Roman Naming Conventions

The Partial Historians

It’s here! We delve into the wonderful world of Roman names. How do we understand who’s who? How did the Romans understand who was who? We’re here to consider the complexities of Roman naming conventions.

Special Episode – Roman Naming Conventions

We look into some of the key elements of the Roman naming conventions of the Republic and the Early Imperial period. This includes the praenomen (the first name), the nomen (a reference to the clan or gens that the person came from), the cognomen (this name could have a variety of meanings!), and the agnomen (nickname).

This is by no means the extent of types of names that Romans deployed over the course of their history, but it’s a good start on some of the tricky bits including why Roman loved repeating themselves.

We look at some very interesting examples included:

  • Romulus
  • Numa Pompilius
  • Livia’s dad
  • Augustus
  • And a certain Spartacus may also get a mention
A Roman inscription which reads: [I]mp(eratori) Caesari / divi f(ilio) Augusto / pont(i)f(ici) maxim(o) / trib(unicia) potest(ate) XXXVII / co(n)s(uli) XIII p(atri) p(atriae) sacrum

Sacred to Imperator Caesar Augustus, son of Divine, pontifex maxitus, invested with tribunician power for 37th time, consul 13 times, father of fatherland.

Is that Augustus with a bunch of fancy titles? Oh yeah. This comes from a statue base in Rome.

[I]mp(eratori) Caesari / divi f(ilio) Augusto / pont(i)f(ici) maxim(o) / trib(unicia) potest(ate) XXXVII / co(n)s(uli) XIII p(atri) p(atriae) sacrum

This is sacred to Imperator Caesar Augustus, son of Divine, pontifex maximus, holding tribunician power for the 37th time, consul for the 13th time, father of fatherland.

More details on this inscription here.

Roman names and the social hierarchy

Naming conventions differed depending on who you were, the family you were born into, and what happened to you during the course of your life. Elite families had specific naming conventions, while different rules applied to enslaved people and those who were manumitted.

Got famous for all the wrong reasons? You probably had one or more unflattering nicknames.

Got famous for all the right reasons (according to Romans)? You likely had a name to recognise your superlative achievements.

Interested in our favourite Roman name so far? It’s none other than Spurius Furius! There’s been a few gentlemen with this name, but for a real blast from the past, check out Episode 91 – The Furious Romans.


Sound Credits

Our music was composed by Bettina Joy de Guzman.

Automated Transcript

Edited for Latin terminology and to support our wonderful Australian accents!

Dr Rad 0:12
Welcome to the Partial Historians.

Dr G 0:16
We explore all the details of ancient Rome.

Dr Rad 0:20
Everything from political scandals to love affairs, the battles waged and when citizens turn against each other. I’m Dr. Rad.

Dr G 0:30
And I’m Dr. G. We consider Rome as the Romans saw it by reading different ancient authors and comparing their accounts.

Dr Rad 0:41
Join us as we trace the journey of Rome from the founding of the city.

Dr G 0:54
Hello, and welcome to this very special episode of the Partial Historians. I am Dr. G.

Dr Rad 1:03
And I am Dr. Rad. But what does that mean Dr. G?

Dr G 1:08
What is in a name? Would a rose by any other name would smell as sweet?

Dr Rad 1:14
One of us had to go there.

Dr G 1:17
It didn’t take long for this to fall down into a big heap did it? Roman names. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today.

Dr Rad 1:23
We are this is a special Patreon listener request. And you know what? It is about bloody time that we talk about names because God knows we trip over them all the time.

Dr G 1:37
Look, there’s nothing like a Latin name to really wake up the tongue when you’re trying to get all of your announced creation happening on a podcast about ancient Roman history.

Dr Rad 1:46
Yeah, I think my favorite one which always looks really daunting on the page is Tricipitinus or Tri-cip-itinus.

Dr G 1:54
Yeah, stay right away from that.

Dr Rad 1:57
So the Romans are known for having seemingly bizarre naming conventions where a lot of men are named the same thing, which makes things very confusing. And they also have seemingly very long and phonetically challenging names. So we thought it is a good idea to talk about this because it’s actually there’s actually so much more to it, I suppose there might first meet the eye and like an episode where we’re just rattling off console names and that kind of thing. Indeed,

Dr G 2:27
and I think I’d like to start I’d like to take us right back to the beginning the very early days of Rome just to sort of set the scene a little bit back in the olden dear listeners, welcome to The Land Before Time.

Dr Rad 2:45
A tale as old as time. Okay, the scene is set.

Dr G 2:52
Rome was open fields ruled by kings

Dr Rad 2:56
Houses were built out of mud.

Dr G 3:00
It was a beautiful time, a time of peace and prosperity.

Dr Rad 3:04
I actually just realized that most of the time the houses were built out of mud.

Dr G 3:08
Yeah, it makes sense. So the Roman kings have names right? So we’ve got guys like Numa Pompilius, and we’ve got Tullus Hostilius. And these are like precursor names. This is kind of like the first type of naming convention and Rome has to move away from it pretty quickly. Because it gets bigger, its population expands and they need to differentiate in more complex ways.

Dr Rad 3:33

Dr G 3:34
This initial naming system. Sorry

Dr Rad 3:36
No no no, sorry. I was gonna say, yeah, cause like the most famous part obviously, of rumoured names that most people know about is the three names. That man supposedly have the tria-nomina, which belongs to elite men. But right back at the beginning, it was not tria.

Dr G 3:52
It was not no, no. Sometimes it was just one. Romulus is just Romulus-

Dr Rad 3:59
He’s a bastard!

Dr G 4:02
We know nothing about him his name, definitely. Because how did you get in charge of anything?

Dr Rad 4:09

Dr G 4:11
And then we’ve got these guys like Numa, who have two names. Numa Pompilius-

Dr Rad 4:15
Getting more complicated

Dr G 4:16
And this follows. Yeah, it does get more complicated. So this is where they use a patronymic naming approach, which is pretty common, and you see it in a lot of ancient cultures. It’s a very Indo-European thing to do, where the second name lets you know, who Numa is the son of. So the patriarchy is kind of like a little bit baked in already. So Numa is his praenomen – and that’s his first name. It’s probably what people call him. But he was the son of a guy called Pompeius. Which is cute. So we’ve got this -ilius suffix, which indicates “son of”.

Dr Rad 4:51
Right, okay. And the weird thing about the Romans, I suppose, is that the praenomen, which is like his personal name, There’s not really a lot of them. Yeah, at least when we look back over the evidence, you know, not compared to nowadays where we probably put a lot of emphasis on what is that first name so much so that there are people who do just have one name like Madonna, Cher. Beyonce. Just me. I know they got one of them. I know. But you know what I mean? We put so much emphasis-. Yeah.

