This is the glossary from Murder In Absentia and the other novels and short stories. All terms are based on Latin or Greek (only one word – rhone – is completely made up), but as mentioned in the books some of the terms have been warped from their original meaning, to better fit in the magical world of Egretia.

The glossary should come in handy for reader of the short stories on this site, as well as an easier reference then flipping pages. Some of the general terms can be found on Wikipedia for true historical information.


Aedile one of the civil servant posts in the Senate (as opposed to the collegia). Aediles were responsible for maintenance of public buildings, regulation of public festivals, and enforcing public order.

Anna Perenna goddess of the cyclical year. Her festival was held on the Ides (15th) of March.

AUC or Ab Urbe Condita literally “from the founding of the city”. This is the counting of years in Egretia.

Aqua an aqueduct (literally water).

Aqua Sextiae the main aqueduct of Egretia, bringing fresh water from six sacred springs in the foothills on the mountains to the west, and cascading them throughout the city.

Augur an incantator specialising in augury, the branch of magia concerned with divination, prognostication and clairvoyance.

Aureus a gold coin, worth 25 denarii.

Avrilis the second month of the Egretian year.

Bestiarius a gladiator trained to fight wild beasts.

Bireme a war galley with two banks of oars.

Cack shit. Not proper Latin (which would be cacat), but I like the four-letter expletive nature of the word.

Campus (pl. Campi) a flat expanse of ground.

Canicula female dog.

Capsa (pl. Capsae) a special box or large bucket used to hold scrolls.

Century the smallest unit in the legions, 80 fighting men and 20 non-combatants. Six centuries make a cohort, and ten cohorts make a legion. Each group of eight soldiers in a century tent and mess together, and have a mule cart and non-combatants assigned to them.

Centurion the commander of a century. The most senior and able soldier. Their ranks do not correspond to the modern non-commission officers. Rather centurions were the effective field commanders, while the general with his legates and tribunes were the strategic and administrative leadership. There were some 60 centoriones in a legion, ranked by seniority within each cohort and across the legion.

Cestus a gladiator trained to use his fists. In fights they usually wore spiked brass gloves.

Circus the arena where games and races were held.

Citocacia stink-weed, a mild insult.

Client in the Egretian social order, a client pledged himself to a patron. His oath was to serve the interests and wishes of his patron, and is return was granted favours and assistance. The obligations could be to vote according to the patron’s wishes or fulfil other tasks, and the favours could be money or assistance in being elected to public office, as examples.

Clivus (pl. Clivii) a slope of a hill or mountain. Often used as part of a street name, for streets on a steep incline.

Cloaca (pl. Cloacae) sewer drains. The Cloaca Maxima are the main sewage lines that run under Egretia.

Cloacina the divinity of the sewers, and also the protector of sexual intercourse in marriage. Her shrine was next to the forum, close to an intersection of the major sewage lines.

Cognomen the third name of a person, often a nickname but also inherited to distinguish branched of the same gens (see below). For example, Spurius Vulpius Felix, the cognomen Felix means lucky, and was given to him; with Marcus Quinctius Corpio, the Corpio cognomen is inherited from father to son in the ancient gens Quinctia and their branch would be known (in plural) as the Quinctii Corpiones.

Cohort the main tactical unit of legion. Composed of six centuries, or about 480 fighting men and 120 non-combatants at full strength.

Collegium (pl. Collegia) a college, an association.

Collegium Incantatorum college of sorcerers.

Collegium Mercatorum college of merchants.

Collegium Militum college of soldiers.

Compitalia the annual festival in honour of the lares, those of the home, of the crossroads and the public lares of Egretia.

Cunnus (pl. Cunni) cunt.

Consul the highest ranking elected public official. They were the executives of the senate. Two consuls were elected yearly, and served from one Martius to the next.

Contio an assembly, often of a political nature.

Convivium a banquet or feast.

Curia an assembly hall, usually in reference to the senate.

Cursus Honorum the “course of offices”, a sequential order of public offices held by aspiring politicians. In Egretia it includes public offices within the senate and within the colleges. One could be a quaestor in a particular college and use it as an admission for the Senate, rather then stand election as a public quaestor, however that was not common due to the restrictions on senators.

