INDEX: Alphabetical Information

INTERESTING FACTS – ROME AND GREECE

 

Alphabetical > A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z



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A

Achaean League: Ancient Greek confederation, centred on the Peloponnese that was revived during the third century BC to resist the regional domination of the Macedonians, following the death of Alexander. However, the league would not support Rome in the third Macedonian war against Perseus and later revolted against growing Roman domination in Greece. The league was poorly coordinated and ill-led and was predictably defeated by the disciplined Romans under Lucius Mummius at the decisive battle of Corinth in 146 BC . In the process Corinth, which had taken over as head of the league was utterly destroyed, thus ending the Achaean war. The result was that all Greece thereafter effectively became  little more than a vassal of Rome.

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Agrippa: (63 – 12 BC) Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa, came from an undistinguished Italian family and was born in the same year as Octavian, the grand-nephew and heir of the dictator Julius Caesar. The boys were educated together and as young officers were supporters of Caesar in the war against Pompey. Throughout his life Agrippa was the future emperor Augustus’s boon companion and most successful general.

 

Following Caesar’s murder, the Second Triumvirate of Octavian, Antony and Lepidus was formed and they beat the armies of the murderers Brutus and Cassius at Philippi in 42 BC. The three then split up the Empire between themselves and ruled in a Junta as military dictators. Agrippa, as Octavian’s governor, put down a rebellion against the Aquitanians in Gaul and crossed the Rhine, winning battles against the Germans. He was appointed Consul in 37 BC although still under age. Agrippa eventually established Octavian’s pre-eminent position in the second triumvirate, when he led his navy and army to victories over Sextus Pompey at Naulochus in 36 BC. He then went on to make Octavian master of the entire Roman world by defeating Mark Antony and Cleopatra’s forces at the sea battle of Actium in 33 BC.

 

Agrippa, famed as a brilliant military commander on land and sea, was also a highly capable civil administrator. Octavian became emperor in 27 BC and subsequently took the name Augustus. His trusted friend Agrippa, already in control of the armies, was rewarded for his loyalty with many honours. He was  three times consul and held various governorships of the most important provinces. Augustus had  been sickly for most of his life and did not expect a long reign.  Having  no male heir, his solution was to adopt his lifelong friend Agrippa to be his son (although they were of the same age). He did this to ensure that his reforms would continue to hold fast under a strong ruler and so  that Rome should not slip back to the anarchy of the previous half-century. To strengthen the dynastic bond further, Agrippa was married off to Augustus’ only daughter, Julia, in 21 BC. Agrippa had three son’s and two daughters with her. Augustus thought the succession was secure, but in the event he outlived his robust friend by more than two decades.

 

After Agrippa’s death in 12 BC Augustus immediately adopted his friend’s two sons, Gaius and Lucius (actually his own grandsons) to be his heirs – unfortunately they also predeceased Augustus. Agrippa’s daughter Agrippina (Augustus’s grandaughter) was married to the empress Livia’s grandson, Germanicus, who was a successful general, but died young. Their son, Gaius  (Agrippa’s grandson) survived to became the future emperor Caligula.

 

In civil works, Agrippa was a superb administrator who had incredible energy and was also gifted with great technical ability. Although already of consular rank, he took the lower position of Aedile so that he could apply his talents to public affairs of all kinds, notably in Rome and Gaul. He built a network of strategic roads in southern Gaul and the famous Maison Carree temple in Nimes, which stands to this day. In Rome, he built the original Pantheon temple, public baths and a unique marble world map, showing the extent of the empire. He had the Cloaca Maxima, the main sewer of Rome cleared and serving as Rome’s water commissioner, he refurbished the aging structures of the aqueducts and established permanent maintenance slave gangs at his own expense for securing the water supply and ensuring efficient water reticulation.

 

On the military front he put down a rebellion in Spain and pushed back the boundaries of the empire  in Germania and won battles along the Danube leading to the formation of the new province of Pannonia in 13 BC. Agrippa fell ill  and died in Campania in 13 BC at the age of 51. He was given a magnificent funeral and his ashes  were interned in Augustus’s own mausoleum. Augustus took charge of the education of all Agrippas children.