Dr G 5:22
Where somebody more regal is always known by their two names. Taylor Swift.

Dr Rad 5:27
Ooooooo wait wait, wait, wait, wait wait wait. Are you saying that Taylor Swift is more regal than Cher Madonna and Beyonce?

Dr G 5:36
I’m not. I’m literally just like nobody ever refers to just by her first name. They always call her Taylor Swift. I don’t know why.

Dr Rad 5:43
No no, that’s true. It’s the same as like Kim Kardashian. But I think that’s because it’s Alliterative.

Dr G 5:48
Mmm that does not explain Taylor Swift at all. No. Moving away from that. Yeah. So the names get more complicated as time goes on. And the praenomen. First of all, it expands out a lot. We get heaps of praenomens in the early period of Rome’s, sort of naming convention period, the early republic, yeah. And then it sends to really narrow back in again, by the time we get to the late Republic, definitely. So this tells us something about how the significance of names changes over time, and also the potential for that name to be distinguishing changes over time as well.

Dr Rad 6:24
Well, definitely, because I think that if we look at around the first century AD, whilst we have uncovered quite a few of these praenomen there’s really only between sort of 15 and 30 that are probably used with any sort of regularity. By the time you get to like the late Republic.

Dr G 6:44
Yeah, if you’re not a Gaius, and you’re not a Marcus, who even are you?

Dr Rad 6:47
I know. A Publius? Don’t me laugh!

Dr G 6:50
No gross, the whole name is a joke. So this trinomina is the combination of the praenomen (the first name), the nomen (which is the gens name, the clan that the person comes from) And there’s the cognomen, which could be any kind of additional name, really. So it could be a personal name, it could be a nickname, or it could be a branch of your gens. So the family – the specific family within your gens.

Dr Rad 7:23
yeah. And it kind of makes sense that they ended up adding on a cognomen because of course, as you get more and more people, it helps to set them apart more, it distinguishes them more, and it tells you obviously more about where they’re from potentially or something about them or their family. That’s kind of the whole purpose of these names. Right.

Dr G 7:42
Exactly. And so you might have somebody who is known as Publius Cornelius Scipio, for instance. Publius is his first name, you know, it’s a bit of a diamond a dozen. He comes from the Cornelius gens. So that’s his nomen. And Scipio is the family branch within the Cornelii And that might be his three names. Now, unfortunately, that branch of the family ends up being massive. So you’ve got Publius Cornelius Scipio, a number of times and Roman historians get confused. But that’s kind of the gist of it. You’ve got those three names. Now that guy is probably somebody who’s coming up in the middle Republic, one of the most famous of the Cornelius Scipione’s is Africanus.

Dr Rad 8:31
I was gonna say, I was waiting for it.

Dr G 8:34
He’s coming, he’s coming.

Dr Rad 8:36
It’s gonna take a lot to take me away from you.

Dr G 8:41
So Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus has got four names. Wowzers.

Dr Rad 8:48
Well, you guess the thing you can just keep adding, if you really need you can

Dr G 8:51
Yeah, well, he doesn’t necessarily add this one himself. So that last one Africanus known as an agnomen, which is an honorific name that is given to you by other people for something great that you do.

Dr Rad 9:06
That is pretty cool. I must admit of all the Roman naming conventions. I kind of wish that we still practice that.

Dr G 9:14
So like our key example from I think the early republic, who we did many episodes on, is Gnaeus or Gaius Marcius (nomen) Coriolanus (agnomen) Because he gets that name after the siege of Corioli, the Volscian and city.

Dr Rad 9:33
Yeah, absolutely. And it’s probably interesting to note, I suppose that when these names are developing, they start off having certain meanings as well. Like the praenomens that we are dealing with, particularly in the early republic, they do have interesting names, which I actually had not thought about up until this. So so Marcus, one of our most common ones, probably originated because someone was a born in March so it used it you might have signified something about like when you were born. And and, for example, Manlius. It might have signified that you were born in the morning for manes.

Dr G 10:10
Okay, oh, that’s cute. Like Septimius Yeah, born in the seventh month, or Tiberius, who is known, named after the river god. So Marcus could also be a declaration of the gods Mars.

Dr Rad 10:23
Yeah, exactly. And so originally, these praenomens also had probably meanings probably to parents, I would say. But as we move on in time, and then that would have been probably very early on as we move on in time, I don’t think that they tend to pick those for those particular reasons. The only one I think that might still have some meaning later on is the habit of numbering.

Dr G 10:47
Oh, yeah, yeah. But they don’t usually use those for praenomens, necessarily, although sometimes – Quintus is a good one.

Dr Rad 10:55

Dr G 10:56
number five,

Dr Rad 10:57

Dr G 10:57
Decimus, number 10. And some of them also come from different sort of language extractions. So Spurius, we think comes from Etruscan language. So it comes into Latin as Spurius. But it comes from the Etruscan ‘Spura’ to mean community.

Dr Rad 11:17
Very nice. Now, when it comes to the nomen, Dr. G, this is probably the most important in terms of indicating your gens, right? When it comes to political life in the republic that we’re going to be focusing on today, just because it gets too complicated. As time goes on, to carry on. Names continue to evolve the, um, the Republic, but we’re starting with the origins.

Dr G 11:41
So yeah, the origin story of the gens. So as Rome’s history is starting to flourish. So we’ve been looking very much at the early republic, in our founding of the city series, the gens becomes their sort of primary mechanism for establishing your place in Rome’s hierarchy. Yeah. So even if Dionysius of Halicarnassus and Livy, and our other sources are sort of imposing this struggle of the orders a little bit on to this period of time, it’s probably still the case that your gens – the family from which you derive- is a super important element of who you are, what your politics is going to be, and how you participate in ritual practice as well.

Dr Rad 12:34

Dr G 12:36
So this is part of the broader Roman understanding of patriarchy as well. So the gens name comes from the original ancestor, if you like, of the family. So it doesn’t take long for that sort of ancestral connection to be enough generations back that people don’t know who that person is anymore. It’s just a name. And also, that it’s a little bit murky enough, that if you’re really in straights, about what to do with your life, you might start to lie about where your family came from,

Dr Rad 13:12

Dr G 13:14
It is illegal, the Romans don’t like that. They try to crack down on that. So if you’ve just pop up out of nowhere with a new name, that’s going to be very suspicious. But for people who are trying to figure out where they fit in the mix of things, if they’ve got a few obscure family connections, and they’re not really quite sure, there is a reasonable and plausible moment where you might be like, oh, yeah, no, I’m a Cornelii, obviously, just makes so much sense.

