Stanford Digital Forma Urbis Romae Project

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  • Glossary of Archaeological Terms

  • Adyton
    A separately defined space inside a temple, usually behind or at the back of the cella.
  • Aedicula (pl. aediculae)
    A small shrine, often on a base and surrounded by columns, but it could alse take the shape of a niche in the walls of a temple or a house that contained images of deities. In the plural, the term can denote a small house.
  • Ala (pl. alae)
    Literally meaning "wings," the term is used to denote small rooms that flank the atrium toward the back.
  • Ambulatory
    A covered area for walking.
  • Anta (pl. antae)
    Short, projecting wall. See also the term in antis below.
  • Aula (pl. aulae)
    A large room or an open court.
  • Apodyterium (pl. apodyteria)
    The changing room in a Roman bath complex.
  • Arcade
    A series of arches supported by columns, piers, or pillars. The term is also used to refer to a roofed passageway with shops on one or both sides.
  • Atrium (pl. atria)
    The central room of a Roman house.
  • Balneum (pl. balnea)
    Bathroom, or especially when used in plural, a smaller neighborhood bath complex, as opposed to the larger thermae.
  • Bistyle
    Having two columns in front.
  • Caldarium (pl. caldaria)
    The hot room (with a hot plunge bath) in a Roman bath complex.
  • Carceres
    The stalls behind the starting gates in a Roman circus.
  • Cavea (pl. caveae)
    The seating area for spectators in a Roman circus, theater, or amphitheater.
  • Cella (pl. cellae)
    The inner structure of a Greek or Roman temple in which the image of the divinity is kept. In a Roman temple the cella usually consists of a single room with only one opening, in front.
  • City Prefect (praefectus urbi)
    Magistrate in charge of law and order in the city. The prefect controlled the urban cohorts (cohortes urbanae) that functioned as the city's police force.
  • Clivus (pl. clivi)
    Roman street running up an incline, as opposed to a "vicus" which ran on level ground.
  • Cohors (pl. cohortes)
    The tenth part of a legion, or six centuriae, approximately 360 soldiers.
  • Collegium (pl. collegia)
    Association or organization of people with a common interest, religion, or profession.
  • Cornice
    Horizontal architectural moulding that projects from the top of a wall or section of a wall.
  • Crypta or cryptoporticus
    A walkway, generally underground, that flanked or surrounded a courtyard. Ground-level passages placed behind porticoes also seem to have been called crypta. The first type was lit through openings in the ceiling; the second received light from windows to the portico.
  • Cubiculum (pl. cubicula)
    A small room in a Roman house, used as sleeping quarters
  • Cuneus (pl. cunei)
    A wedge. Often used to refer to the wedge-like segments in the seating area of a theater that are created when flights of steps ascend from the orchestra to the highest tier of seats.
  • Curia
    Building used for senate meetings.
  • Distyle
    Having two columns in front.
  • Domus
    A house which serves as the residence of a single, extended family
  • Ductus
    Here used to describe the depth and width of an incision.
  • Ergastulum (pl. ergastula)
    A house for slaves or workers.
  • Exedra (pl. exedrae)
    Small room, one side of which opens up to a larger hall or court.
  • Euripus
    An elongated pool, in Roman contexts often decorated with bridges, sculptures and fountains.
  • Fauces
    Literally "jaws", the word is used to describe the entrance to a Roman house.
  • Foricae
    Public lavatories.
  • Forum (pl. fora)
    Large, public square.
  • Frigidarium (pl. frigidaria)
    The cold room (with a cold plunge bath) in a Roman bath complex.
  • Guide line
    Shallow, faint lines carved onto the Marble Plan to guide the carvers but not intended to be seen by anyone else.
  • Hexastyle
    Having six columns in front.
  • Horreum (pl. horrea)
    Storage building, especially for grain.
  • Hortus (pl. horti)
    Extensive garden in an urban setting.
  • Hypaethral
    The term is generally used to describe sacred structures that are unroofed or placed in the open, thus having unrestricted access to the heavens.
  • Ima cavea
    The seating area for spectators in a Roman circus, theater, or amphitheater that is closest to the stage or the arena.
  • Insula (pl. insulae)
    Meaning "island," the term is used variously, in antiquity and today, to refer to a building block in a Roman city, to a building within a block, and even to an individual domestic space inside a building.
  • In antis
    The term, which means "between antae," is generally used to refer to the number of columns between the two short walls (the antae) that project from the front or back of a structure. Distyle in antis, for example, implies there are two columns between the antae.
  • Laconicum (pl. laconica)
    A dry sweat room, usually circular. The structure can be an independent building, or can be incorporated into a Roman bath complexes where it was usually accessed from the warm room (tepidarium).
  • Macellum (pl. macella)
    Building specifically designed to function as a food market. It took the form of a central courtyard with porticoes and shops or stalls on three or four sides and a circular water basin or fountain in the center.
  • Maenianum (pl. maeniana)
    A projecting gallery, a balcony.
  • Mausoleum (pl. mausolea)
    Large, circular funerary monument.
  • Media cavea
    The seating area for spectators in a Roman circus, theater, or amphitheater that lies between the areas closest to and furthest away from the stage or the arena.
  • Meta (pl. metae)
    The tall, tapering features, columns or obelisks, that stood at each end of the central divider in a Roman circus.
  • Minium
    Red paint used to define incised letters on Roman inscriptions. On the Severan Marble Plan, minium was added to every incised line (except the guidelines). It also filled the recessed outlines that marked especially important buildings.
  • Natatio (pl. natationes)
    Open-air swimming pool, often part of large Roman bath complexes.
  • Nymphaeum (pl. nymphaea)
    A monument constructed around a fountain or any source of running water, often of elaborate design.
