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The Latins were originally an Italic tribe in ancient central Italy from Latium. As Roman power and colonization[1] spread Latin culture, during the Roman Empire, Latins came to mean mostly unified Italic Latin-speaking people and the Latin-speaking people of Italia, Gaul, Hispania and Dacia whose land was settled by Roman colonists.

In the late 15th–16th centuries, a millennium after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, with a number of maritime discoveries, first Portugal, then Spain and then France began to build world empires, in the Americas, Sub-Saharas and the East Indies. In consequence to the Mexican-American War and the ultimate loss of California to the United States, by the mid-19th century, the former American colonies of these nations, as well as French-speaking areas of America became known as Latin America and this region's inhabitants as Latin Americans.

Map of 5th century-BC Latium (Latium Vetus) and surrounding regions in central Italy that were eventually annexed by Rome to form "New Latium". The Alban Hills, a region of early Latin settlement (from c. 1000 BC) and the site of the Latiar, the most important Latin communal festival, are located under the "U" in LATIUM. The region's two main lakes, Nemi and Albanus, are visible under the "I". The leading Latin city-states of Rome, Tibur (Tivoli), Praeneste (Palestrina), Ardea and Gabii are shown.


Italy in 400 BC

The Latins were an ancient Italic people of the Latium region in central Italy (Latium Vetus, "Old Latium"), in the 1st millennium BC. Although they lived in independent city-states, they spoke a common language (Latin), held common religious beliefs, and shared a 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 in the end Rome won 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.

Middle Ages[edit]

After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, many Europeans held on to the "Latin" identity, more specifically, in the sense of the Romans, as members of the Empire.

In the Eastern Roman Empire, and the broader Greek-Orthodox world, Latins was a synonym for all people who followed Roman Catholic Christianity.[2] It was generally a negative characterization, especially after the 1054 schism.[2] Latins is still used by the Orthodox church communities, but only in a theological context.

The Holy Roman Empire was founded centuries after the fall of Rome but brandished the name of the Roman people and honoured the king with the title "King of the Romans". Despite this, the Holy Roman Empire was largely an affair with Roman-German kings, although its territory was considerably greater than present-day Germany.

Modern uses[edit]

Latin Europe[edit]

The term Latin Europe is used in reference to European nations where Italians, French, Portuguese, Romanians and Spaniards live. Their cultures are particularly Roman-derived. They include the use of Romance languages and the traditional predominance of Western Christianity (especially Roman Catholicism).[3][failed verification] Strong Roman legal and cultural traditions characterize these nations. Latin Europe is a major subdivision of Europe, along with Germanic Europe and Slavic Europe.

Latin America[edit]

Of all world regions, the Americas 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.[4] The term is usually used to refer to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking countries, namely Hispanic America and Brazil.


The Central Italian region, the birthplace of Latin Civilization, still preserves its Latin identity in the modern name Lazio (Ancient Latium).

Latin Valley[edit]

A region in Lazio corresponding to the eastern area of ancient Roman Latium (Southern Province of Rome and Province of Frosinone).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ MacKendrick, P. L (1952). "Roman Colonization". Phoenix. 6 (4): 139. doi:10.2307/1086829. JSTOR 1086829.
  2. ^ a b George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State
  3. ^ Friedman, Lawrence; Perez-Perdomo, Rogelio, eds. (2003). Legal Culture in the Age of Globalization: Latin America and Latin Europe. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-6695-1.
  4. ^ Chasteen, John Charles (2001). Born in Blood and Fire: A Concise History of Latin America. W. W. Norton. p. 156. ISBN 978-0-393-97613-7. [T]he French invented the name 'Latin America' during these years [of Napoleon III] as a way of making their influence seem natural.

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