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Alexander:   In his short life (356 – 323 BC)., Alexander the Great conquered a huge empire, stretching from the Balkans (Macedonia) in the West to India in the East. He defeated the Persian king Darius III in two decisive battles, Issus (333 BC) and Gaugamela (331 BC) and took over his vast empire. He founded many cities, including Alexandria of Egypt, and  his empire was to have a long lasting influence as the bastion of Greek culture as it devolved, under his successors, into the major Hellenistic kingdoms of Egypt (of the Ptolemys), Macedonia (including Greece and the Balkans) and Seleucia (including most of the former Persian Empire). Hellenism in turn had a great influence on the political and cultural development the later Roman empire and also on the spread and direction of early Christianity.

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Alexandria: Famous port city of Egypt on the Mediterranean coast. It was founded at one of the mouths of the Nile by Alexander the Great in 332 BC and became the centre of Greek (Hellenistic) culture under the Ptolemaic kings until the death of the famous queen Cleopatra IV in 30 BC.

 

The famous Library of Alexandria, probably founded by Ptolemy I (Soter)  (323–283 BC), became a great institution of learning, science and culture, until it was destroyed by fire during Caesar’s war with Egypt in 48 BC. However many books were saved and the traditional study of Hellenistic culture, science and philosophy  continued in the pagan temple of the Serapeum and elswhere in Alexandria, until it was closed by the Christians in the reign of Theodosius I in AD 391. Alexandria is now the second city of Egypt and has recently established an important new library, dedicated to world culture.

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Aphrodite: Greek goddess of love and beauty, one of the twelve Olympians, mother of Eros and wife to Hephaestus  – see also Venus (rom).

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Appius Claudius Caecus:  ( 340 BC – 273 BC)  A Roman senator and patrician, who is famous for instigating both the Appian way and the first of the great aqueducts – the Aqua Claudia.                               

See > >     Life of Appius Claudius

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Arian: This  was a branch of Christianity that was considered heretical by Orthodox Christians because they rejected the Nicene creed and believed Christ to be subservient to God the father. Many Germanic barbarian tribes were converted to the Arian faith in the fourth century AD.

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Aries: God of war (grk) – see also Mars (Rom).

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Artemis: Greek virgin goddesss of the hunt, one of the twelve Olympians, daughter of Zeus and Leda, sister to Apollo. she was always associated with the moon. Her most famous temple was at Ephesus in Asia Minor.   – see also Diana (rom)

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Athena: Greek virgin goddess of wisdom, also goddess of war – one of the twelve Olympians. She was the tutelary deity of Athens and her symbol was owl. She gave the gift of the Olive tree to Athens who built the Parthenon in her honour.  See Minerva (rom)

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Augustus: Caius Julius Caesar Octavianus (63 BC – 14 AD). The first emperor of Rome.  The eighth month, August was named for him.  Octavian, as he was formerly known, was the grand nephew and adoptive heir of Julius Caesar. He beat Mark Anthony at the battle of Actium in 31 BC, to become master of the Roman world.

See > >   Augustus and the Principate 

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B

Bath: British town where there was a Roman bath complex established which utilised a natural hot spring. Restored bath house is extremely interesting and well worth a visit.

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Brutus: Marcus Junius Brutus (85 BC – 42 BC)  is the most famous of the assassins of Julius Caesar who killed the dictator in the Roman senate house, on the Ides of March 44 BC.                                                                                                                 .                                                                                                   See > >  Life of Brutus

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C

Caesar: (100 BC – 44 BC)

1 – Gaius Julius Caesar was the successful general, conqueror of Gaul, who took control of the Roman state following a bitter civil war against a faction of senators led by Pompey the Great. Following the defeat of his enemies and the death of Pompey, Caesar made himself  the de facto ruler with absolute power, but used the office of dictator to maintain a facade of constitutionality. Although never an emperor himself, he was essentially the founder of the Julio Claudian dynasty of emperors that was established by his great nephew and adoptive heir, Octavian (Augustus). A man of many talents and phenomonal energy, Caesar was also a great writer, whose extant books can still be read in his original words. Caesar was assassinated in the senate house on the ides of March, 44 BC.

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2 – After second century AD “Caesar” was title of junior co-emperor, subordinate to a senior ruler named “Augustus”.

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Cassius(Gaius Cassius Longinus  85 BC – 42BC) was the main leader of the conspiracy of members of the Roman senate to murder Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in 44 BC. Defeated by the forces of Mark Anthony and Caesar’s nephew Octavian at the battle of Philippi in 42 BC, he committed suicide.

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Ceres:  Roman goddess of grain and fertility associated with the Eleusinian mysteries.

