant cities, provinces and islands. The currently available evidences point out to a dominant Etruscan, Greek and Roman cultural influence on today's Italians.
This in its various and sometimes confused forms, is probably the worlds most popular name. Recorded from the 12th century a.d. onwards in every European country, and in over fourteen hundred spellings, this is a Biblical and Crusader name. The spellings range from base forms such as Jon or John (England & Wales), Evan (Wales), Johan (Germany), Ian (Scotland), Sean and Shane (Ireland), Ivan (Russia) and Jean (France), to the Italian Giann, Giannasi, Giovanni, Zanni and Zoane, the Polish Janus, the Czeck Jan, Janak and Jansky, to the diminutives Jenkin, Jeannet, Nannini, Zanelli, Zanicchi, and Gianuzzi, the patronymics Johnson, Joynson, Jenson, Jocie, Ivanshintsev, and Ivashechkin. However spelt, all have derived from the biblical Hebrew "Yochanan", which translates as " He who Jehovah has favoured (with a son)". The name became particularly popular after the 12th century when returning Crusaders from the Holy Land often called their children by biblical names in commemoration of the fathers pilgrimage, these then in turn developed into surnames. The earliest recordings of surnames are to be found in Britain and amongst these is Thomas John in the "Hundred Rolls" of the county of Buckinghamshire for the year 1279, and Arnold Johan in the 1280 "Letter Book" register for the city of London. In Germany Walterus filius Johannis appears in the 1323 charters of the town of Vaihingen, whilst the 1344 charters of the city of Friedberg record Baumeister Johannssen. The first recorded spelling of the surname in any spelling is believed to be that of Pertus Johannis, which was dated 1230 a.d.. This is in the charters known as the "Close Rolls" of the county of Suffolk", during the reign of King Henry 111 of England,1216 to 1272.