Welcome to the History of English podcast, a podcast about the history of the English
This is episode 16, The Rise of Rome and Latin.
In this episode, we’re going to look at the emergence of Rome from a small city near the
western coast of Italy to the dominant political and military power of the Mediterranean.
And this will set the stage for the expansion of Latin throughout the western world.
In this episode, I’m going to provide a brief overview of the rise of Rome.
There have been millions of words written about this subject, and there are some great
podcasts out there that deal exclusively with the history of the Roman Empire.
But for our purposes, I think it’s important to understand the basic events which led to
the rise of Roman power and the spread of the Roman language throughout Western Europe.
And along the way, we can look at some of the Latin words which have passed into English.
And again, since Latin has had such a tremendous influence on English, I’m only going to look
at a few of the modern English words which originated during this period.
In fact, from this point forward in the story of English, I’ll be introducing more and more
Because from this point on, the Latin words are constantly filtering into English.
They come in during the late Roman period when the Romans encountered the Germanic tribes.
They come in when the Romans conquered southern Britain.
They come in with the spread of the church into Britain.
And they come in with the Norman French.
And they come in during and after the Renaissance in a variety of academic and scientific and
So Latin is going to be a constant part of the story of English as we move forward.
And the fact that Latin is so pervasive is itself a testament to the overall power and
influence of the Romans.
We live with the Roman legacy every day in the words we use and the alphabet we use to
write those words.
So let’s pick up the story where we left off in the last episode.
As you may recall, Indo-European tribes had settled into what is today modern Italy.
And a group of Indo-European tribes had settled in a region which extended from the Tiber
River southward, which was called Latium.
And the dialect of these tribes was eventually called Latin after the name of that region.
And a group of these people had begun to settle in and around the hilly region along the Tiber
River, which eventually became known as Rome.
But this early Roman village was initially controlled by Etruscan kings from northern
And this is a very important point.
North of the Tiber was the Latium region occupied mainly by Latin speakers with a culture descended
from the original Indo-Europeans.
But north of the Tiber was the early Etruscan civilization, which spoke a completely different
And Rome lied on the Tiber River, which was the dividing line between these two regions.
The people who lived there were Latin-speaking people with an Indo-European ancestry.
But they were ruled by Etruscan kings from the Etruscan culture to the north.
Now as I said, Rome was home to only a portion of the Latin-speaking peoples in the region.
And during this early period, tribal warfare was a constant.
There were wars between these Latin-speaking tribes and wars between those tribes and other
And early Rome had to deal with these conflicts and the warring tribes all around it.
But the hills of Rome afforded it some protection during that period.
And eventually, as Rome began to grow and as it began to borrow more and more from the
Etruscans, including Etruscan military practices, Rome started to become a powerful city-state
in its own right.
And it soon became more aggressive in its relationship with the surrounding Latin tribes.
Rome began to wage war against its Latin neighbors and it began to conquer them.
And as Roman power grew, the overall power and influence of the Etruscans to the north
began to wane.
As you may recall from the last episode, the Etruscan territory was a collection of independent
city-states with a common language and culture.
But there wasn’t a centralized government.
And furthermore, they were primarily interested in trade and commerce.
They weren’t empire builders.
And they also found themselves at war not only with surrounding tribes in the north
of Italy, but also with the Greeks who had expanded into the northern Mediterranean as
And all of this took a toll on the Etruscan civilization, which was beginning to experience
a period of decline.
And this was occurring at the same time that Roman power was growing at a faster and faster
The Romans had become much more organized and militaristic.
And the tipping point in this relationship was late in the 6th century BC.
As I’ve noted, Rome was initially ruled by Etruscan kings.
And later Roman historians alleged that those early Etruscan kings were cruel and harsh
The authority of these kings was symbolized by a bundle of rods with an axe.
And it was called a phascus.
And that is actually the origin of the term fascism.
In the late 6th century BC, the Romans began to rise up against their Etruscan rulers.
And around 509 or 510 BC, the Romans drove out the last Etruscan king, named Tarquinius,
or sometimes called Tarquin the Proud.
And at this point, Rome became a republic.
