Ancient Rome




Adriatic SeaSea to the east of Italy that was home to much trading and navy maneuvers.
AgricolaRoman commander who won the Battle of Mons Graupius and succeeded in conquering Scotland for Rome in 79 A.D. He was governor of Britain for awhile.
AlaricVisigoth leader who sacked Rome in the 5th century.
AlpsMountain range that formed a convenient northern boundary for the Roman Republic and early Empire. The great Carthaginian General Hannibal crossed the Alps with his troops during the Second Punic War. The Romans were continually fighting against the Gauls, Celts, and others who lived just on the other side of the Alps.
AqueductStone "pipes" that carried water from outlying areas to large cities. Why were they so tall and tilted? They had to carry rainwater and water from higher altitudes downward to reservoirs in large cities. The pictures that we normally see are of aqueducts above ground, but most of them were underground.
ArchitectureThe Romans were architecture wizards, inventing all kinds of new ways of building. Among them were the arch, the aqueduct, and the road. The Roman emphasis was on big and functional.
AttilaHun leader who led his people in two invasions of Italy. The first was stopped by the Romans at Chalons in 451. The second, in the following year, was Ravenna, the new capital of the Western Empire, as its target but was also stopped at the insistence of Pope Leo I. The Huns came from Central Asia and drove other barbarian tribes before them into the teeth of the Roman defenses. It has been argued that some of the barbarian invasions of the Goths and Visigoths were really attempts to escape the ravaging hordes of the Huns.
AugustusThe first Roman Emperor. His real name was Octavian, and he was Julius Caesar's adopted son. He played a large role in the civil war that followed Julius Caesar's assassination, and his victory and strength made him an ideal candidate to fill the void in government left by Caesar's death. In between, he was a member of the Second Triumvirate, along with Marc Antony and Lepidus. When Antony became involved with Cleopatra (Egypt's pharaoh) and decided to fight Rome, Octavian played a part in defeating Antony's forces. Once Antony was out of the way and Lepidus was forced to retire, Octavian was free to become Augustus Caesar.
BathsMeans of getting clean and visiting with one's peers. The bath was a building or (usually) a complex that contained many rooms, only one or two of which contained water. Other rooms were for getting massages, relaxing, and changing clothes. The water in the baths was usually hot and was heated by what the Romans called a hypocaust, which kept hot air in the walls surrounding the water room, thus keeping the water warm. The baths were often destinations for Senators or other important people who wanted to conduct business (political or otherwise) in a private place.
BelgaePeople who populated Western Europe and Britain. They were one of the first people Julius Caesar conquered, both in Gaul and again in Britain.
BritainLargest part of the island the Romans called Britannia. It was invaded by Julius Caesar twice (in 55 and 54 B.C.) and conquered by Claudius in 43 A.D. Roman legions settled in Britain for hundreds of years, leaving in 410.
BrutusSenator who will forever be known as the one who most disappointed Julius Caesar. Brutus traced his lineage back to another Brutus, who did away with the last King of Rome, Tarquin the Proud, and put in his place the Republic. Brutus fought with Pompey against Caesar, but Caesar pardoned Brutus and made of him a great friend. Brutus was one of the Senators who killed Caesar. Later, he joined with Cassius, also one of Caesar's assassins, in the civil war against Octavian and Marc Antony. Brutus lost the famous battle of Philippi and took his own life.
CaligulaRoman emperor who gained fame for his cruelty and his wickedness. He also spent away a huge treasury built up his predecessors, Augustus and Tiberius.
CannaeHannibal's greatest victory. Forced into a pitched battle, he deployed his troops to make it appear that the center of the line was weak. When the Romans charged, the center of the line gave way. The bloodthirsty Romans charged ahead, pursuing the retreating center, then found themselves flanked and completely encircled by the suddenly lively infantry and the suddenly appearing cavalry. With no place to go, the Romans fought to the death. And die they did. Of 70,000 Roman soldiers who took that day, less than 2,000 survived. Carthaginian losses were low.
CarthageAncient city that began as a sea-trading center. Legend says that Dido, princess of Tyre, founded Carthage. The city grew and grew, building a large Mediterranean trade base and conquering neighboring territories and peoples. Hanno and other sailors charted new lands. The Carthaginian army and navy soon grew very large. Carthaginian colonies on Sardinia and Sicily came into conflict with Rome, and the Punic Wars began. They were three in number, and Rome won all three. Carthaginian General Hamilcar Barca fought Rome in the First Second Punic War. The Second Punic War was the most devastating. This war featured the Carthaginian general Hannibal (Hamilcar Barca's son) and his famous march over the Alps to the very gates of Rome. Hannibal won several brilliant victories but was ultimately defeated and exiled. This was the end of the Second Punic War. Many years later, Rome provoked an attack by Carthage, igniting the Third Punic War. Rome was vicious in victory, burning Carthage to the ground and sowing salt into the ground. Eventually, the Romans rebuilt Carthage, strictly as a Roman colony. It came to prominence once more, mainly at the insistence of Julius Caesar.
CassiusRoman leader who fought with both Crassus and Pompey against Julius Caesar in the wars that led to Caesar's becoming dictator. Cassius organized the plot to kill Caesar and also helped kill him. He later fought with Brutus against Octavian and Marc Antony at Philippi. After his defeat, he took his own life.
