Appendix I: Glossary


The first rank on the cursus honorum, the course of public offices, these magistrates were in charge of maintaining public buildings and space and supervised and organized the public festivals. There were two types of aedile, curule, and plebeian.

Ammianus Marcellinus (c. 330-390s CE)

A Greek speaking Roman solider and historian from (possibly) Syria. He wrote a history called the Res Gestae which started in 96 CE and ended in 378 (only the portion covering the final years is still extant.


A rare type of gladiator who fought blindfolded. On horseback. No one really knows how that worked, but one hopes the horses were well-trained.


An town in Egypt on the Nile Delta.


An originally Greek town in the south of Italy, it was both a resort town and also a location for training gladiators.


A very senior magistracy in Rome. The position could only be held by ex-consuls, and two were elected for a five year term (every other magistracy was only for a one year term). Their job was to keep the census of the Roman people and oversee public morality – the main part of which was expelling people from the Senate for various moral reasons, or from their tribe or status for the same. They also oversaw some of the finances of the state.


An open air space located in a corner of the Roman Forum, near where the Curia Julia still stands. It was an assembly place for the people and the heart of political activity in Rome. For more see here.


This is a stub and will be updated soon.


The chief military and civilian commander of Rome. Two were elected each year and competition to become consul was incredibly intense as it represented the apex of a political career. After their term in office consuls could go on to be governors of provinces, where, under the Republic, they were wont to rob the provincials blind in order to recoup the costs of their political campaigns.

Damnatio ad Bestias

An emergency position, appointed by the Senate in times of crisis, a dictator could only serve for six months, but during that period he had absolute authority. Caesar had himself voted dictator for life which a) was certainly illegal and b) turned out to be a very short time thanks to the c. 70 members of the Senate (some of whom were his close friends) who stabbed him to death in 44.

Duovir or Duumvir (plural: duumviri/duoviri)

‘One of the two men’ (in plural ‘the two men’) is a term used for any dual magistracy. When used in reference to Italian towns and Roman colonies it refers to the chief magistrates (the local equivalent of the Roman consuls).


A sponsor of a ludus (i.e. whoever was paying for and hosting it).

Essedarius (plural essedarii)

A gladiator who fought from a British style war chariot. This type may have been introduced by Julius Caesar after his ‘conquest’ of the island.


A mythical Greek hero who performed many labours. One of those was killing a great lion.


A “shield-fighter”; the word is originally Greek. This gladiator carried a short round shield, a spear, and a dagger, which was adapted from Greek infantry equipment. He had a helmet and greaves as well.


The power to command legions and the army. It was only held by certain magistracies, such as the consulship and praetorship. Holders had the right to be attended by lictors, the number of which varied according to the seniority of the magistracy.

Infamis (plural infames)

An infamis person was someone who had lost their legal and/or social standing as a Roman citizen. All entertainers were infamis: that included charioteers and actors as well as gladiators. So too were all prostitutes, pimps, and gladiatorial trainers.

Lanista (plural lanistae)

A gladiatorial trainer/manager. Thought to be a word of Etruscan origin.


A type of gladiator who tried to snare his opponent with a lasso.


These were men assigned to protect and act as at the direction of certain high officials in Rome, such as consuls.

Ludi Circenses

Circus games. This covers any chariot racing; the Ludi circenses were held in conjunction with other annual, religious festivals.

Ludi Megalenses

Also known as the Megalesia. Held in April (almost at the same time as the Ludi Cereales, first celebrated in 204 BCE with the coming of the Magna Mater, the Great Mother from Pessinus in modern Turkey (Livy 29.14.14), it became an annual festival in 194 BCE. It involved ludi scaenici for one of its six days.

Ludi Romani

In honor of Juppiter Optimus Maximus. The ludi scaenici were added to this festival in 364 BCE, and by 214 they covered four days (Livy 24.43.7); it was here that Livius Andronicus presented the first recorded play at Rome.

Ludi Scaenici

Stage games. This covers any theatrical performance; the Ludi Scaenici were held in conjunction with other annual, religious festivals.

Ludus (plural ludi)

A ludus may refer to any type of school, including a gladiatorial one. Ludi also refers to games, the public games held as part of religious rituals.

Magna Graecia

The name given to the parts of the South of Italy and Sicily colonized by the Greeks; it contained many important cities which were originally founded by Greek settlers, including Neapolis (Naples), Tarentum (Tarento), and Syracuse.