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Cloaca Maxima:  The main sewer of Rome collected most of the  sewage and stormwater of Rome and discharged into the Tiber. Originally an open drain, running through the forum, it was eventually brick lined and roofed with an arch and became the main collector for a very sophisticated water-bourne sewage system that helped keep Rome healthy. It was big enough for Agrippa to row up , when he was water commissioner of Rome.

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The Colusseum

Colosseum: Originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre after the family name of the emperors Vespasian and Titus who built it to impress their subjects with bloody spectacles.

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For more detailed information                  see > >  Colosseum

 

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Constantinople: Modern Istambul – City founded by Constantine in AD 330 on the Bosphorus at site of ancient city of Byzantium to be joint capital with Rome. After the division of the Roman empire it was the Easter Roman empire, which later became known as the Greek speaking Byzantine empire

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D

Dacia:  Roman Province, conquered in AD 101 by the emperor Trajan. East of the Danube and north of Macedonia and Greece it is approximately equivalent to modern Romania.

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Demeter:  Greek goddess of fertility and agriculture, one of the twelve Olympians, she was daughter of the Titans, Chronos and Rhea – sister to Zeus, Poseidon and Hades and mother of Persephone. Associated with the cycle of ferility and the seasons, she was at the centre of the Eleusinian mystery cult  – see also Ceres (rom)

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Donatists:  Schismatic branch of Christianity, named after bishop Donatus of Carthage

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E

Ephebes:  Adolescent youth of Ancient Greece, who were recognised as a social grouping by the state, with specific duties involving military training and various religious obligations. Several Ephebes were commemorated amongst the dead after the battle of Marathon

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Ephesus:   A prosperous port city on the coast of Asia Minor (modern Turkey) it held the magnificent second century BC Hellenistic Temple of Artemis which for centuries was the celebrated pagan centre of worship of Artemis (Roman – Diana), well into Roman times, but it later became an important centre for  early Christianity. In the first century, The Silversmiths of Ephesus were aggrieved by St Paul’s denunciation of the pagan idols they were selling as it  threatened their livelihood and so understandably rioted in a popular outcry against  Paul and his co-missionaries (Acts ch 19 21-41). St Paul later addressed the Christians of Ephesus in his famous letter to the Ephesians.

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Equestrian Order:  The knights – the second tier of Roman society, coming below that of the senatorial rank.

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F

Flavian Dynasty:  The second dynasty of Roman emperors, ruling from 69 – 96 AD. The Flavian dynasty was  by Vespasian, followed by sons Titus and Domitian. .

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Freedman:  Libertinus (lat). There were a large number of freed slaves in Rome, some became very rich and influential, for they could do business and own land. However they could never acquire the status of Roman Citizenship, although their children would get this automatically, if freeborn. Manumission was by way of a formal ceremony and was often granted relatively early to educated slaves, such as secretaries and business agents and commonly also granted to loyal long serving domestic slaves (notably through their master’s will). They retained a client relationship of mutual obligation with their former master (dominus) who was now considered to be their patron.

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G

Gaius:  A common praenomen (personal name) amongst Romans that became the generic name for a man – as in modern “Guy”. Gaia similarly denoted woman.

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Gaius and Gaia:  In the Roman marriage ceremony – the words “ubi tu Gaius ego Gaia” were spoken by the bride, meaning – “As you are man, I am woman”. The bridegroom replied with the converse – “ubi tu Gaia ego Gaius

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Gaul:  Area roughly equivalent to modern France and Northern Italy occupied by celtic speakers. Two Roman Provinces – Transalpine Gaul (France), conquered by Julius Caesar and Cisalpine Gaul (Italy).

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Gladiator:  An armed professional fighter, who engaged in real combat, often to the death, for the entertainment of spectators. The name gladiator means swordsman and derives from the Latin word for sword (gladius ), but came to be known as the generic name for professional fighters, who could be trained to specialise with other weapons.  Gladiators, were usually slaves, although some freemen (usually desperate bankrupts) voluntarily enlisted themselves as fighters. Gladiators were trained in a gladiatorial school (ludi) for single combat in one of several specialised disciplines by a  trainer ( lanista) who was expert in the arms of that particular speciality. On rare occasions a gladiator who had impressed the crowd, would be granted his freedom, by the award of a symbolic wooden sword.

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Gladius:  The short two-edged stabbing sword issued to the Roman infantry. Although suitable for both cutting and thrusting, it was used primarily, in tight formation, for stabbing around the edge of the soldiers’ shields (scutum).

