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Ancient Roman names

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Choosing a name to create a complete reconstructed image is actually a slightly more complex question than it might seem. In Ancient Rome, the structure of a name was influenced not only by gender, but also by a person's origin, occupation, place of residence, success, and personal qualities. The full Roman masculine name usually consisted of three parts: a personal name, or praenomen (praenomen), a generic name, or nomen (nomen), and an individual nickname or name of a branch of the genus, cognomen (cognomen). Women often had only a personal and family name, with the exception of noble or married women-they added the cognomen of their father or husband to their name. Slaves should be mentioned separately: they were not considered full-fledged members of society, but rather looked like pets - they had only one name-a nickname.


A prenomen, or personal name, is an analog of a modern male name. The Romans had a very small number of personal names. Personal names were almost always abbreviated in inscriptions.

Praenomen Reduction/Note


App. Appius; according to legend, this name came from the Sabine Atta and was brought to Rome by the Claudian family


A. or Avl. Aulus; in common parlance there was an archaized form of Olus, so that the abbreviation of this name can also serve as Fr.


D. or Dec. Decimus; archaic Decumos; from the ordinal numeral "tenth"


Guy; very rarely abbreviated as G


Gnei; archaic form Gnaivos; very rarely abbreviated as Gn.; there are forms Naevus, Naeus




Lucius; archaic Loucios from " lux " light


Mam. Mamercus; a name of Oscan origin, used only in the Aemilii family


Publius; archaic Poblios, abbreviated as Po.


Q. Quint; in common parlance Cuntus, there are Quinctus, Quintulus; from the ordinal numeral "fifth"


Ser. Servius


Ser. Servius


T. Titus


Ti. or Tib. Tiberius, from the Tiber River on which Rome stands

Other names were rare and usually written in full: Agrippa, Ancus, Annius, Faustus, Lar, Nero, Numa, Opiter, Primus, Proculus, Secundus, Septimus, Tertius, Tullus, Vopiscus.

The boy received a personal name not immediately, but on 8-9 days after birth. There was a tradition to give a personal name only to the four eldest sons, and the rest of the ordinal numbers could serve as a personal name: Quintus (fifth), Sextus (sixth), Septimus (seventh), Octavus (eighth), Nonus (ninth) and Decimus (tenth). Over time, these names became common, in other words, turned into personal ones. That is, the person named Quintus was not necessarily the fifth son in the family. As an example, we can recall the general and politician Sextus Pompey, the second son of a member of the first triumvirate of Gnaeus Pompey the Great.

Often the eldest son received the father's prenomen. In 230 BC, this tradition was consolidated by a decree of the Senate, and in connection with this, the personal name of the father began in most cases to pass to the eldest son. For example, the emperor Octavian Augustus bore, like his great-great-grandfather, great-grandfather, grandfather and father, the name Gaius.

In some genera, a limited number of personal names were used. For example, the Cornelians of Scipio had only Gnaeus, Lucius, and Publius, the Claudians of Nero only Tiberius and Decimus, and the Domitii of Ahenobarbus only Gnaeus and Lucius.

The criminal's personal name could be permanently excluded from the family to which he belonged. For this reason, the Patrician Claudian family did not use the name Lucius, and the Patrician Manlian family did not use the name Marcus. By decree of the Senate, the name Mark was permanently excluded from the Antonii family after the fall of the triumvir Mark Antony.

Mark Antony
Gaius Julius Caesar
Gnaeus Pompey the Great


Nomen, or generic name, was the name of a family and roughly corresponded to a modern surname. It was indicated in the form of a masculine adjective and ended in-ius in the classical era: Tullius — Tullius (from the genus of Tullius), Iulius — Julius (from the genus of Julius); in Republican times, there are also endings -is, -i. Generic names of non-Roman origin had different endings from the named ones.

In inscriptions, generic names are usually written in full. During the time of the Empire, only the names of very well-known genera were reduced: Aelius — Ael., Antonius-Ant. or Anton., Aurelius-Avr., Claudius — Cl. or Clavd., Flavius — Fl. or Fla., Julius-I. or Ivl., Pompeius — Pomp., Valerius — Val., Ulpius-Vlp.

The total number of generic names, according to Varro, reached a thousand. Most generic names are of such ancient origin that their meaning has been lost. Information about very few remains, and you can find out their meaning: Asinius from asinus (donkey), Caelius from caecus (blind), Caninius from canis (dog), Decius from decem (ten), Fabius from faba (bean), Nonius from nonus (ninth), Octavius from octavus (eighth), Ovidius from ovis (sheep), Porcius from porca (pig), Septimius from septimus (seventh), Sextius and Sextilius from sextus (sixth), Suillius from suilla (pork).

