Languages of the Roman Empire
Latin and Greek were the dominant languages of the Roman Empire, but other languages were important regionally. The language of the ancient Romans was Latin, which served as the ""language of power"". Latin was pervasive in the Roman Empire as the language of the law courts in the West, and of the military everywhere. After all freeborn inhabitants of the Empire were universally enfranchised in 212 AD, a great number of Roman citizens would have lacked Latin, though they were expected to acquire at least a token knowledge, and Latin remained a marker of ""Romanness"".Koine Greek had become a shared language around the eastern Mediterranean and into Asia Minor as a consequence of the conquests of Alexander the Great. The ""linguistic frontier"" dividing the Latin West and the Greek East passed through the Balkan peninsula. Educated Romans, particularly those of the ruling elite, studied and often achieved a high degree of fluency in Greek, which was useful for diplomatic communications in the East even beyond the borders of the Empire. The international use of Greek was one condition that enabled the spread of Christianity, as indicated for example by the choice of Greek as the language of the Epistles of Paul and its use for the ecumenical councils of the Christian Roman Empire. With the dissolution of the Empire in the West, Greek became the dominant language of the Eastern Roman Empire, later known as the Byzantine Empire.Because communication in ancient society was predominantly oral, it can be difficult to determine the extent to which regional or local languages continued to be spoken or used for other purposes under Roman rule. Some evidence exists in inscriptions, or in references in Greek and Roman texts to other languages and the need for interpreters. For Punic, Coptic, and Aramaic or Syriac, a significant amount of epigraphy or literature survives. The Celtic languages were widespread throughout much of western Europe, and while the orality of Celtic education left scant written records, Celtic epigraphy is limited in quantity but not rare. The Germanic languages of the Empire have left next to no inscriptions or texts, with the exception of Gothic. Multilingualism contributed to the ""cultural triangulation"" by means of which an individual who was neither Greek nor Roman might construct an identity through the processes of Romanization and Hellenization.After the decentralization of political power in late antiquity, Latin developed locally in the Western provinces into branches that became the Romance languages, including Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Italian. In the early 21st century, the first or second language of more than a billion people derived from Latin. Latin itself remained an international medium of expression for diplomacy and for intellectual developments identified with Renaissance humanism up to the 17th century, and for law and the Roman Catholic Church to the present.