OF THE MEANING ATTACHED TO THE TECHNICAL TERMS
USED IN THE INVENTORY
Abacus—The uppermost member of a capital.
Acanthus—A plant represented in ornament, particularly in the
Corinthian and Composite Orders.
Aedicula-ae—A small temple or similar shrine for the image of a god,
or a miniature representation of the same. A surround to a niche or
recess having a pediment or canopy resting on pillars and suggestive
of a small and exquisite building. (Eng. Aedicule.)
Agger—The earthen ridge carrying a Roman road.
Ala—An auxiliary cavalry-unit in the Roman Imperial army.
Amorino-i—A winged boy representing Love or Cupid.
Amphora-ae—A large two-handled jar with narrow neck and pointed
or rounded base. It was used for the storage and carriage of wines,
Ansa-ae—A handle or lug of wedge-shaped outline. Stylised ansae are
often represented at either end of a panel, hence ansate panel.
Crescent-shaped lugs are called peltae.
Antefixae—Ornamental plaques sealing the ends of the ridge-tiles
(imbrices) where they are exposed at the edge of a roof. (Eng.
Apse—A projection from a building, often a temple or a bath-house,
semicircular in plan.
Architrave—The lowest member of an entablature; often adapted as a
moulded surround to a doorway or window-opening.
Arris—The sharp edge formed by the meeting of two surfaces.
Ashlar—Masonry wrought to an even face and square edges.
Attic Base—A moulded column-base with a profile comprising two
torus mouldings divided by a scotia between two fillets. In Romano-British examples the fillets are often omitted.
Ballista-ae—A large projectile weapon of war in which a bowstring
between two arms held in coil-chambers is pulled back mechanically and released, discharging balls or bolts.
Baluster—A vertical support to a rail, usually of decorative as well as
Barbotine—A creamy clay slip used to ornament pottery; decoration
en barbotine—free-hand decoration with barbotine, usually of
animal and vegetable motifs, characteristic of the so-called
Castor ware 'hunt cups'.
Barrel-Vaulting—A continuous semicircular or segmental tunnellike vault, unbroken by cross-vaults.
Bastion—An outward projection from a defensive wall, enabling the
garrison to see and to defend from the flanks the ground before the
Battlement—In fortification, the alternating merlons and embrasures
on the parapet or breast-work of a rampart-walk.
Berm—The strip of level ground between a bank or defensive wall and
its accompanying ditch or scarp.
Bolster—The roll flanking the focus on top of the capital of an altar.
Conventionally it represents a faggot.
Box-tile—A tile shaped as a hollow box open at both ends. Such tiles
were used for flues.
Cable-moulding—A moulding carved in the form of a rope or cable.
Cabriole Leg—A leg of elongated S-curved form, usually of great
elegance and for a table, couch or chair.
Caduceus—The winged staff with coiled serpents carried by Mercury.
Caldarium—The hottest room in a Roman bath-house, fitted with
hot bath or douche to induce and wash away heavy perspiration
in damp heat.
Canabae—A term, literally 'the booths', applied first to the traders'
booths gathered haphazard outside the winter quarters of a legion,
and so to the extra-mural settlement associated with a permanent
Cantharus—A two-handled drinking cup.
Carinated—Having an angular profile.
Cartouche—A tablet imitating a scroll with ends rolled up, used
Castor Ware—Colour-coated pottery, often decorated en barbotine,
made near Castor (Northants.) from the late 2nd century A.D.
Cavetto—A hollow moulding, in profile a quarter-circle.
Centuria, Century—A subdivision of a cohort, nominally one
hundred strong, normally about eighty. There were sixty or
sixty-four centuries in a legion, each commanded by a centurion.
Centurial Stone or Inscription—An inscribed walling stone laid by a
working party of soldiers responsible for building the section of
wall containing it. Usually the record takes the form of the
centurial sign, with or without the cohort number, or a numeral
showing in paces or feet the length of the section.
Champleve—The raised field, particularly of a fielded panel.
