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Early Latium and Campania
Abraham Ortel's 1595 map of ancient Latium

Latium (Latin: Lătĭŭm), the region of central western Italy in which the city of Rome was founded and grew to be the capital city of the first continental European empire, originally was a small triangle of fertile, volcanic soil on which resided the tribe of the Latini. It was located on the left bank of the Tiber river, northward to the Anio river (a left-bank tributary of the Tiber) and southeastward to the Pomptina Palus (Pontine Marshes, now the Pontine Fields), an uninhabitable, malarial swamp, as far south as the Circeian promontory.[1] The right bank of the Tiber was occupied by the Etruscan city of Veii, and the other borders were occupied by Italic tribes. Subsequently Rome defeated Veii and then its Italic neighbors, expanding Latium to the Apennine Mountains in the northeast and to the opposite end of the marsh in the southeast. The modern descendant, the Italian Regione of Lazio, also called Latium in Latin, and occasionally in modern English, is somewhat larger still, but not as much as double the original Latium.

The ancient language of the Latini, the tribesmen who occupied Latium, was to become the immediate predecessor of the Old Latin language, ancestor of Latin and the Romance languages. Latium has played an important role in history owing to its status as the host of the capital city of Rome, at one time the cultural and political center of the Roman Empire. Consequently, Latium is home to celebrated works of art and architecture.

Contents

Geography

Earliest known Latium was the country of the Latini, a tribe whose recognized center was a large, extinct volcano, Mons Albanus ("the Alban Mount", today's Colli Albani), 20 km (12 mi) to the southeast of Rome, 64 km (40 mi) in circumference. In its center is a crater lake, Lacus Albanus (Lago Albano), oval in shape, a few km long and wide. At the top of the second-highest peak (Monte Cavo) was a temple to Jupiter Latiaris, where the Latini held state functions before their subjection to Rome, and the Romans subsequently held religious and state ceremonies. The last pagan temple to be built stood until the middle ages when its stone and location were reused for various monasteries and finally a hotel. The Wehrmacht turned it into a radio station, which was captured after an infantry battle by American troops in 1944, and it currently is a controversial telecommunications station surrounded by antennae considered unsightly by the population within view.

The selection of Jupiter as a state god and the descent of the name Latini to the name of the Latin language are suffucient to identify the Latins as a tribe of Indo-European descent. Vergil, a major poet of the early Roman Empire, under Augustus, derived Latium from the word for "hidden" (English latent) because in a myth Saturn, ruler of the golden age in Latium, hid (latuisset)[2] from Jupiter there.[3]

History

The region that would become Latium had been home to settled agricultural populations since the early Bronze Age, and was known to the Ancient Greeks. It was populated by a mixture of Indo-European and non-Indo-European language speakers. The name is most likely derived from the Latin word "latus", meaning "wide", expressing the idea of "flat land" (in contrast to the local Sabine high country) but the name may originate from an earlier, non Indo-European one. The Etruscans, from their home region of Etruria (modern day Tuscany) exerted a strong cultural and political influence on Latium from about the 8th century B.C. onward. However, they were unable to assert political hegemony over the region, which was controlled by small, autonomous city-states in a manner roughly analogous to the state of affairs that prevailed in Ancient Greece. Indeed, the region's cultural and geographic proximity to the cities of the Greek mainland had a strong impact upon its early history. The Phoenicians, who had a long tradition of trading with Italian people and possessed much of Sicily, are also believed to have influenced the region's development.

One of the earliest recorded non-Etruscan settlements in Latium is the quasi-mythical city of Alba Longa located somewhat southeast of the present-day city of Rome. According to Livy and other ancient authorities, it was here that the Latin League was founded, a coalition of city-states intended as a bulwark against Etruscan expansion.

The city-state of Rome emerged as the dominant political and military power in the region, following Rome's destruction of Alba Longa in the middle of the 7th century B.C.

References

  1. ^ Cary, M.; Scullard, H. H. (1975). A History of Rome: Down to the Reign of Constantine (3rd ed.). New York: St. Martin's Press. p. 31. ISBN 0312383959. 
  2. ^ Aeneid, VIII.32.
  3. ^ Bevan 1875, pp. 530-531

Bibliography

  • Bevan, William Latham; Smith, William (1875). The student's manual of ancient geography. London: J. Murray. 
  • Strabo - Geographica (Strabo) book V chapter 3 - Rome 20 BC
  • Athanasius Kircher - Latium - 1669 - Amsterdam 1671
  • G. R. Volpi - Vetus Latium Profanum et Sacrum - Rome 1742
  • T. J. Cornell - The beginnings of Rome: Italy and Rome from the Bronze Age to the Punic Wars - London 1995
  • C. H. Smith - Early Rome and Latium. Economy and Society, c. 1000 - 500 BC, "Oxford Classical Monographs" - Oxford 1996

See also

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1911 encyclopedia

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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Proper noun

Singular
Latium

Plural
-

Latium

  1. A region of central Italy.

Translations


Latin

Proper noun

Latium n, genitive Latii

Second declension

  1. Latium

Related terms








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