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Gnosticism:  From Gnosis the Greek word for knowledge. It was an early Christian heresy that believed in the power of intuitive knowledge as a route to salvation. 

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Goths:  Germanic tribe (barbarians) who conquered the Western Roman empire. There were two main branches the Ostrogoths (east) and Visigoths (west).

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Greek Civilization:  Greek/ Hellenistic civilization spread over the Greek mainland, the islands of the Easterm Mediterranan including part of Sicily, Southern Italy, North Africa, Asia Minor and Egypt. The Eastern Roman Empire, with its capital at Constantinople, was mainly Greek speaking and the successor – the Byzantine Empire carried on the Greektradition, until overrun by the Ottoman turks in the late 15th century.

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H

Hadrian:  The third of the “Nerva-Antonine” adoptive emperors, Hadrian ruled from 117 – 138 AD. Renown for his many fine building works and for stabilizing the frontiers after the rapid expansion of the empire under Trajan, his adoptive father.

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Helena:  The Empress Helena, was the mother of Constantine the Roman Emperor, who converted to Christianity. She is revered as a Saint by Christianity, for her part in promoting the early Christian Church and for a famous pilgrimage to Palestine.

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Hellenistic Civilization:  The period immediately following ending of the Classical Greek era, after the decline of Athens, saw the widespread expansion of Greek cultural and political dominance throughout the Eastern Mediterranean region, in the wake of the  conquests of Alexander the Great from 336 – 323 BC. Hellenism is the name given to the essentially Greek civilization that became established in the lands he had conquered. Although the region was no longer unified politically after Alexander’s death, it held a common cultural, religious and artistic integrity that nurtured Greek traditions of  philosophy, architecture, mathematics, religion and scientific investigation over a vast area that stretched from Macedonia and Greece to what is now modern Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Iraq.  From around 145 BC, the Hellenistic region began to be taken over by Rome and had been  fully integrated into the Roman empire by the second century of the modern era. Hellenism held great sway on the development of Roman cultural, philosophical and religious thought and was especially important as it was the main influence on the theological and philosophical development of early Christianity.

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Hercules:  Roman version of the Greek Herakles, who was a divine mythological hero, or demi-god. He was supposed to be the son of Zeus. He was always portrayed carrying a club. The last Flavian emperor Commodus, who notoriously took part in  gladiatorial combats in the public arena, associated himself with Hercules and promoted his cult

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I


Imperium:  The absolute power, invested in a supreme commander in time of war, whilst Rome was still a republic was called Imperium. The bearer of the power was dubbed Imperator, but only if so acclaimed by his troops. The first emperor, Augustus assumed this power in perpetuity, as his automatic due, when he allocated the title of Princeps (first citizen) to himself. He was already defacto ruler and this move was in line with his policy of maintaining the facade of the republic, but never its substance. Subsequent rulers also claimed the Imperium for themselves – from which is derived the name emperor (although the name was not actually used until the late empire). see also “potestas”.

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J

Javelin:  A light throwing spear,  used to great effect by the Ancient Greek peltasts. These were light infantry or skirmishers and each man was armed with a sword and several javelins, which they threw from a distance to harass and break up enemy troop formations ahead of the principle engagement by the main force of heavier armed spearmen (hoplites).

The Romans used a heavier javelin, often weighted with lead, called a pilum , which had a stubby pointed tip on a long steel shank protruding from the wooden shaft. These were used at shorter range by the Legionaries, who usually carried two of these projectiles. They were launched as a volley at  massed enemy ranks, just prior to engaging with the sword. The principle purpose of the Roman pilum was not to wound, but rather to have them become embedded into the enemy’s shields, so as to make them unwieldy, cause confusion and make them ineffective as protection against the sword thrusts of the Romans.  The legionaires were exercised with double weight pilums in their training to strengthen the power of their throwing arm in actual combat.

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Julian the Apostate:  Emperor of Rome from 361 – 363 AD. A good administrator and energetic ruler. Although coming from a Christian family, he was influenced by Greek  philosophy and tried to reverse the Roman Empire’s move towards Christianity in favour of the traditional paganism of Rome. He died in a war against the Persians.

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Julio-Claudians:  The first dynasty of Roman Emperors, founded by Augustus, claiming descent from the assassinated Julius Caesar, mainly through the female line and adoption.

