Ancient Rome




First TriumvirateGrouping of three strong Romans who supposedly ran the government. They were Julius Caesar, Crassus, and Pompey. They all became jealous of each other and fought each other for control of Rome. Julius Caesar won this struggle, mainly because his two rivals died in the struggle.
ForumMain place of business and commerce in Rome. Merchants, politicians, and just about everyone else did business at the Forum. Religious ceremonies took place there, as did public speeches. The Forum was surrounded by temples and other important buildings. Eventually, the Forum proved too small for the growing population. Emperors built their own Forums, which were much larger. Other cities built their own forums as well.
Gaius MariusGeneral who became consul and was re-elected six times, serving seven terms in all. He made it possible for the poor to become soldiers. (Before, only landowners could join the legions.) He was opposed Sulla, who defeated him in battle and seized the government in a dictatorship.
GaulLarge area covering what is now France and more. Settled by Celts and others long before the Romans arrived on the scene. Barbarians in Gaul played both sides in the Second Punic war, alternately helping and harassing Hannibal on his march over the Alps and into Italy. Romans under Julius Caesar conquered Gaul and followed the refugees to Britain.
GladiatorWarriors who were usually enslaved and forced to fight to the death in arenas all over the Empire. The most famous of these arenas was the Colosseum, in Rome. One of the most famous gladiators of all was Spartacus, who led a slave revolt that began in 73 B.C. and ended with his death two years later.
GothsGermanic tribes that invaded, became part of, then ended the Western Roman Empire. The term "Goth" also included the Visigoths and Ostrogoths. Alaric the Visigoth sacked Rome in the 5th century. Some historians have speculated that the Goths were driven into the Empire by the Huns, who invaded the Gothic homeland from the east. However, the story of the Goths is not only of invasion. For many years, Goths served as mercenaries in the Roman army.
GracchiGovernment reformers who were killed for trying to implement their controversial ideas. Both brothers (Tiberius and Caius) tried separately to redistribute land more evenly, so the middle class in Rome could have more of a share of lands gained by conquering other peoples. But many in the Senate and elsewhere in government didn't want this kind of land reform. First Tiberius and then Caius got his way for awhile but then was voted out of office and killed.
HadrianEmperor who is most famous for directing the building of Hadrian's Wall, the wall across northern Britain, to keep out raging Picts. He directed the building of other walls and fortresses throughout the Empire, focusing on keeping what the Romans had gotten rather than continuing to get more.
Hadrian's WallWall built by the Romans to keep marauding Picts on their side of the island. The wall stretched from coast to coast in northern Britain and was ordered built by the emperor Hadrian, who gave it his name.
Hamilcar BarcaCarthaginian leader and enemy of Rome. His son, Hannibal, was even more famous.
HannibalCarthaginian general and one of the most feared enemies of Rome ever. He was introduced to the hatred of Rome by his father, Hamilcar Barca, and he swore to fight Rome all his life. He is famous for his brilliant victories in the Second Punic War, including Lake Trasimene, Trebia River, and Cannae. Desperate to invade Rome but unable to sail across the Mediterraenan (because Roman ships ruled the seas), Hannibal took his troops through Spain, over the Alps, and down into northern Italy. His troops ravaged Italy for years, hoping the peoples surrounding Rome would band together against the Romans. However, Rome stood fast. Finally, Roman troops, under Scipio Africanus, took the battle to the Carthaginian homeland. Hannibal got home in a hurry, and the two forces fought Hannibal's final battle (and first defeat) at Zama. This ended the Second Punic War and made Hannibal an outcast. He fled Carthage and never returned.
HannoCarthaginian geographer who sailed the ocean blue. He is believed to have sailed around Africa and reached Arabia, founding several colonies along the way.
HunsThe Huns came from Central Asia and drove other barbarian tribes before them into the teeth of the Roman defenses. It has been argued that some of the barbarian invasions of the Goths and Visigoths were really attempts to escape the ravaging hordes of the Huns. Their famous (or infamous) leader was Attila.
Julius CaesarOne of the leaders of early Rome. He was a brilliant general who won many victories for Rome, including the subjugation of Gaul. He then became the head of the government at a time when the Roman Senate still wanted to rule. He was killed by Senators, some of whom he thought were his friends. When Rome became an empire, emperors took the name of Caesar as their last name.
