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Glossary


A-C

Term Definition
Aedicula
An opening, often ornamental, framed by columns or pilasters supporting a pediment. An aedicula is literally a small house or temple.
Aedile
Town magistrate who managed the day to day administration of public buildings and regulation of public festivals.
Agger
A mound or rampart.
Alae
Wings or alcoves opening to left and/or right of the atrium of a Roman house.
Ambulatory
A place for walking ( from ambulare, to walk), generally a covered passage around a peristyle.
Amphora
Two handled earthenware vessel for liquids, mainly wine.
Andron

An access corridor. For example, the corridor that generally joins the atrium with the peristyle in a typical atrium house.
Atlantes
Supports in the form of carved male figures.
Apodyterium
A changing room of a Roman baths.
Atrium


The main hall of a traditional Roman house. It could be completely roofed (testudinate) or have an opening (compluvium) in the middle of its roof and a water tank (impluvium) in the floor beneath.
Basilica

Colonnaded public hall on the Forum, used for commercial transactions and dispensing of justice.
Belvedere
A roofed open-sided building which commands a view.
Biclinium
The dining-room of a Roman house, so-called because of the two banqueting couches arranged around the walls.
BiselliumA seat of honour for two persons.
BuccheroA type of black pottery typical of the Etruscan civilization first made in the 7th century BC at the Etruscan settlement of Cerveteri.
CalcatoriumThe area in a torcularium where grapes were trodden by slaves prior to pressing.
Caldarium
The hot room of a Roman baths.
Cardo
Town road running north/south.
Caryatid A sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or pillar.
Catullus
A biconical or hollow stone which rotates above a cone-shaped pivot for grinding grain.
Caupona
An inn or tavern where hot meals were served to diners seated around a table.
Cavea

Ima, media, summa - Lower, middle and upper sections of tiered seating in a theatre or amphitheatre.
Cella
The central room of a temple where the image of the deity was placed.
Cella Ostiaria
A room inside the entrance for a doorkeeper or porter.
Cenatio
The formal dining room in a house, sometimes in a separate annex.
Coenaculum
The eating-room of a Roman house in which the supper (coena) or latest meal was taken. It was sometimes placed in an upper storey and reached by an external staircase.
Cognomen
The third name of a citizen of Ancient Rome. The cognomen started as a nickname, but lost that purpose when it became hereditary, and thus more like a family name.
Comitium
Meeting place on the Forum where magistrates assembled for voting.
Compluvium

An opening in the middle of the roof of an atrium to allow rainwater to fall into a water tank (impluvium) in the floor beneath.
Corinthian Order
The richest of the three Greek Orders, recognizable by its acanthus capitals.
Cryptoporticus


A ground-level or semi-subterranean vaulted corridor ususlly lit by openings in the vault. Its primary purpose is normally to buttress an adjacent structure, and secondly to provide a shady place to walk or store goods.
Cubiculum
A bedroom.
CuneusWedge, wedge shape.
Curia
Senate House on the Forum, where the decurion council met.
Culina
Kitchen, in some cases with Lararium for the Lares, the household gods.

D-G

Term Definition
Decumanus
Town road running east/west.
Decurio
Councillors.
DestrictariumA room for scraping off (oils) with a strigil.
Diaetae
Day rooms for general purpose use.
Dolium
Large earthenware container of globular form, with a wide mouth.
Doric Order

The most austere of the three Greek Orders, distinguished by its plain capital and triglyph frieze.
Duovir

Two senior magistrates of the colony, elected annually, who presided over the decurion council.
ErgastulumA building used to hold in chains dangerous slaves, or to punish other slaves. The ergastulum was usually subsurface, built as a deep, roofed pit - large enough to allow the slaves to work within it and containing narrow spaces in which they slept.
Exedra
A recess, usually semi-circular or rectangular in shape which is usually set into a building's facade.
FaucesAn entrance passageway or vestibule generally leading to the atrium.
FirefoxA free and open source web browser managed by the Mozilla Corporation.
First Style

Between 150-80 BC, sometimes called the 'incrustation' or 'structural' style, this style of fresco was characterised by paintings in imitation of architectural features and facings.
Flash
A popular method for adding animation and interactivity to web pages.
Fourth Style

From the end of the reign of Nero till 68 AD, this style of fresco was referred to as the 'ornamental style' and was marked by a taste for architectural vistas.
Frigidarium
The cold room of a Roman baths.
Fullonica A laundry. Fulling consisted of three main phases: soaping, rinsing and finishing.
Garum
A fermented fish sauce condiment that was an essential flavour in Roman cooking.
Gens
(pl Gentes) was a clan or group of families, that shared a common name (the nomen). In the Roman naming convention, the second name was the name of the gens to which the person belonged.
Gynaeceum
A building or portion of a house reserved for women, generally the innermost apartment.

H-L

Term Definition
Herma
A rectangular pillar of stone, terracotta, or bronze supporting a bust.
HeroonA shrine dedicated to an ancient hero used for the commemoration or worship of said hero. It was often erected over his supposed grave.
Imbrication
Having overlapping edges in a regular arrangement like roof tiles or the scales of a fish.
Impluvium

A water tank in the floor of an atrium that has, above it, an opening (compluvium) in the middle of its roof.
Ionic Order
One of the three Greek Orders, recognizable by its volute capitals.
Labrum
A basin used to contain water.
Laconicum
The hot, dry room of a Roman baths.
Lanista
The owner of a gladiatorial troop, responsible for training the gladiators, and would often serve as referee in gladiatorial combat.
Lararium
A shrine to the household gods of a Roman house.
Limestone framework
An early construction method where walls were built without mortar, clay being used instead. To provide strength to the wall blocks were used not only for the corners and doorposts but also as a framework in the body of the wall.
Loggia
A gallery or corridor at ground level, sometimes higher, on the facade of a building and open to the air on one side, where it is supported by columns or pierced openings in the wall.