CeltsPeople who populated Western Europe and Britain. They were one of the first people Julius Caesar conquered, both in Gaul and again in Britain.
ChristianityReligion that began small and eventually became the official religion of the Roman Empire. At first, Christians were persecuted and often killed for their beliefs because they wouldn't swear oaths to the Roman gods. Christians were put into combat against lions and gladiators. But the emperor Constantine had a change of heart while marching to do battle and decided to become a Christian. Thereafter, Christianity was tolerated and given revered status throughout the Empire.
CiceroGreat public speaker and philosopher who believed firmly in republican government. He was a supporter of Pompey and an opponent of Julius Caesar.
Circus MaximusLargest building of its kind in all the Empire. The Circus in general was a large building, usually in the shape of a racetrack, used for chariot races. The Circus Maximus was also used for horse-riding races, boxing, wrestling, gladiator bouts, and other popular kinds of entertainment. The construction of the Circus Maximus dates back to the Etruscan period, and the last race took place there nearly a thousand years later.
ClaudiusEmperor who succeeded in greatly expanding the borders of the Empire. He followed Julius Caesar's lead and succeeded where he had failed, conquering Britain in 43, and added North Africa and much of Arabia as well. He gave the Empire much money, trade, and pride, then was assassinated so his wife could make way for her son, Nero.
ColosseumLargest arena in Rome, with a capacity of 50,000. Opened in A.D. 80, it was home to all kinds of entertainment and spectacles. Its round shape meant that chariot races were not part of the program, but just about everything else was eventually fair game, including animal fights, gladiator bouts, games, and much more.
CommodusBrutal, cruel Roman emperor (son of Marcus Aurelius) who didn't do much in the way of making his people respect him. He delighted in shocking the people with public spectacles of cruelty, and he had many innocent people killed because they were suspected of treason.
ConstantineRoman emperor who is most famous for founding the new capital, Constantinople, and for making Christianity the official religion of the Empire.
ConstantinopleCity in present-day Turkey that was founded in 324 by Emperor Constantine as a new watchtower in the East. When the Empire split, it became the capital of the Eastern Empire and, later, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Constantinople was ideally situated on the Strait of Bosporus, straddling Europe and Asia Minor. Its location gave it control over all trade coming to and from the Black Sea and the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
ConsulHead of government under the Republic. Consuls originally numbered two and then progressed to more. (They numbered three under the First Triumvirate and Second Triumvirate.) Consuls were elected and served a fixed term. They could be re-elected. Gaius Marius served as a consul seven times.
CorvusDevice that turned the tide for Rome in the Second Punic War. Called a corvus because it resembled a crow, it was a wooden device that allowed one ship to latch onto another ship and keep the two connected by the wooden mini-land bridge. This allowed soldiers to storm from ship to ship. The Carthaginian navy was superior to the Roman navy at this point in history, so the introduction of the corvus made it possible for Rome to turn a naval battle into a naval battle. Given the Roman superiority in army matters, this was a significant innovation indeed.
CrassusConsul and member, along with Pompey and Julius Caesar, of the First Triumvirate. Crassus was head of the province of Syria and was killed by Parthians because of what they saw as his interference in their affairs. Crassus also played a leading role in the defeat of the slave revolt begun by Spartacus.
DianaGoddess of the moon and the hunt. Guardian of cities, young animals, and women. Twin sister of Apollo. Known as the Greek goddess Artemis.
DidoLegendary founder of Carthage. A princess of Tyre, she is said to have run away and founded the fabled city. She is later to have said to have met Aeneas, the Trojan War soldier who is thought to have founded Rome.
DiocletianRoman emperor who instituted the Tetrarchy, which consisted of four rulers of the Empire. Maximianus was head of the Western Empire, and Diocletian was ruler of the Eastern Empire. Both adopted the title of "Augustus." Two generals, Constantine and Galerius, ruled in the name of "Augustus." Diocletian also tried to squash the Christian religion. It didn't work. Diocletian believed that 20 years was enough time any man to rule the Roman throne, so he stepped down 20 years after he became emperor, leaving the title of Augustus to Constantine.
DomitianRoman emperor who gained fame for his cruelty and his wickedness. He also tried to win the love of the people by building large structures and giving them lavish entertainment. The ultimate symbol of both was his building of the Colosseum. He also had statues of himself built and put in public places throughout the city.
EmpireA dictatorship with one-man rule that evolved from the Roman Republic. At its height, the Roman Empire stretched from the north of Britain to the desert of Egypt. Emperors were cruel and bent on conquering. Art and architecture flourished, but math and science did not. The idea of the empire began with Julius Caesar, who was killed because he was ruling the government by himself. His adopted son, Octavian, became the first emperor, calling himself Augustus Caesar. The Roman Empire split into two parts, East and West. The West fell in 476. The East, which came to be known as the Byzantium Empire, continued for several hundred years.
EtruscansPeople who inhabited Italy before the Romans did. They got their name from the region where they lived, Etruria. Allies of Carthage, the Etruscans were enemies of the Greeks who had set up colonies in southern Italy. This rivalry led to massive Etruscan defeat at the Battle of Cuma in 474. At one time, the Etruscans had conquered Rome. The Romans eventually conquered the Etruscans but also borrowed a number of customs from them.
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David White