Dr Rad 13:43
Yeah, and it’s so interesting, because again, if you go back to the origins, again, some of these probably had obviously, particular meaning something to do with that particular family. And it could be something to do with where they are geographically located. Once upon a time as you say, it might be to do with an ancestor. It might even be to do with some sort of like agricultural thing, you know, if you think about like the origins of Roman society, so for example, we often talk about the fabulous Fabians. Fabius might come from ‘faba’ as in bean, which you might have with a nice chianti.

Dr G 14:22
A delicious Fabian, that’s what I like to hear

Dr Rad 14:26
It sounds a lot less fabulous. When you go back to the origins of it

It does explain why they’re so full of fiber.

Oh, yes. And, and as we said, with the praenomens as well, originally, there were fewer of these gens and then gradually it expands until there are lots like when we’re talking about the early republic, our listeners, I’m sure have noticed that we keep going back to very similar gens. Most of the time when we’re talking about people who are holding high office and that sort of thing is a bit of a repeat repeat thing going on with some of those families.

Dr G 15:01
Yeah, we have quite a few very well known genses (gentes) in the early republic. So the Aemilii, the Claudii, the Cornelii, the Fabii, the Manlii and the Valerii are real standout families that continue to dominate the politics of the early republic if our following the records that we’ve got of consuls, and military tribunes and so forth.

Dr Rad 15:29
Absolutely. Now we move on to cognomens, Dr G. So we’ve definitely been coming across a lot of those, it’s pretty common by the time you get to our period, which is still early republic, but the period we’re looking at the moment is, we’re very close to getting to 400 BCE, right. And pretty much everyone that we talk about who holds an important office tends to have a cognomen and not every single person we talk about has one, but a lot of them do. But when we get into more reliable times where the records are a bit, you know, bit better sort of late, mid to late Republic, I’d say. It becomes way more common, as you said, for people to have two of these subsequent names. So it might two cognomen. Or you might want to say it’s a cognomen and an agnomen. And so you see, like, as time goes on, again, like the names just get more complicated, and people add more on to them.

Dr G 16:21
They certainly do. So this idea of for cognomen, this additional name, and it extends out to even being able to have not just one, but eventually also to so you can just kind of keep building if you like as you need to, to let people know what your family lineage is. So some of the ones that are going to crop up in the middle Republic when we get to it a names like Dolabella, Scipio, Lentulus, Sulla, Cinna, all of these names are probably in isolation familiar to you, if you’re interested in Roman history anyway, because some of these names go on to be quite famous. Yeah, but they’re actually all of those are examples of a cognomen. That is part of a branch of a bigger gens.

Dr Rad 17:12
Yes, yes.

Dr G 17:13
So all of those names are examples of cognomen that go with the Cornelii gens. It’s always going to be Cornelius Dolabella, Cornelius Scipio, Cornelius Lentulus, Cornelius Sulla, Cornelius Cinna. These guys, they’re everywhere.

Dr Rad 17:32
And is that one of the interesting things particularly again, in the earlier periods is that these cognomens, they might have originated obviously some sort of like nickname or something to distinguish that branch of the family. And they’re not always the most positive names that you could come up with. So for example, we’ve got Cincinnatus who someone we’ve talked about before, which we think means “curly hair”. Now that’s probably not really like I suppose a negative thing, although, as someone who has curly hair, I struggle with that on a daily basis. So I guess I interpreted that way. But also-

Dr G 18:06
It’s a super cute name, though, like, think of the reputation that that family has throughout the history of robes, early Republic, and everybody’s just like, why don’t we go and talk to Curly Hair over there?

Dr Rad 18:16
That’s true. And then of course, Brutus is a name that we’ve definitely mentioned before, and even when we were talking about it, we explained that it meant “stupid”, which is not the best nickname.

Dr G 18:30
Definitely not as nice as a cognomen, like Faustus which you might think has negative connotations, but that’s much later and not ancient it. It has really positive connotations in the ancient world Faustus means “fortunate, auspicious, lucky”. So you have a little baby and you’re like, it’s just so Faustus!

Dr Rad 18:50
I’m going to throw in another couple that you that are a bit more negative Galba. Galba who we will get to eventually. I mean, actually, we have talked about it. And but that was, you know, back in the day. Galba means “fat belly”.

Dr G 19:05
Hmmm. Does it sound appropriate? I think it does.

Dr Rad 19:10
Crassus also means “fat”. Another guy we’ve talked about is Scaevola. And that obviously has to do with the hand incident. Okay, where he like punches his right hand into the fire and then he’s like known as “the left hander”. And then of course, we’ve got my personal favorite, which we haven’t come to yet, because it sounds rude but it’s not really Cunctator: “Ditherer”.

Dr G 19:35
Which means?

Dr Rad 19:36

Dr G 19:39
We’ve also got things like Cato “smart guy”. And Blaesus, “the stammer” and things that are a little bit more descriptive and maybe a bit more boring things like Pictor “the artist” and Sura – I think you’re gonna like this one – “the man with the striking calf”.

Dr Rad 20:01
Whaat? That from two syllables?

Dr G 20:08
Look, that’s all you need when you’ve got, like, he walks past me like, “Mmm that’s a Sura right there.”

Dr Rad 20:16
Hilarious. Now of course, these nicknames could also be attached because of, again, some sort of like geographic connection with the family. It could also spring up because of some sort of office or something that you hold. Okay, so for example, you might get the name Flaminia. Just because you held the position of say Flamen Dialis, which is like a priesthood.

Dr G 20:41
Yeah, yeah. And you might be called Censorinus because you were twice censor.

Dr Rad 20:49
Yes. And Cicero’s friend who most people would know, just as Atticus. He got that name because he really loved Greek culture and spent quite a bit of time in Athens.

Dr G 21:01
Ah, the old Attica. Well, this also helps us with names like the king. Lucius Tarquinius. Priscus, who is letting us know that he has an origin story. He’s got this connection with Tarquinii. Yeah, this other city elsewhere. Although, if we’re sticking with Priscus for a moment, he’s a little bit unusual, because that Priscus name is something that’s given to him much later than when he’s alive. Priscus means kind of ancient, renowned, and doesn’t seem like the sort of name that you would add to anybody who was still alive.

Dr Rad 21:42
Maybe he was an old soul. So I guess-

Dr G 21:48
And then ee’ve got like, you know, cute things like Rufus

Dr Rad 21:52
Red hair.

Dr G 21:53
Red. Yeah. Cossus Wait for it. I like Cossus because we deal with Cossus – Cossus people a lot. The consul of 413 BCE was Aulus or Marcus Cornelius Cossus.

Dr Rad 22:09

Dr G 22:10
And Cossus means “the lavae that lives under the bark of trees”.

