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The use of Latin language first developed in the region of Latium in central Italy, while proto-Latin speakers existed since c. 1000 BC. With the rise of the Roman Empire, it spread first throughout Italy and then through southern, western, central, and southeast Europe, and northern Africa along parts of western Asia.:1 After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, the use of the Latin language retreated in size, but was still widely used, such as through the Catholic Church as well as by others like the Germanic Visigoths and the Catholic Frankish kingdom of Clovis.:1 In part due to regional variations of the Latin language and local environments, several languages evolved from it, the Romance languages.:4 The Spanish and Portuguese languages prominently spread into North, Central, and South America through colonization.:8,10 The French language has spread to all the continents through colonialism.:13–15 The Italian language developed as a national language of Italy beginning in the 19th century out of several similar Romance dialects.:312 The Romanian language has developed primarily in the Daco-Romanian variant that is the national language of Romania, but also other Romanian variants such as Aromanian.:391
The Latins were an ancient Italic tribe of the Latium region (present-day Lazio) in central Italy, (Latium Vetus - Old Latium), in the 1st millennium BC. Though they lived in independent city-states, the Latins spoke a common language, which was Latin, held common religious beliefs, and shared a close sense of kinship, expressed in the myth that all Latins descend from Latinus. Latinus was worshiped on Mons Albanus (Monte Albano) during an annual festival attended by all Latins, including those from Rome, one of the Latin states. The Latin cities extended common rights of residence and trade to one another.
Rome's territorial ambitions united the rest of the Latins against it in 341 BC, but the final victory was on Rome's side in 338 BC. Consequently, some of the Latin states were incorporated within the Roman state, and their inhabitants were given full Roman citizenship. Others became Roman allies and enjoyed certain privileges.
Europeans generally classified as Latin, including those who were Romanized in ancient times and remain Romance-speaking, are the Ibero-Romans (Portuguese and Spaniards), the Gallo-Romans (French and Romance-speaking Belgians and Swiss), the Italo-Romans (Italians and Romance-speaking Swiss), and the Daco-Romans (Romanians and Moldovans). These peoples are split into Western Romance peoples and Eastern Romance peoples. Strong Roman legal and cultural traditions characterize these nations. Latin Europe is a major subdivision of Europe, along with Celtic Europe, Germanic Europe, and Slavic Europe.
Of all world regions, the Americas (the name itself is derived from the Latinized form of the forename of Amerigo Vespucci), have been most significantly influenced by Romance-speaking European countries in regards to culture, language, religion, and genetic contribution to the population. The Latin European-influenced region of the Americas came to be called Latin America in the 19th century. The French Emperor Napoleon III is often credited with this naming. The term is usually used to refer to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, namely Hispanic America and Brazil. The majority of Latin Americans have Latin European ancestry, notably Spanish and Portuguese.
- "Latin". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005.
- Harris, Martin; Vincent, Nigel (2001). Romance Languages. London, England, UK: Routledge.
- Chasteen, John Charles (2001). Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. W. W. Norton. p. 156. ISBN 0-393-97613-0.