See the > >   Julio-Claudian Family Tree

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Julius Caesar:  Dictator of Rome, who was assassinated in the Senate on the Ides of March 44 BC.

See > > Caesar

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Jupiter:  The Roman king of the gods (also called Jove) was identified with the Greek god Zeus, but actually had very ancient roots. He was at the  centre of Roman State religion from before the formation of the republic in 509 BC, until the advent of the Christian era in the fourth century. Originally a sky god, he was closely associated with birds and hence the importance given to the taking of the auguries – the practice of divination from the direction of the flight of birds and this also explains the remarkable devotion given to their golden eagle standard (aquila) by the soldiers of Rome’s legions. The centre of Jupiter’s worship was the Capitoline hill, the ancient citadel of Rome, where he was celebrated as Jupiter Capitolinus, the patron (tutelary) deity of Rome and the empire.

 

Jupiter was so closely associated with the spirit (genius) of Rome and the Empire’s continued good fortune that refusal to pay homage to the Supreme God by early Christians was thus considered not just blasphemy, but was also taken to be extreme treasonous behaviour. Behaviour that would bring misfortune and calamity to the State if left unpunished – hence the unfortunate martyrdom of many converts, who refused to recant.

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K

Kalends:  Or “Calends” The first days of the month in the Roman calendar. Our modern name calendar derives from “Kalends”.

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L

Lanista:  In the training schools (Ludi), gladiators were coached in their particular speciality by a lanista , who was usually an ex gladiator himself. A Lanista could have been a fighter who had earned his freedom through being highly successful in the arena (symbolised by the award of a wooden sword), but this was a very rare occurrence. More likely, the lanista was simply an experienced  fighter who had survived a serious wound in the arena, such as a hamstring injury. Although now unfit for actual combat, he was still valuable, as he had skills to pass on to the ludi’s  trainees.

 

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Legate:  The commander of a Legion. He would be a member of the senatorial class, who had proved himself in his earlier career as a reliable senior  military tribune. His success as a commander, would  would be very dependent upon the rapport he had with his senior centurions.

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Legion:  This was the strategic  professional infantry unit of the Roman army. Equivalent to the modern military division it consisted at peak in the early empire of typically 5500 soldiers, under the command of a senatorial legate. At the time of Augustus there were 26 such units dispersed at strategic postings throughout the empire, Each legionary soldier had to be a Roman citizen and enlisted for a minimum of 20 years.

Although there were usually assigned 6 military tribunes of the senatorial class, young officers, who held ranking positions, these were essentially short term amateur appointees, who were of far less importance to the legion than the centurinate – the body of professional officers, all of whom whom had proved their worth on their own merits,  through rising through  the ranks from ordinary legionary recruits.

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Lyceum:  The Lyceum, originally a gymnaseum, is best known as the site where Aristotle lectured his students. The college and library established there by Aristotle was a centre for philosophical studies until the Sulla conquered Greece in 86 BC. The Lyceum again became a place of learning, during the 1st century AD until  the Heruli sacked athens in 267 AD.

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M

Mark Anthony:  ( 83 BC – 30 BC)  Marcus Antonius was a charismatic Roman general,  who supported Caesar’s faction , as tribune of the plebs. When civil war broke out against Brutus and his senatorial allies, Anthony was de facto ruler of Rome, holding it for Caesar, while Caesar campaigned abroad. On Caesar’s death in 44BC he formed the Second Triumvirate to rule Rome, together with  Octavian and Lentulus, but quarrelled with Octavian and was defeated in 31 BC at the battle of Actium in 31, together with his lover, Cleopatra, queen of Egypt.  Both comitted suicide in the following year.

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Military Tribune:  Young members of the senatorial class (often patricians) were posted to the legions as a step in their political careers. They often served as little as six months and although having rank usually had staff appointments or if assigned, played little part in the tactical operation of their units, which were understood to be under the control of the professional centurions. However the senior tribune, the Laticlavian tribune, who would be more experieced was nominally second in command of the legion as deputy to the legate. His record in this position would determine if he would be later considered, having served as a senator, to be a worthy candidate to be raised to the position of a commander (legate) of a legion.

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Mosaic:  Mosaics were decorative panels, made up of thousands of small coloured blocksof stone or tile, called tesserae, that were bedded in cement to form decorative floors or wall panels. The art form was  particularly favoured by the Romans, who used it to decorate their villas, temples and public baths. Visit the Gallery of Roman Mosaics) for some stunning examples of Roman mosaic art.