After the loss of Rome, the Etruscans continued to lose their grip on other cities in northern
Italy, and increasingly, the loss of Etruscan power was replaced by Roman power.
So we now have a completely independent Rome, occupied by Latin-speaking Romans, and now
governed by Romans.
And again, this is around 509 BC, which is the date the Romans themselves used as the
date when Rome began.
Part of the reason why this date is used as the date for the beginning of the Roman Republic
is because a treaty was signed between Rome and Carthage in 508 BC, though some historians
argue over the accuracy of that date.
And that particular treaty doesn’t mention a Roman king, so that suggests that Rome was
no longer being ruled by kings, which would have been those Etruscan kings.
So again, now we have an independent Roman Republic, but life was not easy for Rome during
As soon as the Etruscans were expelled from Rome, the city came under attack from its
neighbors, and Rome had to fight for survival.
But Roman power eventually allowed Rome to take the upper hand, and the city was ultimately
able to establish an alliance with the other Latin-speaking tribes in Latium to the south
of Rome, and Rome eventually came to dominate that alliance.
During this period, the culture of Rome became more and more distinct from the Etruscan
culture to the north.
Around this time, the Romans built the first temple to the Roman gods Jupiter, Juno, and
And this temple is sometimes called the Temple of Jupiter, but it was actually a single structure
with three different sections for each of the three gods, Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva.
And this temple was built on one of the seven hills of Rome.
And according to tradition, when the foundation of the temple was being laid, the Romans found
a human skull buried in the ground, and the Romans took this as a positive sign.
They interpreted this head as a sign that Rome was destined to be the head of all of
Now, the Latin word for head was coppet, and if you have a good memory, you may remember
that I talked about that word in the episode on Grimm’s Law.
Remember that Jacob Grimm had studied the Germanic languages, which includes English,
and he had identified the specific sound changes which had occurred within the Germanic
language family, which distinguish the Germanic languages from the other Indo-European languages.
And two of the specific changes which he observed were a shift in the K sound to the H sound,
and a shift of the P sound to the F sound.
And I gave this Latin word coppet as an example because it includes both of those changes.
Remember that the Romans almost always used the letter C for the K sound, so the word
coppet was spelled C-A-P-U-T, and this word is apparently very similar to the original
Indo-European word for head.
Now in the Germanic languages, the initial K sound had shifted to an H sound, and the
middle P sound had shifted to an F sound under Grimm’s Law, so in Old English we have the
word hafud, and that was the original version of the modern word head.
Over time, the middle consonant F had fallen out, and the word was shortened to the modern
So, I just wanted to make that connection again for you.
Well, the Romans found this head, this coppet, as they were building the temple to Jupiter.
And based upon this discovery, they determined that they were destined to be the head of
So they called this particular hill where the temple was being built the Capitoline
Hill, and that produced the word capital, which has come down to us in modern English.
And that word still means the head place or primary place.
And it can also refer to a specific building in which government business is conducted.
And of course, in the United States, we have our own Capitol Hill, and this reflects the
influence which the Romans had on the founding fathers of the United States.
So we have the Capitoline Hill, and in the last episode I mentioned the first Latin-speaking
Indo-Europeans had settled on the Palatine Hill in Rome.
So these are two of the so-called Seven Hills of Rome.
And many of the leaders and prominent families of Rome lived on the Palatine Hill.
So around this time, the Romans decided to drain the valley between these two hills.
And at that site, in the drained valley, the Roman Forum was constructed.
And the Forum was the marketplace of Rome.
It was the center of civic life, and it contained temples, law courts, the Senate House, and
other public forums.
And there was a lot of arguing and debate in the Forum, and the word forum has given
us the word forensic, meaning something related to the law or the courts.
So forensic science, which seems to dominate prime-time television these days, it means
science related to proving a case in court, like someone’s guilt or innocence.
Now after the Forum was constructed, the Romans placed a large stone there.
The Romans then placed additional markers on the roads leading out of Rome, and each
marker was placed at a distance of 1,000 paces.
