ACTA DIURNIA Rome’s Daily News, world’s first newspaper. Handwritten daily by the Palatium at Rome and sent around the empire. Founded by Julius Caesar in 59 B.C.
A.L.R. (Roman) Army of the Lower Rhine.
AQUILIFER Standard-bearer who carried the aquila, the legion’s eagle.
A.U.R. (Roman) Army of the Upper Rhine.
AUXILIARY Noncitizen serving in Roman army. Light infantry and cavalry. Recruited throughout empire. In imperial times served twenty-five years. Paid less than legionary. From first century, granted Roman citizenship on discharge. Commanded by prefects.
BATAVIAN HORSE Elite auxiliary cavalry unit of Roman army. Recruited in present-day Holland.
BATTLESHIP Roman warship of Deceres class.
BOLT Large metal-tipped arrow fired by archers and scorpio catapults.
CAMP PREFECT Campus praefectus. Legion officer, third in command after commander and senior tribune. Promoted from centurion. Quartermaster, commander of major legion detachments.
CAMPAIGNING SEASON Traditionally, early March to October 19, when legions conducted military campaigns, after which they went into winter quarters.
CENTURION Legion, Praetorian/City Guard, and Marines officer, sixty to a legion. Equivalent to lieutenant and captain. Enlisted man promoted from ranks.
CENTURY Legion subunit made up of ten squads. In republican times, of a hundred men. In imperial times, of eighty men. Commanded by a centurion.
CHIEF CENTURION Primus Pilus (first spear). Legion’s most senior centurion.
CIVIC CROWN Crown of oak leaves for saving the life of a Roman citizen in battle.
COHORT Battalion. Ten to a legion. In Caesar’s time, of 600 men. In imperial times, cohorts 10 through 2 had 480 men, the senior 1st Cohort, 800.
CONQUISITOR Roman army recruiting officer.
CONSUL Highest official at Rome; president of Senate. Two held office annually. Also commanded Roman armies, with equivalent rank of lieutenant general. The minimum age in the republic was forty-two; in the imperial era the minimum age was thirty-seven, except for members of the imperial family.
CONTUBERNIUM Legion subunit; the squad. In the republic, of ten men. In the empire, of eight men.
CRUISER Midsize warship, including bireme, trireme, and quinquereme.
CURSUS PUBLICUS “The State’s very fast runner.” Imperial Rome’s courier service. Used carriages and mounted couriers. Horses changed at way stations every six to ten miles.
DECIMATION Literally, to reduce by a tenth. Legions punished for mutiny or cowardice by one man in ten being clubbed to death by their comrades after drawing lots.
DECUMAN GATE The main gate of a legion camp, it faced away from the enemy.
DECURION Legion cavalry officer. Four to each squadron.
DICTATOR Temporary supreme chief of republican Rome, supposedly for six months.
EAGLE The aquila, sacred standard of a legion; originally silver, later gold.
EQUESTRIAN Member of Roman order of knighthood. Required net worth of 400,000 sesterces. Basic qualification for service as senior military and civil officer.
EVOCATI In the imperial era, militia corps of retired legion veterans.
FASCES Symbol of Roman magistrate’s power, an ax head protruding from a bundle of wooden rods. Carried by lictors; quaestors had one, legates five, praetors six, consuls and most emperors twelve, dictator and some emperors, twenty-four.
FIRST-RANK CENTURIONS Primi ordines, legion’s six most senior centurions.
FORUM Open space, usually rectangular, in all Roman cities and towns where law courts, meeting halls, temples, markets, and speakers’ platforms were located.
FREEDMAN Former slave, officially granted freedom.
FRIGATE Liburnan, light, fast warship.
FURLOUGH FEES Fees paid to centurions to allow one legionary in four to take leave.
GEMINA LEGION “Twin” legion formed by merger of two existing legions.
GERMAN GUARD Elite bodyguard unit of emperor; handpicked German auxiliaries.
GLADIUS Roman legionary sword twenty inches long, double-edged, with a pointed end.
IMPERATOR Title. Literally, chief or master. Highest honor for a general. Became reserved for emperors after their armies’ victories. Title “emperor” grew from imperator.
IMPERIAL Relating to the period of Roman history from 27 B.C. to the fall of the empire.
IMPERIAL PROVINCE Armed frontline province. Garrisoned by legions plus auxiliaries. Governed by a propraetor, a former consul appointed by the emperor.
JUVENA COLLEGA Young men’s guild, for sons of Roman nobility in Italy.
LEGION Regiment. From legio (levy, or draft). In 10 cohorts. Republican legion nominal strength, 6,000 men: imperial, 5,180 enlisted men and 72 officers, including own cavalry unit of 120 men.
LEGIONARY Soldier of a legion. Mostly a draftee, a Roman citizen. Most recruited outside Italy in imperial era. Republican recruits served sixteen years; imperial, twenty years.
LUSTRATION The Lustratio Exercitatio, legion religious ceremony performed in March. Standards were purified with perfumes and garlands prior to each new campaign.
MANIPLE Company. Legion subunit, of 160 men in imperial times. Three to a cohort.
MANTLET Wooden shed, on wheels, used in siege works.
MARCHING CAMP Fortified camp built by legions at the end of every day’s march.
MARINE Roman naval soldier. Freedman. Served twenty-six years. Paid less than auxiliary.
