acrostolium - the decorative part of the bow of
a Roman warship, often removed from a defeated enemy vessel and displayed
as a trophy.
aegis - a short cloak, usually consisting of a goatskin with a border of snakes, worn by Athena and Zeus and by Hellenistic and Roman rulers who identified with them.
aes - usually translated as bronze; copper or a copper alloy, a general term used for all Roman coinage in non-precious metals.
akakia - a container carrying a small amount of dust, carried in processions by the Byzantine emperor to remind him of his mortality.
amphora - a small-mouthed, two-handled vase used to carry and store oil and wine.
ampyx - a broad hairband.
anastole - the upward-growing forelock characteristic of the hair on portraits of Alexander the Great.
AR - the numismatic abbreviation for argentum, Latin for silver.
argenteus - a Roman silver denomination introduced by the emperor Diocletian in A.D. 294 to replace the denarius (q.v.), which had declined in weight and purity.
astragalos - a knuckle-bone of an animal, used in antiquity as a gaming piece.
AV - the numismatic abbreviation for aurum, Latin for gold.
augur - a Roman priest who practiced divination that would reveal whether or not an action was favored by the gods.
Augustus - a name granted Octavian in 27 B.C. as first emperor and subsequently taken by all Roman emperors. Augusta is the comparable title for empresses.
aureus - the standard gold coin of the Roman empire, worth 25 denarii (q.v.).
basileus - the Greek term for king, a title taken by many of the successors of Alexander the Great and by later Byzantine emperors.
biga - a chariot pulled by two animals, usually horses, mules, or elephants.
caduceus - a herald's staff with snakes entwined around it and sometimes with wings, the chief attribute of the Roman messenger god, Mercury; see kerykeion.
Caesar - originally the name of Julius Caesar, it was adopted by Octavian as Caesar's heir, then by all other designated heirs to the Roman throne. Under the tetrarchy (q.v.), it was the title of the two junior emperors.
censor - one of two Roman magistrates whose original function was to conduct the census of the Roman people. The office was often claimed by emperors; Domitian claimed it in perpetuity and its function was thereafter assumed by the emperor.
chiton - a light tunic, a long version usually worn by Greek women and a shorter one by men engaged in riding or other physical activity.
chlamys - in ancient Greece, a short mantle, usually worn by horseback riders. In the Byzantine period, the imperial civil dress, a purple mantle fastened on the right shoulder by a fibula (q.v.).
clipeus virtutis - Roman shield of bravery, awarded soldiers who had saved the life of a comrade in battle.
congiarium - in the Roman empire, imperial gifts of money to the people, usually in celebration of victories or other important occasions.
consul - one of the two chief magistrates of the Roman state. The emperor often assumed the title and marked the renewal of it on his coins. Abbreviated COS.
cornucopia - horn of plenty, usually depicted as a horn overflowing with fruit, a symbol of prosperity.
corona civica - the Roman civic crown, a wreath made of oak leaves, awarded citizens who had saved the life of another in battle or emperors who had saved the state.
cross potent - a cross with a bar at the end of each arm.
cuirass - a breastplate covering the torso.
damnatio memoriae - condemnation of memory, an official Roman condemnation of a person for crimes against the state, resulting in the destruction or obliteration of the person's name and image. Emperors who suffered damnatio include Nero, Domitian, Commodus, Didius Julianus, and Elagabalus.
decennalia - anniversary of the tenth year of assuming office, which emperors usually celebrated with games and other events.
decursio - a Roman equestrian military manoeuvre.
dekadrachm - a ten-drachma coin, a rare denomination in Greek coinage, associated primarily with Syracuse.
denarius - the primary silver denomination of the Romans from the late third century B.C. until the third quarter of the third century A.D., when it was replaced by the argenteus (q.v.).
diadem - a Greek headdress in the form of a simple band originally denoting victory, and from the time of Alexander the Great a symbol of kingship. The diadems of the late Roman and Byzantine emperors were often elaborately decorated.
didrachm - a Greek two-drachma coin, usually silver.
die - a piece of bronze engraved with a device that was transferred to the front or back of a coin through the process of striking.
