A Glossary of Key Terms from Ancient Rome

graphic of ancient Roman reading terminology main

Ancient Rome, officially established in 753 BCE, became a great empire that spanned from Spain to the Middle East. Ancient Rome is famous for its public works, military, and alphabet, which we continue to use. Christianity also arose in Ancient Rome, eventually becoming the religion of the empire.  Christianity and Rome itself lived on until today.

It was said that “all roads led to Rome” and it might be said all of our words do as well since we use the Latin alphabet.  Either way, let’s delve into a bunch of the key terms about those times

Ancient Rome Terms In Alphabetical Orders 


were manmade channels that were used to deliver water to Roman towns. Ancient Rome was known for its great public works, including the presence of running water and toilets


was the nephew of Julius Caesar and the first Roman emperor.  His name was also given to our month of August.  He reigned when Jesus was born.  

The Byzantium Empire 

was the continuation of the Roman Empire in the East after the fall of the Roman Empire.  It is named after the Greek name of the capital city, which became known as Constantinople.  The empire ended in 1453.  


was the official title of a leader of the Roman Empire, originally arising from the family name of the first people holding that position.  They are also known as emperors.  


was a city in North Africa, the capital of Ancient Carthage, a major sea-faring power in the Mediterranean.  It eventually was a major rival of the Romans.  


is a religion arising from the followers of a Jewish preacher named Jesus who died around 30 CE.  Christians are followers of the religion.  It became the official religion of Rome. 


(106-43 BCE) was a major Roman statesman, lawyer, and philosopher. 

The Coliseum 

is a giant Roman arena, a large area used for entertainment events. 

Constantine the Great 

was an influential 4th-century Roman emperor (306-337) who converted to Christianity. The religion, only a few years before subject to persecution, spread like wildfire and later (after his death) became the official religion of the Roman Empire.  


were the highest political official during the Roman Republic.  


were the rulers of Rome during the Roman Empire period.  Augustus was the first Roman emperor.  Emperors had great power and were hereditary leaders, not elected.  


were people who lived in Northern Italy and became a regional power. Their culture influenced the Romans in various ways.  Rome itself eventually took control of their lands.  

The Forum 

was the area of a town square of a Roman settlement, the center of things, including the marketplace and the location of important public buildings.  


is what the Romans called the lands to the north and west of Italy, including France and Germany.  Julius Caesar wrote about his battles in Gaul as many schoolchildren know.  


was an influential Roman physician whose views on medicine continued to have much significance in the Middle Ages.  


(from Latin for “sword”) were people who fought for the entertainment of the masses.  A famous gladiator was Spartacus, who was involved in a failed uprising.  


was a top Carthaginian general who famously used elephants to fight the Romans. 

Julius Caesar 

was a Roman general and statesman who started a dynasty.  He was assassinated on the “Ides of March” (March 15th, 44 BCE).  His name also was given to the month of July.  


was the leader of the Roman gods.  


is the name of the language of the Romans, which greatly influenced the English language. 


were the main unit of the Roman army. Their symbol was the eagle.  The strength and tactics of the Roman legions helped establish and maintain the Roman Empire.  

Marcus Aurelius 

was a philosopher and Roman emperor (161-180). The last of a period of good emperors, his reign was the final years of the Pax Romana.  


was a Roman poet, and author of the Metamorphoses, filled with mythical tales.  


are non-Christians, polytheists, and believers in many gods.  


were members of the elite land-owning families of Rome. 

Pax Romana 

was the two hundred years period of “Roman peace” that began during Augustus’ reign.  It was the golden age of the Roman Empire.  


were commoners, free members of Roman society who were not patricians. 


was a major Roman resort city that was destroyed by a volcanic eruption.  

Punic Wars 

were a series of wars between Rome and Carthage. Rome ultimately won, defeating Carthage in 146 BCE.  “Punic” arose from the Latin term for the people of Carthage. 

The Roman Republic 

was the period when Rome was ruled by elected officials instead of kings.  Rome began as a monarchy (rule by kings), then was a republic, and finally an empire.  

Romulus and Remus

were two brothers, said to have founded Rome in 753 BCE.  They were nursed by a she-wolf as babies.  Romulus killed Remus and became the first king.  

The Senate 

(Roman Senate) was an important governing and advisory body first arising in the days of Roman kings.  It continued to retain authority into the days of the Roman Empire. 


was a leading Roman philosopher who lived in the first century.   


was a major Roman historian.  Livy and Suetonius are two others.  


were long robes worn by Roman citizens and were symbolic clothing of public officials.  

Vestal Virgins 

were priestesses of the Roman goddess Vesta, who protected the house and home.  They took care of the sacred fire of Vesta, an important religious duty.  


was a Roman poet.  He wrote the Aeneid, a mythical account of the founding of Rome.

Teach and Thrive

A Bronx, NY veteran high school social studies teacher who has learned most of what she has learned through trial and error and error and error.... and wants to save others that pain.