Dr Rad 22:14
Oh my god. Okay, I honestly like, first of all, I’m not even gonna ask how that one word leads to all of that. But how on earth would that come to be associated with a person? What is he like? A tree hugger? Like what does that mean?

Dr G 22:31
I think he’s a little bit wormy.

Dr Rad 22:33
Yeah, that’s weird, man.

I don’t know.


Dr G 22:36
Maybe there is something something slimy about him.

Dr Rad 22:41
So, when we’re talking about these names, I think it seems like the Romans are very unimaginative. And that these names are super unhelpful. But when you start to unpack them, you actually realize that no, no, they’re trying to give a really clear idea of where someone’s from, what is their family name, that’s going to give you a bit of an indication eventually about where they belong in this society, their rank, and that sort of thing. And certain families will become obviously better known than others. And that really matters in a place like Rome. And the names continue to evolve. And they get more complicated as the society does, they actually reveal a lot. It’s not that it’s just that we didn’t have the full map, I suppose. We’re trying to figure it all out from it from a distance.

Dr G 23:27
Yeah, that’s true. And so to take things right back to the way that the kings were sometimes using that patronymic element to that nature, that reference back to the father does creep back in in a different form, as Roman names get a little bit more complicated, right? So as families grow, so your clan group grows, grows enough that you need to have these branches of the family within the gens, then you might also need to have a distinction about where in the branch you sit, for instance, and so the idea of having the filiation comes back in, so we have things like, Lucius Valerius – son of Lucius, grandson of Publius – Potitus. So this guy was a military tribute with consular power in 414 BCE.

Dr Rad 24:26

Dr G 24:26
So we’ve talked about this guy before. And he’s letting you know, not just that he has this praenomen Lucius, that he comes from the gens, the Valerii, but he is also the first son of the father Lucius because they’ve got the same name. So there’s a pattern to be drawn there. And his father was not the first son of the grandfather Publius. And then he has his cognomen as well Potitus. So the specific branch within and so they’re really trying to narrow down. So you can precisely locate where somebody sits in the overall hierarchy have anything to do with Romans public understanding of themselves. And it’s like you should be able to position him straightaway. And I suspect that in day to day life, everybody would have had a nickname.

Dr Rad 24:26

Dr G 24:26
That’s my suspicion.

Dr Rad 24:27
Oh for sure

Dr G 24:35
Because this is the sort of thing where it’s like, this is your official name for official documents. And if you have the honor of getting yourself onto an inscription somewhere, obviously, you have to use your real name because it’s super important for family business. But in day to day life, I don’t think people are in the street, seeing somebody across the way and being like, Lucius Valerius, son of Lucius, grandson of Publius Potitus. Like, you know, just like to get their attention. I don’t think that just seems completely unreasonable. Everybody, I think would have had a nickname anyway, that they probably picked up in childhood. And that becomes their, the way of distinguishing them in day to day life.

Dr Rad 26:00
Absolutely. And I think it probably very much like in our society, it depends on your level of familiarity, as to which name you might be using to address these people. So I would imagine that you’d have to be relatively familiar with an elite Roman man to be calling him by his praenomen. And if that’s what ever is, that’s what his family, for example, calls in just the same way that I wouldn’t necessarily go up to you and say, “Hey, Peta,” I would say, “Hey, Dr. G,” becasue we’re on formal terms.

Dr G 26:31
And we shall never depart from such formality.

Dr Rad 26:34
Exactly. Exactly. We always have to use titles because I hardly know you!

You’ll always be Dr Rad in my heart. We don’t know each other at all. It’d be insane to use our first names with each other.

Yeah, just like when you you know, as a child, you first meet an adult or like your teacher or something, you’re going to call them, you know, Miss so-and-so. You’re not going to say, “Hey, Sally, trying to figure out my coloring over here. Can you get some help?”

Dr G 26:57
“Excuse me, Mr. Cornelius?”

Dr Rad 27:01
Yeah exactly. Like, I feel like it has something to do with that. Because after all, these people with lots of names, these are the elite. And as usual, these are the people that we have an enormous amount of information about, because they’re the ones who are writing history. They’re the ones who are making history in their own minds. So we have a lot of their names recorded. And of course, they’re the ones that are generally wealthy enough to erect things like tombstones. Now, that’s not to say we don’t have evidence about other people are going to get to them eventually, either in this episode, or in another episode. But definitely, we have, I think, the most idea about how their names work, and they have all these complicated names, because it really matters to them, about status, you know, and family and that sort of thing. The lower down the social spectrum you go, the fewer names people tend to have in the early period of Rome.

Dr G 27:51
Indeed, indeed. And to give you a sense of how this elite tendency is operating as well. When we get into the late Republic, we start to see more and more evidence for elite family adoptions. So somebody shifting out of one very fancy family, and finding themselves legally situated in another very fancy family. And my go to example for this is Livia’s dad.

Dr Rad 28:24
Oh, I thought you were gonna use Augustus. Okay.

Dr G 28:28
Forget that guy. Livia’s dad, so he is born Appius Claudius Pulcher. So he’s born into the Claudian gens in the Pulchri branch of the family, but when he’s quite young, he is then adopted into the Livilli Drusi family. So another fancy family. Yeah. And this means that he picks up a whole bunch of new names. So he starts off with the praenomen Appius, but he becomes Marcus; starts off with the nomen Claudius, but becomes Livius; starts off with the first cognomen Pulcher and becomes Drusus. So almost completely unrecognizable. Like you said, “Who’s Marcus Livius Drusus?” you’d be like, “Well, it ain’t Appius Claudius Pulcher!” And you’d be mostly right about that. But the second cognomen that he’s got lets us all know, where he came from, and also what has happened to him, because he picks up Claudianus as a second cognomen and this is going to happen a lot and it’s going to get more complicated as people get further into the imperial period. But at this stage in the Republic, the -anus ending of a name – and shout out for people who have talked to us having noticed that anus comes up a lot. You are correct. And it’s gonna keep happening – The old -anus ending is indicating that he was born into the Claudii gens. So he gets to retain his gens affiliation in his name, but that Claudiaus is indicating that he has been adopted out of the Claudii. And he is now part of the Livius. Drusi instead.

Dr Rad 30:19
Yeah, cuz the Romans take adoption very seriously in practice, like you are literally legally removed entirely from your family of birth and put into another family. And it’s not like they look at you like, “oh, yeah, you’re not as good as my other children.” Or “I’m not taking you as seriously as my other children.” They take it very seriously. Like, it’s a done deal. Like you. You are one of them.

Dr G 30:44
When you’re adopted into a Roman family, you become part of that family? No question.

