Ancient Rome Glossary – Colleen McCullough



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Ancient Rome Glossary – Colleen McCullough

ABSOLVO The term employed by a jury when voting for the acquittal of the accused. It was used in the courts, not in the Assemblies.

advocate The term generally used by modern scholars to describe a man active in the Roman law courts. "Lawyer" is considered too modern, hence is not used in this book.

Aedile There were four Roman magistrates called aediles; two were called plebeian aediles, two were called curule aediles. Their duties were confined to the city of Rome. The plebeian aediles were created first (in 493 B.C.) to assist the tribunes of the plebs in their duties, but, more particularly, to guard the rights of the plebs in relation to their headquarters, the temple of Ceres in the Forum Boarium. Elected by the Plebeian Assembly, the plebeian aediles soon inherited supervision of the city's buildings as a whole, as well as archival custody of laws (plebiscites) passed in the Plebeian Assembly, together with any senatorial decrees (consulta) directing the passage of plebiscites. In 367 B.C. two curule aediles were created to give the patricians a share in custody of public buildings and archives; they were elected by the Assembly of the People in their tribes. Very soon, however, the curule aediles were as likely to be plebeians as patricians by status. From the third century B.C. onward, all four were responsible for the care of Rome's streets, water supply, drains and sewers, traffic, public buildings, monuments and facilities, markets, weights and measures (standard sets of these were housed in the basement of the temple of Castor and Pollux), games, and the public grain supply. They had the power to fine citizens and noncitizens alike for infringements of any regulations connected to any of the above, and deposited the monies in their coffers to help fund the games. Aedile—plebeian or curule—was not a part of the cursus honorum, but because of the games was a valuable magistracy for a praetorian hopeful to hold.

Aeneas Prince of Dardania, in the Troad. He was the son of King Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite (Venus to the Romans). When Troy fell to the forces of Agamemnon, he fled the burning city with his aged father perched on his shoulders and the Palladium under one arm. After many adventures, he arrived in Latium and founded the race from whom true Romans were descended. His son, Iulus, was the direct ancestor of the Julian family; therefore the identity of Iulus's mother was of some import. Virgil says lulus was actually Ascanius, the son of Aeneas by his Trojan wife, Creusa, Aeneas having brought the boy with him from Troy (Ilium to the Romans). On the other hand, Livy says lulus was the son of Aeneas by his Latin wife, Lavinia. What the Julian family of Caesar's day believed is not known. I shall go with Livy, who seems on the whole a more reliable source than Virgil.

Aesernia A small city in northwestern Samnium. It was given the Latin Rights in 263 B.C. to encourage its people to be loyal to Rome rather than to Samnium, the traditional Italian enemy of Rome.

Africa During the Roman Republic, the word "Africa" referred to that part of the North African coast around Carthage—modern Tunisia.

Africa Province That part of Africa which physically belonged to Rome. In size it was quite small—basically, the out-thrust of land which contained Carthage and Utica. This Roman territory was surrounded by the much larger Numidia.

ager publicus Land vested in Roman public ownership, most of it acquired by right of conquest or taken off its original owners as a punishment for disloyalty. This latter was particularly true of ager publicus in the Italian peninsula. The censors leased it out on behalf of the State in a manner favoring large estates. There was Roman ager publicus in every overseas province, in Italian Gaul, and in the Italian peninsula. The most famous and contentious of all the many pieces of ager publicus was the ager Campanus,
extremely rich land which had once belonged to the city of Capua, and was confiscated by Rome after several Capuan insurrections.

Agger A part of the Servian Walls of Rome, the Agger protected the city on its most vulnerable side, the Campus Esquilinus. The Agger consisted of a double rampart bearing formidable fortifications.

Allies of Rome Quite early in the history of the Roman Republic, its magistrates began to issue the title "Friend and Ally of the Roman People" to peoples and/or nations who had assisted Rome in an hour of need; the most usual form of assistance was military. The first Allies were located in the Italian peninsula, and as time went on toward the later Republic, those Italian peoples not enfranchised as full Roman citizens nor possessed of the Latin Rights were deemed the Italian Allies. Rome assured them military protection and gave them some other concessions, but in return they were expected to give Rome troops whenever she asked, and to support those troops in the field without financial assistance from Rome. Abroad, peoples and/or nations began to earn the title too; for instance, the Aedui of Gallia Comata and the Kingdom of Bithynia were formally deemed Allies. The Italian nations were mostly called "the Allies," while overseas nations were accorded the full title "Friend and Ally of the Roman People."

