The Italic language of ancient Latium and ancient Rome. It was originally spoken as the language of the people of Latium, small groups of people living along the lower Tiber River, south of the Apennines. The rise of Rome led to the spread of Latin as the official and literary language of the Roman Empire, first throughout Italy and then throughout most of western and southern Europe and the central and western Mediterranean coastal regions of Africa.

The modern Romance languages developed from the spoken Latin of various parts of the Roman Empire. During the Middle Ages and until relatively recent times, Latin was the language most widely used in the West for scholarly and literary purposes.

After the Fall of the Roman Empire, Latin became the basis of local spoken forms which evolved in the modern Romance languages. It also continued in a more or less standardized form as the language of law, the sciences, and particularly religion. In this form, it had great influence on the development of the languages of western Europe.

See also: Old Latin, Late Latin, Classical Latin, Vulgar Latin, Silver Latin, Low Latin, Medieval Latin, Modern Latin