Greco-Roman world Glossary


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Greco-Roman world Glossary

The Glossary is authoritative, scholarly, and reliable. Depend on it for authentic information on the Greco-Roman world.

abnocto - (Latin) to spend the night away, to stay out all night.
Academia - the Academy; the school in Athens where Plato instructed students.
accursus - (Latin) a place to run, a concourse.
Achaean Confederacy - a group of ancient Greek city-states who united against invading forces; the union fought against the attacking Persians in the Peloponnesian War, later fought in the Social Wars,and eventually was defeated by Rome in 146 BCE, ending Greek independence and making the territory a province of Rome.
Achaeans (Achaians) - the aboriginal inhabitants of the Peloponnese who were conquered by the Dorians.
Achilles (Achilleus, Akhilleus) (see entry (2) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - son of Peleus and Thetis, a goddess; bathed in the river Styx as a baby by his mother, Achilles' heel did not enter the water that makes whomever bathes in it invulnerable; one myth says that an arrow shot by Paris hit Achilles in his vulnerable heel and caused his death; his parents put him in the care of the Centaur Chiron as a young boy; originally known as Ligyron, Chiron named him Achilles and fed him nothing but the entrails of wild boars and lions to give him strength, bear's marrow, and honey to make him gentle and persuasive; Achilles is the hero of the Iliad; he was the best friend of Patroclus who was killed by Hektor with the aid of Apollo during the Trojan War; Achilles killed Hektor and held funeral games in honor of Patroclus; to learn more about Achilles following the Trojan War, see The Aftermath: Post Iliad through the Odyssey.


Netshot: Homer's Iliad

The Aftermath: Post Iliad through the Odyssey

acontist - javelin thrower; for an example, see Boston 01.8033.
acroama - an event that entertains people or the person who entertains, such as actors,singers and musicians.

Actaeon - son of Aristaeus and Autonoe; he was walking in the forest one day when he mistakenly came upon Artemis bathing in a pond; Artemis became furious at this discovery and turned Actaeon into a stag, who later was hunted down and ripped apart by his own dogs; this image of Actaeon being torn apart by his dogs was a famous one and appears on Classical artwork.

Actium - a promontory on the northwestern coast of Greece off which Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra in a naval battle (31 BCE) (Aeneid).
ad hoc - (Latin) literally “for this”; something that is ad hoc was created for a specific purpose; a committee can be ad hoc if it was implemented to deal with a specific purpose.
ad hominem - (Latin) literally “to the man”; if two political candidates come together to debate an issue, but one of the two attacks his opponent instead of discussing the problem, that is described as an ad hominem attack; the focus of the speech would be on the person rather than on the topic at hand.
ad interim - (Latin) literally “in the meantime”.
ad libitum - (Latin) literally “as it agreeable”; the word “libitum” is tied to the verb libet, meaning “it is pleasing”; this phrase in English is abbreviated to ad.lib., which means improvised dialogue.
ad nauseam - (Latin) literally “to nausea”; an action repeated ad nauseam is repeated so often that it figuratively makes one nauseated.
addo - (Latin) To add.
Adeimantus - brother of Plato and one of the interlocutors in the Republic.

Netshot: Plato's Republic

adfabilis - (Latin) easy to talk to, enjoyable.
adfinitas - (Latin) the relationship created by marriage between people and families.
adno - (Latin) to swim to or towards something.
adolesco - (Latin) To grow up; a young man was called an adolescens, and the word has been adapted to the English word “adolescent”.

Adonis - in Greek mythology, a beautiful mortal born from a tree; Adonis' mother, Smyrna, tricked her father into an incestuous relationship; her father found out about the deception and pursued his daughter wielding a sword; when she knew she would be overtaken and killed, Smyrna prayed to the gods to make her invisible; the gods responded by turning her into the tree called smyrna (myrrh); ten months later Adonis was born from the tree; one myth tells of Adonis, on account of his beauty, being secreting away by Aphrodite who placed him in a chest which she entrusted to Persephone; overcome by Adonis' beauty, Persephone would not return him to Aphrodite; as the result of the impasse, Zeus judged that Adonis should spend one third of the year with Aphrodite, one third with Persephone, and one third by himself; another myth tells that Zeus selected the Muse Calliope to judge of the dispute; Calliope decided that Adonis should spend half a year with Persephone and half with Aphrodite; displeased with this decision, Aphrodite sought her revenge by inciting the Thracian women against Calliope's son, Orpheus, whom they tore him limb from limb while entranced.

adoptio - (Latin) the adoption of a child; in Rome, men with no male heirs would adopt relatives to inherit their wealth; for example, Augustus adopted Tiberius as his heir, and in turn Tiberius adopted Germanicus to be his heir.
advocatus - (Latin) lawyer; the term advocatus is related to the Latin verb advoco, which means in legal terminology to act as a legal councilor or witness.
aedile - Roman magistrate who oversaw public games, public places, and the grain supply in the city of Rome; there were four (4) aediles, two (2) were plebian and two (2), called curule aediles, were from either the plebian or the patrician orders.

