Episode 16: The Rise of Rome – and Latin

We look at the rise of the Roman Republic from a small Italian city-state to the dominant political and military power of the Mediterranean. The expansion of Rome also led to the expansion of Latin which emerged as a common lingua franca.  We also explore Latin words and phrases from this period which have found their way into Modern English.


Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

Map Prepared by Louis Henwood (Click Map for Larger Image)

20 thoughts on “Episode 16: The Rise of Rome – and Latin

  1. Interesting thing about adolescent. If you break up the adolescera, the ole part is where you get Oler, Huela, or Smell in Spanish. the scera is ‘to begin/become’ (think Opalesce-same suffix) and Ad being “to” So they truly hit the nail on the head with Adolescents starting to smell and Adults being the already smelling ones. Whether this is true or not, I don’t know. To Begin to smell or become smelly. totally.

  2. Do you know how close the Celtic language spoken by the conquering Gauls and old Latin was?

    I wonder if the Romans understood Brennus and his hordes or were translators needed?

    I wonder if the two languages were akin to Italian and Spanish today, very similar but not necessarily mutually intelligible?

    One final point on the similarity of old Celtic and old Latin: in Early Irish, a horse is ‘Ec’ and in Latin it is ‘Equus’. A male adult in Early Irish is ‘Fir’ and in Latin ‘Vir’.

    • According to information presented in episode 11, the Italic and Celtic branches did have the most in common linguistically, as shown by the following map’s chronology: https://historyofenglishpodcast.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/11-Centum-Migrations-HI.jpg.

      While debatable, some theories (such as the one presented in the cited map) place the Italic-Celtic split somewhere between 2800 and 2200 BCE, with the Germanic branch splitting from their common ancestor some 1000 thousand years earlier; some went south of the Carpathians, some went north of them. In this way, one could induce that some sort of Italo-Celtic branch existed for about 1000 years.

      With that said, however, by the time Brennus sacked Rome in about 387 BCE, I doubt that any meaningful mutual intelligibility existed, thus necessitating translators; though please note that in the various Roman accounts concerning that time, I can’t find any mention of the presence or absence of translators.

      Moreover, it remains very possible that the Senones spoke an Italic language (even Latin) in addition to their native Gaulish; additionally, the Senones could have spoken an intermediary language which the Romans also spoke, such as Greek. Whatever the case may be, I imagine that both peoples used translators in some capacity.

      • Apologies for the spam, but I’ve realized that I didn’t directly address the question of how mutually intelligible Latin and Gaulish were: in short, likely not at all. Spanish and Italian remain much closer than Gaulish and Latin were, since Spanish and Italian haven’t even reached 1000 years since their separation from a common ancestor, whereas Gaulish and Latin had at least 2000 years from theirs; though, granted, elapsed time doesn’t correspond directly to mutually intelligibility.

    • As Ryan noted, many historical linguists think that the Italic and Celtic languages evolved from the same original sub-group of Proto-Indo-European, so there probably were some similarities during the Roman period. However, I doubt that the two language families were mutually intelligible. To my knowledge, there is no evidence of direct verbal communications between those groups.

  3. You mentioned in the end of the episode a “what if” scenario: “would Carthego won, that Shemic language would dominate the western history”

    This brought to mind a somewhat unrelated issue: Both the Roman and Greeks were somewhat more egalitarian societies. Comparing to the other societies at the time. Most obviously, unlike the Atroskian, they did not have kings.

    This fact is not unrelated to their success. I guess it is in some sense related to the culture of the pre Euro Asians people.

    In this retrospective, one might argue that the Shemic and Atroskian languages were doomed. Because the Euro Asiatic had not only better technology they had better society organization.

    Idies that make sense?

  4. The comments here and on Episode 17 are very helpful and make me curious. I wish I was able to understand the content of the serial podcasts. However, I am deaf. Is there any written transcripts available? Or closed captions/ subtitles?

  5. Hi Kevin
    Can you please advise the full title and author of the book you cite in this episode?
    The words of the day?
    Professor stephen seretti?
    I have not been able to locate it.
    Thank you

    • Hi Caroline. It’s “The Words of the Day: The Unlikely Evolution of Common English” by Steven M. Cerutti. It looks like there are some used copies available on Amazon. Here is the Amazon link: Amazon Link

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