de nominibus

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de nominibus

Postby Lucia Horatia Adamas » Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:15 am

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.

Haec hactenus.

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Re: de nominibus

Postby Gaius Curtius Philo » Thu Feb 02, 2017 1:03 am

Salve Horatia!

As always, very informative! I would like it if the higher magistrates stickied this thread so that this information is not lost! Very nice.

Could you maybe put here the list of Classical Praenomina again? And could you maybe expand it to display also a list of Classical Nomina and Cognomina? It would be a time consuming undertaking so I understand completely if you would take a while to do so, but I think it would be invaluable if you did!

I also would like to know what were the most common ways to refer to a Roman in each given situation and in writing. I have heard and read certain things but I am unsure how accurate they are. I will say what I saw and you tell me if it is correct ok?

So from what I saw a roman when talking to a person for the first time and not being very intimate would usually start calling them by their praenomen + nomen or praenomen + cognomen. So I would either be called C. (Gaius) Aurelius or C. Victor. And afterwards in the conversation they would probably just refer to them by their nomen or cognomen. Correct?

If you were a familt member or a very close friend you'd refer to the person by their praenomen. But wives usually didnt. They'd call rheir husbands "vir" (man/husband) "contubernius" (companion), words of endearment like "carissimus" (most beloved) or things like that; or even by their cognomen or nomen (in my case Victor or Aurelius).

And in official documents a person could be written in some different ways. They could be written as in the first example (Praenomen + Nomen/Cognomen); with the full three names (Praenomen + Nomen + Cognomen); with Praenomen + Nomen + Affinity by father (I am the son of a man named Johnny, so I would be C. Aurelius Ioh. f. [Iohannis filius, son of Iohannes, John]) or father and grandfather (C. Aurelius Ioh. f. Ioh n. [Iohannis nepos, my Grandfather's name was João, John in portuguese]); or even Praenomen + Nomen + Affinity + Cognomen (C. Aurelius Ioh. f. Ioh. n. Victor); or finally Praenomen + Nomen + Affinity + Tribe + Cognomen (C. Aurelius Ioh. f. Ioh. n. Tribu Vot. Victor), this last one being similar to an ID card in a way.

Is this correct?
"Ignis aurum probat"
C. Curtius L. f. Tribu Vot. Philo Aurelianus
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Re: de nominibus

Postby Gaius Florius Lupus » Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:02 pm


It is good to see somebody competent speaking on the subject.
I have had a question regarding the names of the two protagonists of the TV series Rome for a long time. They were called Lucius Vorenus and Titus Pullo. Now these names were not just made up by the script writers, but taken from Caesar's De Bello Gallico. So they must have been proper Roman names.
Lucius and Titus are apparently standard praenomina, but what about Vorenus and Pullo. Neithef of them is proper nomen and does not refer to any gens. Many plebeians used only two names, but this would be praenomen and nomen. It is possible to have no cognomen, but not to have no nomen.
One could argue that Vorenus and Pullo were cognomen and their nomina were simply omitted by Caesar, but at least in the series they were used as nomina. Their historical advisors should have known better.
So what is about these names? Were the Roman rules for names not that strict after all? Or was it common to omit the nomen and only use praenomen and cognomen in the military?
Were these two centurions only given Roman citizenship recently and they used Latin derivates of their barbarian names having no gens names?
I would be happy, if someone could clarify this.

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Re: de nominibus

Postby Tiberius Cilnius Maecenas » Thu Feb 02, 2017 12:15 pm

Salve Horatia,

This is the guide being used currently for naming in the RR -

What are your thoughts on this article? I'm sure you could improve it. Maybe worth speaking to the Censores about?
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