Roman Cursus Honorum

Aeger - (Latin) sick, can be used to refer to either physical or mental illnesses.
Aegina - a Greek island in the Saronic gulf; formerly called Oenone, the island is difficult to access because it is surrounded by sunken rocks and reefs; Aegina, located in a key maritime position, traded closely with mainland Greece and other islands; repopulated in the 10th century BCE by people from mainland Greece, Aegina was independent of mainland ties by the 8th century BCE; Aegina was known for its pottery and bronze and its trade reached from Egypt to Spain; the island adopted coinage before any other Greek city state; Aegina's relationship with Athens was poor during the 6th century although it was an ally to the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis; in 487 BCE, Aegina began its first war with Athens that lasted until 483; Athens and Aegina fought again in 458 BCE and the Athenians expelled the inhabitants of Aegina and established an Athenian "cleruchy"; having lost its power and many of its inhabitants, Aegina came under Macedonian control and passed to the rule of Pergamon in 210 BCE.

aegis - a sash or breastplate worn by Athena or Zeus that may bear the head of a gorgon; the aegis was made from goat skin and its name is derived from the ancient Greek word for goat, aisk; for an example, see RISD 25.079 (image).

Aegisthus - son of Thyestes and his daughter Pelopia; Hhe was the consort of Clytemnestra while Agamemnon fought at Troy; he murdered - or conspired to murder with Clytemnestra - Agamemnon after his return home from the Trojan War.
Aegreo - (Latin) to be sick.
Aeneas (see entry (2) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - son of Anchises and Venus (Aphrodite); hero of the Vergil's Aeneid; Aeneas survives the Trojan War and is first presented in Homer's Iliad; he is a descendant of the Trojan royal house; Aeneas estabishes the city of Rome according to mythology; Vergil highlights the lineage link from Aeneas and Venus to Julius Caesar and Augustus; this family link is critical for Vergil to establish because it solidifies the claim to power of the Augustan house; Aeneas embodies Stoic philosophy except for a few critical moments in the epic when furor (fury) takes over; one example of furor taking Aeneas over is the final moment of the epic in which Aeneas kills Turnus; Aeneas as a hero is strong at times and weak at others; ruled by pietas and his devotion to his familial, religious and political duties, Aeneas admirably puts others' needs before his own; however, this tendency can also hurt others, as when he puts the future city he will found ahead of Dido, who kills herself when he abandons her.

Troy 12: Warriors' Fate

Bullfinch's Mythology: Adventures of Æneas

Encyclopedia Mythica: Aeneas

Longman's Classical Mythology online: Map of the voyage of Aeneas

Aeolus - (1) son of Hellen and Orseis; king of Magnesia in Thessaly; his descendants became known as the Aeolians; (2) son of Arne and Poseidon, grandson of Aeolus (1); king of the Aeolian Islands; Aeolus is often identified with the Lord of the Winds; in Homer's Odyssey, Odysseus visits king Aeolus on the Aeolian Islands (Isole Eolie in Italian), located in the Tyrrhenian Sea, northeast of Sicily; Aeolus gives Odysseus an oxhide bottle containing all the winds except the one that will blow him to Ithaca; while he sleeps, Odysseus' men open the bottle releasing the winds; Odysseus returns to Aeolus and tells him what has occurred; Aeolus sends Odysseus away thinking him the victim of a divine wrath. [Contributor: Eugene Biancheri.]

aer - (Latin) air, weather.
Aeschylus (see entry (4) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - earliest of the three great Athenian tragedians; author of the Oresteia.

Netshot: Introduction to Greek Tragedy

Aesop - ancient Greek author of fables; born ca. 620 BCE in Thrace and died ca. 560 BCE; Aesop's name is attributed to a collection of moral animal fables passed down through oral tradition; Aesop's animal fables and fables like them are a common part of Indo-European culture; the author Babrius rewrote Aesop's fables in Greek verse and the Roman author Phaedrus rewrote them in Latin verse around the first century of the common era.