JunoWife of Jupiter. Protector of marriage, children, and the home. Known as the Greek goddess Hera.
JupiterKing of the gods. God of the weather. Husband of Juno. Father of Mercury and Minerva. Known as the Greek god Zeus.
KingsFirst seven rulers of Rome. The formation of the Republic ended the kingship. The Republic came about because people didn't trust the king to respect their wishes.
Lake TrasimeneSecond of Hannibal's great victory over Rome. Roman soldiers under Consul Flaminius had pursued Hannibal to Lake Trasimene. Hannibal made a great show of entering the area around the lake by a narrow pathway. Despite warnings to the contrary, Flaminius decided to pursue what he thought were retreating troops. The narrow pathway wound between a high mountain and a deep lake. When the Romans began their pursuit, mists from the lake were already obscuring the way. Suddenly, the entire Carthaginian army descended onto the startled Roman troops. The victory was short and very bloody. Hannibal's men killed 15,000 Romans and captured 10,000.
LatifundiaLarge farms that were formed when landowners bought up smaller farms. Most were sheep and cattle ranches, and some grew olives and grapes. They were created in part after the Second Punic War, during which many Romans burned their farms rather than let the invading Carthaginian General Hannibal live off their land.
LawsThe Romans were the first to employ lawyers full-time. Roman law was a revelation in standards and practice. In other words, it worked very well over a very large number of territories by employing a very large number of people. The number of Roman laws grew every year, beginning with the Twelve Tables. As the number of laws grew, so did the number of lawyers and judges required to study and interpret those laws. Roman judges applied the laws evenly throughout the Republic and the Empire. The penalty for stealing was the same in Roman Africa as it was in Rome itself.
LegionRoman fighting unit consisting of 6,000 men who fought as a unit and wielded several different weapons, including swords and spears. Their discipline and training turned the tide in several wars in which the Roman soldiers were outnumbered.
LepidusPart of the Second Triumvirate, along with Marc Antony and Octavian.
Marc AntonyFamed general who cast his lot with Julius Caesar and then Cleopatra. He supported Caesar during the Civil War, made a famous speech at Caesar's funeral, and then joined forces with Cleopatra to fight Octavian in yet another Roman civil war. Antony was part of the Second Triumvirate, along with Octavian and Lepidus. He chose to go to Egypt with Cleopatra and was killed in a great battle with Octavian.
Marcus AureliusRoman emperor who was a conqueror and also a philosopher. He firmly believed in Stoicism, a Greek theory of philosophy. He also made it a practice to oppose corruption at all levels of government. He sold his own property to raise money for the Empire, freed slaves whenever he could and ordered gladiators to fight with blunted weapons. He won great victories, especially against the barbarians of the north, but grew old and tired and was succeeded by his son, Commodus, who proved to be a disastrous emperor.
MarsGod of war. Known as the Greek god Ares.
Mediterranean SeaSea that touched nearly all parts of the Greek world, stretching from the Asia Minor colonies in the east to beyond Syracuse in the west, from the Peloponnesus in the north to the shores of Africa in the south.
MercuryGod of speakers and writers, business, and games. Protector of mischief-makers. Messenger to mortals. Son of Jupiter. Known as the Greek god Hermes.
MinervaGoddess of wisdom. Patron of household crafts. Known as the Greek goddess Athena.
NeptuneGod of the sea and earthquakes. His sea kingdom is unlike any other. Creatures of his own making swim freely all around the world. Known as the Greek god Poseidon.
NeroEmperor who tried to follow the example of Claudius, ruling by the laws, but ended up withdrawing into his own primitive circle of needs. He was famous for his wild parties and uneven justice. He was one of the most famous of the persecutors of Christians. He made no secret of wanting to build new buildings in Rome, and the great fire that occurred during his reign makes historians wonder whether he had a hand in it. (By the way, Nero didn't "fiddle" while Rome burned. He played the harp. The fiddle wasn't invented until hundreds of years later.) Nero eventually went completely mad and was killed.
OdoacerBarbarian king who deposed the last emperor of the Western Empire, Romulus Augustulus. Odoacer declared himself king/emperor, but he too soon fell victim to the decay and corruption that ended the empire in the West.
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