V. 53 N. 2 (2015)

Latinitas, Ἑλληνισμός and standard languages

Parole chiave

  • Latinitas,
  • Hellenismós,
  • language standardization,
  • Latin ortography,


In this paper, I ask whether we can usefully relate the terms Latinitas and Hellenismós with the modern concept of ‘Standard Languages’, and I examine the similarities and differences between ancient and modern notions of ‘correct’ language. The Greek term Hellenismós is recognized to have covered a wider range of linguistic varieties than encompassed under modern standard languages, and I argue that in the late Republic and the first century of the Roman Empire Latinitas was a similarly elastic concept. Through the example of variant orthographic practices in epigraphically attested legal texts, I show that there was considerable variation in written Latin texts throughout this period. Latin was not yet fully standardized (in the modern sense of the term) in the year 100 AD.