The Fables of Phaedrus

Aesop's Fables

Aesop's Fables: Traditional and Modern (illustrated)

aestas - (Latin) summer; the opposite season from hiems, or winter.
aeternus - (Latin) eternal, without end.
affinitas - (Latin) relationships created when a marriage takes place between members of the two families.
Africa - the ancient Roman province of Africa was established in 146 BCE after the destruction of Carthage in the Punic Wars; in 46 BCE, Julius Caesar fought in Africa against Juba of Numidia and added his territory to the Roman empire; Caesar called the newly won territory Africa Nova as opposed to Africa Vetus; Africa was especially useful to Rome because of its agricultural production.

Agamemnon - leader of Greek (Achaean) expedition against Troy; brother of Menelaus and member of the House of Atreus; a seer told Agamemnon that, if he wanted to ensure a favorable wind for his army's travel to Troy, he had to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenaia; Agamemnon misled the girl about why she had to come to the altar and then sacrificed her to Artemis; Agamemnon was a fiery-tempered but respected military leader; he quarrelled with Achilles at the beginning of Homer's Iliad, causing Achilles to withdraw from fighting; after the fall of Troy, Agamemnon took Cassandra, princess of Troy, as a captive and brought her home with him; Agamemnon was killed by his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus when he returned home after the Trojan War; Clytemnestra killed Agamemnon as revenge for her murdered daughter and Aegisthus killed Agamemnon because of a grudge against the House of Atreus.

Troy 12: Warriors' Fate

Agathocles - (361 BCE-288 BCE) tyrant of Syracuse; he was a strong military leader but a violent political leader; he took power in Syracuse by either murdering or banishing thousands of citizens and was able to compel people to follow his orders because of the large mercenary force he brought with him; in the late 300s, he went to war with Carthage; after this war, he settled down in Sicily and led a more peaceful reign until his death in 288 BCE.
Agave (see entry (2) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - mother of Pentheus in Euripides' Bacchae.

Netshot: Euripides' Bacchae

ager - (Latin) a field or plot of land with definite boundaries; opposed to "terra", which is land that does not necessarily have definite boundaries.
agger - (Latin) a rampart; materials or earth amassed to form a tall mound of up to sixty feet; a rampart supposedly constructed by Tarquinius Superbus to protect Rome.
agon - a "contest", argument, struggle, or assembly of people; in ancient Greek agon = contest; in drama, an agon is a debate between characters; specifically in Old Comedy, it is a debate between two characters in which each side of the debate would be introduced and commented on by choral songs..
agora - (Latin) a place of business, a marketplace, a meeting place.
agricola - (Latin) farmer; this word is tied to ager or “field” as an agricola is the person who works in the field.

Agrippa - Marcus Vipsanius Agrippa; born 63 BCE; Roman general and statesman; served Octavius (Augustus) as an adviser and provincial commander and later as a junior co-ruler and heir; by defeating Sextus Pompeius in the naval battles of Mylae and Naulochus in 36 BCE, Agrippa helped secure Octavius' power; Agrippa was appointed aedile in 33 BCE by Octavius and oversaw the restoration of many city services, including the sewer system and water supply; Agrippa defeated the forces of Mark Antony and Cleopatra at Actium in 31 BCE; when Octavius fell seriously ill in 23 BCE, he made Agrippa his heir; Agrippa was married to Octavius' daughter, Julia; he died in 12 BCE.

Ajax (Aias) - son of Telamon; second greatest warrior of the Greeks at Troy and member of the embassy to Achilles in book nine of the Iliad.

The Aftermath: Post Iliad through the Odyssey

Encyclopedia Mythica: Ajax
Aker -an ancient Egyptian earth-god, Aker guarded the gates of dawn and sunset through which the sun rose every morning and set every evening; depictions showed Aker as a double-headed lion or two lions sitting back-to-back with the sun and sky appearing between them.

Ancient Egyptian Gods: Aker

alabastron - refers to a vase shape; see the Perseus Encyclopedia entry for alabastron an image.
Albunea - a Roman water goddess; she was mentioned by Varro as being a prophet.
albus - (Latin) white; in Roman history and literature, the first city that Aeneas founds upon arrival in Latium, Italy is Alba Longa, referring to the white, snowy mountain (Mons Albanus) that was located there.
Alcibiades (see entry (2) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - general of Athenian expedition against Sicily who, when charged with impiety, went over to the Spartans (Thucydides); a character in Plato's Symposium.
Alcmene - (Alcmena) mother of Herakles by Zeus; Alcmene, having just married Amphitryon, was seduced by Zeus who appeared to her in the form of her husband; when Amphitryon learned what had occurred, he tried to burn Alcmene on a funeral pyre, but Zeus sent a rainstorm to put out the fire; Amphitryon forgave Alcmene; Alcmene had twins, Herakles, the son of Zeus, and Iphicles, the son of Amphitryon.