Denarius (pl. Denarii). A silver coin, worth four sestertii.

Dimachaerus (pl. Dimachaeri) a gladiator wielding two short, curved swords, held in each hand. They wore only metal greaves on both arms and a light helmet, and were quite mobile. They were thus pitted against heavier opponents such as myrmillones.

Dis god of the underworld, both richness of soil and minerals and of the dead. Also the name of the place where the shades of the dead go.

Dominus master. Female: domina. When talking to a person, the case ‘domine’ is used.

Domus a private house or home, usually in the city. Country houses are usually referred to as villas.

Elementor an incantator who specialised in manipulating the six elements of magia.

Ephemezica a large city-state in Hellica. Refer to the maps in the beginning on the book or online.

Evocatus (pl. Evocati) a soldier who had served out his time and obtained a discharge but then voluntarily enlisted again at the invitation of the consul or other commander.

Fascinum the embodiment of the divine phallus. Charms made in the image of a winged penis and testicles were used to ward off the ‘evil eye’.

Fellator one who performs oral sex; used as verbal abuse. Felix’s favourite curse, fellator assini, is one who performs oral sex on donkeys.

Felix lucky.

Forum a public open space. Most fora (plural) would have had many public structures associated with them — from small buildings to large temples on the edges, with altars, fountains and plinths for statues in their midst.

Forum Bovarium the meat markets.

Forum Egretium the heart of Egretia, where the main buildings and administrative centres lie, and where the population gathers to hear and discuss the news.

Forum Frumentarium the grain markets. In Egretia it also doubles as the Forum Holitorium — the vegetable and oil markets. This is where the public grain was stored; private merchants might have had other stores and shops throughout the city.

Forum Piscarium the fish markets of Egretia. Considering the maritime nature of the Egretian culture, fish and fish products (like garum) were a significant staple.

Garum fermented fish sauce. In Rome this was done with fish meat and guts fermented with salt. The addition of cuttlefish and the distinction of grades based on it is a purely Egretian thing.

Gens (pl. Gentes) a family or clan, all the members sharing the same nomen gentilucum (second name). For example, Marcus Quinctius Corpio belongs to the gens Quinctia.

Gladiator a combatant that fought for the entertainment of the crowds. Mostly men (though there were women gladiatrices and other curiosities), mostly slaves or criminals given this as a choice to exile or death. Because of the high training costs, gladiators had to want to become one, and fights were rarely to the death. Traditionally gladiatorial games were part of funeral rites, but in recent years as their popularity grew any excuse would do to display a good match.
Some gladiators achieved celebrity status, and were used for more private entertainment. Those that survived five years or thirty matches were usually given their freedom, though they suffered from social stigmas (as well as any other debilitating injuries they may have sustained).

Gladius the short straight sword favoured by the Egretians.

Gryphon a legendary creature with the body, tail, and back legs of a lion; the head and wings of an eagle; and an eagle’s talons as its front feet.

Hellica a region to the East of Egretia known for its high art, philosophical predilections, and almost constant warring between its city-states. Named after the river Helios and the largest city-state of the region.

Heraclion a large city-state in Hellica, sitting on a promontory on the eastern gate to the Bay of Euxis. It is the on the border between the primarily Egretian regions to the west and Hellican regions to the east.

Hoplomachus (pl. Hoplomachi) a type of gladiator, armed with a small round shield, a spear and a dagger, and wearing padded greaves on his legs and right arm. As the hoplomachus is lightly armoured and more mobile, they were commonly pitted against the heavier but slower myrmillones.

Hyperboreans mythological people that live far to the north, beyond the home of Boreas, the North wind.

Ides the middle of the month, either the 13th or the 15th depending on the number of days in the month. See notes.

Insula (pl. Insulae) literally an island, it was used for the large tenement houses. These houses were a single structure with lanes all around them separating them from other buildings, hence “an island”.

Irrumator the receiver of oral sex. Used as verbal abuse less offensive than ‘Fellator’ (q.v.).