Amor Literally, "love." Because it is "Roma" spelled backward, the Romans of the Republic commonly believed it was Rome's vital secret name.

amphora Plural, amphorae. A pottery vessel, bulbous in shape, the amphora had a narrow neck and two handles connecting the shoulders with the upper neck; its bottom was pointed or conical, rather than flat, which meant it could not be stood upright on level ground. It was used for the bulk transport (usually maritime) of wheat and other grains, wine, oil, and other pourable substances. Its pointed bottom enabled it to be fitted easily into the sawdust which filled the ship's hold or the cart's interior, so that it was cushioned and protected during its journey. This pointed bottom also enabled it to be dragged across level .ground with considerable ease when being loaded and unloaded. The customary sized amphora held about twenty-five liters (six American gallons), which made it too heavy and awkward to be shouldered.

Anatolia Roughly, modern Asian Turkey. It extended from the south coast of the Euxine Sea (the Black Sea) to the north coast of the Mediterranean, and from the Aegean Sea in the west to modern Russian Armenia, Iran, Iraq, and Syria in the east. The Taurus and Anti-taurus mountains made its interior and much of its coastline very rugged, but it was then, as now, fertile and arable. The climate of the interior was continental.

Antiochus The generic name of many of the Kings of Syria and other, smaller kingdoms in that part of the East.

Apulia That part of southeastern Italy extending from Samnium in the north to ancient Calabria in the south (the back of the Italian leg). Fertile enough when there was water, the region has always suffered greatly from a sparse rainfall. Its people, the Apuli, were considered very poor and backward. The major towns were Luceria, Venusia, Barium, and Canusium.

aquilifer Presumably a creation of Gaius Marius's at the time he gave the legions their silver eagles. The best man in the legion, the aquilifer was chosen to carry the legion's silver eagle, and was expected never to surrender it to the enemy. As a mark of his distinction, he wore a wolf skin or a lion skin over his head and shoulders, and all his decorations for valor.

Arausio, Battle of On October 6, 105 B.C., the three Germanic peoples (Cimbri, Teutones, and Tigurini/ Marcomanni/Cherusci) who had been trying to migrate for fifteen years met Rome in battle outside the town of Arausio, in the valley of the Rhodanus (the Rhone). Due to a complete lack of co-operation between the two Roman commanders, Gnaeus Mallius Maximus and Quintus Servilius Caepio, the Roman forces were both separated from each other and hopelessly positioned; the result was the worst defeat in the history of the Republic. Eighty thousand Roman soldiers died.

Arpinum A town in Latium not far from the border of Samnium, and probably originally populated by Volsci. Together with Formiae Fundi, it was the last Latin Rights community to receive the full Roman citizenship (in 188 B.C.), but it did not enjoy proper municipal status during the late Republic. Arpinum's chief claim to fame was as the birthplace and homeland of two very distinguished men, Gaius Marius and Marcus Tullius Cicero.

artillery Before the employment of gunpowder, these were military machines, usually spring-driven or spring-loaded, capable of launching projectiles—boulders, rocks, stones, darts, canister, grape, or bolts. Among the various kinds of Roman artillery were the ballista, the catapultus, and the onager.

Arx The Capitoline Mount of the city of Rome was divided into two humps by a declivity called the Asylum; the Arx was the more northern of the two humps, and contained the temple of Juno Moneta.

as The smallest in value of the coins issued by Rome; ten of them equaled one denarius. They were bronze. I have avoided all mention of the as in this book because of (a) its relative unimportance, and (b) its identical spelling to the English language adverb and/or conjunction "as"— most confusing!

Asia Minor Basically, modern Turkey, Syria, Iran, Iraq, and Armenia. So little was known by the ancients about Arabia that its inclusion in Asia Minor was ephemeral; the Black Sea and the Caucasus formed the northern boundary of Asia Minor.