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N

Nero:  (AD 54-68) This notoriously cruel emperor of Rome is remembered for the excesses of his personal life and neglect of good administration of the empire. Finally to avoid the wrath of rebellious populace, he commited suicide, with the assistance of a servant.

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Nerva:  (AD 96 – 98)  Made emperor by the Senate, after the assassination of Commodus. Twice consul, he was  born in Narni, Italy and was a capable administrator, who had served  all the Flavian emperors. He came to supreme power late in life and  reined for only 2 years and in his brief reign he faced many challenges and did not cope particularly well. He died of a stroke, after nominating Trajan as his successor.          See > > >    life of Nerva

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O

Odoacer:  (AD 476 – 493) His origins are uncertain, but he was the leader of the revolt of the “foederati ” (barbarian tribes supposedly allied to Rome), which deposed the last Western Roman emperor Romulus Augustus in 476. He then made himself the first barbarian king of Italy.

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 Olympiad:  The four yearly cycle of the Ancient Olympic Games between  games was called an Olympiad and was the basis of the Ancient Greek dating system, which was set from  the traditional starting date of the games in 776 BCE. This was very close to the traditional founding date of Rome in 753 BC, from which the Roman dating system was derived and points of synchronisity between the two parallel systems gives modern historians great assistance in their task of dating historical events.

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 Olympics:  The Ancient Olympic Games were actually a religious festival, held by the Greeks in honour of Zeus, the father of the gods. The games were believed to be founded in 776 BCE held at the site of his famous temple at Olympia in southern Greece. They were held every fourth year (see Olympiad above)and any freeborn Greek could participate. Warring nation states were bound to an inviolable truce (ekecheiria) for the duration of the games. The treasured prize for any event was a simple wreath, taken from an ancient olive tree (not laurel as widely supposed). However great prestige was acquired for both the winning athlete and his city and the athlete would often be granted a hero’s pension by his grateful compatriots to enable him to eat at public expense for his lifetime. The Christian Roman emperor Theodosius I banned the games in 394 AD in a drive to stamp out paganism.

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 Ostrogoths:  The powerful nation of  Germanic warriors that together with Visigoths and other barbarian tribes defeated and killed the Eastern Roman emperor Valens at the battle of Adrianople in AD 378.

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P

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Peltast:  The lighter armed divisions of Greek infantry. Unlike the more heavily armed, spear carrying “Hoplites”, they were equipt with throwing javelins and swords” and protected by a light wicker shield called a “pelte“.


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Potestas:  The sacred inviolability and authority  of the persons of the elected tribunes of the Roman Republic was called the “tribunician potesstas“. It icluded the right to veto any decision of the Senate on behalf of the common people of Rome. Augustus assumed these rights in perpetuity, as his automatic due when he allocated the title of Princeps (first citizen) to himself. He was already defacto ruler and this move was in line with his policy of maintaining the facade of the republic, but never its substance, and so did his successors

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Q

Quaestor:  A senior Roman treasury / financial officer, who was an elected official during the Republic, holding one of the four posts as quaester was one of the first steps along the “cursus honorium” (recognised political career path for the ruling senatorial class). Later, the emperors would simply appoint the quaesters as they saw fit and even appointed “freemen” to hold this position.

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R

Romulus:  The legendary founder of Rome – killer of his twin brother Remus. Both brothers were supposed to have been suckled by a she wolf after being abandoned in the woods as new-born babies.

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S

Scipio Africanus:  (236 – 183 BC). Publius Cornelius Scipio, the Roman general, who defeated Hannibal in the second Punic War at the battle of Zama, near Carthage, in 202 BC

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Saturn:  Roman god of plenty, abundance and fun. he was a very ancient god, who was supposed to have ruled over an earlier golden age, when the earth was a kind of Eden, all men were equal and the earth’s abundance meant that no-one had to work. Saturn gave his name to Saturday and the planet Saturn. He was often considered to be the father of Jupiter(gr: Zeus) , but was never directly identified with any of the Greek Olympians, although because of his extremely ancient origins and links with the harvest festival, some associated him with Cronus, one of the early Titans, who had similar attributes. See Saturnalia below for his holiday.

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Saturnalia:  A most popular Roman holiday in honour of Saturn from December 17th – 23rd. It was noted as a time for levity, feasting and joking to celebrate the harvest. Masters often waited on slaves and tolerated disrespect – dancing, loose behaviour and gambling were permitted in public.

