Chapter 2. Terminology - From Amphora to SPQR

Table 2.1. Recurring terminology in Asterix

Term Meaning
Amphora Jug
Appian Way Major Roman highway from Rome to Capua to Brundisium
Barbarians Greek term (derogatory) meaning "those who do not speak Greek" or "those that stammer". The Romans used this term to describe the people who were not part of their empire.
Bard From the Celtic word bardas meaning "singer or poet". One who sang heroic songs. Bards preserved Celtic history and legends through songs under Roman occupation. However, bardic knowledge such as medicine deteriorated as educated people under Pax Romana spoke Latin. They continue (to the present day) in Wales, Scotland and Ireland.
Beer Beer was brought to Gaul and Germany by the Romans. The Belgians considered it to be Magic Potion. The British drank it warm.
Baths Public bath houses started around the 1st century B.C. and continued growing in popularity till there were almost a thousand in the 6th century A.D.
Bucinas Round horns (like french horns ??)
Calends The first day of every month. The Roman calendar divides the year into 365 days and includes an additional day for each leap year. Julius Caesar created this calendar based on the Egyptian calendar.
Caligae Sandals (or feet). May be hints of the wretched 'Caligula' (meaning "little boots")
Cauldron A large vessel, such as a kettle or vat, used for boiling. [Middle English, alteration of cauderon, from Norman French diminutive of caudiere, cooking pot, from Late Latin caldria, from feminine of Latin caldrius, suitable for warming, from calidus, warm.]
Cena The Romans' main daily meal
Centurion Leader of 100 men (a century) in the Roman army. In actuality, this varies greatly. The commander of each of the camps surrounding the village of indomitable Gauls is a centurion.
Circus, The The Circus Maximus, site of gladiatorial combat in Rome. Derives from the Latin word for cicle. Also involves people being eaten by wild beasts and Gladiators fighting for their lives.
Cohort 1/10th of a legion.
Dolmen A primitive structure created by placing one large rock across two side rocks and covered with soil to make a small mount. The stones are all that is left today.
Decurion Leader of 10 men in the Roman army. Patrols are usually led by decurions. Compare this to Centurion (q.v.).
Druid The word Druid may derive from an Indo-European root 'dreo-vid,' meaning 'one who knows the truth.' In practice it was probably understood to mean something like 'wise one,' or 'philosopher-priest.' Some Druids did (and still do) perform priestly functions; officiating in public and private worship, initiating and instructing, healing and blessing. The 1st century Roman author, Pliny the Elder in his almanac work called 'Histories' gives an account of white-clad Druids climbing oak trees to cut sacred mistletoe from them using gold sickles.
Fatigue Military term for punishment duty. In the U.S. it's K.P.
Gladiator From the Latin word gladius meaning sword. Name used to refer to the fighters in The Circus (q.v.). They were mostly prisoners of war, condemned criminals or slaves.
Lanista Latin word for gladiator trainers.
Legion 3000 to 6000 soldiers with additional cavalry.
Maniple (Manipule) Unit of Roman legion. Two centuries make a Manipule. 30 Maniules make a legion.
Menhir Those big pointed rocks that Obelix is always carrying around. Menhirs are standing prehistoric megalithic monuments that are known now to have been erected (probably) between 3500 BCE and 1800 BCE before the arrival of the Celts in Europe. Great concentrations of menhir and dolmen are found in Ireland, Brittany (largest is in Carnac city), Spain and Corsica. Menhir and Dolmen are celtic names given to this pre-celtic "magic rocks". Menhir means "standing stone" in Celtic. Some menhirs are engraved to look like warriors (especially in Corsica).
Optio(ne) A staff officer who assists the commanding officer.
Orgy Any kind of party. No sex need be involved.
Pax Romana Roman Peace, enforced by the army.
Pilum Roman spear.
Potion A liquid dose, especially one of medicinal, magic, or poisonous content. Middle English 'pocion', from Old French, from Latin 'potio', 'potion-'.
Prefect A high ranking official. Usually a governor. In modern France a prefect (préfet) is the administrator of a Department (analogous to an Amercian County).
Quaestor Treasury functionary whose position gave him access to the Senate.
Sestertii Roman money. Probably worth about $2 US today. 100 sestertii = one gold coin. The Oxford Classical Dictionary implies that a sesterce was about five ounces of silver. Other books roughly equate it to a British sexpense (1957) or tuppence (1933). The orichalcum sestertius (plural: sestertii) was the largest bronze denomination in the early Roman Empire, and it continued, growing only gradually smaller until the reign of Postumus (usurper in the breakaway Gallic Empire, 259-258 AD) who minted the last sestertius. Because of their larger flan, the sestertii, particularly of the earlier empire, had the potential for exquisite reverses which many moneyers, particularly under the Adoptive and Antonine dynasties, used to portray their finest works.
SPQR Senatus Populus Que Romanus = The Senate and People of Rome. The mark of the separation of the supreme power between the aristocratic senate and the people.
Talent Variable unit of weight used in ancient Greece. Because of the close relationship of weight and monetary worth, it was also used a currency.