I thought I’d create a glossary of terms that you might encounter studying Roman history. Some will be geographical or cultural, others might be along the art and architecture theme. They all should help you make connections when you’re on the ground in Rome and put the sites in a larger context. I’ll add to the list as we go along.

Roman Culture

fasces – a bundle of rods with an axe in the center. Fasces symbolized authority in much the same way a sheriffs badge would today.

imperium – Latin translation is “power” or “command.” If one has imperium they have the authority. Inscriptions will often shorten imperium to IMP.

novus homo – translated as “new man” it’s a rather derogatory term for the first man in a family to achieve the status of senator or consul. Gaius Marius and Cicero were both new men.

Pontifex Maximus – chief priest. An elected office, the pontifex maximus attained a residence on the Roman Forum. Was in charge of the calendar, state ceremonies, and nominated Vestal Virgins and other priests. Pontifex can be translated as “bridge builder.”

The Senate – In the most basic form the Senate was a governing body of patrician elders. Comprised of government officials, they advised popular assemblies.The level of power within the Senate would ebb and flow, but they consistently had control over administration of the state, finance, and foreign relations.


Transalpine Gaul

Cisalpine Gaul

Arno River

Rubicon River

Po River

Art and Architecture

Ambulatory – the walkway around the apse in a basilica church. Think of the adjective amble.

Appropriation – an artist borrowing material or influence to use in their own art. In modern art, material culture is often used as influence.


biglietteria – ticket office in Italian

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