This section discusses the growth of the Latin language and its influence on modern European languages.
Politically there was a clear distinction between Rome and Latinum, but the language of the two sections was the same and it was called Latin. It belongs to the Indo-European family of languages and was perhaps spoken in several dialects as early as 1500 B. C. It is probable that the Latin and Greek came originally from the same source, since there is a manifest connection between the two languages. Classical Latin was formed in the period when Rome was a republic and an empire, though during the last two centuries of its history many foreign words were injected through contact with other languages, and by the 8th century it ceased to be spoken as a distinct tongue.
The languages developed from the Roman include the modern Romance languages, which are chiefly the Italian, Rumanian, Spanish, Portuguese, and French.
Much of Roman civilization was destroyed by the barbarian invasions. But the literature and language of the Latins were preserved in remnants of the great libraries, which were carried by the clergy to the convents in the Middle Ages, and were afterward brought to the great libraries of Europe, particularly those of Rome. Even now many Latin sayings are still in use.
Many of the leading writers of Europe, following the revival of learning, wrote largely in Latin, and both the language and its literature were subjects of profound interest in all the higher institutions of learning for many centuries. All the modern languages of European people contain a large proportion of Latin words, the Latin addition to English being made at the time of the Norman conquest. Latin is characterized by a peculiar accuracy in expressing thought.