Dominus Noster - Our Lord, a title used by Roman and Byzantine emperors from the late third to the eighth century A.D. Abbreviated DN or DDNN (plural).
donative - from donativum, a bonus given by the emperor to his troops on occasions such as victories and anniversaries.
drachm or drachma - standard silver coin of ancient Greece. The term comes from the Greek word for a handful, referring to the handful of iron spits that the coin replaced as a means of exchange.
EL - numismatic abbreviation for electrum (q.v.).
electrum - a natural or man-made alloy of gold and silver, first used for coinage by the Lydians.
exergue - an area separate from the main design of a coin, usually defined by a line.
felix - fortunate, an epithet frequently used for the Roman emperor, often paired with the epithet pius (q.v.) and on coins abbreviated PF.
fibula - the brooch with three long pendants that fastened the Byzantine emperor's mantle at the right shoulder.
field - the plain area surrounding the main design of a coin.
flan - a disk of metal which when impressed with types (q.v.) becomes a coin.
globus cruciger - a sphere with a cross on top, symbol of sovereignty on Byzantine coins.
greaves - pieces of armor protecting the lower legs.
himation - a long mantle worn by Greeks.
hydria - a three-handled jar for carrying and pouring water.
imperator - commander, the title awarded victorious generals by their troops. The title was used by Octavian as a forename preceding his inherited name of Caesar, and thereafter the two titles became part of the official name of the Roman emperor. The title could also be added after the name to denote individual victory salutations. Abbreviated IMP.
incuse - struck in, denoting a coin type that is recessed into the surface of the coin rather than standing out in relief.
insula - Roman urban, multi-family dwelling, often occupying an entire block.
jugate - heads or busts on coins that are superimposed and face the same direction.
kantharos - a Greek drinking cup with vertical handles.
kerykeion - a herald's staff, the chief attribute of the Greek messenger god, Hermes; see caduceus.
laurel - attribute of the Greek god Apollo and symbol of victory.
laureate - crowned with a wreath of laurel, victorious.
legend - the letters or words written around the curved edge of a coin.
lituus - the curved staff of an augur (q.v.).
loros - an elaborately decorated garment constituting the consular dress of the Byzantine emperor.
maeander - a rectilinear pattern that appears in Greek art from the Geometric period onward.
Manus Dei - the hand of God, a hand appearing from above as an indication of divine approval.
modius - a Roman cup used to measure grain, sometimes used as a symbol of fertility.
obol - the smallest Greek silver denonimation, six of which equal a drachm (q.v.).
obryzum - the technical term for pure gold in Greek and Latin.
obverse - the front of a coin, the side made by the lower die and usually bearing the most important image.
octodrachm - an eight-drachma Greek coin.
omphalos - a navel, the name for the sacred stone in the sanctuary of Apollo at Delphi that was thought to mark the center of the earth.
orichalcum - an alloy of copper and zinc, used by the Romans for their sestertii (q.v.).
paludamentum - a Roman military cloak, often worn over the cuirass on the obverse busts on Roman coins.
parazonium - a short sword worn at the waist.
pater patriae - father of the country, a title awarded many Roman emperors after its first presentation to Augustus in 2 B.C. Abbreviated PP.
patera - a shallow bowl for pouring libations or scattering grain and salt in Roman religious ceremonies; see phiale.
patriarchal cross - a cross with two horizontal arms, one placed above the other.
pentadrachm - a five-drachma coin, an unusual denomination used in Ptolemaic coinage.
petasos - a low hat, sometimes brimless but usually with a broad brim, worn by travellers and thus a consistent attribute of the Greek messenger god, Hermes.
phiale - a shallow offering bowl; see patera.