Dr Rad 30:49

Dr G 30:50
Yeah, you are just as important as the other children that they have you are you have a legal standing that is comparable to what they have. And from that point onwards, that is where your allegiance lies. So that’s really interesting, I think, because the family is the bedrock of everything in Roman politics.

Dr Rad 31:07
It is. And I feel like it has to do with obviously, you’re taking on that name. And therefore you are part of that, you know, political legacy, in terms of that’s the name that we’re putting out there. It’s important, it’s associated with that family, but I feel like it also has to do with property. You know, because now that you’re Yeah, yeah, now that you’re legally a part of that family, you are going to be legally entitled to whatever it is that they have. And so that means that they kind of have to take you just as seriously because you’re gonna get just as much as the other male people and the female, you know, so women can inherit property and Rome after a certain period. So you’re going to be inheriting most likely so that that part is important, too.

Dr G 31:52
Yeah. So this is telling us something really significant about the way that the legacy system in Roman families is operating as well. So part of what happens for elite families is that they are trying to figure out ways to keep the property that they own within their family lines. So if you are in a situation where you have daughters, elite women are able to inherit under certain circumstances. And certainly progressively over time, it becomes more common that they can, but there is a period in which it’s still quite challenging for that to be for sure, legally, okay. And one of the ways you can get around that is to adopt male children into the family to secure that stuff.

Dr Rad 32:38
Okay, so I’m going to use the Augustus example, because it’s just an easy example for people to understand just to sum this all up. So very similar to the one that you highlighted, but maybe with some more familiar names for our audience. So Augustus is a special name, that this douchebag who ends up becoming princeps gets-

Dr G 32:59
Excuse me?

Dr Rad 33:01
Just making sure you’re still listening!

Dr G 33:04
So, so Augustus is an agnomen, one of these honorific names that’s given to him in 27 BCE. Fancy times!

Dr Rad 33:13
Absolutely. So he starts life as Gaius Octavius Thurinus, which I don’t think most people would recognize as having any resemblance to the names that we mostly use to refer to him.

Dr G 33:27
Are you he’s telling me he comes from a backwater equestrian family from the middle of nowhere?

Dr Rad 33:33
That might be what I’m trying to indicate by his name. Yes. So he gets adopted by Julius Caesar in his will, which is unusual, I’m just gonna highlight by the way. So he becomes kayas, Julius Kaiser, Caesar, whatever, however you want to say it. So obviously taking on the name of the man who adopted him, Julius Caesar. And then he has Octavianus at the end.

Dr G 34:01
Yes, which he hates.

Dr Rad 34:04
Yeah, which is why you’ll read books, which sometimes refer to him as Octavian. And as a way of sort of distinguishing the different periods of his life when he’s Octavius. It’s before he’s been adopted by Julius Caesar, who is his great uncle. When he’s Octavian. It indicates that he has been adopted by Caesar, but he hasn’t got the special honorific name of Augustus yet. And you might also find books that refer to him as like the young Caesar or something like that.

Dr G 34:35
Yeah, because Augustus didn’t want to be called Octavianus. He spent a lot of time tramping around being like, “No, I’m Gaius Julius Caesar, son of Gaius Julius Caesar.” And then he gets Julius Caesar deified and he’s like, my name is “Gaius Julius Caesar, son of the deified Gaius Julius Caesar.” Somebody will be like, “Well, Octavianus,” and he’s like, “Nooooo!”

Dr Rad 35:06
I feel like it sounds very much like he was like Marsha Marsha, Marsha. But yeah, he’s a good example because it kind of shows the process of him taking on the name and that being probably one of the most important things that Julius Caesar gives him – Dangerous, but important.

Dr G 35:24
It is definitely definitely the most important thing, Julius Caesar gives him because without that bit of paper, none of the stuff that he did would have been possible just there was just no way nobody would take him seriously. So the fact that when it gets anglicized they lose the honours ending of Octavianus-

Dr Rad 35:47
They’ve lost his anus? Aww no!

Dr G 35:52
I just hate it when that happens! why did they lose the anus?

Dr Rad 35:56
It’s hilarious because I think of nothing but arseholes when I think of him.

Dr G 36:02
You’re wounding me deeply, Dr Rad.

Dr Rad 36:04
I’m sorry. I’ll stop, I’ll stop. I’m very serious now.

Dr G 36:08
So his name is Octavianus. And it gets anglicized into Octavian. So that sort of creates even maybe more confusion for modern readers who are looking at things being like, is it Octavius. Is it Octavian? Is it Octavianus? Is it Augustus? What’s going on?

Dr Rad 36:24
Yeah, exactly. And it’s all to do with, as you say, those last few letters of the name, the -ius, the -ianus, Or the -anus and then, of course, the -us.

Dr G 36:36
Yeah, I mean, the -us is everywhere. So that’s just kind of how it goes. But yeah, the -anus, the -ilius, like these little nuances in those suffix – those endings to those words – is really important for what’s going on with the name. So when they drop off in, you know, modern translations and things like that, you know, it can lead to confusion.

Dr Rad 36:59
And when you have law at the end, that often is like a cute little nickname type of thing. Like if you think about Caligula, that’s meant to be “little boots”. Like, it’s like a little diminutive, where it’s meant to be like, “Oh my God, he’s so adorable. He’s a toddler and a little military uniform. And Look, he’s got little boots on!” Because the boots that the soldiers wore were caligae. And even for women as well. You might have someone who’s called for example, Livilla, which is like “little Livia”, you know, like, she’s so cute. She’s like, the smaller version.

Dr G 37:36
Yeah, and although this just makes me think of Ahala, which is “armpit”. And I was like,does that mean cute armpit now?

Dr Rad 37:45
I don’t know that Latin enough to be definitive about that. But you do tend to see when you see those sorts of names, then it can be like a little diminutive or something like that. But I don’t know that there’s a hard and fast rule about that.

Dr G 37:59
And I think you’ve opened up the the gateway into thinking about women’s names.

Dr Rad 38:04
Thank you, I’d love to talk about women’s names.

Dr G 38:08
Because women do get a pretty raw deal in the Latin language when it comes to names. There’s no doubt about it. If you need any evidence whatsoever, that we’re dealing with a highly patriarchal system, the way that they deal with women’s names is a key piece of evidence.

Dr Rad 38:26
It really is. So women get basically a feminized version of the nomen. So like the gens name, that’s how it starts. So to stick with the Julian’s, it’s probably the most obvious example. If you have a chick in that family, she’ll probably be called Julia or Yulia, depending on how you want to pronounce it. And if you have more than one, you’ll just number them off. So might literally be a number or it might be like a major-minor situation, but it’s basically indicating the order in which they were born.