Asia Province The Roman province left to Rome in the will of King Attalus III of Pergamum. It consisted of the west coast and hinterland of what is now Turkey, from the Troad and Mysia in the north to the Cnidan peninsula in the south; thus it included Caria, but not Lycia. Its capital in Republican times was Pergamum, but Smyrna, Ephesus, and Halicarnassus rivaled the seat of the governor in importance. The islands lying off its coast—Lesbos, Lemnos, Samos, Chios, et cetera—were a part of the province. Its people were sophisticated and highly commercial in outlook, and were the descendants of successive waves of Greek colonization—Aeolian, Dorian, Ionian. It was not centralized in the modern sense, but was administered by Rome as a series of separate communities which were largely self-governing and gave tribute to Rome.

Assembly (comitia) Any gathering of the Roman People convoked to deal with governmental, legislative, judicial, or electoral matters. In the time of Marius and Sulla there were three true Assemblies—of the Centuries, the Whole People, and the Plebs.

The Centuriate Assembly (comitia centuriata) marshaled the People, patrician and plebeian, in their Classes, which were filled by a means test and were economic in nature. As this was originally a military assembly, each Class gathered in the form of Centuries (which by the time of Marius and Sulla numbered far in excess of one hundred men per century, as it had been decided to keep the number of Centuries in each Class the same). The Centuriate Assembly met to elect consuls, praetors, and (every five years) censors. It also met to hear trials involving a charge of major treason, and could pass laws. Because of the unwieldy nature of the Centuriate Assembly, which had to meet outside the pomerium on the Campus Martius at a place called the saepta, it was in normal times not convoked to pass laws or hear trials.

The Assembly of the People (comitia populi tributa) allowed the full participation of patricians, and was tribal in nature. It was convoked in the thirty-five tribes into which all Roman citizens were placed. When speaking of this Assembly throughout the book, I have mostly chosen to call it the Whole People to avoid confusion. It was called together by a consul or praetor, and elected the quaestors, the curule aediles, and the tribunes of the soldiers. It could formulate laws and conduct trials. The normal meeting place was in the lower Forum Romanum, in the Well of the Comitia.

The Plebeian Assembly (comitia plebis tributa or concilium plebis) did not allow the participation of patricians, and met in the thirty-five tribes. The only magistrate empowered to convoke it was the tribune of the plebs. It had the right to enact laws (strictly, plebiscites) and conduct trials. Its members elected the plebeian aediles and the tribunes of the plebs. The normal meeting place was in the Well of the Comitia.



In no Roman Assembly could the vote of one individual be credited directly to his wants; in the Centuriate Assembly his vote was incorporated into the vote of his Century in his Class, his Century's majority vote then being cast as a single vote; in the two tribal Assemblies his vote was incorporated into the vote of his tribe, the majority vote of the tribe then being cast as one single vote.

atrium The main reception room of a Roman domus or private house; it contained a rectangular opening in the roof (the compluvium), below which was a pool (the impluvium). Originally the purpose of the pool was to provide a reservoir of water for household use, but by the late Republic the pool was usually purely ornamental.

Attalus III The last King of Pergamum, and ruler of most of the Aegean coast of western Anatolia as well as inland Phrygia. In 133 B.C. he died at a relatively early age, and without heirs closer than a collection of cousins. His will bequeathed his kingdom to Rome, much to the chagrin of the cousins, who promptly went to war against Rome. The insurrection was put down by Manius Aquillius in 129 and 128 B.C., after which Aquillius settled to organize the bequest as the Roman province of Asia. While going about this task, Aquillius sold most of Phrygia to the fifth King Mithridates of Pontus for a sum of gold which he put into his own purse. Discovered by those in Rome, this deed of greed permanently crippled the reputation of the family Aquillius.