Since the 1st century BC, Rome has seen an interesting trend, partly due to the prerequisites for the transition from a republican form of government to one-man rule: individuals who had a lot of power began to justify their legitimacy by being descended from ancient kings and heroes. For example, Julius Caesar, claimed that his family on his father's side goes back to the gods: Jupiter-Venus-Aeneas-Yule-the family of the Julians, and on his mother's side to the kings: from Ancus Marcius descended Marcius Rex (Latin rex — "king").


Cognomen, or an individual nickname once given to one of the representatives of the genus, often passed on to descendants and became the name of a family or a separate branch of the genus: Cicero — Cicero, Caesar — Caesar. As an example, we can mention that the families of Scipio, Rufinus, Lentulus, etc.belonged to the Cornelius family. The presence of a cognomen is not necessary, and in some Plebeian families (Marii, Antonii, Octavii, Sertorii, etc.) personal nicknames, as a rule, were absent. However, the absence of a cognomen was an exception to the rule, since many of the Roman clans were of such ancient origin that each of them had several branches.

Since the father's personal name passed to the eldest son, in order to distinguish the son from the father, it was necessary to use a third name. The inscriptions include Lucius Sergius the First and Quintus Aemilius the Second. In one inscription, the grandfather, son, and grandson are named Quintus Fulvius Rusticus, Quintus Fulvius Attianus, and Quintus Fulvius Carisianus.

Cognomens appeared much later than personal and generic names, so their meaning in most cases is clear. They can talk about the origin of the genus (Fuyi moved to Rome from Campanian town of Cales, and therefore had Calenus gens), about the memorable events (in plebeian family Muzeev appeared gens Scaevola (left-handed) after 508 BC, during the war with the Etruscans guy Mucjusz burned your hand on the fire braziers than thrilled enemies and their king Porsenna), on the exterior (Crassus thick, Laetus — fat, Macer thin, Celsus — high Paullus — low, Rufus — red, Strabo, cross — eyed, Nasica, sharp — nosed, etc.), the character (Severus harsh, Probus honest, Lucro — eater, etc.).


There were cases when one person had two nicknames, and the second was called agnomen (Latin agnomen). The appearance of the agnomen is partly due to the fact that the eldest son often inherited all three names of the father, and thus several people with the same name appeared in the same family. For example, in the family of the famous orator Marcus Tullius Cicero, his father and son had exactly the same name.

Agnomen was most often a personal nickname if the cognomen was hereditary. Sometimes a Roman received an agnomen for great deeds or special merits. Publius Cornelius Scipio became known as Africanus in honor of his victory over Hannibal in Africa in 202 BC, and Lucius Aemilius Paulus received the nickname Macedonicus for his victory over the Macedonian king Perseus in 168 BC. The dictator Lucius Cornelius Sulla himself added the agnomen Felix (happy) to his name, after which his full name became Lucius Cornelius Sulla Felix. Agnomen Felix from a personal nickname then turned into a hereditary one (consul 52 AD Faustus Cornelius Sulla Felix).

As a rule, the agnomen were members of ancient and noble families with many branches and cognomen. In such genera, the cognomen sometimes merged with the generic name and was used inseparably with it for the name of the genus. The well-known Plebeian family Caecilii had an ancient cognomen Metellus, the meaning of which is lost. This cognomen merged with the name of the genus, which became known as Caecilia Metella. Naturally, almost all members of this genus had an agnomen.

The Patrician family of Cornelius had many branches. One of the members of this family received the nickname Scipio (rod, stick), because he was a guide and support for his blind father and served him in fact instead of a staff. The Scipio cognomen was assigned to his descendants, and over time the Cornelia Scipios took a prominent place in their family and received agnomen. In the 3rd century BC, Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio received the agnomen Asina (donkey) for bringing a donkey loaded with gold to the Forum as a pledge. The nickname Asina passed to his son Publius (Publius Cornelius Scipio Asina). Another representative of the Cornelius Scipios received the nickname Nasica (sharp-nosed), which passed on to his descendants and became the name of a branch of the genus, so that the Scipios Nasiki stood out from the Scipio branch in the Cornelius family. Naturally, the Scipios Nasica received the third cognomen as an individual nickname, so that the full name could already consist of five names, for example, Publius Cornelius Scipio Nasica Serapio — which was the name of the consul of 138 BC. Nickname Serapio (from the Egyptian god Serapis) it was given to him by the People's Tribune of Curations for its resemblance to a merchant of sacrificial animals.

