Latin was brought to Italy about 1000 BC by Indo-European
immigrants from Northern Europe. It began, as all languages
do, as an isolated local tongue of a small territory on
the Tiber River called Latium. As the people in Latium
developed into an organized community, the city of Rome
was eventually founded in, according to legend, 753 BC.
In a little over a century, the Latin Romans would fall
under the sway of Etruscan Kings. The evolution of Latin
in its early development was therefore heavily influenced
by these non-Indo-European Etruscans. Over time, it was
also affected by the Celtic migrations and their dialects
from Northern Italy and by the dominant regional culture
of the Greeks.
Latin would quickly spread over a larger part of Italy,
in direct correlation to Roman conquests. With the foundation
of the Roman Empire, a large portion of the western
world would come to speak various forms of Latin or
have it intermingled with their own tongues. While classical
Latin developed in the city of Rome and its environs,
a spoken vernacular form of Latin was carried by the
Legions throughout the Roman provinces. With this development,
the use of Latin in these regions would supercede the
pre-Roman dialects of Italy, Gaul and Spain. However,
some expressions of the original languages remained
intact and, once mixed with the spoken Latin, gave birth
to new languages known as the Romance languages. Only
the deeply rooted Greek language would resist Latin
interjection and continue to be spoken in its original
Latin also survived the fall of the Roman Empire.
As the centuries passed it continued to be an international
language of the educated and social elite, accompanying
the modified tongues of the common people. The sole
language of the Catholic Church was Latin, and all scholarly,
historical, or scientific work was written in it. The
replacement of the Romans itself as an international
authority, with that of the church, was a key factor
in keeping the language alive and in practice. When
the Middle Ages ended, end the west experienced a cultural
Renaissance, interest in classical Latin as a means
of artistic and literary expression grew. During and
after this period of re-birth, forms of Latin were even
transplanted to the Western Hemisphere. Today, the people
of Mexico, Central America, and South America are called
Latins or latinos.
The Latin language is the bedrock of the language
of Western Civilization. The Romance Languages of Spain,
France, Italy, Portugal, and Romania developed from
a hybrid version of spoken Latin and native tongues.
Each would also be influenced in turn by other tongues,
such as Slavic, Norse and many Germanic dialects. Without
Latin, very few of the tongues we speak today would
be possible or recognizable in their current forms.
Latin today may be a dormant language but it remains
an important piece of our linguistic puzzle. The use
of Latin for names of places, anatomy, biology and others
still dominates several scientific and medical fields.
People all over the world are studying Latin with enthusiasm
and energy. It, of course, is still alive and well within
the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church. It is gaining
new popularity among modern Italians and Romans; and
conventions of Latin speaking people are becoming a
regular occurrence in Europe. Latin is anything but
a dead language.