MURAL CROWN Crown of gold awarded to first Roman soldier over enemy city wall.
OPTIO Sergeant major. Deputy to centurion and decurion. Unit records and training officer. One to a century, four to legion cavalry units.
ORBIS The Ring; the Roman legion’s circular formation of last resort.
OVATION Lesser form of a Triumph. Celebrant rode on horseback through Rome.
PALATIUM Origin of the word “palace.” Residence and military headquarters of emperors at Rome. First established by Augustus on Palatine Hill, from where name derived. All emperors’ headquarters were thereafter called the Palatium, even when new palaces were built.
PALUDAMENTUM General’s cloak. Scarlet in republican times. In imperial times, legion commanders wore a scarlet cloak; commanders in chief, a purple cloak.
PILUM A Roman legionary’s javelin. Metal-tipped, weighted end, six to seven feet long.
PRAETOR Senior magistrate and major general. Could command legions and armies.
PRAETORIAN GATE Gate of a legion camp that faced the enemy.
PRAETORIAN GUARD Elite unit founded in the republic to guard Rome. Elite military police force in imperial times.
PRAETORIUM Headquarters in a legion camp.
PREFECT Commander of auxiliary units, Praetorian Guard, City Guard, naval fleets. A citizen of equestrian status. Prefects governed Egypt and, between A.D. 6 and 41, Judea.
PROCONSUL Literally, “as good as a consul.” See sENATORIAL PROVINCE.
PROCURATOR Provincial official of equestrian rank, deputy of governor, superior to prefect. Financial administrator and tax gatherer. Sometimes governed small provinces.
PROPRAETOR Literally, “as good as a praetor.” See IMPERIAL PROVINCE.
QUADRIGA Roman chariot drawn by four horses. Golden quadriga used in Triumphs.
QUAESTOR “Investigator.” Lowest-ranking Roman magistrate. Assistant to consuls and governors. Responsible for treasury matters, military recruiting, and special commissions.
SARDONYCHIS Emperor’s personal seal, introduced by Augustus in 27 B.C.. Used by most subsequent emperors. Bore image of Augustus cut by the artisan Dioscurides. Also Palatium’s outbound correspondence department, because the seal went on outgoing letters.
SATURNALIA Festival of Saturn in December. Slaves could dress like their masters, dice games were legal, and patrons gave clients gifts. Origin of Christian Christmas festival.
SCORPION Scorpio, quick-firing artillery, using metal-tipped bolts; fifty to each legion.
SECOND ENLISTMENT MEN Legionaries who voluntarily served another sixteen- or twenty-year enlistment with their legion when their first enlistment expired.
SENATE Rome’s most powerful elected body. Members, needing a net worth of 1 million sesterces, qualified for legion commands, praetorships, and consulships. Minimum age thirty in imperial times. Augustus limited it to six hundred members.
SENATORIAL PROVINCE In imperial era, a province with a proconsul, a governor appointed by the Senate for a year from its members. Garrison usually of auxiliaries.
SIGNIFER Literally a signaler; the standard-bearer of legion subunits.
SINGULARIAN HORSE Equus Singulares. Elite household cavalry unit formed in July A.D. 69 by the emperor Vitellius to replace the Praetorian Cavalry.
SPATHA Roman cavalry sword. With round end, and longer than the gladius.
TESSERA Small wax sheet on which was inscribed the legion watchword for the day.
TESSERARIUS Legion guard/orderly sergeant. Distributed the tessera to his men.
TESTUDO “Tortoise” formation. Legionaries locked shields over their heads and at their sides.
THIRD ENLISTMENT MEN Legionaries voluntarily serving a third enlistment.
TORQUE Neck chain of twisted gold. Roman army bravery award.
TRIBUNAL Reviewing stand in a legion camp; built in front of tribunes’ quarters.
TRIBUNE Legion, Praetorian Guard, and City Guard officer. Six in republican legions shared command. In an imperial legion, a “thin stripe” junior tribune was an officer-cadet serving a mandatory six months; five to a legion. One “broad stripe” senior tribune (a so-called military tribune) per legion was a full colonel and legion second in command. Senior tribunes commanded Praetorian and City Guard cohorts. From the reign of Claudius, twenty-five senior tribunes were appointed annually, but not all were given legion or Guard posts.
TRIUMPH Parade through Rome in a gold quadriga by a victorious general, followed by his soldiers, prisoners, and spoils. He also received T.D.s and a large cash prize.
TRIUMPHAL DECORATIONS (T.D.s) A crimson cloak, crown of bay leaves, laurel branch, and statue in the Forum for generals celebrating a Triumph; and in lieu of a Triumph.
VEXILLUM Square cloth banner of auxiliary units and legion detachments.
V.V. Valeria Victrix. Title of the 20th Legion after c. A.D. 9.
WATCH Time in Roman military camps was divided into watches of three hours, at the end of which sentries changed, on a trumpet call. The officer of the watch was a tribune.
WATCHWORD Password in a Roman military camp. Daily, just prior to sunset, the tribune of the watch presented the most senior officer in camp with a register of the number of men fit for duty, and in return was given the watchword for the next twenty-four hours. This was distributed to the sentries by the guard cohort’s tesserari. In imperial times the watch tribune of the Praetorian Guard obtained the Guard’s watchword from the emperor.
WINTER CAMP A permanent base where a legion usually spent October to March.