I've just recently finished a book called Pompeii. It wasn't my favourite book of the year. Actually I didn't really like it, but it did provide some interesting words. I've already blogged some of them, and now for the rest.
1. Tiro (Noun)
Anyway I have found out nothing useful- beyond that there is a new recruit. As if I didn't know who that was. A tiro, Calpurnia calls him.
Explained in the text, but I always learn more by looking up the words too.
A variant of tyro. A novice or beginner. From the Latin tiro- recruit. The Free Dictionary
2. Augurs (Noun)
Father says there are augurs aplenty wandering the streets these days and that many of them are charlatans and we must be careful who we listen to.
I saw an augur in the street today. I knew he was an augur by the conical hat he wore and the curve staff he was leaning on.
The augur was a priest and official in the classical world, especially ancient Rome and Etruria. His main role was to interpret the will of the gods by studying the flight of birds: whether they are flying in groups/alone, what noises they make as they fly, direction of flight and what kind of birds they are. This was known as "taking the auspices." (from wiki)
This page has a great mural painting of an augur including a conical cap. I find it particularly fascinating that we still use the phrase "augurs well", when noone really indulges in a spot of augury any more, and the original meaning was certainly lost to me.
And I learnt that I've been spelling auger wrong for quite some time. I was wondering how it was going to relate to these manglers of limbs:
3. Bulla (Noun)
I slipped off the bulla I always wore and handed it to him.
Bulla is a word I know well, but in quite a different sense. In lungs where smoking (most commonly) replaces healthy lung tissue with big balloons called bulla(e). You can also get big blisters on skin, which is also called bullous skin disease.
I suspected that that usage probably wasn't right, and went searching.
This makes much more sense, but all of the googling I did said that boys wore bullas, not girls, as in the story.
4. Ballista (Noun)
I felt as if the city was under siege, as if a huge army had ranged outside the gates and was catapulting pumice at us from giant ballistas and slingshots.
An ancient catapult for hurling stones, etc. The Free Dictionary.
Again, this gives us the well known modern word ballistics (the science of the study of projectiles), but the more ancient term was not known to me.