Family Portrait: Herakles, Iphicles, Alcmene and Amphitryon (image)

Encyclopedia Mythica: Alcmene
aleiptes - the 'anointers', ancient Greek athletic trainers who anointed athletes bodies with oil for muscle massages.

The Ancient Olympics

Alexander the Great (see entry (4) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - Macedonian king who by conquest brought Greek civilization to the East as far as India; following his father's plan; Alexander was the son of Phillip of Macedon and his wife Olympias; he studied under Aristotle; Alexander became king at the age of twenty, after the assassination of his father; Alexander’s mighty army conquered territory in Greece, Persia, Mesopotamia and even went as far as India in 326 BCE; he married twice, both times to non-Macedonian women; while he was initially adored by the soldiers he fought with, his adoption of Persian customs - including proskynesis which required that all people prostrate themselves before Alexander - somewhat soured the good feeling towards the young leader; Alexander died on the march home with his army in 323 BCE; Alexander invaded the Persian empire and within 12 years he had conquered as far as Russia, Punjab, and Afghanistan; See the chart below for more on Alexander's conquest.



357 BCE Marriage of Philip and Olympias

356 BCE Birth of Alexander

343 BCE Aristotle begins work as Alexander's tutor

342 BCE Alexander tames Bucephalos

338 BCE Battle of Chaeronea, Philip controls Greece

336 BCE Death of Philip and accession of Alexander

335 BCE Alexander sacks Thebes.

334 BCE Alexander crosses into Asia and begins his conquest of Asia Minor, Battle of Granicus.

333 BCE Alexander defeats Darius at the battle of Issus, Alexander captures the Family of Darius.

332 BCE Alexander lays siege to Tyre and enters Egypt.

331 BCE Alexander founds Alexandria in Egypt; defeats Darius at the battle of Guagamela, takes Mesapotamia, and enters Babylon, Persepolis, and Pasargadae.

330-328 BCE Alexander burns Persepolis and campaigns in Sogdiana and Bactria; Death of Cleitus.

327 BCE Alexander marries Roxane and enters India.

326 BCE Alexander crosses the Indus River and wins the battle of Hydaspes; sails down the Indus River to the India Ocean; Burcephalos dies.

325 BCE Alexander returns through Baluchistan and suffers great hardships.

323 BCE Alexander dies of a fever at the age of 32.

Alexander the Great

Alexander the Great Website

Alexandros - see Paris.

Allecto - one of the three Furies, goddesses who hunted down unpunished criminals; the Furies are depicted in Aeschylus’ play The Eumenides; in Book Seven of the Aeneid, Juno sends Allecto among the Trojan enemies to cause conflict and start a war.

allegory - literally, 'saying something else'; a story in which characters, objects, and actions have metaphorical meaning.
allusion - a reference to an idea, place, person or text (or part of a text) existing outside the literary work. [Contributor: Dr. Ismail S. Talib, National University of Singapore.]
alphabet - see Greek alphabet.
alumno - student or disciple.
alytarches - at the ancient Olympics, a special police force who assisted the Hellanodikai to impose fines on athletes who did not obey event rules and regulations.

The Ancient Olympics

Amata - Latin queen who favored Turnus over Aeneas as her son-in-law (Aeneid).
Amazons - female warriors who dwelt on the river Thermodon in Cappadocia; Amazons had their own government and were ruled by a queen; see Louvre Ma 552 (image).
Amazonomachy - a battle scene in which Amazons fight Greeks on foot and mounted on horses; for an example see, Toledo 1955.225 (image).
ambulo - (Latin) to walk.
amicus - (Latin) friend.
amifer - (Latin) bearing arms, ready for war.
Ammut - an ancient Egyptian soul-eating monster; Ammut witnessed the judgment of the dead in the "Hall of the Two Truths,” Maaty; Ammut was depicted with the head of a crocodile, the forequarters of a lion, and the hindquarters of a hippopotamus.