Since a pace was approximately five feet, 1,000 paces was approximately 5,000 feet in
And since the unit of length was 1,000 paces, the Romans called the distance a mila, which
was the Latin word for 1,000.
And we’ve taken that measurement in modern English as the word mile.
And that’s also why a modern mile comes from the Latin word for 1,000, but actually represents
a measurement of slightly more than 5,000 feet in modern measurements.
By the way, each of these markers was called a miliarium, and this word comes into English
So as you traveled in or out of Rome, you passed a miliarium every 1,000 paces.
So this was a mark indicating how far you had come or how far you had to go.
And it’s in this sense that we’ve inherited the term milestone, to refer to a level of
achievement or accomplishment.
And of course the Latin word mila, meaning 1,000, appears in many other modern English
We have it, for example, in words like millipede and millimeter, and the word million, which
actually means 1,000 thousands.
So Rome had emerged as a powerful republic, independent from its earlier Etruscan overlords.
Now over the next century, Rome continued to expand its territory, and the Etruscan
territory continued to shrink.
And in the 4th century BC, two back-to-back events occurred, which would have a tremendous
influence on the development of the Roman Empire.
First, in 396 BC, the Romans finally defeated the chief Etruscan city of Veii after a ten-year
And after the capture of Veii, the Romans quickly consumed the entirety of the Etruscan
territory within the emerging Roman Republic.
So we see the emerging Roman Republic expanding at a rapid rate, and basically consuming its
formal rivals in the Italian peninsula.
And what’s really interesting at this point, is how the Romans treated the Etruscan culture
which had been so influential in its early history.
At this point, Etruscan influences may have been as great if not greater than Greek influences.
But the Romans apparently wanted nothing to do with these Etruscan influences.
Maybe it was because Rome didn’t want to acknowledge or admit that it had begun as
basically an Etruscan city.
Maybe it resented the Etruscan kings.
But regardless, the Romans largely discarded the Etruscan contributions to the early Roman
And instead, they gave the credit to the Greeks, or to mythological stories.
It’s believed that the Romans may have actively destroyed Etruscan writings, which may have
presented an alternate view of history.
We know that the Etruscans had writing because the Romans had borrowed the alphabet from
Yet, we have very few traces of the Etruscan language today.
Only a few artifacts and inscriptions exist.
And that is partly why we know so little about the Etruscan language.
Many Roman historians believe that this scarcity of Etruscan writings and artifacts is due
to the intentional purge by the later Romans.
Now as I mentioned, there were two back-to-back events which happened around this time in
First was the complete victory over the Etruscans.
But the other event, which only happened about six years later, would have the exact opposite
impact on Rome, at least in the short term.
And this event was the invasion of Celtic-speaking Gauls from the north who sacked Rome in 390
Now, I’m going to take a much closer look at the early Celtic-speaking tribes in the
But for now, it’s just important to understand that much of central Europe, north of Italy,
was occupied by a variety of tribes which had a similar culture and who spoke closely
related Celtic languages.
You may recall from the last episode that many language historians believe that the
linguistic ancestors of the Celtic tribes may have once lived with or in very close
proximity to the ancestors of the Latin speakers in southeastern Europe.
And this is because there are some strong similarities between those two language families.
And this view holds that the Celtic ancestors traveled into central and western Europe where
they came to dominate the entire region.
The region north of Italy and generally west of the Rhine is known today as France.
But at this time, the region was called Gaul and it was dominated by these Celtic-speaking
Around 391 BC, a group of these Celtic-speaking tribes crossed the Alps from the north and
began to settle into northern Italy.
Of course, this was the Etruscan territory which was in the process of falling to the
Romans in the south.
So the Romans sent ambassadors to arbitrate between the Gauls and the Etruscans in the
north of that territory.
But the Romans committed a diplomatic no-no by dropping their neutrality and joining the
Etruscans against the Gauls.
The Gauls were so offended by this breach of military etiquette that they decided to
march on Rome itself.
But the important part of this story is what happened when the Celtic-speaking Gauls arrived
Simply stated, they defeated the Roman army and they occupied and sacked and burned the
They occupied and ruled over the city for seven months before eventually being afflicted
by malaria and other diseases and they finally agreed to leave after the Romans paid them
a massive ransom of gold.
