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THE ROMAN EMPIRE
Legend holds that Romulus and Remus, twins who were suckled by a she-wolf as infants, founded the city of Rome in 753 B.C. From 753 B.C. to 510 B.C. Rome was ruled by kings. Rome began as simply another city-state on the Italian peninsula, but in 510 B.C., after a series of semi-legendary tyrannical kings, Rome established itself as a Republic. It was during the Republic that Rome became an expansionist state, first dominating Italy and then adding territory in all directions. The end of the Republic began in 48 A.D. when Julius Caesar was declared Dictator for life. Although Caesar had declined the title of king when offered him, members of the Senate who feared his growing power formed a conspiracy to assassinate him. On March 15, 44B.C. Caesar was stabbed twenty-three times on his way to the Senate.
Following the death of Caesar a second Triumvirate was formed between Lepidus, Marc Antony and Octavius Caesar, Caesar's nephew and adopted son. This uneasy alliance ruled until 28 A.D. (Lepidus was exiled in 36 and died in 35) when Octavius, having defeated Marc Antony, changing his name to Augustus Caesar became the first Roman Emperor. The Roman Empire reached its territorial height in 116 A.D. By the time of Diocletian (283-305 A.D.) the Empire had become to large for one ruler, so it was divided into a western and eastern half, with Diocletion taking direct rule of the east, and appointing a co-ruler, or "Augustus," in the west. The Emperor delegated power further by appointing to men, called "Caesars," to assist himself and the western Augustus. Each half of the empire was further split upon a north-south line, and ruled by prefects responsible to an Augustus.
Under Constantine the Great these divisions were modified, and the center of government officially moved from Rome to the Greek city of Byzantium, which was renamed Constantinople in honor of Constantine. As Rome experienced more and more onslaughts at the hands of the east Germanic Goths, the Roman legions stationed throughout Europe were recalled, leaving the provinces vulnerable to attack and invasion by the west Germanic peoples, such as the Angles, Saxons and Jutes in Britain, and the Frisians, Franks and other "North men" in Gaul. The western Empire ended when it fell to Odacer the Scirian in 476 A.D., but the eastern Empire, now called the Byzantine Empire, survived western Empire by almost one thousand years, until Constantinople was captured, in 1453, by the Ottoman Turks.
The Latin Language
The Romance languages, Italian, Spanish, French and Romanian, are all descendants of the Vulgar Latin spoken by the Roman legions. At its height in 116 A.D., Rome's influence extended from Britain in the north, Iberia (Spain) in the west, North Africa and Egypt in the south and Armenia and Assyria in the east. The former constituents of Rome in western Europe found themselves at odds with various tribes of Germanic Northmen.
In Gaul, where the original Celtic language had been almost completely replaced by Latin, the invading Germanic tribes (primarily the Franks, from whose name the word France derives) assimilated some degree of the Romano-Gallic culture. This allowed the Vulgate Latin of Gaul to evolve into the language known as French. In Hispania (Spain) the emerging Latinate Spanish was influenced by the Arabic speaking Moors, as well as by French and Italian. Although the Romance languages do derive from a common source, geographical, ethnic, and political divisions and influences led to the development of different dialects and, eventually, to separate languages altogether.
In the Middle Ages, Medieval Latin, which descends from the written, classical form of the language, not the spoken Vulgar Latin, became the language of the educated and religious. Latin was the liturgical language of the Catholic church, which kept the language in use. Ecclesiastical Latin differs from Latin proper primarily in the pronunciation of certain sounds, such as in the softening of the hard "c" from a "k" sound to an "s" sound. It is this style of pronunciation that is most often used today.
Because there is no longer a population which uses Latin as its native tongue, Latin is considered a "dead" language, and free from the morphological changes that "living" languages are subject to.