Common section


akolouthos. Greek term for an acolyte or helper. The plural is akolouthoi.

Amphitruo. A popular sexual comedy written by Plautus.

atrium. An open area in the center of many Roman homes.

ave. A Latin phrase used by the Romans as a salutation and greeting, meaning hail.

bulla. An amulet worn around the neck by Roman children for protection against evil. A boy would wear his bulla until he became a Roman citizen during his toga virilis ceremony, while a girl would wear hers until the eve of her marriage.

calamistrum. A curling iron.

caryatid. A pillar or other architectural support sculpted into the shape of a female figure.

cavea. The semicircular seating area of a theater, arranged in tiers.

Cerberus. A three-headed mythological dog that guards the gates leaving Hades.

chiton. A long garment worn by both Greek men and women and held together at the shoulders by pins.

colei. Testicles.

Columna Lactaria. A column in Rome at which unwanted infants were abandoned, and where wet nurses or adopting parents might feed those who survived.

cunnus. The female genitalia.

diadem. A royal crown and symbol of authority.

dies natalis. Birthday.

dies nefastus. An unlucky day in the calendar, during which no official business could be conducted. The plural is dies nefasti.

Domina. Mistress. Used when the female subject of sentence is spoken of as a superior; also used to address a female superior.

Domine. Master. Used to address a male superior. The plural is Domini.

Dominus. Master. Used when the male subject of sentence is spoken of as superior.

equites. Knights, who were members of the lower aristocratic order.

Fasti. A Roman almanac, listing festival days and dies nefasti, among others.

filius nullius. “No one’s son” (a bastard).

fornices. Archways or vaults. Roman prostitutes’ habit of soliciting in archways leaves its trace in the word “fornicate.” The singular is fornix.

Forum Boarium. The cattle market.

Ganymede. A young homosexual, after the beautiful lover taken by Zeus in mythology.

Gaul/Gallic. Terms that refer to continental western Europe between the Rhine and the Pyrenees, inhabited by Celtic tribes. This area included what are now the Low Countries, France, Switzerland, and Northern Italy (Cisalpine Gaul).

gustatio. The appetizer or starter course of a meal. Often consisted of a light salad, lentils, or pickled vegetables.

himation. A Greek garment that was worn over a chiton and often used as a cloak.

ignobilis. Of low birth.

judices. The jurors in a public trial, usually comprising of citizens, and drawn from the higher social orders. The singular is judex.

kyphi. Incense, used for medical purposes and in Egyptian religious rites.

lararium. A small shrine room for honoring the household’s gods.

Lares. The household gods or protective spirits that were honored in the lararium.

Liberalia. The festival of Liber Pater and his consort Libera, celebrated on March 17. This was also the day when boys who had come of age would put aside their bullae.

liberatores. Liberators.

ludus. School. Also used to refer to the public games that were intended to serve as a festival of thanks to the gods. The plural is ludi.

lupa. She-wolf. A derogatory term for a prostitute. The plural is lupae.

lupanar. A brothel.

Lupercalia. A pastoral festival held February 13–15.

lustratio. A purification ceremony, often involving animal sacrifice, to purify people (especially newborns) as well as places, crops, armies, and buildings.

Mare Superum. The Adriatic Sea.

nemes headdress. The blue-and-gold-striped head cloth worn by Pharaohs of ancient Egypt (prior to action in story).

nobilitas. Nobility.

odeum. A building used for musical and theatrical events. The plural is odea.

ofella. The ancient Roman version of pizza made of baked dough but without the tomatoes, which were unknown to the Romans at that time. The plural is ofellae.

ornatrix. A woman skilled in hair arrangement and makeup.

palla. A shawl worn over the arms and shoulders.

pilum. A long spear or a javelin.

pleb. Plebian; member of the lower classes.

portico. The roofed entrance porch at the front of a building.

rostrum. Speaking platform in the Senate, made from the prows of ships that the Romans captured in various sea battles.

Salii: A group of young male priests of Mars, the Roman god of war.

salve. Greetings. Salvete is the form used in addressing more than one person.

silphium. An extinct plant commonly referred to as a “giant fennel.” The Roman author Pliny the Elder wrote about its use as an herbal contraceptive.

sparsor. The person whose job it was at the races to douse the smoking wheels of a chariot with water.

spelt-cake. A cake made from a precursor to modern strains of wheat.

spina. The barrier in the center of the Circus Maximus; it separated the outbound and inbound laps of the race.

SPQR. Senatus Populusque Romanus, or “the Senate and People of Rome.” This ubiquitous “signature” of the Roman state appeared on legionary standards, documents, coins, and a great deal more.

stadia. Plural form for a Roman measure of distance; one stadium was 200–210 yards in length.

stola. A long, pleated dress worn over the tunic; the traditional garment of Roman women.

stylus. A metal writing implement, used to inscribe on wax tablets. The reverse, flat end of the stylus could be used to scratch and flatten, or “erase,” mistakes.

taberna. A shop or alehouse. The plural is tabernae.

tablet. A wax writing pad that could be reused by warming the tablet and melting the wax.

thalamegos. A type of ancient Greek ship. The name means “cabin-carrier.”

tiet. The sacred knot of the Egyptian goddess Isis.

toga praetexta. A long woolen robe, worn by Roman citizens as a tunic. The praetexta had a single crimson stripe, and was often worn by magistrates, by priests, and by boys too young for the toga virilis.

tollere liberos. The lifting of a newborn into the air by its father, signifying his acceptance of it into the family.

triclinium. The dining room in a Roman household, so named for the three couches on which diners reclined and ate.

tunic. A garment worn by both men and women in ancient Rome, either under the toga or by itself.

Ubi tu es Agrippa, ego Claudia. “Where you are Agrippa, I am Claudia.”

umbraculum. An umbrella or parasol, typically carried by slaves for their wealthy Roman mistresses.

univira. A woman who has had only one husband.

vale. Farewell. Valete is the form used in addressing more than one person.

vestibulum. The narrow hallway that connected the atrium of a Roman house with the street outside. These hallways often contained welcoming messages or decorations in the form of mosaics or murals.

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