You are here:

Ancient/Classical History/The First Year of the Latin Language


Dear Maria,

The Latin language has always been connected with the Rome republic or empire. But is there a starting year when the language officially became the language of all the colonies of Rome? Or even a relatively short term period when Latin suddenly became ultra-important to the state of Rome?

From the book The Birth Of Classical Europe- A History From Troy To Augustine, I know that at around 400 BC, Latin is still a minor language that can not be compared with Etruscan, Oscan-Umbrian, or even Greek (p. 179). But then all too suddenly, at around 3 to 2 century BC, Latin was already taking over the entire peninsula. Why does this happen? Is it entirely and merely because of that growing mightiness of Rome?

Thank you for reading and answering this.


It is correct that  “at around 400 BC, Latin is still a minor language that cannot be compared with Etruscan, Oscan-Umbrian, or even Greek” which however started to spread outside Greece only after Alexander the Great’s  conquest of  the Persian Empire and then of  Asia Minor, Egypt and Mesopotamia between 334 BC and 323 BC, when he died.
Alexander the Great is in fact recognized for spreading Greek culture and language from Greece throughout Asia Minor, Egypt, and Mesopotamia to India and thus initiating the era of the Hellenistic World.

So, at the beginning of Roman history, i.e. in 753 BC when Rome was founded, Latin was simply the language spoken in Latium (hence the name “Latin”) which was the region where Rome was founded by Indo-European Italic peoples who settled in Tiber Island (Latin, "Insula Tiberina"), the island that marked the easiest point at which the river Tiber could be crossed.
To the North was the region of Etruria and to the East other Italic peoples such as  the Osco-Umbrians, the Samnites as well as the Sabins, but all these peoples were defeated by the Romans over the centuries either during the Roman Monarchy (753 BC-509 BC) or during the Roman Republic (509 BC -27 BC) so that at around the 3rd to 1st century BC Latin  was already the
dominant cultural language over the entire peninsula.

This happens just because of the growing mightiness of Rome that in the course of a few centuries conquered not only the entire Italy, but also  Gallia (modern France),Helvetia (Swiss), Germania (Germany), Pannonia (Hungary), Hispania (Spain), Lusitania(Portugal),Britannia (Britain), Greece,  Macedonia, Illyria (ex Jugoslavia), Asia Minor (today  Turkey, Syria , Iraq, Israel, Lebanon), Egypt and northern Africa.
All these conquests were also enlarged during the Roman Empire (27 BC-476 AD) when e.g. the emperor Trajan conquered Dacia (corresponding to the present day countries of Romania and Moldova, as well as smaller parts of Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, and Ukraine).

Such an extraordinary Roman power diffusion  was due to the extraordinary military might  and strict  discipline of Roman legions so that as a result of this great territorial expansion there was also the dissemination of  Latin language and culture, though the Romans were always quite respectful of  other cultures and religions.

To sum up, there is not a precise starting year when Latin officially became the language of all the provinces  of Rome, for this happened little by little over the centuries, first in Italy, then in the European provinces and lastly over the entire Roman Empire from Europe to northern Africa and the Middle East.

Hope this brief overview of a wide-ranging matter can help you.

Best regards,

Ancient/Classical History

All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts




My field of expertise is Ancient Greek and Roman History.


Over 25 years teaching experience.

I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

This expert accepts donations:

©2016 All rights reserved.