Its origins trace back to a substratum of Greek, Celtic and pre-Roman languages absorbed by Latin, the language of the Roman Empire and Catholicism. After the fall of Rome and barbarian dominations, the lack of a strong central authority caused the spoken and written languages to follow different paths, a trend that would characterize the later development of Italian. The spoken variant (volgare) was a sort of simplified Latin with different characteristics according to its geographical areas of use, whereas Latin remained the formal language of law, religion and politics. However, it was volgare that laid the foundations for modern Italian, in particular the Tuscan variant, which gradually got stronger and more authoritative by means of literature and the debate among intellectuals over the centuries. Italian is the official language of Italy, Switzerland and San Marino, and is one of the official languages of the European Union. It forms part of the Romance languages group together with French, Spanish and Portuguese, among others.
Italian, created by literate and educated people, became the official language of Italy only with unification of the country in 1861, but it took time for it to take root among its people. The school system played a fundamental role with this regard, spreading a model that replaced local variants and dialects. The same is true of some major events of the XX century. The two World Wars, Fascism and its fight against dialects, as well as the birth of media such as television contributed to consolidate a unique spoken and written language for the people of a country born of the ashes of states that had remained separated for centuries.