When the Gauls finally abandoned Rome, many Romans returned to find the city almost uninhabitable.
Many Romans thought that it would be best to abandon the city altogether and move to
the Etruscan city of Veii, which they had recently conquered.
But the decision was made to stay put and to rebuild Rome.
Now the consequences of this event cannot be overstated.
Up to this point, everything had been going Rome’s way.
They were beginning to think of themselves as invincible.
But all of that changed with the sack of Rome by the Gauls.
It was a very traumatic event for the Romans and it severely affected their psyche.
It shaped their view of the Celtic tribes to the north and the way the Romans interacted
with them in the future.
So it’s an important backdrop to the Roman invasion of Gaul under Julius Caesar, which
I’ll look at in the next episode.
But it also made the Romans refocus and redouble their efforts to dominate the region.
The Romans would remember being sacked by the Gauls for many generations and they remained
apprehensive of the Celtic threat to the north, even as they were conquering the Mediterranean.
In fact, this invasion of Celtic-speaking Gauls was the last time a foreign invader
would sack Rome until the fall of the Roman Empire many centuries later.
Now in the aftermath of the invasion by the Gauls and Rome’s period of rebuilding, several
Latin tribes around Rome took the opportunity to declare independence.
And after a period of revolts and border wars, Rome finally subjugated almost all of the
Latin tribes in 338 BC.
The Latin League, which had been established by these communities in Rome, was dissolved
and it was replaced by a federation of Latin colonies which owed their loyalty to Rome.
Now even though the other Latin cities theoretically retained their freedom and retained many of
the rights as citizens of Rome, the Romans still established garrisons throughout the
Latin cities to maintain order.
And this is the basic model which Rome followed as it conquered one territory after another.
And it’s also very important to the overall spread of the Latin language.
Now unlike other empires or armies, the Romans didn’t just invade and conquer and loot new
They basically offered each new, defeated territory a deal.
If the newly defeated territory accepted Roman rule, they could become part of Rome.
They could even become Roman citizens.
They could share in the wealth of the Roman civilization and they could enjoy the civilizing
influence of Roman culture.
But if the territory rejected Roman rule, the consequences would be severe.
So it was either Romanization or repression.
Not surprisingly, many chose Romanization.
But that process of Romanization meant the spread of Roman culture, and specifically
the Roman language, Latin.
And as these new territories were added to the Roman Empire, Latin became the lingua
It quickly replaced the native languages in many of these territories.
And we will especially see this trend in Western Europe in the next episode.
So since we’re talking about the spread of the early Roman Empire throughout Italy, let’s
talk about the Roman military.
Now you probably won’t be surprised to learn that we get a lot of military-related terms
from the Romans.
And actually we get many Latin-derived military terms from the French-speaking Normans after
But we can see the roots of the words by looking at the Romans themselves.
For example, the wooden bar that links two animals together when pulling a wagon or plow
is called a yoke.
And you may remember that the word yoke has been traced all the way back to the original
Well, when the Romans defeated an opposing army, they would sometimes make the defeated
troops pass underneath a homemade yoke.
And the yoke was made by sticking two spears in the ground and placing a third one across
And this ritual symbolized Roman victory and Roman domination over the defeated troops.
In Latin, a yoke was called a yugum.
And the ritual of marching defeated troops under the yugum was called sub-yugum, meaning
under the yoke.
In later French, the y sound shifted to a j sound in many words.
So sub-yugum evolved from French into English as subjugate.
So subjugate literally means under the yoke in the original Roman military sense.
The Romans valued salt for both preservative value and its use in flavoring.
The Romans adopted a rule that Roman soldiers would receive a salt allowance or an amount
of money to purchase a specific amount of salt.
And the Latin word for salt was sal, so the salt allowance or payment to soldiers was
called a salarium for the Roman word for salt.
And this became the root of the word salary, which we have in modern English.
It’s also the basis of the phrase worth his salt or worth one’s salt.
Now Roman soldiers were also issued very specific military equipment, including a sword, a shield,
and a helmet.