Ancient Egyptian Gods: Ammut

Amor - (Latin) Love; Amor became personified into the God of Love, the counterpart of the Greek god “Eros”.

amphitheatre - a large open-air theatre with rings of seats; the biggest ancient Roman amphitheatre is the Roman Colosseum, which could hold up to 50,000 people; shows such as gladiatorial games, staged naval battles and animal fights took place at an amphitheatre; the Romans built many of them throughout the empire as standardized fixtures of Romanized towns.

Aburbe-Suburbe Amphitheater

amphora - two-handled clay jar used to store liquids by ancient Greek and Roman traders.
Amon - ancient Egyptian god of creation, his name means, “what is hidden or cannot be seen"; Amon’s wife was Mut and his son Khonsu (the moon); Amon was depicted as a man seated on a throne holding an ankh in one hand and a specter in the other; Amon was also depicted with the head of a cobra or frog.

Ancient Egyptian Gods: Amon

amyetos - small, winged beings, male and unbearded; for an example, see Munich 1493.
anagnorisis - variously translated as "discovery" or "recognition"; an important element of tragedy according to Aristotle's Poetics whereby a tragic protagonist gains information previously unknown leading to important insight.

What Happened to Deus ex Machina after Euripides?

Anchises - loved by Aphrodite, father of Aeneas (Aeneid).
ancient novel - genre of ancient literature; ancient Greek and Roman novelists flourished especially in the 1st – 4th centuries CE; Greek novels in particular were extremely popular and wide-read; these texts generally chronicled contrived plots involving mistaken identity, separated lovers and witchcraft; some of the famous known Greek novelists were Heliodorus and Iamblichus and the Roman novelists were Petronius and Apuleius.
ancillus - (Latin) male servant; an ancillus could also be referred to in Latin as a servus.
Andromache - wife of Hektor, taken prisoner after the fall of Troy (Iliad).
Anna - Dido's sister (Aeneid).
annis - (Latin) year.
annona - (Latin) the public food supply; hoping to reduce poverty in Rome, officials gave about one-third of the population free grain, a policy that forced Romans to look for additional sources of food.

anthesteria - festival celebrated in autumn attended by maenads, women, and satyrs; see Berlin F 2589 (image).

Teacher's Companion: Dionysus

anthropomorphic - ascribe human attributes to a thing or being that is not human, such as a deity.
Antigone (see entry (2) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - daughter of Oedipus and Jocasta; heroine of the Antigone.

Netshot: Sophocles' Antigone

antistrophe - literally a turning about or opposite turning, one part of a stasimon; in ancient Greek theatre, the term applied to a part of a stasimon that corresponds metrically to a previously sung part (the strophe); the term is used because of the dancing movements of the chorus, which would be opposite to those performed with the strophe.
Anthesteria - an important Dionysian festival celebrated in the winter in different areas of Greece; the Anthesteria involved drinking-parties and honoring the dead; during this festival, the wife of the leader (the basileus) would engage in a “sacred marriage” with Dionysus.
Antium - a region in Latium that resisted becoming part of Rome until 338 BCE when it was taken over by C. Maenius; eventually it became a vacation town where Augustus had a home; Nero rebuilt its harbor.
Antony, Mark - (also Marc Antony) Marcus Antonius, a Roman general, who along with Cleopatra, was defeated by Agrippa at the battle of Actium in 31 BCE; he was made co-consul in 44 BCE; he married a politically active woman, Fulvia, who died in 40 BCE; Antony was part of the second triumvirate with Marcus Aemilius Lepidus and Octavian from 43-30 BCE.

Mark Antony (Encyclopedia Britanica)

Anubis - ancient Egyptian god of death, Anubis assisted in the funerary rites of the dead used to assure admittance of the dead into the underworld; worshipped as the god of mummification, it was said that Anubis invented the process of embalming in order to preserve the body of Osiris who was briefly resurrected by Isis; Anubis is portrayed as a black dog who accompanies Isis or as a man with a jackal’s head who holds a specter.

Ancient Egyptian Gods: Anubis

apatheia - 'a lack of feeling'; the Stoic doctrine that man must learn to ignore passions (e.g., fear, greed, grief, joy), which disturb his peace of mind.
apene - a chariot race using two mules; an Olympic event; this event was introduced to the Oympics in 500 BCE but discontinued in either 444 or 440 BCE.

The Ancient Olympics

Aphrodite - goddess of love and beauty; she favored Paris after he chose her as the most beautiful over Hera and Athena (Iliad); married to Hephaestus but loved Ares; mother of Aeneas by Anchises; identified with Venus in Rome;

Read the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite to learn more.

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