Academia - the Academy; the school in Athens where Plato instructed students.
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.
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.
acontist - javelin thrower; for an example, see Boston 01.8033.
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.
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 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.
Adeimantus - brother of Plato and one of the interlocutors in the Republic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.]
Aeschylus (see entry (4) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - earliest of the three great Athenian tragedians; author of the Oresteia.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
alphabet - see Greek alphabet.
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.
Amata - Latin queen who favored Turnus over Aeneas as her son-in-law (Aeneid).
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.
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.
Amon - ancient Egyptian god of creation, his name means, what is hidden or cannot be seen"; Amons 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.
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.
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.
Anna - Dido's sister (Aeneid).
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.
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.
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 jackals head who holds a specter.
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;
apobasis - an ancient contest in which a fully armed warrior jumped in and out of a moving chariot.
apology - in a literary sense, a formal statement of justification or defense speech, such as Plato's Apology.
Appius Claudius - a powerful political figure in the Roman Republic, Appius Claudius left behind two major monuments to his political career: the Aqua Appia and the Via Appia; the Via Appia was the most significant road through south Italy and the Aqua Appia was the first major aqueduct in Rome; he was censor in 312 BCE, consul in 307 and 297 and praetor in 295; Appius Claudius worked to include poorer people in the different tribes of Rome to increase their influence in the tribal assembly, although this work was repealed in 304 BCE; however, he also opposed the entry of plebeians to two major priesthoods.
Apuleius - a writer and orator who was born in Northern Africa around 125 CE; his most famous text is a long novel entitled Metamorphoses, which is also translated as the Golden Ass; this long novel follows its protagonist, Lucius, as he is magically transformed into a donkey and has to undergo many trials before he can eat roses and become human again; at the end of the novel, Lucius converts to the worship of Isis.
Aquarius - also known as Ganymede; a constellation; Aquarius was closely associated with water in many ancient cultures, including Babylonian, Egyptian, and Ethiopian, in which he was the "water-bearer."
aqueduct - originally invented by the Etruscans and modified by the Romans, the aqueduct is a channel or conduit the conducts water over long distances usually by means of gravity; click on the links below to learn more about Roman aqueducts.
Ara Pacis Augustae - (Latin) "Altar of the Peace of Augustus"; an altar in Rome on the Campus Martius that was completed and dedicated in 9 CE by Augustus; the altar celebrated peace after the many wars Rome had fought.
aretê - goodness, excellence.
Argeiphontes - See Hermes.
Argives - names for the original inhabitants of Greece; also called Danai.
Argos - the name of Odysseus' favorite hunting dog, who having grown old and useless during Odysseus' twenty year absence from Ithaca, dies upon seeing his master again after waiting faithful for him to return; (2) the builder of the Argo, the shipped sailed by Jason and the Argonauts; (3) the son of Zeus and Niobe who introduced the practice of tilling the soil and planting corn to Greece.
Aristogeiton - conspirator against the Greek tyrants Hippias and Hipparchus; he and his friend Harmodius hatched a plan to kill the two tyrants in 514 BCE, however they were only successful in the killing of Hipparchus; Thucydides recounts their plan and its outcome in his history text.
Aristophanes (see entry (2) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - a Greek comic playwright of the 4th century BCE; his plays include a skewering of Socrates and the sophists in The Clouds, the gender power reversal play Lysistrata and the pro-peace play The Acharnians; Aristophanes was also a character in Plato’s The Symposium, where he suggested that people in love were two halves of the same body that had been split in two.
Aristotle (see entry (2) in Perseus Encyclopedia) - Athenian philosopher and a student of Plato who was concerned with natural phenomena; tutor of Alexander the Great; Aristotle began teaching in Athens in 335 BCE; during that same year he founded the Lyceum (Peripatetic school); author of the Poetics, The Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, among other works; when Aristotle dies in 322 BCE, Theophrates becomes head of the Lyceum.
arma virumque cano - (Latin) the first three words of the Aeneid; generally, epicists would place the most important words of their poems at the very beginning; the Iliad begins with the word for “wrath” as it mostly describes the consequences of Achilles’ wrath; the Aeneid begins with “arms and a man I sing”, showing that the most important topics of this epic will be war and Aeneas; it is important that during the early Augustan Age, some of the most significant political and social movement focused on wars (against Antony and civil war) and the development of a single man, Augustus.
Arminius - leader of a Germanic tribe who led an defense against the Roman general Varus in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 CE.
Ascanius - son of Aeneas, also known as Iulus, a name which designates him as an ancestor of the Julian family at Rome (Aeneid).
Asklepiads - Asklepiads were members of a guild of physicians that traced its origins to Asklepios, the god of healing; it seems likely that Hippocrates, the most famous physician and teacher of medicine of his time, would have been an Asclepiad.
