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Roman Language & Writers

Latin Alphabet
The earliest known inscriptions in the Latin alphabet date from the 6th century BC. It was adapted from the
Etruscan alphabet that was prominent in the region around the 7th century BC. Additionally, the letters Y and
Z were taken from the Greek alphabet as Latin was heavily influenced by its eastern culturally advanced
neighbors. The modern English and many European languages still use the basic Latin alphabet, if not the
actual words of the language.

There were no lower case letters written in Latin. The letters K, X, Y and Z were used only for writing words of
Greek origin, except for Roman numerals. The letters J, U and W were much later additions well beyond the
Roman influence at a time as the European languages evolved to include more sounds and words. J is a
variant of I, and U is a variant of V (i.e. Latin IVLIVS CAESAR, English Julius Caesar). The W was introduced
as a 'double-v' to identify the sound that developed later differentiating it from the v.

Did you know?

In the course of its history, the Latin alphabet was used for several new languages, and therefore over time, some new letters and
diacritics were created.

Latin Language
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
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, a
spoken form of Latin was carried by the Legions throughout the Roman provinces. 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 form.

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. Of
these modern languages, Romanian, not Italian, remains the closest living language to the original. Without
Latin, a very few of the tongues we speak today would be possible or recognizable in their current forms.

The use of Latin for names of places, anatomy, biology and others still dominates several scientific and medical
fields. 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.
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Roman Language & Writers

Did you know?

Unlike English, Latin is an inflective language, which means that the way the word is used in the sentence is known by its ending.

Roman Writers

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106 – 43 BC) was one of the most influential players in the period of Rome’s late Republic.
He was a conservative statesman, politician, lawyer and general defender of Republican principals. Generally
regarded as the greatest orator in the history of the world, Cicero was an opponent, and sometimes rival to
Caesar. Thanks in large part to Cicero’s diligent letters and speeches; the modern world has a brilliant historical
view of the closing days of the Roman Republic.

Did you know?

Cicero did not take part in the assassination of Caesar, but he applauded it.

Quintus Horatius Flaccus (65 –8 BC) was a Latin poet, and one of the greatest lyricists of the ancient world.
Horace was unrivaled in his time and his early poems show the influence of the Greeks, but his later verses are
complete and fluid Latin scripts. He gives a vivid picture of contemporary Roman society and presents a fine
picture of the golden age of Rome under Augustus. His work survived the centuries and it had immense
influence on later European poets.
Did you know?

Horace embraced literature as a profession, and was so fortunate as to find a liberal and lifelong patron in Maecenas.

Decimus Junius Juvenalis (47 – 130 AD) was a Roman satirical poet. His verse was generally a harsh attack on
contemporary policies, social situations and personalities. One favorite target was the emperor Domitian, and his
verses often got him into trouble with the aristrocracy. He denounced extravagant and luxurious society, the
tyranny of various emperors, and many indiscriminate social behaviors. Several modern quotes are also
attributed to Juvenal including, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?” (who shall guard the guardians).

Titus Lucretius Carus (99 - 55 BC) was a Roman poet and philosopher who strongly advocated the existence of
man on a natural scientific level. He argued against the afterlife and the immortal soul, mocking religion as simple
superstition. He was also among the first to suggest, at least in writing, the creation of the universe through the
work of natural laws rather than a supreme being.
Did you know?

Lucretius wrote 2000 years ago already about biological mutations and selection of the fittest to survive.

Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the younger (3 BC – 65 AD) was Roman philosopher, dramatist, and statesman of the
highest order. He became famous as an orator and served as a full member of the Senate. Despite attempts to
retire to private life and focus on writing, accusations of conspiracy forced the brilliant statesman to commit
suicide in 65 AD.
Did you know?

Seneca's plays had a profound influence on the development of the tragic form in later times, particularly in the age of

Virgil or Vergil
Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC - 19 BC) is the mostly highly regarded Roman poet. After 30 BC, Virgil’s career was
dedicated to writing one of the most epic pieces in the history of literature. The Aeneid, regarded as a classical
masterpiece, influenced writers well into the Middle Ages and stands out as the single most highly regarded Latin
poem. It tells the story of Aeneas and the founding of Rome.

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