Aedile: The aediles were magistrates responsible for aspects of the day- to-day life of the city of Rome, including the staging of a number of annual festivals. Usually held between the quaestorship and the praetorship, there were fewer aediles than praetors and the post was not a compulsory part of the cursus honorum.
Aquilifer: The standard-bearer who carried the legion’s standard (aquila), a silver, or gilded statuette of an eagle mounted on a staff.
Auctoritas: The prestige and influence of a Roman senator. Auctoritas was greatly boosted by military achievements.
Auxilia (auxiliaries): The non-citizen soldiers recruited into the army during the Late Republic were known generally as auxiliaries or supporting troops.
Ballista: A two-armed torsion catapult capable of firing bolts or stones with considerable accuracy. These were built in various sizes and most often used in sieges.
Bona Dea: Annual festival to the ‘Good Goddess’, the rituals were celebrated exclusively by women and held in the house of an elected magistrate. In 62 BC the rites were performed in Caesar’s house and were the subject of scandal.
Cataphract: Heavily armoured cavalryman often riding an armoured horse. These formed an important component of the Parthian army
Centurion: Important grade of officers in the Roman army for most of its history, centurions originally commanded a century of eighty men. The most senior centurion of a legion was the primus pilus, a post of enormous status held only for a single year.
Century (centuria): The basic sub-unit of the Roman army, the century was commanded by a centurion and usually consisted of eighty men.
Cohort (cohors): The basic tactical unit of the legion, consising of six centuries of eighty soldiers with a total strength of 480.
Comitia Centuriata: The Assembly of the Roman people that elected the most senior magistrates, including the consuls and praetors. It was divided into 193 voting groups of centuries, membership of which was based on property registered in the census. The wealthier members of society had a highly disproportionate influence on the outcome. Its structure was believed to be based on the organisation of the early Roman army.
Comitia Tributa: The Assembly of the entire Roman people, including both patricians and plebians. It was divided into thirty-five voting tribes, membership of which was based on ancestry. It had power to legislate and was presided over by a consul, praetor or curule aedile. It also elected men to a number of posts including the quaestorship and curule aedileship.
Commilito (pl. commilitones): Comrade. This familiar form of address was often employed by a Roman general when speaking to his troops, especially at times of civil war.
Concilium Plebis: The Assembly of the Roman plebs, whether meeting to legislate or elect certain magistrates such as the tribunes of the plebs. Patricians were not allowed to take part or attend. The people voted in thirty-five tribes, membership of which was based on ancestry. This assembly was presided over by the tribunes of the plebs.
Consul: The year’s two consuls were the senior elected magistrates of the Roman Republic and held command in important campaigns. Sometimes the Senate extended their power after their year of office, in which case they were known as proconsuls.
Curia: The Curia (Senate House) building stood on the north side of the Forum Romanum and had traditionally been built by one of the kings. Sulla restored it, but it was burnt down during the funeral of Clodius. As dictator Caesar began work on a new curia. Even when the building was in good condition, on some occasions the Senate could be summoned to meet in other buildings for specific debates.
Cursus honorum: The term given to the career pattern regulating public life. Existing legislation dealing with age and other qualifications for elected magistracies was restated and reinforced by Sulla during his dictatorship.
Dictator: In times of extreme crisis a dictator was appointed for a six- month period during which he exercised supreme civil and military power. Later victors in civil wars, such as Sulla and Julius Caesar, used the title as a basis for more permanent power.
Equites (sing. Eques): The ‘knights’ were the group with the highest property qualification registered by the census. From the time of the Gracchi they were given a more formal public role as jurors in the courts, an issue that became extremely contentious.
Fasces (sing. Fascis): An ornamental bundle of rods some 5 feet long, in the middle of which was an axe. They were carried by lictors and were the most visible symbols of a magistrate’s power and status.
Flamen Dialis: An ancient priesthood of Jupiter, the holder of which was subject to a great number of strict taboos. Effectively, the Flamen Dialis and his wife, the Flaminica, were considered to be permanently taking part in ritual observance, and so had to be kept free from any form of pollution. The young Caesar was selected for the post, but may never have been actually installed.
Forum Romanum: The political and economic heart of the city of Rome that lay between the Capitoline, Palatine, Quirinal and Velian hills. Public meetings were often held either around the Rostra, or at the eastern end of the Forum. The Concilium Plebis and Comitia Tributa also usually met in the Forum to legislate.