Literally “a sending away”, it refers to the release of a gladiator at the end of a combat. Gladiators could be sent away stantes missi, that is, they were released from that particular munus after fighting to a standstill with no one clearly gaining the upper hand. There were rare games that were sine missione, where (possibly) every combat ended with one gladiator dying: under the empire you had to get imperial permission to have a munus of this type. (Some people argue that in these losing gladiators did not necessarily die, but that there had to be clear victors and losers.)

Munus (plural munera)

Literally “gift”, “duty”, or “favour”, particularly one owed to the dead. As gladiatorial shows were given to honour the dead and in accordance with vows they were called munera. A munus in this sense was a private obligation and thus the cost was paid by whoever vowed it, not the state. Later the munera were integrated into the other games and incorporated into imperial spectacles.

Murmillo (plural murmilliones)

A heavily armed gladiator whose helmet had a decorative murmillo, a type of salt-water fish, on it. He had a large oblong shield behind which he crouched and used a gladius, a short thrusting sword.

Naumachia (plural naumachiae)

A staged naval battle. These were held in a variety of places, some of which were purpose built pools of great size. Julius Caesar dug a pool for his, but the water was stagnant and the pool had to be filled in to prevent disease. Augustus built another; Claudius held his – the biggest on record – on the Fucine Lake.

Olympic Games

These were celebrated every four years from 776 BCE on at Olympia in central Greece. They were only open to those with Greek ancestry, though that was stretched for Roman emperors.


A term used sometimes for the starting gates in chariot races and the Circus Maximus. It also refers to Ostia, Rome’s port.


Someone who tells someone's character and (sometimes) future from their physical features.


The second most senior position in the cursus honorum, there was originally only one, but the number expanded to 8 and then 16 as the needs of the administration demanded more and more magistrates.


A net fighter, perhaps the most iconic gladiator type of all. His weapon was a trident and he tried to trap opponents in his net. He had very little protective equipment and wore no helmet.

Saepta Julia

The Saepta Julia was a building in the Campus Martius, which was completed by Agrippa, one of Augustus’ closest friends, who was also married to Julia, Augustus’ daughter. Augustus then decorated it. It was used for a variety of purposes (including voting) and hosted gladiatorial games a number of times – and even a naumachia by Caligula, though it was a very odd naumachia, as it only featured one ship.


A rare type of gladiator who fought with a bow and arrows. If you think this is not a terrifying type, then you’ve never heard of Katniss Everdeen.


One of the original types of gladiators, named after an Italian tribe that was once an enemy of the Romans; when the Romans became friendly with them, this type vanished, to be replaced by the Thracian.

Scissor (“Carver”)

A very rare type of gladiator about which we know little.

Secutor (plural secutores)

Literally “follower”, a type of gladiator usually matched against a retiarius. He was armed very much like a murmillo, but had a different helmet with very little visibility from two small eyeholes, which was designed so the retiarius net could not catch easily and the trident was better deflected.

theatre of Taurus

The first stone amphitheatre in Rome, built by Statilius Taurus under Augustus. It was never very satisfactory and appears to have been infrequently used. It no longer survives.

Thracian (Thraex/Thrax)

A type of gladiator who fought with a small shield (called a parmula) and a curved, short sword.

Tribune of the Plebs

A magistracy without imperium, it was founded in 494 BCE to protect the interests of the plebs. It was a sacrosanct office – meaning that harming one in office was a capital offence – and from 449 BCE onwards any tribune could veto any legislation that he felt was not in the interest of the people. Originally there were only two, but that number expanded to ten; their powers were circumscribed by the Dictator Sulla, but quickly restored by Pompey the Great in 54 BCE.

Venatio (plural venationes)

Beast hunts, sometimes in staged settings. A wide range of domestic and exotic animals were hunted. Although dangerous, a venatio was not necessarily fatal for the hunters, who were given weapons and had some protection.

Venator (plural venatores)

A trained beast hunter. Not to be confused with criminals who were thrown to the beasts as a form of execution; although fighting wild animals is never going to be a safe endeavour, these were trained professionals, who were armed. There was a ludus in Rome dedicated to training them, the Ludus Matutinus. Venatores were usually part of the morning show.

Vitellius (15-69 CE)

Aulus Vitellius Germanicus Augustus was emperor for 8 months in 69 - the third of that year. He was defeated by Vespasian and killed by his soldiers.


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