Attic helmet An ornate helmet worn by Roman officers above the rank of centurion. It is the kind of helmet commonly worn by the stars of Hollywood Roman epic movies—though I very much doubt that any Attic helmet of Republican times was crested with ostrich feathers! There were ostrich feathers available, but their employment would have been deemed decadent, to say the least.

auctoritas A very difficult Latin term to translate, as it meant far more than the English word "authority" implies. It carried nuances of pre-eminence, clout, leadership, public importance, and—above all—the ability to influence events through sheer public reputation. All the magistracies possessed auctoritas as a part of their very nature, but auctoritas was not confined to those who held magistracies; the Princeps Senatus, Pontifex Maximus, consulars, and even some private individuals outside the Senate could also own auctoritas. Where the term occurs in the book, I have left it untranslated.

Augur A priest whose duties concerned divination rather than prognostication. He and his fellow augurs comprised the College of Augurs, an official State body, and at the time of this book numbered twelve, six patricians and six plebeians. Until 104 B.C., when Gnaeus Domitius Ahenobarbus passed his lex Domitia de sacerdotiis, new augurs had been co-opted by those already in the College; after that law, augurs had to be elected by an Assembly of seventeen tribes chosen by lot. The augur did not predict the future, nor did he pursue his auguries at his own whim; he inspected the proper objects or signs to ascertain whether or not the projected undertaking was one having the approval of the gods, be the undertaking a meeting, a war, a proposed new law, or any other State business, including elections. There was a standard manual of interpretation to which the augur referred; augurs "went by the book." The augur wore the toga trabea (see that entry), and carried a curved staff called the lituus.

auxiliary A legion of non-citizens incorporated into a Roman army was called an auxiliary legion; its soldiers were also called auxiliaries, and the term extended to cavalry as well. In the time of Marius and Sulla, most auxiliary infantry was Italian in origin, whereas most auxiliary cavalry was Numidian, Gallic, or Thracian, all lands where the soldiers habitually rode horses. The Roman soldier (and the Italian soldier) was not enamored of horses.

barbarian Derived from a Greek word having strong onomatopoeic overtones; on first hearing these peoples speak, the Greeks thought they sounded "bar-bar," like animals barking. The word "barbarian" was used to describe races and nations deemed uncivilized, lacking in any admirable or desirable culture. Gauls, Germans, Scythians, Sarmatians, and Dacians were considered barbarian.

basilica A large building devoted to public activities such as courts of law, and also to commercial activities in shops and offices. The basilica was two-storeyed and clerestory-lit, and incorporated an arcade of shops under what we might call verandah extensions along either side. During the Republic it was erected at the expense of some civic-minded Roman nobleman, usually of consular status, often censorial as well. The first basilica was built by Cato the Censor on the Clivus Argentarius next door to the Senate House, and was known as the Basilica Porcia; as well as accommodating banking institutions, it was also the headquarters of the College of Tribunes of the Plebs. At the time of this book, there also existed the Basilica Aemilia, the Basilica Sempronia, and the Basilica Opimia, all on the fringes of the lower Forum Romanum.

Bellona The Roman goddess of war. Her temple lay outside the pomerium or sacred boundary of the city on the Campus Martius, and was vowed in 296 B.C. by the great Appius Claudius Caecus. A group of special priests called fetiales conducted her rituals. A large vacant piece of land lay in front of the temple of Bellona, and was known as Enemy Territory.

Bithynia A kingdom flanking the Propontis (the modern Sea of Marmara) on its Asian side, extending east to Paphlagonia and Galatia, south to Phrygia, and southwest to Mysia. It was fertile and prosperous, and was ruled by a series of kings of Thracian origin—the first two were named Prusias, the rest Nicomedes. The traditional enemy of Bithynia was Pontus. From the time of Prusias II, Bithynia enjoyed the status Friend and Ally of the Roman People.

boni Literally, "the Good Men." First mentioned in a play by Plautus called The Captives, the term came into political use during the days of Gaius Gracchus. He used it to describe his followers—but so also did his enemies Opimius and Drusus. It then passed gradually into general use, indicating men of intensely conservative political inclination; the "true" government of Rome in this book—that is, the faction led by the consul Gnaeus Octavius Ruso—would have described its members as boni.

