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Latin (lingua Latina) is an Indo-Eu­ro­pean lan­guage of the Italic sub­fam­ily. It is highly in­flec­tional and syn­thetic, and has a rel­a­tively free word or­der. With an at­tested life of al­most three thou­sand years and wide­spread in­flu­ence in all ar­eas of cul­ture, it con­sti­tutes the most uni­ver­sal and en­dur­ing lan­guage our civil­i­sa­tion has known.

Latin de­rives its name from its his­tor­i­cal cra­dle on the plain of Latium, a re­gion in cen­tral Italy which was in­hab­ited by the La­tini, pre­sum­ably de­scen­dants of pre­his­toric in­dige­nous peo­ples and var­i­ous Bronze and Iron age new­com­ers. The set­tle­ments the La­tini started to es­tab­lish on the Pala­tine, Es­quiline, and Quiri­nal hills near the river Tiber as early as the -9th cen­tury had co­a­lesced three cen­turies later into the thence­forth renowned city of Rome, whose date of foun­da­tion is tra­di­tion­ally given as the 21st of April -753. A few cen­turies af­ter that, a flour­ish­ing Ro­man re­pub­lic would be­gin its ex­pan­sion all over the Mediter­ranean basin, spread­ing its na­tive lan­guage, Latin, to the rest of the world.

Latin reached its ma­tu­rity as a lan­guage in what is con­se­quently re­ferred to as the clas­si­cal pe­riod, around the lives of Ci­cero (-106 to -43) and Vir­gil (-70 to -19), pro­foundly en­riched by the fine sap of an­cient Greek cul­ture. Through­out the cen­turies, the un­par­al­leled drive of the Ro­mans be­stowed on the Latin lan­guage a vigour that en­abled it to sur­vive the demise of Rome it­self and re­main alive in the dif­fer­ent king­doms which be­came heirs to the Ro­man Em­pire in the West. The Latin lan­guage con­tin­ued to spread through­out Eu­rope dur­ing the long Mid­dle Ages, as the lan­guage of ju­rispru­dence, phi­los­o­phy and the­ol­ogy. It bounced back with re­newed strength in the Re­nais­sance as the ever ideal ve­hi­cle of in­ter­na­tional com­mu­ni­ca­tion for the now flour­ish­ing arts and sci­ences. Only the tur­bu­lent events and ide­olo­gies of the mere last cou­ple of cen­turies have come close to dis­pos­sess­ing even the bet­ter ed­u­cated of the riches of our her­itage, pro­mot­ing the im­pres­sion that the Latin lan­guage died with the last of the an­cient Ro­mans.