M-Q

Term Definition
Macellum Market.
Nymphaeum

A grotto with a natural water supply dedicated to the nymphs - later an artificial grotto or fountain building.
Oecus

The main living room of a Greek house, introduced to Roman architecture along with the peristyle. Often used for dining.
Ollae Perforatae
Planting pots, recognizable by the holes in their lower part (hence the name).
Opus Craticium

A quick and inexpensive form of wall construction having a wooden framework combined with Opus Incertum.
Opus Incertum

A form of wall construction having an irregular facing of small stones in-filled with small stones (caementa) overlain wtih mortar to form a cohesive mass.
Opus Listatum
A form of Roman wall construction consisting of bricks and stone in alternate layers.
Opus Quadratum A construction technique, in which squared blocks of stone of the same height were set in parallel courses, without the use of mortar.
Opus Reticulatum

A form of wall construction having a facing of small stones with a square face laid diagonally, in-filled with small stones (caementa) overlain wtih mortar to form a cohesive mass.
Opus Sectile


A geometric pattern of motifs in polychromed marble used to decorate floors and walls. Instead of being made up of lots of individual tesserae, shapes in a picture are made from larger, specially cut, pieces.
Opus Signinum



A style of pavement marked by its use of a variety of materials, such as gravel, stone and terra cotta, arranged in limestone or clay. The pattern would be extremely rough, or no pattern would exist at all. The trend began in the 1st century BC, proliferating in private homes as well as public buildings.
Opus Tesselatum

A description of rows of tesserae laid in regular horizontal or vertical lines. This style of placement is generally used in backgrounds.
Opus Vermiculatum


A single row, or several rows, of tesserae following the outline of a feature in a mosaic. The effect is a little like a halo, highlighting the subject and providing contrast against a background with teserae laid in a different style. "Vermiculatum" means "worm-like" and is so called because it curves around the contours of the design.
Opus Vittatum Mixtum
A Roman construction technique, sometimes square with tuff blocks intersected by one or more brickbands at regular or irregular distances. This technique was mostly used to erect high walls.
Palaestra

An open area surrounded by covered porticoes used for wrestling and exercise, often forming part of a Roman bath complex.
PassumA raisin wine (wine from semi-dried grapes) developed in Carthage and transmitted from there to Italy, where it was popular in the Roman Empire.
Peristyle
An open courtyard or garden surrounded by a colonnade.
Piscina Originally a fish-pond, but later the term was used for natural or artificial pools for bathing, and also for a water tank or reservoir.
Pistrinum A mill or bakery.
PluteusA low wall set between the columns of a peristyle.
Podium
The raised platform on which the columns and cella of a Roman temple stand.
Pontifex Maximus
The head priest of the Roman state religion. During the Republic, the Pontifex was elected by the Comitia Tributa and served for life, while during the Empire, the position was generally held by the Emperor himself.
Posticum
A house's second, or tradesman's entrance.
Praefurnium
A boiler room, esp. for Roman baths.
Public Domain


A range of abstract materials – commonly referred to as intellectual property – which are not owned or controlled by anyone. The term indicates that these materials are therefore 'public property', and available for anyone to use for any purpose.
Puteal
A wellhead, round or sometimes square, set round a well opening.
Putto A figure of a baby boy or male infant, often pictured with wings.
Quadriporticus
An atrium or open area which is nearly square and surrounded by colonnaded porticoes.
QuicktimeA multimedia framework developed by Apple Inc., capable of handling various formats of digital video, media clips, sound, text, animation, music, and interactive panoramic images.

R-Z

Term Definition
Sacellum
A small roofless shrine, a Roman religious enclosure.
Scaenae Frons
The monumental facade that forms a backdrop to the stage of a Roman theatre.
Second Style


Between 1st century BC and AD 62, this style emerged as an original expression of Roman art. Towards the end of the period, the wall space was decorated with mythological scenes and illusionistic spaces.
SitulaA bucket like vessel, usually in bronze.
Socle
A short plinth used to support a pedestal or sculpture. In the field of archaeology, this term is used to refer to a wall base, frequently of stone, that supports the upper part of the wall.
Strigil
Scraper made of horn or metal used by bathers to remove dirt from the skin.
Taberna
A shop where many economic activities and many service industries were provided, including the sale of cooked food, wine and bread.
Tablinum

The central room at the end of the atrium of a Roman house, originally the master bedroom, later used for storing records.
Tepidarium
The warm room of a Roman baths.
TesseraA tessera (pl: tesserae) is an individual tile in a mosaic, usually formed in the shape of a cube.
Tetrastyle
With four columns.
Thermopolium

The equivalent of a modern day cafe/bar. Hot and cold food was sold from what was usually an 'L' shaped masonry counter containing terracotta vessels.
Third Style

From the end of the reign of Augustus, a more delicate and colourful style of fresco. It was enriched by Egyptian art, and was later referred to as the Egyptian style.
Torcularium
An room/building for the production of wine.
Triclinium

The dining-room of a Roman house, so-called because of the three banqueting couches (klinai) arranged around the walls.
Tympanum A semi-circular or triangular decorative wall surface over an entrance bounded by a lintel and arch. It often contains sculptures or other ornaments.
Velarium
A cloth canopy used to protect spectators at a theatre or amphitheatre from sun and rain.
Vestibulum
An entrance hallway - hence vestibule.
Viridarium

An ornamental garden replete with statuary and fountains in the peristyle or courtyard of a house.




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