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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. From about 1000 BC, the Latins inhabited the small region known to the Romans as Old Latium (Latium Vetus), that is, the area between the river Tiber and the promontory of Mount Circeo 100 kilometres (62 mi) SE of Rome.

The Latins were an Indo-European people who probably migrated into the Italian peninsula during the late Bronze Age (1200–900 BC). Their language, Latin, belonged to the Italic branch of Indo-European. Their material culture, known as the Latial culture, was a distinctive subset of the Iron Age Villanovan culture that appeared in parts of the Italian peninsula after 1000 BC. Latino-Faliscians occupied the Tyrrhenian coast between the current Lazio and Calabria and overlapped and mingled with the oldest Neolithic peoples. They had cremation burials and possessed advanced metallurgical techniques. Major tribes included: Latins and Falisci in Lazio, Oenotrians and Italii in Calabria, Ausones, Aurunci and Opici in Campania and perhaps Sicels in Sicily. Although divided from an early stage into communities which mutated into several independent, and often warring, city-states, 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), it appears that Rome acquired political hegemony over the other states. After the fall of the Roman monarchy in c. 500 BC, there appears to have been a century of military alliance between Rome and the other Latins 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 c. 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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