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What Language Did Romans Speak?

What Language Did Romans Speak?

The ancient Romans are known for many things: their development of the Republic, great engineering feats, and impressive military conquests. But what language did they use to communicate? 

The answer is Latin, an Italic language that eventually became the lingua franca throughout much of Europe in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. 

In this article, we’ll explore the origins of Latin and how it became the language of the Roman Empire. We’ll also look at how it evolved over time and its lasting influence on other languages.  So, let’s dive in and learn more about the language of the Romans! 

What Language Did Romans Speak? 

Introduction to the Latin Language 

Latin is an ancient language that has been around for centuries. It was the official language of ancient Rome and its empire and was also used in many other areas of the world during that time. 

Latin continued to be used in many areas even after the fall of the Roman Empire and is still used as a scientific language. It is also a major source of many modern languages, including English. 

Rome Colosseum inscription.
Rome Colosseum inscription
Wknight94, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Latin has three main periods: the classical period (75 BC-AD 14), the post-classical period (14-900 AD), and the modern period (900 AD to present). During each of these periods, it underwent changes in grammar and syntax, as well as changes in the vocabulary used. 

Its influence can still be seen in many languages that descended from it, such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. 

The Latin language has a rich literary tradition encompassing authors like Julius Caesar, Cicero, Pliny the Elder, and Ovid. Its literature also includes religious texts such as the Bible and many of the works of early Christian authors. 

In addition to its use in literature, Latin was also used in Roman law and even in medical texts. 

Latin syntax and grammar are complex, which is why it could be difficult for modern speakers to master. However, it is still possible to learn spoken Latin today with help from books and online resources. Studying Latin can provide a wealth of knowledge about the culture and history of ancient Rome, and it can also improve one’s understanding of other Romance languages. Whether you are looking to gain a better knowledge of the language or learn something new, Latin is definitely worth studying. (1)

Its Origin in Rome 

Latin is thought to have originated in the region around Rome, with the earliest records of its use dating back to the 6th century BCE. 

However, it wasn’t classical Latin. By the time of the Roman Empire, Latin had become a common language used by all citizens and immigrants who resided in Rome. 

The Romans spread their language throughout their sprawling empire, and as they conquered new lands, Latin became the lingua franca of the western world. 

How Did It Become the Language of the Roman Empire?

The language of Latin began as a dialect of the ancient Italic people. As Rome grew and expanded its territory, it brought more and more native people under its control. 

Over time, these cultures adopted Latin as their common language, helping to spread it throughout the Empire. 

Eventually, it became the official language of government, law, literature, religion, and education throughout the Empire. This helped unify the disparate cultures of Rome under one language, making communication easier across vast distances. In addition, Latin’s widespread usage made it a powerful tool in spreading Roman culture and values around Europe. (2)

A 1783 edition of The Gallic Wars.
A 1783 edition of The Gallic Wars
Image courtesy:

Latin’s Influence on Other Languages 

Latin also had a major influence on other languages and dialects as it spread throughout Europe. 

This is especially true for Romance languages like French, Spanish, Italian and Romanian, which evolved from Vulgar Latin brought to those regions by Roman settlers. Latin also impacted English, which has several words borrowed from the classical language. 

Regional Languages of the Roman Empire

Despite the widespread acceptance of Latin, it was not the only language spoken by the Roman Empire. There were several regional languages still spoken by native people that had been conquered and assimilated into Roman rule. 

These included Greek, which was used extensively in many areas throughout the Eastern Mediterranean, Celtic languages (such as Gaulish and Irish), and Germanic languages (such as Gothic), which were spoken by tribes in the northern reaches of the Empire. 

Let’s learn about them in more detail. 


Greek was also spoken by many citizens within the eastern roman empire. It was often used as an intermediary language for communication between people of different mother tongues. Aramaic was also spoken throughout the region by both Jews and non-Jews and remained popular until the 5th century AD.

Various Germanic languages were spoken by people living in the border regions of the empire. These included Gothic and Lombard, both of which became extinct in the early Middle Ages. 

Celtic Languages

The Celtic languages were spoken by people living in some of the provinces conquered by the Romans. These included:

  • Gaulish, used in modern-day France
  • Welsh, spoken in Britain
  • Galatian, spoken primarily in what is now Turkey


The Punic language was spoken by the Carthaginians in North Africa, although it gradually disappeared after their defeat at the hands of Rome in 146 BC. 


Coptic was a descendant of the ancient Egyptian language, which continued to be used by Christians living within the empire until it died out in the 7th century AD. 

Phoenician and Hebrew 

The Romans also encountered Phoenicians and Hebrew during their expansion. These languages were spoken by people living in some of the areas that were conquered by Rome. 

While Latin remained the official language of the Roman Empire, these different dialects allowed for cultural exchange throughout its many provinces. (3)


Latin is one of the most influential languages in history and has had a lasting impact on the world. It was the language used by Ancient Romans to communicate and spread their culture throughout Europe. 

It also formed the basis for many modern Romance languages and has had a major influence on English. Even though Latin is no longer the language of Rome, its legacy will continue to live on for many generations. 

Thanks for reading!