Dr G 39:03
Yeah, now as far as I can tell, the the major-minor element is more to do with historians trying to distinguish historical figures, then how the Romans would have done it. Yeah. So for instance, we’ve got like Julia Maior – Julia the Elder versus Julia Minor – Julia the Younger – both of those women would have just been called Julia for the Romans.

Dr Rad 39:27
That’s true, and they would have just would have been confused.

Dr G 39:30
Yeah. Like which one are you talking about? Like, give me something? And that’s where I think everybody must have a nickname. Likewise, the issue with Agrippina Maior – Agrippina the Elder, wife of Germanicus – and Agrippina Minor, the daughter of Agrippina the Elder and Germanicus. Now those two are just, they’re just both Agrippina.

Dr Rad 39:50
Yeah, that’s true.

Dr G 39:51
That’s how it works. So if you’ve got more than one in the same family, so say the mother gives birth to three daughters. Well, then they start to get numbers you’ve got Julia? Julia Seconda. Julia Tertia. Yeah, we know of a famous example from the mid to late Republic, Claudia Quinta, suggesting that she was one of five sisters. Youngest at that.

But then you get like with the really sort of the boring things like you say like the feminization of the gens, and it could also include the branch within that gens. So Livia is known to us as Livia Drusilla. Because she comes from the Livi Drusi. Like her name is not special. It’s just letting you know where she comes from.

Dr Rad 40:38
Yes, absolutely. And this is kind of to do with the way that Roman marriage evolved. So very early on, we think that the Romans had a more sort of all encompassing version of marriage, the manus marriage, which is where a woman was properly, legally kind of absorbed into the family that she married into, almost as though she was in fact, like a daughter of that family. But that becomes unfashionable. And there are many reasons for that. It kind of has to do, I think, with the fact that women could be used as marriage pawns. And it was just easier to untangle a marriage if you didn’t go through the smartest marriage. But that’s just my personal opinion.

Dr G 41:23
And also increasingly, as women became able and more likely to inherit, you did want to retain them in the birth family, if you needed to.

Dr Rad 41:32
Yeah, exactly. And so when that happens when you get the sin monos marriage where a woman remains part of her original gens, even though she’s married to this man, she will obviously, her name will be like a living advertisement of where she comes from, you know, it’ll go obviously, it is like a feminized version of her original gens name. And as time goes on, I know we won’t get into it too much, but as time goes on, if women come from particularly elite families, sometimes later on in Rome’s history, they actually start to use those names sometimes when they’re fashioning names for children sometimes, but that’s much that’s much later on. And it’s, it’s too complicated for today.

Dr G 42:19
Yeah. And when the wife comes from a more illustrious family than the husband, you might want to lean into the prestige of where the wife and mother comes from, rather than the husband.

Dr Rad 42:30
Exactly, yeah. And as again, as time goes on, and again, we’re not going to get into this too much now. But as time goes on, women do acquire more than just like the one name it we do see women getting more names as time goes on. And if you’re not a higher class woman, you may very well get like a nickname or have like a stage name, I suppose of sorts. You know, like, if you’re, for example, I’m thinking of women who are like, sex workers, but like elite kind of sex workers, you know, they might have a proper name, but then they might also have like a, a nickname or a working name. So specifically, the one I’ll give you an example of, there’s a mistress of Mark Antony, known as Cytheris. Now, that wouldn’t have been probably her actual name name, but more of like a nickname, because she was an ex-slave of a guy named Volumnius. So her name probably would have been like, Volumnia, or something like that.

Dr G 43:26
Interesting. So like, nicknames. When we’ve got nicknames that are noted down, they’re often really quite rude. We’ve got one of the infamous examples in the Late Republic is Clodia.

Dr Rad 43:41
Oh, yes.

Dr G 43:41
Now, Clodia is one of three sisters. But then you’re like, Well, how are we gonna get her to stand out from the bunch? It turns out that she gains a bunch of nicknames, most of which are really critical, a lot of which come from Cicero, who doesn’t like her. She’s known as Nola, “the unwilling”. She’s, she’s also referred to as Medea Palatina, “the Medea of the Palatine”. And sometimes just as it seems, maybe a particular insult or maybe just a literal description, Clodia Metellii. I, because she’s married to Metellius, right. So she’s Metellus’ Clodia, as opposed to anybody else’s.

Dr Rad 44:25
So all about the ownership, isn’t it?

Dr G 44:28
Yeah. But she is also speculated to be the figure who appears in Catullus’ poetry, referred to as Lesbia.

Dr Rad 44:37
Yes, yes.

Dr G 44:38
So she is a woman of many names.

Dr Rad 44:40
Yes, I suppose it’s not so much like a stage name. It’s like a code name.

Dr G 44:44
Indeed, and look, Catullus, he’s, he’s got a lot of code names for people. I think my favorite one is his reference consistently to Mamuura – a guy he doesn’t like – as Mentula, cause Mentula is is a rude Latin word for penis.

Ah yes, the Romans.

So witty, so clever.

Dr Rad 45:12
Oh, dear, Well, should we talk about slave names? So do you want to wrap up there?

Dr G 45:16
I reckon we should talk about enslaved people, what is happening to them? And how do we know what their names are?

Dr Rad 45:22
Well, this is the thing, Dr. G, slaves very much like women, were low low down in the rank of things, you know, I mean, in terms of what they can actually do in life. Can they be involved in politics in a formal way? Hell no. Can they run an army? Absolutely not. So I think that their lack of role in public life is kind of reflected in their lack of names in terms of they don’t have very many, they’re that they’re certainly not gonna have a trianomina. That is definitely an elite Roman thing.

Dr G 45:56
And it seems to be the case that mostly what happens to them is they get given a name. And it’s a cutesy kind of nicknamey kind of thing. It’s a bit of a throwaway. Yeah, really emphasizing the fact that they’re a possession. And then it’s the reference to the gens of the owner, essentially, but not in a way that would suggest that they were part of that family just that they were a possession of that gens.

Dr Rad 46:25
Yes, definitely. And so we do actually have a reasonable amount of slave names, I suppose. We don’t always get names like you and I both know, we’ve talked about a number of like slave uprisings or slaves in forming another slaves with like conspiracies and that kind of thing. And very rarely do we come across a name with that, because they’re not important. You know, they’re not significant figures to the people who are writing these histories.

Dr G 46:49
Not to the elite writing histories.

Dr Rad 46:51
Yeah, no, no, no, sorry, go on, go on. No, I’m not saying that. Yeah, no, they they’re not considered to be important by the Romans who are writing the history. However, this is where archaeology becomes very important. We do have items that have been left behind which record slave names, it might be something to do with like maybe tombstones, or it might be, for example, slave collars. So slave collars sometimes have records of names. So there’s one that was found that had engraved on it, “I am called Januarius. I am the slave of Dextrus.”

