The Roman society was based on a strict rule of law, which, although not democratic, took account of the rights of ordinary Roman citizens.
Citizens were expected to live their lives according to a moral code, mos maiorum, which set out the virtues expected of them—including integrity, frugality, sincerity, perseverance, and public service.
Also, Romans are often portrayed as a civilization given over to debauchery and decadence, a once-great empire gorging itself on food, alcohol, and se x while watching people fight to the death in the gladiator arena.
Here are ten things you thought you knew about the Romans that are just plain wrong.
1. They Didn’t Speak Only Latin
Wait, what? It is commonly assumed that everyone in ancient Rome spoke Latin, but that is not true. Latin was the official written language of Rome, but many languages were spoken, both in Rome itself and across its wide empire.
Some of the more common languages spoken in Rome were Greek, Oscan, and Etruscan.
Latin was the uniform language across the empire, but there were many local variations. In the early 14th century, Dante Alighieri identified over 1,000 variations of Latin spoken in Italy alone.
It was only in written documents that any uniformity existed. Even the Roman patricians probably weren’t speaking Latin all the time, and Greek was considered the language of the educated elite.
Because of the vast distance that the Roman Empire covered, a single language was essential for the orderly business of government, so Latin was used throughout the Roman world for official business, but it is not true that all Roman citizens habitually spoke Latin.