Asklepios - a Greek hero, son of Apollo and Coronis, who became the god of healing and medicine; Coronis was unfaithful to Apollo and Artemis killed Coronis to avenge her brother; when Coronis was placed on her funeral pyre, Apollo took his unborn son from Coronis' womb; Asklepios was sent to Chiron, the centaur, who taught Asklepios the art of healing; Asklepios revived a slain follower of Artemis with the blood of a gorgon given to him by Athena; angered that the ability of a mortal to revive the dead, Zeus killed Asklepios with a bolt of lightening; regretting his actions, Zeus made Asklepios a god, placing him in the sky as the constellation, Ophiuchus (the serpent-bearer); worshiped throughout the Greek world, Asklepios' most famous sanctuary was located in Epidaurus.
astragalos - a knucklebone used in games; the Greeks originally made game pieces from astragaloi, the knucklebones of sheep or goats; the Roman game of knucklebones, inherited from the Greeks, is called tali and was perhaps the most popular Roman game; for an example of what an astragalos looked like, see London E 804.
Aten - ancient Egyptian god of the sun, Aten was also called the creator of man; Aten was born again each day; like the sun, Aten nurtured the Earth and, according to the Book of the Dead, the deceased even called on him to nurture the living with his rays; Aten was depicted as a sun-disk with rays falling upon the Earth.
Athena (Athene) - goddess of wisdom, the arts, and prudent warfare; associated with philosophy; she was also the patroness of spinning, weaving, embroidery, and other household activities practiced by women; her mother was Metis though Athena was born from Zeus' head because Zeus feared a prophecy that said the son Metis bore him after Athena would dethrone him; thus Zeus swallowed Metis and just before Athena was born, Hephaestus used an axe to split open Zeus' head and Athena emerged in full armor; Athena favored Achilles in the Trojan war (Iliad); acted as the protector of Odysseus in the Odyssey and Herakles during his Twelve Labors; identified by the Romans as Minerva; Athena is depicted carrying a spear and wearing a helmet and the aegis; the owl and the olive tree are associated with Athena; she had a best friend, Pallas, whom she killed accidentally; Athena was brought up by the god Triton whose daughter was Pallas; together Athena and Pallas practiced warfare but one day, just as Pallas was about to strike Zeus feared for Athena and appeared between the two girls; Zeus held the aegis in front of Pallas who was so frightened that she failed to parry Athena's blow and was killed; in honor of Pallas, Athena constructed a statue, the Palladium.
Athens - a city in Greece, occupied from prehistoric times through the present; the Acropolis at Athens provides a natural defense against attack; during the Persian invasion of 480 BCE, the original fortification of Athens' Acropolis were destroyed and were rebuilt in 478 BCE; the 5th century building program of Pericles resulted in the classical structures for which the Athenian Acropolis is famous; in 404 BCE the Acropolis was destroyed again by the Spartan and was rebuilt in 394 BCE.
Atomism - theory originated by Leucippus, developed by Democritus and adopted by Epicurus as a basis of his moral philosophy according to which the universe is made up of invisible and indestructible elements called atoms.
atrium - (Latin) in a Roman domus (house), the atrium was the central hall that followed the fauces, the jaws or entryway of the house, and opened into the tablinum, the reception area where guests were greeted.
Attica - an area in ancient Greece of approximately 1,000 square miles of which Athens was the capital.
augures - (Latin) priests who read auspices and determine whether the gods approved or disapproved of a future deed; they could also decide where to build religious buildings and hold religious rituals; they could read auspices based upon patterns in clouds or smoke, birds in flight or the entrails of sacrificed animals.
Augustus - C. Octavius, born 63 BCE; son of Octavius and Atia, niece of Gauis Julius Caesar; elected to the pontifical college in 48 BCE; campaigned with Caesar in Spain and in 45 BCE fought the Pompeians at Munda; adopted by Caesar, he takes on his adopted father's name becoming C. Julius Caesar Octavianus; forms the Second Triumvirate (triumviri rei publicae constituendae) in 38 BCE with Mark Antony and Lepidus; had one daughter, Julia, by his second wife (Scribonia), whom he married to Marcellus; establishes the Actian Games in Greece in 27 BCE to commemorate his victory at Actium; reigned as Roman Emperor from 27 to 14 BCE; following in the footsteps of his adopted father, Augustus becomes pontifex maximus upon the death of Lepidus; succeeded by his stepson Tiberius; Augustus is honorific title given by the Roman senate to Octavius, also known as Octavian.
Aulus Gellius - author of Noctes Atticae (Attic Nights); this text was probably published around 180 CE; the Noctes Atticae comments on diverse subject matter and uses dialogue, like Plato’s texts also did; later authors and students relied upon Aulus Gellius for knowledge and as a model for an interesting writing style.
auriga - (Latin) a driver or a charioteer; an auriga refers to someone who is in charge of a vehicle, both on the every-day roads and also inside the chariot racing course; chariot racing was a popular sport in ancient Rome and races took place in the Campus Martius and the Colosseum; for an example, see Dewing 877 (image).
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