Some citizens had two generic names, and this was obtained as a result of adoption. According to Roman customs, the adopted person took the personal name, generic name and cognomen of the person who adopted him, and kept his generic name in a modified form with the suffix-an -, which took the place of the agnomen. Gaius Octavius, the future Emperor Augustus, was named Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus after his adoption by Gaius Julius Caesar.

Gaius Julius Caesar Octavian Augustus
Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus the Elder

Women's names

During the late Republic and Empire, women did not have personal names. The feminine name was the feminine form of the generic name: Tullia — Tullia (from the family of Tullius, for example, the daughter of Marcus Tullius Cicero), Julia — Julia (from the family of Julius, for example, the daughter of Gaius Julius Caesar), Cornelia — Cornelia (from the family of Cornelius, for example, the daughter of Publius Cornelius Scipio). Since all women in the same family had a single name, they differed in age within the family. When another daughter appeared in the family, a prenomen was added to the name of both: Minor (junior) and Major (senior). The other sisters were called Secunda (second), Tertia (third), Quinta (fifth), and so on. The youngest had the prenomen Minor.

The married woman kept her name, to which was added the cognomen of her husband: Cornelia, filia Cornelii, Gracchi-Cornelia, daughter of Cornelius, (wife) Gracchus.

Noble women could bear the cognomen of their father in addition to the generic name. For example, Sulla's wife was the daughter of Lucius Caecilius Metellus Dalmatica and was called Caecilia Metella, the wife of the Emperor Augustus was the daughter of Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus and was called Livia Drusilla.

In inscriptions, the names of women sometimes indicate the praenomen and cognomen of the father, as well as the cognomen of the husband in the genitive case: Caeciliae, Q (uinti) Cretici f (iliae), Metellae, Crassi (uxori) — Caecilia Metella, daughter of Quintus Creticus, (wife) Crassus. The inscription suggests that this woman was the daughter of Quintus Caecilius Metellus Creticus and the wife of Crassus. The inscription is made on a large circular mausoleum near Rome on the Appian Way, in which Cecilia Metella, daughter of the consul of 69 BC, wife of Crassus, presumably the eldest son of the triumvir Marcus Licinius Crassus, is buried.

Slave names

In ancient times, slaves did not have individual names. Legally, slaves were considered not a subject, but an object of law, that is, they were the property of the master and were as disenfranchised as all members of the family. This is how archaic slave names were formed, made up of the personal name of the master, the father of the surname, and the word puer (boy, son).: Gaipor, Lucipor, Marcipor, Publipor, Quintipor, Naepor (Gnaeus + puer), Olipor (Olos is an archaic form of the personal name Aulus).

With the development of slavery, there was a need for personal names for slaves. Most often, slaves kept the name that they bore as free people. Very often Roman slaves had names of Greek origin: Alexander, Antigonus, Hippocrates, Diadumen, Museum, Phelodespotus, Philocalus, Philonicus, Eros and others. Greek names were sometimes given to barbarian slaves.

The name of the slave could indicate his origin or place of birth: Dacus — Dacian, Corinthus — Corinthian, Cyrus — a native of Syria, Gaul — a native of Gaul, Phrixus-Phrygia; there are inscriptions of slaves with the name Peregrinus-a foreigner.

Also, the slaves were given the names of mythical heroes: Achilles, Hector. There were also names in honor of plants or stones: Adamant, Sardonic, and the like. Instead of the name, the slave could have the nickname "First", "Second", "Third".

It is known that Roman slaves were in an extremely oppressed situation, but this did not affect their names in any way, that is, there were no mocking nicknames. On the contrary, the names Felix and Faustus (happy) are found among slaves. Obviously, these nicknames, which became a name, were given only to those slaves whose lives were relatively successful. The inscriptions mention: Faustus, baker of Tiberius Germanicus, and Faustus, manager of the perfume shop of his master Popilius, Felix, who was in charge of the decorations of Gaius Caesar, another Felix, steward of the possessions of Tiberius Caesar, and another Felix, overseer in the wool-weaving workshops of Messalina. It is known that the daughters of a slave of the house of Caesar were named Fortunata and Felice.