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Scipio Africanus:  (236 – 183 BC). Publius Cornelius Scipio, the Roman general, who defeated Hannibal in the second Punic War at the battle of Zama, near Carthage, in 202 BC

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Senate:  The senate was the ruling body of Rome during the republic. It still retained some powers of legislation under the emperors, but was always superceded by imperial edict if  there was any conflict with the emperor’s wishes. However the senate did on occasion act as “king maker” in appointing a new emperor in times of crisis when the throne had become vacant. Many of the Roman emperors came from its ranks.

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Spartacus:  The leader of a slave revolt that caused havoc in Italy between 73 BC and 71 BC. Spartacus was an ex gladiator, who became a very successful rebel commander, defeating several Roman armies, but was finally defeated by eight legions, led by Crassus  in 71 BC

see > > > Spartacus and the Slave Revolt

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Strigil:  A curved blade used in the baths, for scraping off oil (and dirt) after a massage.

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T

Theodora:  The Greek wife and co-empress of the important Eastern emperor Justinian I (AD 527 – 565). Very beautiful and intelligent, she was ruthless and certainly guilty of instigating several murders. She came from a poor family and may even have been a prostitute, but was a woman of great courage and strong will and always very politically astute. She played the leading role in surpressing the Nika riots, which nearly toppled Justinians reign. She died before her husband in 548, who had made her a full partner in his rule.

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Thermae:  Roman Baths, from Thermos (greek – hot). Bathing for Romans was more than an exercise in hygiene – it was a principle focus of social life and a most valued form of relaxation. The huge public baths, or Thermae, of Rome were a inexpensive public facility, provided by the Imperial administration, for the benefit of all citizens and could be compared with a harmonious combination of such modern facilities  as gymnasium, swimming pool, sports field. park and even public library. In Rome, the imperial baths were created on a vast scale – often requiring their own dedicated water supply from an aqueduct Smaller public thermae and private bath houses called bainea  were found everywhere throughout the Roman world, bringing comfort and ease to merchants, soldiers and landowners – even in the harshest and least civilised corners of the empire

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Thrace:  The vast steppe lands to the northeast of the Danube, from whence came many invading tribes, who often threatened the Roman empire. viz the Ostrogoths and the Huns of Attila.

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U

Uranus:  Greek god personifying the sky.

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V

Valentinian:  Emperor of Rome (AD 364 – 375). Sucessful general and conquerer of Alemanni, Quadi and Sarmatians. He took the Western Empire for himself and appointed Valens his brother as emperor of the East. The brothers made a strong team and were both good administrators, making substantial reforms on behalf of the poor and of the army. They were also tolerant in matters of religion. Valentian the Great, as he came to be known died of a stroke and was succeeded by his son Gratian.

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W

Western Roman Empire:  After Constantine created a second capital for rhe Roman Empire at Constantiople in AD 330, the fortunes of the Western empire declined steadily. Rome was sacked in 410 by Alaric and the Visigoths and the Western Empire was abolished in 476 when the last western emperor was deposed by Odoacer in 476.

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X

Xenophon:  (c 430 – 354BC) Athenian general, politician and writer of contemporary history and politics, much of whose work is still extant. After the defeat of Athens by Sparta in 404 he became involved in the affairs of Persia. Xenophon was famous for leading the remnants of a Greek mercenary army out of Mesopotamia after the death of Cyrus the Younger in 401, who was attempting to seize the Persian throne. He wrote his best known work Anabasis – as the record of this expedition. He came from an aristocratic family and politically Xenophon was a conservative who did not support the Athenian democratic system, which had become much debased by his time. He died an old man living in exile in Sparta.

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Y

Youth:  Young men or late adolescent boys known as “Ephebes” received military training at a young age in Ancient Greece and were sometimes used as active troops  and were known to be  among the fallen at the battle of Marathon.

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Z

Zama:  The battle of Zama (202 BC) was the decisive battle of the Second Punic War (218 -201BC). At Zama, the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal was defeated by a Roman army, led by Scipio Africanus.

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Zeno:  Emperor of the Eastern Roman empire from AD 474 t0 491, he was an Isaurian by birth, but married into Greek aristocracy. Although he had a turbulent reign, having to contend with both civil war and barbarian attacks, he eventually managed to stabilise the Eastern empire, although unable to prevent the fall of the West to the forces of Odoacer. He died of natural causes.

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