pileus - a conical cap, in Greek art worn by Odysseus, Hephaistos and the Dioscouroi. It was also traditionally given to freed Roman slaves and thus became a Roman symbol of liberty.
pius - title meaning dutiful towards one's god, country, or family. Often paired with the title felix (q.v.) and abbreviated PF.
pontifex maximus - the chief priest of the Roman state, a title regularly taken by emperors after Augustus first took it in 12 B.C.
praetorian prefect - leader of the praetorian guard, the Roman emperor's bodyguard.
prependulia - the pendants that hang down from the sides of the Byzantine imperial crown.
princeps - first in rank, leader, a title assumed by Augustus to denote his position and then taken by later emperors.
princeps iuventutis - leader among youth, a title first given the grandsons of Augustus and eventually used for all heirs to the Roman throne.
quadriga - chariot drawn by four horses, or occasionally by four mules or elephants.
quinquennalia - anniversary of the fifth year of rule.
radiate - decorated with rays, as in a radiate crown, a symbol of association with the sun gods, Helios and Sol. Also an indication of posthumous divinity of an emperor.
retrograde - backwards, referring to an inscription or legend written from right to left.
reverse - the back of a coin, its image made by the upper die.
satyr - a male companion of the Greek wine god Dionysos or his Roman counterpart Bacchus, usually depicted as part animal, with the tail or ears of a goat.
scipio - eagle-tipped scepter, a consular insignia of Byzantine emperors.
sestertius - a Roman denomination made of orichalcum (q.v.), worth one-fourth of a denarius (q.v.).
Silenos - an elderly follower of Dionysos or his Roman counterpart Bacchus. He is usually depicted with a bald pate, a snub nose, and a horse's tail and ears.
silphium - a now-extinct plant, found only in Kyrenaica, used in antiquity as a seasoning, perfume, and drug.
simpulum - a ladle for pouring wine, one of the ceremonial implements used by Roman priests.
solidus - a gold denomination of a slightly lower weight than the aureus (q.v.), introduced by Constantine the Great. The highest denomination of Byzantine coinage.
soter - saviour, deliverer. Title given some deities and Hellenistic kings.
standards - signs carried by the Roman legions and their divisions to identify them and serve as rallying points in battle.
stater - Greek electrum, gold, or silver denomination, standard in East Greece.
stephane - Greek word for crown.
tessara - a four-sided tile or token apparently used in distributing congiaria (q.v.) and thus a common attribute of Liberalitas.
tetarteron - Byzantine gold coin of lighter weight than the solidus (q.v.), introduced by Nicephoros II.
tetrarchy - system of Roman government implemented by Diocletian in A.D. 293 that distributed imperial power among four rulers or tetrarchs, two Augusti and two Caesares.
tetradrachm - a four-drachma coin.
togate - wearing a toga, the cloak worn by Roman males on formal occasions.
trecennalia - thirtieth anniversary of rule.
tribunicia potestate - with tribunician power, the power of the tribune of the people, the official who in the Roman republic protected the rights of the plebeians or commoners against the patricians or nobles. Although in the republic the office was held by a plebeian, Augustus assumed the power and renewed it annually, as did later emperors. Abbreviated TR P.
trident - three-pronged fishing spear, an attribute of the Greek sea god Poseidon and his Roman counterpart Neptune.
tridrachm - a three-drachma coin.
triskeles - a symbol consisting of three rotating legs attached at the hip. a symbol often associated with the three-sided island of Sicily.
triumvir - a man of three; a member of the committee of three who in the late republic were charged by the Senate with minting.
type - an object, person, or device depicted on a coin.
vexillum - a flag, a type of standard (q.v.) carried by divisions of the Roman military.
victimarius - the attendant in charge of killing the animal in Roman sacrifices.
vindicta - a rod with which slaves were touched in the Roman ceremony of liberation, hence a symbol of Libertas or Liberty.
vota - vows, promises to the gods that if events turned out as hoped, sacrifices and offerings would be made to them.