L. Horatia Adamas omnibus S.P.D.
We had strayed far from the subject of veritas vulnerata, so I thought I should reflect that with a new title.
As I mentioned earlier, the Finns are currently the experts in Roman nomenclature, and they tend to write in German, which allows them to have a wider audience than that provided by their native language. While in a group devoted to investigating Roman nomenclature, we made copious use of their research and established lists of acceptable Roman names.
As at least some of you may be aware, three names were used during the Republican period, a system we call 'trianomina.' Earlier it seems only two were used. The aristocrats were the first to employ cognomina, and some who wished to appear more in tune with the masses of the population rejected them. Only later did cognomina appear among the plebeians.
None of the three names could change places with either of the other two; they were in separate categories. Praenomina could not act as nomina or cognomina; nomina could not serve as praenomina or cognomina, cognomina could not be employed as praenomina or nomina. We like to compare this system to the menu from a Chinese restaurant: pick one from Column A, one from Column B, and one from Column C…but Column A items cannot be used as Column B ones, or Column C ones, etc. No, you can't have dessert before the main course… ;-)
Cognomina were often based on a physical characteristic, and differentiated one branch of a gens from another. Sometimes the names of animals were used, too, especially when someone's appearance or behavior was similar to that of the creature in question. These cognomina were inherited within a given familia, even though the descendants no longer possessed the distinguishing characteristic which led to the addition of the cognomen in question. In the postclassical period, even more names were added to differentiate one group or person from another. It is wise to avoid that sort of thing.
Nomina, or clan-names, have one of three morphological markers: they end in -ius / -ia, or -aeus / -aea, or -ejus / -eja (-eius / -eia). Examples are 'Julius,' 'Annaeus,' and 'Pompejus / Pompeius.' The first of these is the most common, but not every name ending in this marker is a nomen.
The classical praenomina, which I enumerated earlier, were the least creative of the three names, and the least used. Romans used praenomina only within the family and the circle of close friends. Addressing an unknown Roman by his praenomen would have been a serious breach of etiquette. The eldest son inherited his father's praenomen; others were given names typical of that familia or gens. The standard view is that women did not have praenomina, using the feminine form of the nomen instead, but research has shown that that is not entirely true. However, Cicero used a pet name for his belovèd daughter, a diminutive of his nomen; she did not have a praenomen. Additional daughters in a family would be differentiated by an ordinal numeral: Secunda (second), Tertia (third), and so on.
The most typical form of a Roman name employs the abbreviated praenomen, the nomen, and the cognomen. The praenomina were regularly abbreviated, and much rarer in full form. Thus, C. Julius Caesar, M. Tullius Cicero, P. Vergilius Maro, Q. Horatius Flaccus.