Clavicula-ae—An external or internal extension of the rampart to
flank, and cover, the entrance to a camp; usually a quarter-circle
Cohort—In Roman armies: (i) a body of soldiers, each legion containing ten cohorts; (ii) a foot regiment of 500–1000 auxiliary troops,
that is, troops recruited from men who were not Roman citizens.
Colonia—Originally a land settlement of Roman citizens, usually
associated with a newly founded town. Later an honorary title
given to an important town that received a charter.
Colour-coating—A term used to describe the thin coating applied to
such pottery as Castor and Rhenish wares, often shiny or lustrous
and varying in colour from reds and browns to black or even dark
Cordon—An encircling line or band in relief.
'Corduroy'—Descriptive of logs laid close together side by side on the
ground to form a bearing surface (on the visual analogy of
Cornice—A crowning projection, the upper part of an entablature.
Costrel—A vessel or small keg for wine or other liquid, with a looped
handle for suspension from the waist.
Countersunk—When applied to handles of vessels, sunk in such a way
that there is no projection.
Crambeck Ware—Pottery of various forms made at kilns at Crambeck, near Malton, E. Yorks., in the 4th century. In particular
smooth buff bowls and mortaria with red painted decoration
c. A.D. 370–400.
Curtain-wall—In fortification, the connecting wall between towers
Dales Ware—Cooking-pots, with distinctive rim-profile, of coarse
fabric charged with calcitic grit, usually crushed shell. Common in
Northern Britain A.D. 280–340.
Delphiniform—'Dolphin-shaped'; used of a type of curled handle on
glass vessels which more or less resembles a dolphin.
Die—The part of an altar or pedestal between the base and the capital
Dowel—In masonry, a short plug of metal between two stones, holding them in exact relative positions.
Dropper—A vessel so designed that it will release liquid contents a drop
at a time.
Entablature—The architectural treatment, representational of primitive structural features, of the upper part of a wall or of the superstructure of a colonnade. The full Classical entablature comprises
architrave, frieze, cornice.
Entasis—The convexity or swell on a vertical line or surface to correct
the optical illusion of concavity in the sides of a column.
Extrados—The outer curve of an arch.
Face vase—A pottery vessel modelled as a human head.
Facet-cutting—Cut patterns made up of hollow geometrical (oval,
lozenge, etc.) figures.
Fibula-ae—A brooch with pin, guard and catch. The modern safetypin is comparable in function.
Fillet—In architecture, a plain narrow band between, or adjacent to,
more complex mouldings.
Finial—A decorative feature on the apex of a gable, pinnacle, tombparapet, etc.
Focus—A hollow on top of the capital of an altar to hold fire or
Follis—A large bronze coin introduced by Diocletian in A.D. 296,
which became the regular bronze coin in the early 4th century.
Freedman—An emancipated slave; in the Roman world this formed a
definite social class with legal obligations to their former masters
and restricted social privileges and franchise.
Frieze—In architecture, the part of an entablature between the architrave
and cornice, often ornamented; thence applied to any band of
ornament immediately below a cornice or, still more loosely, to a
decorative band at a wall-head.
Frigidarium—The cold room in a Roman bath-house, equipped with
cold plunge-bath or douche.
Fumed Ware—Jugs, bowls and dishes of grey ware with dark grey or
black surface, often polished, produced by firing in reduced
Gesso—A mixture of whiting and size, spread on stone or wood as a
ground for painting.
Graffito-i—A scratched inscription or design.
Greaves—In armour, shin-guards.
Guilloche—A geometrical ornament consisting of two or more intertwining wavy bands forming a series of circles.
Gypsum—Hydrated sulphate of lime (Ca SO4 + 2H2O). A valuable
mineral, comparatively soft, found in Yorkshire along the W. side
of the Vale of York. It can be dehydrated by heating and on
rehydration will set hard in a comparatively short time.
Hypocaust—A low basement over which a fireproof floor is supported
on small piers (pilae) or walls, constructed for circulation of hot air
warming the room above.
