An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 1, Eburacum, Roman York. Originally published by Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1962.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


'Glossary', An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 1, Eburacum, Roman York, (London, 1962), pp. 150-152. British History Online [accessed 24 June 2024].

. "Glossary", in An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 1, Eburacum, Roman York, (London, 1962) 150-152. British History Online, accessed June 24, 2024,

. "Glossary", An Inventory of the Historical Monuments in City of York, Volume 1, Eburacum, Roman York, (London, 1962). 150-152. British History Online. Web. 24 June 2024,


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, oils etc.

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. Antefix-es.)

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 functional effect.

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 rampart.

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 fortress.

Cantharus—A two-handled drinking cup.

Carinated—Having an angular profile.

Cartouche—A tablet imitating a scroll with ends rolled up, used ornamentally.

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 on plan.

CognomenSee Nomen.

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 green.

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 corduroy material).

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.

CounterscarpSee Scarp.

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 or bastions.

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 or cornice.

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 offerings.

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 conditions.

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 legatus Augusti.

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 and centuries.

Lintel—The horizontal stone or beam bridging an opening.

Lockspit—The small marking-out trench on the line of a proposed construction.

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 the army.

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.

OrigoSee Nomen.

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.

Pelta-aeSee Ansa.

'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 building.

Porta Principalis SinistraSee 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 century.

PraenomenSee Nomen.

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 mirror.

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 chamber.

ScarcementSee Offset.

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 device.

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 elsewhere).

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 string-mould.

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 'trailing'.

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 tribunician power.

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 content.