Brennus A king of the Gauls (or Celts) during the third century B.C.. Leading a large confraternity of Celtic tribes, Brennus invaded Macedonia and Thessaly in 279 B.C., turned the Greek defense at the pass of Thermopylae and sacked Delphi, in which battle he was badly wounded. He then penetrated into Epirus and sacked the enormously rich oracular precinct of Zeus at Dodona; and went on to sack the richest precinct in the world, that of Zeus at Olympia in the Greek Peloponnese. Retreating before a determined Greek guerrilla resistance, Brennus returned to Macedonia, where he died of his wound. Without Brennus to hold them together, his Gauls were rudderless. Some of them (the Tolistobogii, the Trocmi, and a segment of the Volcae Tectosages) crossed the Hellespont into Asia Minor and settled in a land thereafter called Galatia. Those Volcae Tectosages who did not go to Asia Minor returned to their homeland around Tolosa in southwestern Gaul; with them they carried the entire loot of Brennus's campaign, holding it in trust against the return of the rest of the tribes to Gaul. Apparently they melted the gold and silver down (turning the silver into gigantic millstones) before hiding it in various sacred lakes within the precinct of Herakles in Tolosa. The gold amounted to fifteen thousand talents. See also Gold of Tolosa.

Burdigala Modern Bordeaux, in southwestern France. A great Gallic oppidum (fortress) belonging to the Aquitani, it lay on the south bank of the Garumna River (the modern Garonne) near its mouth. In 107 B.C. it was the scene of a debacle, when a combined force of Germans and Aquitani annihilated the Roman army of Lucius Cassius Longinus, consul (with Gaius Marius) in that year. Lucius Calpurnius Piso Caesoninus was killed, as was Cassius himself. Only Gaius Popillius Laenas and a handful of men survived.

Calabria Confusing for those who know modern Italy better than they do ancient Italy! Nowadays Calabria is the toe of the boot, but in ancient times Calabria was the heel. Brundisium was its most important city, followed by Tarentum. The region was not mightily involved in the Marsic War, though its people, the Calabri, were sympathetic to the Italian cause.

Campania A fabulously rich and fertile basin, volcanic in origin and soil, Campania lay between the Apennines of Samnium and the Tuscan Sea, and extended from Tarracina in the north to a point well south of the modern Bay of Naples. Watered by the Liris, Volturnus/Calor, Clanius, and Sarnus rivers, it grew bigger, better, and more of everything than any other region in Italy, even Italian Gaul of the Padus. Colonized during the seventh century B.C. by the Greeks, it fell under Etruscan domination, then affiliated itself to the Samnites (of whom there was a large element in its population), and eventually became subject to Rome. Because of the Greek and Samnite population, it was always an area prone to insurrection, and lost much of its best countryside to Rome as Roman ager publicus. The towns of Capua, Teanum Sidicinum, Venafrum, Acerrae, Nola, and Interamna were important inland centers, while the ports of Puteoli, Neapolis, Herculaneum, Pompeii, Surrentum, Stabiae, and Salernum constituted the best on Italy's west coast. Puteoli was the largest and busiest port in all of Italy. The Viae Campana, Appia, and Latina passed through it.

campus Plural, campi. A plain, or a flat expanse of ground.

Campus Esquilinus The area of flat ground outside the Servian Walls and the double rampart of the Agger, between the Querquetulan Gate and the Colline Gate. Here lay Rome's necropolis.

Campus Martius Situated to the north and northwest of the Servian Walls of Rome, the Campus Martius was bounded by the Capitol to its south and the Pincian Hill on its east; the rest of it was enclosed by a huge bend in the Tiber River. On the Campus Martius armies awaiting their general's triumph were bivouacked, military exercises and the training of the young went on, the stables and exercise tracks for horses engaged in chariot racing were situated, assemblies of the comitia centuriata took place, and market gardening vied with public parklands. The Tiber swimming hole of the Trigarium lay at the apex of the bend, and just to the north of that were medicinal mineral hot springs called the Tarentum. The Via Lata (Via Flaminia) crossed the Campus Martius on its way to the Mulvian Bridge, and the Via Recta bisected it at right angles to the Via Lata.

Campus Vaticanus Situated on the opposite (north) bank of the Tiber from the Campus Martius, the Campus Vaticanus was an area of market gardening and had no importance in the Rome of Marius and Sulla.



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