Latins (Italic tribe)

The Latins (Latin: Latini), sometimes known as the Latians, were an Italic tribe which included the early inhabitants of the city of Rome (see Roman people). From about 1000 BC, the Latins inhabited the small region known to the Romans as Old Latium (in Latin Latium vetus), that is, the area between the river Tiber and the promontory of Mount Circeo 100 km (62 mi) southeast of Rome. Following the Roman expansion, the Latins spread into the Latium adiectum, inhabited by Osco-Umbrian peoples.

Map of fifth-century BC Latium and surrounding regions in present-day Italy that were eventually annexed by Rome to form "New Latium": The Alban Hills, a region of early Latin settlement (from around 1000 BC) and the site of the Latiar, the most important Latin communal festival, are located under the "U" in LATIUM. The region's two main lakes, Nemi and Albanus, are visible under the "I". The leading Latin city-states of Rome, Tibur (Tivoli), Praeneste (Palestrina), Ardea and Gabii are shown.

Their language, Latin, belonged to the Italic branch of Indo-European. Speakers of Italic languages are assumed to have migrated into the Italian Peninsula during the late Bronze Age (1200–900 BC). The material culture of the Latins, known as the Latial culture, was a distinctive subset of the proto-Villanovan culture that appeared in parts of the Italian peninsula in the first half of the 12th century BC. The Latins maintained close culturo-religious relations until they were definitively united politically under Rome in 338 BC, and for centuries beyond. These included common festivals and religious sanctuaries.

The rise of Rome as by far the most populous and powerful Latin state from c. 600 BC led to volatile relations with the other Latin states, which numbered about 14 in 500 BC. In the period of the Tarquin monarchy (c. 550–500 BC), Rome apparently acquired political hegemony over the other states. After the fall of the Roman monarchy around 500 BC, there appears to have been a century of military alliance between Rome and the other Latin states to confront the threat posed to all Latium by raiding by the surrounding Italic mountain tribes, especially the Volsci and Aequi. This system progressively broke down after roughly 390 BC, when Rome's aggressive expansionism led to conflict with other Latin states, both individually and collectively. In 341–338 BC, the Latin states jointly fought the Latin War against Rome in a final attempt to preserve their independence. The war resulted in 338 BC in a decisive Roman victory. The other Latin states were either annexed or permanently subjugated to Rome.


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