It is not uncommon for slaves to have the name Ingenus or Ingenuus (freeborn). Slaves born in slavery have the names Vitalio and Vitalis (tenacious).

There were no firm rules on how to make up the names of slaves, so when buying a slave in an official document, his name was accompanied by the clause " or whatever other name he was called "(Latin sive is quo alio nomine est).

In inscriptions, after the slave's name, the master's name in the genitive case and the nature of the slave's occupation are indicated. After the master's name, the word servus (slave) is always abbreviated ser, very rarely s, and it can also stand between two cognomen of the master. There is no strict word order. The word "slave" is often omitted. As a rule, slaves belonging to women do not have it. For example, Euticus, Aug (usti) ser (vus), pictor — Euticus, slave of Augustus (imperial slave), painter. Eros, cocus Posidippi, ser (vus) - Eros, cook of Posidippus, slave; Idaeus, Valeriae Messalin (ae) supra argentum — Ideas, treasurer of Valeria Messalina.

The sold slave retained the generic name or cognomen of his former master in a modified form with the suffix-an -: Philargyrus librarius Catullianus-Philargyrus, a scribe bought from Catullus.

Names of freedmen

The freedman (a slave who received freedom) acquired the personal and generic names of the former master, who became his patron, and retained his former name as a cognomen. Thus, Cicero's secretary Tiro, freed from slavery, was called M. Tullius M. libertus Tiro-Marcus Tullius Mark's freedman Tiro. A slave named Apella, released by Mark Mannaeus Prim, became known as Mark Mannaeus Apella. The slave Bassa, released by Lucius Hostilius Pamphilus, was named Hostilius Bassa (women did not have a praenomen). Lucius Cornelius Sulla released ten thousand slaves belonging to persons who had died during the proscriptions. All of them became Lucius Cornelius (the famous "army" of ten thousand "Cornelii").

In the inscriptions you can find the names of imperial freedmen: the baker Gaius Julius Eros, the tailor of theatrical costumes Tiberius Claudius Dipter, who is in charge of the triumphal white clothes of the emperor Marcus Cocceus Ambrosius, who is in charge of the hunting clothes of the emperor Marcus Ulpius Euphrosynus, who is in charge of the reception of the emperor's friends Marcus Aurelius Succesus and others.

In inscriptions between the nomen and cognomen of a freedman, the personal name of the master is abbreviated and stands l or lib (= libertus), very rarely the tribe is indicated: Q(uintus) Serto[rius], Q(uinti) l(ibertus), Antiochus, colonus pauper — Quintus Sertorius Antiochus, freedman of Quintus, poor colon. In rare cases, the former master's personal name is replaced by his cognomen: L (ucius) Nerfinius, Potiti l(ibertus), Primus, lardarius — Lucius Nerfinius Prim, freedman of Potita, sausage maker. Freedmen of the imperial house in inscriptions are abbreviated Avg l (Avg lib), that is, Augusti libertus (after the generic name or after the cognomen): L(ucio) Aurelio, Aug(usti) lib(u), Pyladi, pantomimo temporis sui primo — to Lucius Aurelius Pylades, the imperial freedman, the first pantomime of his time.

Freedmen with two cognomen are rare: P(ublius) Decimius, P (ublii) l(ibertus), Eros Merula, medicus clinicus, chirurgus, ocularius — Publius Decimius Eros Merula, freedman of Publius, general practitioner, surgeon, oculist.

Female freedmen in inscriptions are denoted by the abbreviation Ɔ • L (the inverted letter C is a remnant of the archaic female personal name Gaia): L(ucius) Crassicius, Ɔ (= mulieris) l(ibertus), Hermia, medicus veterinarius — Lucius Crassicius Hermia, freedman of a woman, veterinarian.

Freedmen of cities as a generic name received the name Publicius (from publicus — public) or the name of the city: Aulus Publicius Germanus, Lucius Saepinius Oriens et Lucius Saepinius Orestus-freedmen of the city of Sepina in Italy.

Doctors, servants of the deity Aesculapius (Greek. Asclepius), usually bore his name. For example, Gaius Calpurnius Asclepiades-a doctor from Prusa near Olympus, who received Roman citizenship from the Emperor Trajan. However, the name Asclepius, or Asclepiades, did not always belong to the doctor: in one inscription there is Asclepiades, a slave of Caesar, a marble maker.

Freedmen of corporations kept their names in their names: freedmen of the patchwork and Tailor corporation (fabri centonarii) were called Fabricii and Centonii.