Imbrex-ices—A long semicircular tile used to cover a roof-ridge or the
flanges of adjacent tegulae.
Intervallum—In a Roman fortress, the space between the rampart
and the internal buildings, usually containing the intervallum road.
Intrados—The inner curve or soffit of an arch.
Lacing-course—In masonry or brickwork, a bonding course binding
the wall-facing together or to the wall-core.
Lappets—Small hanging protective or decorative flaps.
Legate—'Deputy of the Emperor', who might be the governor of an
imperial province or the commanding officer of a legion; from
Legion—A unit of the Roman army, nominally of 6,000 men, composed of Roman citizens, commanded by a legatus Augusti (see
Legate). The legion was further sub-divided into cohorts, maniples
Lintel—The horizontal stone or beam bridging an opening.
Lockspit—The small marking-out trench on the line of a proposed
Maniple—A subdivision of the cohort containing two centuriae: a
legionary cohort normally contained three maniples.
Matrix—The indent cut or impressed to mould or inset an object.
Minimi—Diminutive brass coins of low value.
Mithraeum—A temple of Mithras, an eastern god of light whose
worship penetrated the Roman empire and became popular with
Mortarium—In pottery, a stout bowl, with strong lip and pouring
spout, dusted on the inside with hard grit to strengthen it against
wear by trituration of food.
Motte—A steep earth mound, usually flat topped, forming the main
defensive feature of an 11th or 12th-century castle.
Mould-blown, Mould-blowing—The manufacture of a glass vessel
by blowing it into a plain or a patterned mould.
Moulding—The contrived modelling of a surface by prolonged
variation of contour, usually for ornamental effect by catching the
light and casting shadows.
Nomen—Every freeborn Roman citizen possessed three names:
praenomen, usually abbreviated, his individual name; nomen,
usually ending in -ius, the name of the gens or clan to which he
belonged; cognomen, distinguishing him further, since nomina were
very limited in number; e.g. M. Tullius Cicero. An individual was
further officially identified by reference to his father's praenomen,
his voting tribe, and his origo, that is, his native city or canton.
(For an example of a name with all these components see
Inscription No. 75.)
Offset—A ledge formed by the set-back of a wall.
Opus Signinum—A plaster for walls and pavements made of potsherds
or broken tile and lime.
Ossuary—A vessel used to contain cremated bones.
Parapet—The standing breastwork at the top of a wall.
Parisian Ware—Thin hard grey ware decorated with zones of
stamped decoration. First recorded in the territory of the Parisi of
E. Yorkshire. Late 1st or early 2nd-century.
Pediment—A low-pitched gable-end, usually treated decoratively.
'Perspective-box' Pattern—Often used for the field of a mosaic
pavement, reminiscent of contiguous boxes seen diagonally.
Phallus—The male organ; representations of it were used in the
ancient world as a powerful charm to ensure good luck and ward
off the evil eye.
Pilae—Small piers of tile or stone supporting the upper floor of a
hypocaust, above the heated space.
Pilaster—A shallow pier of rectangular section attached to a wall.
Pillar-moulded Bowl—A well known 1st-century type of glass bow
made in a vertically-ribbed mould.
Plate Brooch—A brooch with a decorative plate at a right angle to
the pin and catch. The plate may be of simple geometric form or
zoomorphic, the latter sometimes in the round.
Plinth—The projecting foundation-course of a wall, generally chamfered or moulded at the top edge.
Porta Decumana—The rear gate of a Roman fortress.
Porta Praetoria—The front gate of a Roman fortress, from which a
street, via praetoria, led direct to the headquarters building.
Porta Principalis Dextra—This and the porta principalis sinistra
were the two lateral gates of a Roman fortress, linked by the
main cross street, via principalis. The gate lay to the right as
one looked towards the porta praetoria from the headquarters
Porta Principalis Sinistra—See Porta Principalis Dextra.
Praefectus, Prefect—The commanding officer of an auxiliary cohort
500 strong or of an ala. The praefectus castrorum was second in command of a legion, and became its commander in the late 3rd
Praeses—The governor of a minor province.