Gladius: A Latin word meaning sword, gladius is conventionally used to describe the gladius hispaniensis, the Spanish sword that was the standard Roman sidearm until well into the third century AD. Made from high-quality steel, this weapon could be used for cutting, but was primarily intended for thrusting.
Imperium: The power of military command held by magistrates and pro-magistrates during their term of office.
Legatus (pl. Legati): A subordinate officer who held delegated imperium rather than exercising power in his own right. Legati were chosen by a magistrate rather than elected.
Legion (Legio): Originally a term meaning levy, the legions became the main unit of the Roman army for much of its history. In Caesar’s day the theoretical strength of a legion was around 4,800-5,000 men. The effective strength of a legion on campaign, however, was often much lower.
Lictor: The official attendants of a magistrate who carried the fasces, which symbolised his right to dispense justice and inflict capital and corporal punishment. Twelve lictors attended a consul, while a dictator was normally given twenty-four.
Magister Equitum: Second-in-command to the Republican dictator, the Master of Horse traditionally commanded the cavalry, since the dictator was forbidden to ride a horse.
Maniple (manipulus): The basic tactical unit of the legion until it was replaced by the cohort, the maniple consisted of two centuries. It still seems to have had some role in administration and army routine - and perhaps also drill - in Caesar’s day.
Nomenclator: A specially trained slave whose task was to whisper the names of approaching citizens permitting his master to greet them in a familiar way Such a slave normally accompanied a canvassing politician.
Ovatio (ovation): A lesser form of the triumph, in an ovation the general rode through the city on horseback rather than in a chariot.
Pilum (pl. pila): The heavy javelin that was the standard equipment of the Roman legionary for much of Rome’s history. Its narrow head was designed to punch through an enemy’s shield, the long thin shank then giving it the reach to hit the man behind it.
Pontifex Maximus: The head of the college of fifteen pontiffs, one of three major priesthoods monopolised by the Roman aristocracy. The pontiffs regulated the timing of many state festivals and events. The Pontifex Maximus was more chairman than leader, but the post was highly prestigious.
Praetor: Praetors were annually elected magistrates who under the Republic governed the less important provinces and fought Rome’s smaller wars.
Prefect (praefectus): An equestrian officer with a range of duties, including the command of units of allied or auxiliary troops.
Quaestor: Magistrates whose duties were primarily financial, quaestors acted as deputies to consular governors and often held subordinate military commands.
Rostra: The speaker’s platform in the Forum from which politicians addressed public gatherings.
Saepta: The voting area on the Campus Martius where the various assemblies met to hold elections.
Scorpion: The light bolt-shooting ballista employed by the Roman army both in the field and in sieges. They possessed a long range, as well as great accuracy and the ability to penetrate any form of armour.
Signifer: The standard-bearer who carried the standard (signum) of the century.
Spolia opima: The highest honour that a triumphing general could claim was the right to dedicate spolia opima in the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the Capitol. The right could only gained by killing the enemy general in single combat and was celebrated on only a handful of occasions.
Subura: The valley between the Viminal and Esquiline hills was notorious for its narrow streets and slum housing. Caesar lived in this region until he became Pontifex Maximus.
Testudo: The famous tortoise formation in which Roman legionaries overlapped their long shield to provide protection to the front, sides and overhead. It was most often used during assaults on fortifications.
Tribuni aerarii: The group registered below the equestrian order in the census. Relatively little is known about them.
Tribunus militum (military tribune): Six military tribunes were elected or appointed to each legion, one pair of these men holding command at any one time.
Tribune of the plebs: Although holding a political office without direct military responsibilities, the ten tribunes of the plebs elected each year were able to legislate on any issue. During the later years of the Republic many ambitious generals, such as Marius and Pompey, enlisted the aid of tribunes to secure important commands for themselves.
Triumph: The great celebration granted by the Senate to a successful general took the form of a procession along the Sacra Via, the ceremonial main road of Rome, displaying the spoils and captives of his victory and culminated in the ritual execution of the captured enemy leader. The commander rode in a chariot, dressed like the statues of Jupiter, a slave holding a laurel wreath of victory over his head. The slave was supposed to whisper to the general, reminding him that he was mortal.
Vexillum: A square flag mounted crossways on a pole, the vexillum was used to mark a general’s position and was also the standard carried by a detachment of troops. A general’s vexillum seems usually to have been red.