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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
IX. THE EARLY EMPIRE: THE WORLD UNDER ROMAN RULE, 31 B.C.-l80 A.D.
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LATIN IN ITALY
The conquest by Latin of the languages of the world is almost as interesting and important a story as the conquest by Rome of the nations of the world. At the beginning of Latin in Roman history Latin was the speech of only the Italy people of Latium. Beyond the limits of Latium Latin came into contact with the many different languages spoken in early Italy. Some of them, such as Greek and Etruscan, soon disappeared from Italy after Roman expansion, but those used by native Italian peoples showed more power of resistance. It was not until the last century B.C. that Latin was thoroughly established in the central and southern parts of the peninsula. After the Social War the Italian peoples became citizens of Rome, and with Roman citizenship went the use of the Latin tongue.
LATIN IN THE WESTERN PROVINCES
The Romans carried their language to the barbarian peoples of the West, as they had carried it to Italy. Their missionaries were colonists, merchants, soldiers, and public officials. The Latin spoken by them was eagerly taken up by the rude, unlettered natives, who tried to make themselves as Roman as possible in dress, customs, and speech. This provincial Latin was not simply the language of the upper classes; the common people themselves used it freely, as we know from thousands of inscriptions found in western and central Europe. In the countries which now make up Spain, France, Switzerland, southern Austria, England, and North Africa, the old national tongues were abandoned for the Latin of Rome.
The decline of the Roman Empire did not bring about the downfall of the Latin language in the West. It became the basis of the so-called Romance languages—French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Rumanian—which arose in the Middle Ages out of the spoken Latin of the common people. Even our English language, which comes to us from the speech of the Germanic invaders of Britain, contains so many words of Latin origin that we can scarcely utter a sentence without using some of them. The rule of Rome has passed away; the language of Rome still remains to enrich the intellectual life of mankind.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy