Ancient Rome




Palatine HillMost famous of the seven hills of Rome, where Romulus is said to have first founded his city.
PantheonMammoth temple in Rome dedicated to all of the Roman gods and goddesses. Originally built by Agrippa, it was restored and expanded by Hadrian.
PatricianClass made up mostly of wealthy landowners and businessmen. Originally, only patricians could hold governmental office. Then, only patricians could be consuls. Finally, patricians agreed to share all governmental offices (until the empire, of course).
Pax Romana"Peace of Rome." It began with Augustus Caesar and lasted about 200 years. During this period, Roman conflicts with outsiders were few and far between. It was a time of prosperity all through the Empire, as culture, law, and economic growth flourished.
PictsFierce, warlike people who inhabited what is today called Scotland. The Romans saw the Picts as ever encroaching on Roman territory. The Picts fought with the Scots against the Romans, a struggle ending with the Roman victory under Agricola at Mons Graupius in 79. Hadrian's Wall was built in part to keep the Picts in Scotland.
PlautusRoman playwright famous for his comedies. His plays were popular mainly because he wrote for the masses, not for select audiences. His humor was earthy and broad, not politically motivated, like the Greek comedians. Plautus's targets were soldiers and businessmen. He especially liked puns and alliteration. Twenty-one of his plays survive.
PlebeiansClass made up mostly of commoners. At first, they had no power or representation. Then, the Twelve Tables gave them laws and a voice in government. The class struggle never really went away in Roman society.
PlutoGod of the Underworld, which also bore his name. Known as the Greek god Hades.
PompeyRoman general and member of the First Triumvirate who fought against Julius Caesar and was killed in this struggle. He was known as "Pompey the Great" for his famous victories before this civil war, including the defeat of Sulla. Pompey also played a leading role in the defeat of the slave revolt begun by Spartacus.
PoseidonGod of the sea and earthquakes. His sea kingdom is unlike any other. Creatures of his own making swim freely all around the world.
Praetorian GuardEmperor's personal bodyguard. They numbered 9,000 and received better pay than other soldiers. They became so powerful that they killed a few emperors.
Punic WarsSeries of three wars between Rome and Carthage that resulted in the utter destruction of Carthage. The First Punic War was fought over colonization rights in the Mediterranean. The Carthaginian commander was Hamilcar Barca, whose son Hannibal took up the cause in the Second Punic War. Hannibal crossed the Alps and invaded Italy. He won several amazing victories, including ones at Trebia River, Lake Trasimene, and Cannae; but he was defeated in the end at Zama. Many years later, Rome provoked an attack by Carthage, igniting the Third Punic War. Rome was vicious in victory, burning Carthage to the ground and sowing salt into the ground.
RemusTwin brother of Romulus, the founder of Rome. Legend says that the two quarreled about where to found a large city and that Romulus killed Remus.
RepublicThe first large government of ancient Rome. Based on the Twelve Tables, the government of Rome was representative. Senators were elected by the people.
RoadsAll roads led to Rome. The Romans built roads everywhere they went, making it easier for goods and soldiers to get from place to place within the Empire. The Roman roads were sturdier than any roads up to that time.
RomulusThe legendary founder of Rome. Legends say that he fought with his twin brother, Remus, about where to build a large city. Romulus killed Remus and founded Rome, naming it after himself. He was the city's first ruler.
SardiniaIsland west of Italy that was a Roman colony and the location of some fierce battles for Mediterranean supremacy.
ScotsPeople who inhabited the northern part of the island the Romans called Britannia. They came from Ireland and were called the Scotti. They mingled with the Picts in what is today called Scotland and were a source of concern for the Roman troops stationed in northern Britain. Rome completed its conquest of Scotland under Agricola at the Battle of Mons Graupius in 79. However, Scotland did not stay conquered. About 40 years later, Hadrian's Wall was built in part to keep the Scots in Scotland.
Second TriumvirateSecond three-man ruling group to rule Rome, formed to fill the void in government left by Julius Caesar's death. The members were Octavian, Marc Antony, and Lepidus. When Antony became involved with Cleopatra (Egypt's pharaoh) and decided to fight Rome, Octavian played a part in defeating Antony's forces. Once Antony was out of the way and Lepidus was forced to retire, Octavian was free to become Augustus Caesar.
SenateGovernment body made up of Senators who represented the interests of the people. In reality, the Senators were largely wealthy landowners who tended to represent their own interests and those of people like them.
SenecaRoman playwright and philosopher. He gave a decidedly Roman slant to the famous tragedies of the Greeks, including Oedipus and The Trojan Women. He was also a leader of the Stoic movement in Roman philosophy.
SicilyIsland west of Italy that was the focus of much fighting through the years, especially during the First and Second Punic Wars. Greek colonists settled the island originally but were soon overrun first by Carthage and then by Rome.
Silk RoadAncient network of road and trip travel that brought goods like silk from China to the Roman Empire and then to the rest of the Western world. The Silk Road was important because it helped cultures and traditions (not to mention precious goods) flow back and forth between the West and the East. And once the rich Romans got a feel for Chinese silk, they couldn't get enough.
SPQRAbbreviation meaning "the Senate and the People of the Rome." In Latin, it was Senatus Populusque Romanus. It meant that the symbol of Rome was the Senate and the people, not the emperor. The slogan was carved into the walls of many public buildings and on the battle flags of the Roman legions.
SullaPowerful, rich consul who eventually became dictator. He was the head of one army during a power dispute. Gaius Marius was head of the other army. A dispute over military command escalated into a full-blown civil war. In 83, Sulla won the civil war, defeating soldiers and followers of Gaius Marius. He became dictator and ruled with an iron hand for four years before retiring. One of the things he did was declare that his enemies were to be hunted down and killed. When that was done, their lands were seized and given to Sulla's supporters. The slaves who had been bound to those lands were then freed. These people (not surprisingly) became strong supporters of Sulla. He ruled for four years before retiring, probably because of advanced age. In 78 B.C., he died. Among his followers were Pompey and Crassus.
TarquinLast king of Rome. He ruled for 24 years and conquered several neighboring territories. He also established colonies, paving the way for Roman expansion under the Republic and the Empire.
TerenceComic playwright from Carthage who was originally a slave. His plays were more refined than those of his contemporary, Plautus. He preferred to rework Greek classics, like those of Menander. He also preferred gentle humor, not the coarse, broad humor of Plautus. Few of his plays survive.
TheodosiusRoman emperor who had two smashing victories to his credit. First, he stopped the Visigoth invasions of the Empire, mainly by offering them positions within the army. Secondly, he virtually eliminated the rights of pagan worshippers and solidified Christianity as the official religion of the Empire.
TiberiusSecond Roman emperor who proved to be much less successful at government than he was at warfare. He was a great general but didn't really ever get a feel for being emperor. His main achievement was to bring more money into the government treasury.
TiberRiver nearest city of Rome. Played part in defense of city on more than one occasion.
TrajanRoman emperor who solidified the northern borders, mainly by building a great wall near the Rhine River, and built great and beautiful buildings in Rome itself. He had built his own Forum, which is dominated by Trajan's Column, which shows scenes from his reign. He also oversaw a great increase in commerce, art, and learning. His wall-building philosophy was continued by his successor, Hadrian.
Trebia RiverHannibal's first great victory in the Second Punic War. He had crossed the Alps and invaded Italy. The Romans caught up with at the Trebia River, where he had hidden a sizable portion of his army. When the Romans attacked, Hannibal's main force fought off the charge for awhile until the hidden Carthaginian forces descended on the rear of the Roman army. Roman losses numbered almost 20,000; Carthaginian losses were slight.
Twelve TablesAn early set of laws that guaranteed rights to the people of Rome. These rights and laws formed the basis of the Roman Republic.
Tyrrhenian SeaBody of water to the west of Italy, diving the mainland from the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
VenusGoddess of love and beauty. She was known to the Greeks as Aphrodite, wife of Hephaestus/Vulcan. She is said to have caused the Trojan War by promising Helen of Troy to Paris, hero of the Achaeans, in exchange for a golden apple. Among her children are said to have been Aeneas, a Trojan hero and a legendary founder of Rome, and Eros, who made quite a name for himself with his arrows of love.
VulcanGod of fire and workers. Husband of Aphrodite. He was ugly to look at but good at his work. Known as the Greek god Hephaestus.
WelshPeople who live in Wales. The Romans found it very difficult to conquer Wales and concentrated the bulk of their efforts elsewhere. Thus, Wales was able to maintain a good part of its independent culture.
ZamaLast battle of the Second Punic War. Fought a few miles from Carthage. Hannibal's first and only defeat. The Romans, under General Scipio Africanus, allowed Hannibal's war elephants to charge right through suddenly empty columns between the Roman troops. Then, it was a matter of Roman discipline overpowering Carthaginian determination. The Romans won, ending the war. Hannibal went into exile shortly thereafter.
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David White