Intercalaris the period between the last month of the year, December, and the first month of the new year, Martius. It was of variable length, 60 or 61 days. See author’s notes about the calendar.

Kalends the first day of the month. See notes.

Lamia (pl. Lamiae) a monster, reputed to eat children, sometimes with a lower body of a snake.

Lanista the owner and trainer of gladiators.

Latifundium (pl. Latifundia) a very extensive parcel of privately owned or leased land, used for large-scale farming (grain, olives or wines) or for grazing.

Legion the smallest independent army unit that can wage a war. Made up of 10 cohorts, or about 4,800 fighting men and 1,200 non-combatants.

Libitina the Egretian goddess of funeral and burial. Her temple was outside the city walls in a sacred grove. Undertakers had their offices there (or in the street of the embalmers), and were known as libitinarii. Her temple held records of all deaths in the city.

Loggia a covered exterior gallery or corridor usually on an upper level, with the outer wall open to the elements and the roof supported by a series of columns.

Ludi games or festivals. Traditionally games included chariot races and wrestling or boxing matches – not gladiatorial games. The gladiatorial games were reserved for funeral rites, but in recent years they have started to make it into general games under the flimsiest of excuses, as a way for politicians to attract the crowds.

Ludi Florae known also as the Floralia, these games are dedicated to the goddess Flora. The festival had a licentious, pleasure-seeking atmosphere, and featured many theatrical performances

Ludi Megalenses see Megalenses Ludi.

Magia the magical energy that permeates the world of Egretia. Its nature is a topic much debated amongst the philosophers.

Magia Elementi elemental magic, according to the classification of the Collegium Incantatorum. There were six recognised elements.

Magia Inanitas magic of the empty spaces. The most mind-bending of all branches.

Magia Vita life magic, pertaining to living things.

Magia Vita Terminalis magic of the end of life, a proscribed branch of the magia vita.

Magister (pl. Magistri) expert.

Magistri Carneum literally “masters of the flesh” — doctors and healers, but with education in magia vita.

Maior greater; when applied to siblings it means the elder.

Martius the first month of the Egretian year. Begins on the first new moon before the spring equinox. Named after the god of war, in his role as an agricultural guardian (the beginning of the agricultural and military campaign year).

Megalenses Ludi the Megalensian games, dedicated to the great mother. These were not the usual circus games, but contained many theatre plays and much dining and carousing in good nature. The great mother herself was an import to Egretian culture from the far east. Her priests were eunuchs and her main worshippers were women.

Mentula (pl. Mentulae) the primary word for a penis. Used as an insult would translate to prick, dick.

Mentulam caco a common form of verbal abuse. Literally “I shit on your dick”.

Minor lesser; when applied to siblings it means the younger.

Moecha a slut.

Mons a tall hill or a mountain.

Montes a mountain range.

Mulsum wine sweetened with honey; often spiced as well.

Myrmillo (pl. Myrmillones) a heavily armed gladiator, bearing a large square shield in the left hand and a metal sleeve and gladius (short sword) in their right, and a metal greave on their left leg. Their biggest distinction was the heavy helmet stylised as a fish head.

Nefas religiously forbidden, against divine law.

Nefastum scientiam forbidden or dangerous knowledge.

Nobilitas “the known”, those people and families who have achieved a public standing. Even though this is the root for English ‘nobility’ the term is not quite the same and does not equate with modern perception of aristocracy. A family would be considered part of the nobilitas when a member achieved fame, became a nobilis. Usually this meant by attaining a consulship, although other cases are known. Contrast to Novus Homo below.

Nones the fifth or seventh of the month. See notes.

Novus Homo (pl. Homines Novi) a “new man”. The first of a family to be elected into the senate and attain a high position (properly a consul, but generally also applies to praetors and rhones).

Officius the first (lowest) grade of public official within the colleges. It was not part of the cursus honorum.

Parilia a spring festival, dedicated to preserving the purity of sheep and shepherds.

Pedere fart.

Pharos a lighthouse. Usually referring to the great lighthouse of Egretia.