Dr G 47:23
Hmm. All right. So the slave is called January.

Dr Rad 47:26
Yeah, which might be when he was purchased.

Dr G 47:31
Yeah, I mean, it’s a pretty nondescript kind of name in the same way that sort of praenomens end up being as well.

Dr Rad 47:37
Yeah. And then there’s also one that we found that “Marci Puer” which means Marcus’s boy. So as you say, it’s all about ownership. And the way of calling him boy might not reflect his actual age. It’s just that way of kind of referring to someone in a very patronizing way. I think like, you know, that they are Yeah, yeah, it might, but we don’t know.

Dr G 48:00
This is a bit like the inclusion of so was slave as part of their name. So this is the sort of thing that gets tested as well. So they might have a bit of a throwaway name. So we’ve got an example. Like, for Phillipus is their name. They’re part of the Caecilii. So they’re owned by the Caecilii. And they’re the slave of Lucius. And that’s it, that’s their complete name, right. So their name really emphasizes their servitude. And it’s clearly not the name that they would ever choose for themselves.

Dr Rad 48:40
No. And one of the interesting things about Roman slavery, unlike other places in the ancient world, is that manumission – or being freed from slavery – does become increasingly common. So there isn’t necessarily an expectation that you’re going to be a slave forever now, very much I think depends on when you are a slave in room’s history, and also, what kind of employment you are given as a slave, for example, I think you have a fairly high chance of being manumitted if you are a household slave. However, if you are working in mines, for example, you’re far more likely, unfortunately, to probably just die in those mines and you are to ever be freed.

Dr G 49:22
Yeah, for sure.

Dr Rad 49:23
However, when you are freed, you actually, it kind of starts this process where you can actually start to kind of enter your family into this room and system now, not straightaway, don’t, don’t get carried away. Don’t get ahead of that straightaway. But certainly, your name will reflect as you say, the family that used to own you because you’re bonded forever, even though you might be freed. You become a client of that family. And you might even stay physically close to them. For example, they might live near you and you might run a bakery on their behalf or something like that, and they might take an interest in your business, who knows. So your name is going to reflect that new identity. And your children will be able to take part in the Roman system like pretty fully by the time we get to late Republic early empire.

Dr G 50:16
Yeah. So in terms of thinking about how this looks as examples, I’ve got a couple of examples for you. So one of the things that one of the key things that happens with the name is the inclusion of the libertus or liberta, depending on whether you’re masculine or feminine. And so indicating very clearly that you’re freed person. Yep, you might retain your old slave name, like your praenomen as a cognomen. And then the other parts of your name, are indicative of who used to own you. So like, it’s almost like the ownership continues in an informal way, because like you now carry the name of the person who has enslaved you Yeah, for the rest of your life. So we’ve got some examples like Aulus Pupius Aulus Libertus Antiochus. So the Aulus Pupius Aulus is about the slave owner. Libertus is indicating this as a freed man. And Antiochus is the name he goes by. So it was probably the name that he had while he was a slave.

Dr Rad 51:32
Right, yeah. And these names as well, as you can kind of tell from that example, they might reflect obviously, where they were from, might have might have something to do with that, again, geography, potentially being a bit of an indicator there.

Dr G 51:46
Potentially, although there did seem to be a trend for giving enslaved people foreign names. So there was a real trend for like Greek slave names. Even if they weren’t Greek-

Dr Rad 51:58
Because of the the status of having a Greek slave?

Dr G 52:02
Or just a real recognition that they weren’t Roman, even when they became Roman, if you like,

Dr Rad 52:07
True, true. It can also be the slave market where they were bought.

Dr G 52:11
Yeah, exactly.

Dr Rad 52:13
Because they might have no idea.

Dr G 52:15
So like, we’ve got this continuation of that relationship with the enslaver. And then we’ve got the capacity in the next generation. So when that freed person if and when they have children, those children will gain more citizen rights. Yes, they will, was the freedmen is always going to be in a restricted kind of position.

Dr Rad 52:35
Yeah, true. And I suppose one of the interesting things is that, say when slaves are still enslaved, they may just go by like the one name, okay. And unlike, when we were talking about Roman cognomen names, and how they developed how they can sometimes be negative, it’s unusual to find slave names that are negative, they’re usually like positive character traits. So yeah, they don’t tend to be which is weird, because you think that the Romans wouldn’t care so much about that, but maybe they’re trying to I don’t know, is that like a morale thing? You’re trying to inspire them?

Dr G 53:12
I don’t know. They probably just thought it was cute.

Dr Rad 53:15
Yeah. And it might also have something to do with your profession, the name that you’re given. So for example, one of the most famous inscriptions, what not inscription, sorry, I shouldn’t say that. One of the most famous pieces of graffiti that has been found to do with gladiators mentioned is a gladiator named Celadus, or Seladus, depending on how you want to say it. And this is a yeah, there’s a piece of graffiti talking about him and the reaction that the crowds have to him and that sort of thing. And that means “The Crowd’s Roar”. So that obviously has something to do with the fact that he is a gladiator. And if you think about of course, the most famous example, I mean, I have to bring him up Spartacus.

Dr G 53:56
It’s really hard to get through an episode without a Spartacus mention.

Dr Rad 54:00
I know, I know. But once again, he’s just he’s just got the one name, okay. Because at the time he’s getting this name, you know, he is in fact a slave. And this may potentially be a name that’s trying to give him some like Thracian origins, how valid they are or not, who knows, you know?

Dr G 54:19
Yeah, no, fair enough. So I think to wrap up, I just have a couple of hilarious examples to share with you of names.

Dr Rad 54:27
I’m always up for hilarious examples.

Dr G 54:31
You gonna have to bear with me. Okay. So jumping ahead into the high imperial period. The year is 169 CE. And we have the consul of that year, who holds the record as it happens for the person with the most names.

Dr Rad 54:51

Dr G 54:53
He has 38 names.

Dr Rad 54:56

Dr G 55:00
But wait for it. Let me give it to you so you can feel the full force, okay?

Dr Rad 55:04
Okay, I’m ready. I’m ready. I’m ready.

Dr G 55:07
Q(uinto) Pompeio Q(uinti) f(ilio) Quir(ina) Senecioni / Roscio Murenae Coelio Sex(to) / Iulio Frontino Silio Deciano / C(aio) Iulio Eurycli Herculaneo L(ucio) / Vibullio Pio Augustano Alpino / Bellicio Sollerti Iulio Apro / Ducenio Proculo Rutiliano / Rufino Silio Valenti Valerio / Nigro Cl(audio) Fusco Saxae Amyntiano / Sosio Prisco.