And the helmet was one of the most important pieces of equipment since it protected the
soldier’s head in battle.
And this gave the Romans an advantage against barbarian tribes that didn’t use helmets.
And the fastener of the helmet’s chin strap was located near the soldier’s cheek and was
called a buccula, which meant little cheek.
Over time, the term was used to refer to any type of fastener, and the term became buckle
after it was adopted into English.
The word infantry can also be traced back to the Romans.
And speaking of infantry, have you ever wondered if there was a connection between the words
infant and infantry?
Well, unless you visualize an army of babies, there doesn’t seem to be much of a connection
But, as you might imagine, there is a connection.
What do infants and an infantry have in common?
Well, at least theoretically, they’re both supposed to listen and obey their elders or
And the connection here has to do with speech, or actually, in this case, the lack of speech.
It also affords me one of these occasional opportunities to digress into some interesting
The Latin word for baby or small child was infans, which literally meant not speaking
since babies were not able to speak yet.
And of course, the modern English word infant comes to us directly from the Latin word infants.
In the Roman military, the newest soldiers were not ready for cavalry or advanced responsibilities,
so they were relegated to duty on foot.
Since they were the inexperienced soldiers, and since they were to obey orders and not
speak unless spoken to, the term infans was used to create the term infantry.
And speaking of youth, the Latin term aliscara, meaning to grow, is derived from an original
Indo-European root word, which meant the same thing, to grow or nourish.
Now the Romans put the prefix ad-, meaning to, in front of the word aliscara to form
the word adolescara, meaning to grow up.
This is the root of the word adolescent, in other words, one who is growing up.
The past participle of adolescara was adultus, which is the root of adult, in other words,
one who has already grown up.
Now let’s go back to the Latin word infans for a second.
As I said, this word gave us infant and infantry, but buried within that word is a very basic
root which appears in lots of modern English words.
That root is fa-, which refers to anything going into or coming out of the mouth.
So it could refer to words, or it could refer to food.
So in- was a Latin prefix meaning not, like incapable meaning not capable, or insensitive
meaning not sensitive.
So since fa- referred to speech or words, infans meant unable to speak.
And as I said, infantry referred to young soldiers and those who were supposed to listen
and obey, not speak, like infants.
So Latin fa- came from the Greek word pha-, which was spelled with the Greek letter phi.
So the Greek root is spelled p-h-a in the modern alphabet.
Now both Latin fa- spelled f-a and Greek pha- spelled p-h-a both meant the same thing.
And we see this root in words like esophagus.
We also see it in the root of the word face, f-a-c-e, since the mouth is the largest opening
in the face.
We also see the root fa- in the word fame from the Latin word fama, which is based upon
your reputation or things people say about you.
Many Romans felt that your fama or fame impacted you and ultimately how your life played out.
This created the word fata, which is the root of the modern English word fate.
The root word fa- also produced the word fes, which is found in modern English expressions
like fess up, meaning to speak the truth about yourself.
Another word for this is confess, and its noun version confession, again both based
on the same fa- root.
We also see it in profess.
Pro- could mean in front of or on behalf of something.
So if I’m going to speak on behalf of something, I’m going to profess it.
That would make me a professor.
And something I can talk about in great detail and with great expertise is my profession.
That might make me a professional.
And if the connection between speech and profession seems like a bit of a stretch, well then what
about your vocation, which shares the same root as vocal.
And by the way, a place where you offered prayers or made oaths was called a fonam in
Latin, again with the same fa- root.
So since you offered prayers there, a fonam came to refer to a religious or holy place.
And the words profane and profanity come from the combination of pro and fonam.
This may seem a bit odd at first.
If you are pro-fonam, then it may seem like you’re speaking in favor of something religious
But pro also meant before or in front of.
So if you were speaking pro-fonam, you were speaking in front of or outside of the fonam,
not inside of it.
So pro-fonam came to refer to things outside of the holy place.
They were therefore not holy.
They were common or vulgar.
In other words, they were profane.
So we can see how a common Greek or Latin root word like fa produced a multitude of
modern English words.