Phrylia the largest of the Hellican city-states.

Pons a bridge.

Porta a gate in the walls.

Praenomen the first name of a person, e.g. Gaius, Marcus etc. Note that women did not have a praenomen, but were named after the gens (family name). There were only about 30 odd names, of which about half accounted for the vast majority of the population.
In this book I went with the later spelling of G in Gaius, Gnaeus etc., rather than C (Caius, Cnaeus), and Caeso instead of Kaeso, as there is some debate about the truly old forms, and they are less familiar. I did use ‘I’ instead of ‘J’ for Iunius (Junius), Iovis (Jove) etc. These spellings reflect the Roman world of the late Republic.

Praetor a high ranking public official, second to the consuls. There were normally six consuls in a year.

Princeps Senatus the first senator, the leader of the house.

Perduellio high treason, punishable by death.

Pyxis (pl. Pyxidae) a small box with a close-fitting lid, often used to store women’s cosmetics or other creams and unguents.

Quadran a very small copper coin, worth 1/40th of a denarius (or 1/10 of a sestertius).

Quaestor a low ranking official. The first rung in the cursus honorum.

Quirite the language of the people of Egretia.

Quirites (plural) the citizens of Egretia. Based on the old word for spear (quiris), and was used in Rome as well to refer to citizens.

Res magiae literally, “a thing of magic”.

Retiarius a gladiator trained to fight with a weighted net and a trident. Their only armour was a padded greave on their left arm. They were highly mobile warriors, and thus often pitted against the heavily armed but slower gladiators. At first it seems like they were under-classed, but the development of the secutor shows that they needed to be better balanced

Rhone a made up word. In Egretian, rhonus. Equivalent to a Roman aedile, with the senior rhone of each collegium — the primus rhonus — equal to a praetor in terms of rank, if not civil authority.

Rudis the referee in gladiator games, named after his staff.

Secutor a variation of the myrmillo, this gladiator was developed specifically to fight against retiarii. Wearing essentially the same armour and weapons, their helmets were smooth to prevent the net from catching on them, and had only two round holes for the eyes to counter the prongs of the trident.

Semi a small bronze coin, worth half a sestertius (or 1/8th of a denarius).

Sestertius (pl. Sestertii) a bronze coin. One quarter of a denarius. The price of a good meal.

Stadium (pl. Stadia) 600 feet, or about 180 meter.

Stercus shit.

Stigma originally (in Latin) a hot mark tattooed (branded) on runaway slaves. In Egretia it means tattoos of magical power.

Strigil a curved tool, often made of metal, used to scrape dirt and sweat off the body during Egretian baths. A person would have his body rubbed with oil, and then scraped with the strigil to remove the oil and the dirt. Only then would they move to the hot baths to soak.

Stola the female equivalent of the toga, it was the traditional garment for women. Made from linen.

Stultus stupid, idiot.

Sub Rosa literally ‘under the rose’, a symbol of sworn secrecy.

Tablinum the office of the master of the house. Usually connecting the atrium and the peristyle garden at the back.

Talent a measurement based on how much a man can carry, roughly 30 kg (66 lbs). Often used to measure large sums of money or bullion. A talent of silver denarii contains 6,250 coins (equivalent to 25,000 sestertii) and would be enough to pay for a cohort of soldiers for a month.

Triclinium a formal dining room, with 3 long couches arranged in a U shaped. The men reclined, while women sat on chairs facing them. Long low tables in front of each couch were set to hold the food and drinks. In recent times and with looser company, women started to recline together with the men as well.

Veneficitor an incantator who specialises in the Veneficium branch of the Collegium Incantatorum.

Veneficium the study of herbs and poisons, the properties and methods thereof. Part of the classification of magic according to the Collegium Incantatorum.

Via a main road.

Vicus a main street.

Vigiles the watchmen in Egretia, tasked with fire-fighting and basic police work.

Vinalia a festival dedicated to the wine gardens and vintage, held on April 23rd. Another Vinalia, the Vinalia Rustica, was held on August 19th for the grape-pressing.

Visus verum true sight.