  • Octastyle
    Having eight columns in front.
  • Oecus
    Large room or saloon in Roman villa that often faced the peristyle and served as a dining room.
  • Opus incertum
    The type of facing of Roman concrete walls that consisted of irregularly-sized stones, placed in an irregular pattern. Used mostly in the first and second centuries BCE.
  • Orchestra
    In the Roman theaters, this was the semi-circular floor in front of the stage. It was surrounded by the semi-circular seating area, the cavea.
  • Orthostate
    Row of vertical stone slabs at the bottom of a wall.
  • Ostium (pl. ostia)
    Mouth, opening, entrance.
  • Palaestra
    An open space, often surrounded by covered porticoes, in which physical exercise took place. They were often connected with Roman bath complexes.
  • Pentastyle
    Having five columns in front.
  • Peristyle
    A covered colonnade constructed on all four sides of a square or rectangular, open space.
  • Peripteral
    Having free-standing columns on all four sides.
  • Porta Regia
    The central access route to the stage from the back stage in a Roman theater.
  • Portico
    Covered walkway with columns on at least one side; a covered colonnade.
  • Porticus
    Building that consists of three or four covered colonnades surrounding an open space.
  • Pomerium
    The sacred boundary of an ancient Roman city.
  • Posticum (Gr. Opisthodomus)
    The back porch of a temple behind the cella. Most often found in Greek temples where it might serve as a back entrance.
  • Praecinctio (pl. praecinctiones)
    The gangway in the cavea of a theater, circus, or amphitheater that separated the different zones of seating.
  • Pronaos (pl. pronaoi)
    The porch of a temple in front of the cella.
  • Propylaeum (pl. propylaea)
    Entrance to a sacred precinct. Often emphasized through elaborate architectural details and/or by projecting out from the precinct wall.
  • Prostyle
    Having columns only in front.
  • Pseudo-dipteral
    Term used for temple where engaged columns around the cella give the false impression of a second, inner row of columns.
  • Pseudo-peripteral
    Having engaged columns along the sides and usually also in the back.
  • Pulpitum
    The actual stage or platform of a Roman theater.
  • Pulvinar
    Box that served as "seat" of honor for images of gods in a Roman theater, amphitheater, or circus. Probably used for seating of the emperor as well.
  • Pycnostyle
    Term used by Vitruvius to describe a row of columns where the intercolumniations (spaces between the columns) equal one and one half lower diameter of a column.
  • Quadriporticus
    Building that consists of four covered colonnades surrounding an open space.
  • Sacellum
    Small shrine, either free-standing or attached to a larger structure.
  • Scaenae frons
    The back wall of the stage in a Roman theater, usually two or three storeys tall and elaborately decorated with columns and statues.
  • Schola
    Architectural structure of varying shapes used for the instruction of youth, for informal gatherings of small groups, or meetings of professional clubs.
  • Senaculum (pl. senacula)
    A non-official, open space where Roman senators assembled before they were officially called to meeting in a building nearby.
  • Sine Postico
    Having no columns along the back. Term used primarily for Roman temples that had columns in front and down the sides but not in the back.
  • Sphendone
    The semicircular end of a Roman circus.
  • Socle
    The (moulded) feature that projects from the bottom of a wall or other architectural structure.
  • Spina (pl. spinae)
    The elongated, central divider in a Roman circus.
  • Sudatorium (pl. sudatoria)
    Hot room in a Roman bath complex, used to induce sweating.
  • Summa cavea
    The seating area for spectators in a Roman circus, theater, or amphitheater that is farthest away from the stage or the arena.
  • Taberna (pl. tabernae)
    Small shop that opened onto a street or a courtyard. Usually it had a single door; sometimes it had a back room or loft that was used for storage or as living quarters.
  • Tablinum (pl. tablina)
    Room in Roman house, usually located between the atrium and the peristyle.
  • Tassello (pl. tasselli)
    Deep, square indentation on the back of certain FUR slabs. It is believed such cuttings were additional means by which the slabs were held in place to the wall behind the map. A marble wedge connected the tassello on the back of the slab to a similar cutting in the brick wall itself.
  • Tepidarium (pl. tepidaria)
    The warm room in the sequence of hot, warm and cold rooms in a Roman bath complex.
  • Tetrastyle
    Having four columns in front.
  • Terminus ante quem
    Meaning "time before which," the term denotes the latest possible date of an event or an object.
  • Terminus post quem
    Meaning "time after which," the term denotes the earliest possible date of an event or an object.
  • Thermae
    A Roman bath complex, often substantial in size, that usually contained various rooms associated with bathing (caldarium, tepidarium, frigidarium) and might also include space used for exercise (palaestra), for outdoor swimming (natatio), lavatories (foricae), and even libraries.
  • Tholos
    A small, circular building, usually of sacred use. Often surrounded by columns.
  • Tribunal
    A raised platform used for various purposes. In Roman law courts, the judges sat on tribunals placed at one end of the building; in military camps, they were platforms from which the generals administered justice; and in a Roman theatre, tribunals were elevated seats above the entrances, usually appropriated by the praetor, the emperor, or the person who paid for the spectacle.
  • Triclinium (pl. triclinia)
    Dining room in Roman house.
  • Tristyle
    Having tre columns in front.
  • Velarium (pl. velaria)
    Sail, or fabric awning used to cover the audience in a Roman theater, amphitheater, or circus.
  • Vicus (pl. vici)
    A Roman street on level ground, as opposed to a clivus which runs up an incline.
  • Vomitorium (pl. vomitoria)
    Openings in a Roman amphitheater or circus through which the spectators entered or exited the seating area.
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