Lapis Niger is a stele
from the 6th or 5th century BC. It bears one of the oldest known Latin inscriptions.
There were two types of Latin, Classical Latin and Vulgar Latin. Classical Latin was used by the educated Romans. It is the one used by the Roman Catholic Church and studied by students around the world. Vulgar Latin was the more common spoken variety used by the common Romans. It was the variety taught to the peoples conquered by the Romans.
Latin was the most important language in most of Europe in the Middle Ages. It was taught in many European schools, and all universities used Latin as the teaching language. Latin began to lose its importance in the Reformation, but it was still often used by authors of scientific books and encyclopedias. Until about 1900 many universities accepted dissertations written in Latin.
As people from other regions of Europe learned Vulgar Latin during Roman conquests, over time each region developed its own language, a simplified form of Latin. Those languages are called Romance languages, and they are still spoken today. The five Romance languages with the largest number of speakers are Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian and Romanian. The Romance languages are very similar to each other, and speakers of one Romance language can understand many words and sentences (in both texts and spoken conversations) from another Romance language. For example, speakers of Portuguese can often understand Spanish. It can be said that the Romance languages are modern dialects of Latin.