Rome Vocabulary

Please click on any vocab word for more information! 

1. amphitheater:
a round arena where games, shows, or fights are held in the center
The massive and well-preserved Roman amphitheater of Verona, in Northern Italy, is still used for concerts and operas
Typical entertainment in the amphitheater involved killing, both of animals and people. 
Amphitheaters like the Colosseum of Rome were extremely complex engineering masterpieces and were built all over the Roman Empire

2. aqueduct:
a bridge-like structure used to carry water from a distant source

Roman aqueducts carried drinking water from mountain springs to major cities, much like aqueducts today. 

Aqueducts were built with a constant downward slope, so the water was always flowing in the right direction.

This Roman aqueduct in Istanbul, Turkey still stands despite the creation of modern roads directly under it.

This famous aqueduct at Pont du Gard in Southern France is still standing after 2,000 years.

Notice that the Romans mastered bridge-building techniques way before there were bridge units in Science class!

3. assassinate:
to kill someone for political reasons

This coin celebrates the assassination of Julius Caesar - It shows Brutus, one of the killers, and daggers
The famous Roman general and dictator Julius Caesar was murdered by some Senators on March 15, 44 B.C. 
Julius Caesar wanted more and more power for himself and his family, and was assassinated.
The assassination caused a major civil war in Rome that lasted more than a decade.
Both artists and writers, like William Shakespeare, were inspired to use the assassination as a subject for their work.

4. citizens’ assembly:
all citizens of the Roman Republic gathered together to elect their leaders
On a preserved wall of Pompeii, the Roman town buried by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, political graffiti is still readable.
During the Roman Republic, citizens elected leaders based on speeches, promises, and a lot of money--much like today!
This Roman coin has the image of a man casting his vote during an election
5. consul:
one of the two executive leaders of the Roman Republic, advised by the senate

The Romans elected two top leaders, the consuls, so that no one man could become too powerful.
The consuls were military and political leaders and were also elected from the Senate

This chart shows a basic breakdown of the government of the ancient Roman Republic

6. dictator:
one person with absolute power over the government (only allowed during times of emergency)

7. forum:
the central place of a Roman city, designed for politics and business

The ancient Roman forum was the center of the religious and political life of the city
Today, the Roman forum is a collection of ruins that only give a hint of how impressive it must have looked 2,000 years ago

8. Latin:
the language spoken by the ancient Romans

The Romans left large inscriptions on many of their buildings - like this one announcing who built the Pantheon in Rome
Some phrases in Latin are still used today - especially in Science and the study of Law

Can you tell which English words have these Latin ones as their roots?

Much of what we know about the ancient Romans comes from studying their writings

9. omen:
a sign from the gods about the future

Ancient Roman priests tried to interpret the will of the gods by seeing omens, usually in the movements of birds

Much of the Roman beliefs in omens comes from the earlier civilization of the Etruscans

Religion was a major part of Roman political life, and priests played an extremely important role in society

Another way Roman priests interpreted the will of the gods was through augury, the practice of sacrificing animals and examining the innards. This model of an animal liver explains the different parts and their meanings.

Eagles and vultures were especially meaningful to the Romans

The legendary founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, argued over the meanings of two omens and so disagreed about where to locate the city. Eventually, they fight and Romulus kills his brother - that's how important omens were.

10. patrician:
a member of the upper class of ancient Rome

Roman patrician men were allowed to wear the toga with a purple border

Roman patrician families often had lavish houses called villas for vacations from the city - like this one in Pompeii
Patrician families often threw dinner parties that featured lots of food and wine, music, and entertainment

For most of its history, the patricians dominated all of the Roman government

Even patrician women experienced lavish lifestyles, including high quality clothes, slaves, and social events

11. Pax Romana:
Latin for "Roman Peace," this was when Rome was at its most powerful (for 200 years from 27 B.C. until 180 A.D.)

During the Pax Romana, the Romans conquered all of the land around the Mediterranean Sea


12. plebeian:
a member of the middle or lower classes of ancient Rome (mostly shopkeepers, artisans, merchants, soldiers, and peasants)

Plebeians were the normal "folks" who did most of the work

Most plebeians in the early republic were poor farmers and had very few rights

Most plebeians lived in crowded, multi-story apartment blocks in the city of Rome

This well-preserved street in ancient Ostia, outside of Rome, shows the remains of Roman apartments

13. republic:
a system of government in which citizens elect leaders to make decisions for them

The Roman Republic was highly organized, but most power was in the hands of the patricians

The symbol of the Roman Republic was the eagle, a symbol of the god Jupiter, and the initials 'SPQR' which stood for "The Senate and People of Rome." Notice that the Senate comes first, then the people.

The Roman Republic consisted of many offices and the citizens voted for their leaders.



14. senate:
a group of the most important men who made laws, and the most powerful part of the Roman Republic

The Roman Senate consisted of the most important men of Rome, and passed all of the laws of the Republic
Senators would make speeches and try to convince others to vote for or against certain laws
The Senate House in Rome was the sacred place where the Senate would meet for official business
The ruins of the Senate House in the Roman forum are a popular tourist attraction today

15. tribune:
elected leaders who represented the plebeians, and had the power to stop any action of the senate

Tiberius Gracchus was an important tribune in the early days of the Republic

Brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus were eventually murdered because they pushed for more plebeian rights