Have you ever wondered why the language of Ancient Rome was named Latin and not Roman?
This is because the Romans spoke the language of the district they lived in, Latium in Italy.
The strength and influence of the Ancient Rome made Latin into the dominant language of the South and Western Europe. There, the Romance languages (Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian and Portuguese) would later be derived from Latin.
The earliest samples of the Latin language we have are fragments of songs, hymns, laws and annals, as well as inscriptions.
However, there was no literary activity as such in Ancient Rome until the 3rd century BC.
In most types of literature the Romans were deeply indebted to the Greeks. Influence of the Greek civilization onto Ancient Rome began early (with the commerce between the people of Latium and the Greek cities of South Italy), and reached its fullest development after the conquest of Greece by Rome, which was completed in 146 BC.
The first Latin author known to us is Livius Andronicus, a Greek of Tarentum. Having been taken as a prisoner in war, he became a teacher at Rome. There produced Latin adaptations of Greek plays (240 BC). The works of the writers who followed in that and the next century have mostly perished, except the comedies of Plautus and Terence (220-160 BC), and a prose work of Cato the Elder.
I. The Golden Age:
1. The Ciceronian Age (80-43 BC) in which the chief poets were Lucretius and Catullus, the chief prose writers Cicero, Caesar and Sallust;
2. Augustan Age (43 BC - 14 AD) in which the chief poets were Virgil, Horace and Ovid, the chief prose writer was Livy
II. The Silver Age (AD 14-120) in which the chief poets were Lucan, Martial, Statius, and Juvenal, the chief prose writers Seneca, Pliny, and Tacitus.
For many centuries after AD 120 Latin was used for literary purposes. Until recent times scientific and philosophical works were often written in Latin. The Roman Catholic Church still uses it in its services and for official purposes.
To understand the English language thoroughly it is necessary to have at least some knowledge of Latin. The reason for this is the fact that Anglo-Saxon language (Old English), had borrowed many words from Latin, either directly or through French. This Germanic language group, spoken in Britain, south of the Forth (except Wales and Cornwall), has been making these borrowings both before and after the Norman Conquest (AD 1066). As a result, modern English and Latin are quite closely connected.