By the way, I got a lot of these fa words from the book The Words of the Day by Professor
Stephen M. Cerruti, so I wanted to acknowledge that book for this brief digression.
And since I’ve talked about words which came from the original Latin word related to speech,
let me mention a couple of things about writing.
The Romans didn’t have books in the sense that we know them today.
Instead, they wrote with ink on parchment.
And the parchment was rolled up for easy handling.
When writing with ink, the Romans would often use a feather for writing.
And the Latin word for feather was penna.
And that’s the source of the modern English word pen.
And you may remember from an earlier episode that Latin penna and English feather are actually
Both words came from an original Indo-European word.
And again, between penna and feather, we see that shift from the p sound to the f sound
in the Germanic languages which Jacob Grimm had identified.
On addition to parchment, some Romans also wrote on small wooden boards covered with
a thin coat of wax.
They would take a stylus and write on the wax.
And they called these tabulae.
And that’s the origin of the word tablet.
And it’s kind of fascinating to think of ancient Romans walking around with tablets and writing
on them with a stylus.
Because in the modern world of iPads and iPhones and other digital tablets, we’re sort
of mimicking what those original Romans were doing over 2,000 years ago.
So let’s turn our attention back to the growing Roman Republic, soon to become the Roman Empire.
And I want to conclude this episode by looking at the expansion of the Roman Republic beyond
the Italian Peninsula into the Mediterranean, including North Africa, Greece, and the Middle
Now it was very possible at this early date, around the 4th century BC, that Rome’s sphere
of influence could have basically been contained to Italy itself, because beyond the shores
of Italy to the south was a major regional power, with a lineage that stretched back
to the Phoenicians, and it was the city-state of Carthage.
I mentioned Carthage in an earlier episode when I discussed the Phoenicians.
And you may recall that the Phoenicians were a collection of city-states in and around
modern-day Lebanon, who spoke a Semitic language, and who used an early form of the alphabet
which the Greeks later borrowed, and which was the original form of the alphabet we still
You may also recall that the Phoenicians traded throughout the Mediterranean, and they established
colonies along the way, especially along the North African coast.
And one of those colonies was Carthage in what is modern-day Tunisia.
And as the power and influence of the Phoenicians began to disappear in the East, the power
of Carthage became greater and greater in the West.
And the language of the Carthaginians was inherited directly from the Phoenicians, and
it was called Punic by the Romans, again a direct reference to the original Phoenicians.
The Latin word for Phoenician was Punic, and in fact the Romans generally thought of Carthage
as a Phoenician city speaking a Phoenician language.
And as Carthage grew, its biggest rival early on was Greece.
Remember the Greeks were the only people who could challenge the trading and shipping prowess
of the early Phoenicians.
And when the Phoenician city-states were consumed by other regional powers, that left Carthage
to deal with the Greeks.
And Carthage had briefly entered into an alliance with the Etruscans to fend off the Greeks.
And Carthage expanded its sphere of influence by taking control of what is today southern
So Carthage now extended from North Africa into southern Europe.
In turn, the Greeks intensified their position in southern Gaul, remember that’s modern France.
And also remember that modern cities like Marseille and Nice were once Greek colonies.
And these Greek port cities in southern Gaul allowed the Greeks to maintain access to trade
routes which extended into the heart of Western Europe.
So what resulted was an unstable and very delicate balance of power between the Greeks,
the Carthaginians, and the Etruscans.
And this balance of power was disrupted by the ultimate rise of Rome.
It was probably inevitable that Rome and Carthage would collide as Rome’s sphere of influence
spread southward and Carthage’s sphere of influence spread northward.
Initially, direct conflict between these two powers was avoided because Greek colonies
were located in between Rome and Carthage, in parts of southern Italy and Sicily.
So those Greek colonies provided a bit of a buffer zone.
A non-aggression treaty had been negotiated between Rome and Carthage in 348 BC, which
allowed Rome to actually advance south.
And it was only a matter of time before Rome was eyeing those Greek cities in southern
Italy and Sicily.
And those cities were in a state of decline and headed for conflict with Carthage when
Rome intervened on behalf of the Greek cities.
