The word 'Latin' comes from the name of the region of Latinum (today Lazio in Italy) inhabited by the Italic tribe of the Latins. A writing system commonly known as Latin script also originated in Italy. The script has its roots in the Semitic, Phoenician, and Greek alphabets. Written Latin originally had no punctuation, everything was written in capital letters and there were no spaces separating the words – partially as a result of a space-saving effort since the texts were engraved on small wax tablets. This also gave rise to the term (or rather a metaphor) tabula rasa. It is believed that the oldest inscription in Latin is borne on a brooch dating back to the 7th century BC that was found in Palestrina.
Latin developed over several phases that are closely connected with Roman expansionism and the expansionism of ancient Rome. Around 265 BC, the Romans conquered Greek colonies, which enriched their language with Greek words. Old Latin was also influenced by Etruscan and Oscan. The language flourished greatly in the 1st century BC. It was a time of blossoming literature and vocabulary and the time when Latin was purified by separating from vernacular elements. It is also the period in which important works written by renowned authors such as Cicero, Caesar, Varro and others date back to. Roman power expanded and so did Classical Latin, which became the lingua franca of the ancient world.
We must not forget about Vernacular Latin, which coexisted alongside Classical Latin and both language varieties influenced each other. It is from the colloquial language (sermo vulgaris) that the Romance languages gradually developed around the 9th century. The influence of Latin declined after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, but Latin continued being used in the Middle Ages. With the advent of modern times and the effort to overcome the medieval decline, Latin restored its position as an important language. It is the Latin of this period that is still used by the Roman Catholic Church today.