Praetentura—The part of the interior of a Roman fortress that lies in
front of the via principalis.
Principia—The headquarters building of a Roman fortress, placed
symmetrically on the axis of the via praetoria, behind its junction
with the via principalis.
Putlog Holes—The small openings left in a wall for the insertion of
horizontal scaffold-poles, the putlogs.
Rampart—An artificial defensive bank.
Retentura—That part of the interior of a Roman fortress that lies
behind the principia or headquarters building.
Retrograde—In inscriptions, words written backwards as if seen in a
Rhenish Ware—Pottery imported from the Rhineland, normally in a
fine dark red paste with a lustrous bronze or black coating.
Rouletting—A pattern made on pottery, while the paste is soft, by
rotating against it a notched wheel.
Rustic Ware—Pottery decorated with barbotine which has been
roughened by the fingers while still wet to form irregular ridges
and points. It was fashionable in the last quarter of the 1st century
and the first quarter of the 2nd century A.D.
Samian Ware, Terra Sigillata—A common table pottery of the
Roman period, mostly of Gaulish origin, with a glossy surface
generally red in colour.
Sarcophagus—A stone coffin, usually inscribed and often embellished
with sculptures, intended to be viewed above ground or in a tomb
Scarp—In fortification, an artificial defensive slope facing away from
the defenders; particularly the inner slope of a defensive ditch, of
which the opposite outer slope is the counter-scarp.
Scotia—The concave moulding between two torus mouldings in the
base of a column, throwing a deep shadow.
Self-coloured—Descriptive of the colour of pottery deriving entirely
from the processes of firing the raw material without the addition
of glaze, slip, paint, colour-coating or any special process designed
to alter the surface coloration.
Sevenfold Ovarium—A columnar stand in the Roman Circus on
which were placed wooden eggs (ova), usually seven in number,
one of which was removed at the end of each lap as a counting
Snake-thread Glasses—A well-defined series of glasses of Roman
date decorated with serpent-like trails (q.v.) sometimes the same
colour as the body, sometimes not. They were made both in the
east (probably in Syria) and in the west (in Cologne and perhaps
Soil Mark—A difference in colour or texture of plough soil, due to the
disturbance of a buried feature of which the composition is
different from the surrounding humus.
Spandrel—The area between the outside curve of an arch and any
angular frame containing the arch.
String—A projecting moulded band across a wall, also string-course
Tazza-e—Renaissance drinking-vessels of Italian origin, of open
form, with stem and foot. The term, Italian, not Latin, is used
descriptively for Romano-British pottery vessels of a similar form,
normally with frilled cordons.
Tegula-ae—A flanged roofing tile.
Tessera-ae—A small cube of stone, glass, or tile used in mosaic.
Tooling—In masonry, the dressing or finishing of the face of stones
with an axe, claw, file, etc.
Torus—A bold convex moulding, generally a semicircle in section.
Trail, Trailing—Lines or threads of glass applied to a vessel are
called 'trails'; the process by which they were applied is called
Tribunician Power—The Roman emperor derived his legal authority
from various enactments, amongst which one of the most important was his annual endowment with the power of veto
attaching to a tribune. As a recognition of this fact the full titles of
an emperor usually included the number of years he had held the
Tympanum—The triangular field in the face of a pediment or the semicircular field in the head of an arch.
Via Decumana—In a Roman fortress, the street, in line with the via
praetoria, leading to the porta decumana or rearward gate.
Via Praetoria—In a Roman fortress, the street leading from the
principia to the porta praetoria, or front gate.
Via Principalis—In a Roman fortress, the main cross street joining the
two lateral gates, behind which the principia lies.
Vir Clarissimus—A title applied to members of the senatorial order.
Voussolrs—The wedge-shaped stones forming an arch.
Volute—An ornament in the form of a spiral scroll.
Waldglas—A type of green or greenish glass made in woodland
glass-houses in which potash, not soda, was used for the alkali