As Rome’s intentions were clearly spreading to the southern part of Italy, it led to direct
conflict with Carthage in southern Italy in 264 BC.
This initiated the first in three Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage to determine who
would rule the Mediterranean world.
Remember the Latin word for Phoenician was Punic, so that’s the source of the name of
The first war was fought over control of the island of Sicily.
And the first Punic War was actually a naval war primarily.
This was something the Romans were not accustomed to, and the Romans actually had to build a
navy to fight the Carthaginians, but they proved successful and won control of Sicily
In the second Punic War, the famous Carthaginian leader Hannibal decided to avoid a fight at
sea and he surprised the Romans by mounting an armed expedition from Spain and he traveled
northward through southern France and famously crossed the Alps with a contingent of war
elephants and engaged the Romans from the north.
Hannibal actually defeated the Romans in battle after battle, but he was not able to or wasn’t
willing to actually invade Rome itself.
He apparently expected an uprising from within Italy by the various peoples who had been
conquered by the Romans.
He thought that these people would join his effort to overthrow and defeat the Romans,
but that never really happened, and the fact that there was no such uprising is another
indication of the success of the Romanization process I mentioned earlier.
At least Rome offered the benefits of Roman citizenship and Roman civilization, so a popular
uprising within Italy never happened.
As I said, at various points Hannibal could have headed straight for Rome, but for whatever
reason he held back, and some language historians note at this point that had Hannibal not
held back, had he actually gone to Rome and defeated the Roman army and took control
of the city, then much of modern Western Europe might be speaking some version of Phoenician
today rather than a version of Latin.
But of course that’s not what happened.
Instead of bringing a decisive end to the war, Hannibal fought an inconclusive war in
Italy for sixteen years.
Given a perhaps unintended reprieve by Hannibal, Rome put a general named Scipio in charge
of the army, and Rome began to build up its naval fleet.
And as Rome began to rebuild its army and navy, the tides started to shift in favor
Under Scipio, Rome defeated and took control of the Carthage territories in Spain, which
interrupted Hannibal’s supply lines.
And Rome finally gathered its rebuilt army and navy, but rather than attack Hannibal
directly in Italy, they decided instead to head southward across the Mediterranean for
And this caused Hannibal to return to North Africa to engage the Romans there.
And Hannibal was finally defeated by the Romans in Carthage to end the Second Punic War.
And a few decades passed before Rome put the final nail in Carthage’s coffin with the
third and final Punic War.
Rome was able to assume control of North Africa in this process.
And Rome burned the city of Carthage to the ground, and according to historical legend,
Rome sowed the fields of Carthage with salt to make sure nothing would ever grow there.
Most modern historians don’t believe the fields were actually salted, but there’s no doubt
that the devastation was massive.
Carthage was never able to recover from the Punic Wars.
And with Carthage removed as a threat to Rome, the Roman Empire was able to expand its influence
across the Mediterranean.
And by the end of the Third Punic War, Rome had extended its control to Greece.
And with Carthage out of the way, Egypt and much of the Middle East would also fall to
the Roman armies.
The entire Mediterranean was soon under the control of Rome.
So with the Mediterranean under its control, Rome’s attention soon turned to the north,
to the vast region occupied by those hated Gauls who had sacked Rome a few centuries
It would take an ambitious and shrewd military and political leader to conquer that region.
And Rome happened to have just such a person.
His name was Julius Caesar.
And Caesar’s expeditions to the north brought the Romans into direct contact with the Celtic-speaking
tribes of Central and Western Europe, and eventually brought the Romans into contact
with the Germanic-speaking tribes of Northern Europe.
Caesar’s expeditions also saw the first attempt by Rome to colonize southern Britain.
So we’re now at the point where we need to begin looking at the Celts, the Germanic tribes,
and early Roman Britain.
So we’re getting very close to the period of Old English, but we’re not quite there
Next time, I’m going to focus on the Celtic tribes who occupied much of Europe during
And I’m going to look at Caesar’s expeditions to conquer those continental Celts.
And I’m going to continue to look at Latin and its influence as it began to spread into
So until next time, thanks for listening to the History of English Podcast.