Dr Rad 55:49
I think you forgot to Alfa Romeo. That is so ridiculous. Like, I can’t even make sense of like, like, I know that names are supposed to give some indication of like, where you came from and stuff that like you lost me after about the first three.

Dr G 56:05
I hope his nickname is 38 names. So they just call him 38.

Dr Rad 56:11
I love it. Oh my god.

Dr G 56:13
Goodness me, what chaos.

Dr Rad 56:16
But that’s what I mean. like, if you’re trying to advertise where you came from? Like, did the Romans even get that?

Dr G 56:23
I mean, I there’s a lot to take in there isn’t there? But yeah, that that appears on an actual inscription. So-

Dr Rad 56:35
So we know it’s real. We know it’s real.

Dr G 56:38
It’s out there. Which is pretty hilarious, I think. And the last example I want to draw your attention to is one that was sent to us by a listener.

Dr Rad 56:49
Yes, I remember this one. You have better eyes than I do. I couldn’t read the inscription. Just a FYI, just an FYI, by the way, if you want to send us stuff in, we’re both getting older. Can you please send us as many photographs as possible? Like even even like the little caption that goes with the thing in the museum just because our eyes are not what they used to be.

Dr G 57:11
I mean, speak for yourself. She’ll be right. So we want to say a huge thank you, first of all to Florian from Switzerland. Thank you very much for sending us this inscription.

Dr Rad 57:25
We were thrilled.

Dr G 57:25
Yes, we were thrilled. It did make our day. This inscription can be found in the Museo Nazionale di Ravenna. So if you happen to be in Ravenna, we totally recommend you go there and have a Look at this. Because this guy’s name is Phalleus.

Sounds a bit cheeky.

Sounds like a little bit like phallus. Was his nickname Phallus? I mean, I certainly hope so. That people made a lot of dick jokes about this guy.

Dr Rad 57:54
For sure.

Dr G 57:54
He looks pretty serious on his tombstone, I’ll give him that doesn’t look happy.

Dr Rad 57:58
Well, it’s not really the time for like a big grin, is it?

Dr G 58:04
So Phalleus is the son of Diocles, this we know, he’s also the helmsmen of a ship called the Galeata. And his tombstone was erected by his freedmen, Pieris and Nice, or Nike, depending on your preference. And it’s got a description here of size. And it says, you know, six feet in front and 15 feet in the field. And I’m hoping that this is not a reference to the size of the phallus, more, more likely a reference to the size of the ship.

Dr Rad 58:40
I was gonna say that sounds like well, more than I can take, Dr G!

Dr G 58:44
That is exceptionally large. So Phalleus, thank you for all that you’ve done. Searching hard and wide, it’s, it’s not at all clear what this name might mean, it’s pretty unusual. It’s fairly unattested. So, we’re very lucky to have this example. I think,

Dr Rad 59:04
Did you say that there was a date for this one, as we know when it’s from?

Dr G 59:07
Ahh we think so. And I’m not talking here on my own behalf necessarily. Some scholars have looked into this.

Dr Rad 59:14
The royal we.

Dr G 59:16
The royal we. Kind scholars out there who have looked into this because they’re mostly interested in this inscription, because it’s describing somebody who’s in charge of a ship, right? Not a military leader or such or a naval officer, but the person who’s actually running the boat, okay? And they think this is from the end of the Julio-Claudian period, or somewhere like sort of like Augustus up to the end of the Julio-Claudian period somewhere in that sort of-

Dr Rad 59:46
Somewhere in that 100 years. Okay, so now so names have started to shift a little bit by then.

Dr G 59:54
Well, we don’t get a sense like from this kind of name. It doesn’t see seem like we’re dealing with like a highbrow Roman family at all, doesn’t sit in that category.

Dr Rad 1:00:05
No, it does not.

Dr G 1:00:06
And I’m not sure how to necessarily position this name. But I mean, we’ve got somebody here called Phalleus, and I personally find joy in that.

Dr Rad 1:00:16
Oh, definitely. And it actually attests to what we were just talking about with the relationship between slaves and their masters, or should I say, former slaves and their masters the fact that this guy’s freedmen, organized for his burial, seemingly, which happened even to a very elite people like Pompey, the great when he had, you know, fallen afoul of a whole bunch of people, including Ptolemy the 13th, and had his head cut off. It was his freedmen, I believe, who helped to organize his burial – organize his remains and that sort of thing.

Dr G 1:00:48
Ahh – way to bring some spoilers into this!

Dr Rad 1:00:51
Sorry! Oh dear. Well, I hope that that was a really useful kind of overview of Roman names. As you can see, it’s kind of hard to rein in because there’s so much change over time, but there is a fascinating topic. And if you would like to hear more, so if you want to hear more about how they evolve over time, and we can look at things like Christian names, or we can look into certain types of names, maybe in a bit more detail, please do let us know.

Dr G 1:01:20
Oh, yeah, if there are topics that you’d like us to consider, or there’s little bits of trickiness of ancient Rome, that you would like a more in depth explanation of, please get in touch. We’re on many social medias, you can leave a comment on our website, all of those good things, we look at all of the places. And yeah, we’ll definitely see what we can find out and put together for you. So Roman names. Excellent, somewhat confusing. And gonna get more confusing as time goes on.

Dr Rad 1:01:48
I was gonna say. To be honest, I still find Roman names very confusing.

Dr G 1:01:54
They are. I do spend time really carefully looking at them when I’m navigating them, because it’s easy to – when you’re not a Roman – just sort of, like get trip yourself up a little bit. And go back and have to correct but yeah, there’s definitely a pattern to what the Romans are doing, depending on where you sit in the hierarchy of Roman society.

Dr Rad 1:02:20
Yeah. And there is a reason for it. I think that’s the thing when you when you see like this constant, passing on of names, like, you know, Appius Claudius, Appius Claudius, Appius Claudius, you’re like, “Oh, my God, why are they doing this!” But you realize that there is actually a reason, there’s a reason, it’s not just them trying to be cruel to the generations.

Dr G 1:02:41
You know, it’s not that they hate historians.

Dr Rad 1:02:46
If anything, they love history. They build the history right into the name.

Dr G 1:02:50
Yeah. They want us to know exactly what’s going on with this guy is very generous of them.

Dr Rad 1:02:56
I think the big takeaway for me, and I’m just going to use this to sum up my thoughts, Dr G, is that they seem so foreign, but when you actually think about it, it’s to do with stuff that we still care about, which is your status really like telling people something about yourself. And that’s why parents still put so much effort into naming their kids these days, like, they kind of know that the sound of a name, the sound that it makes the meaning of it, and that kind of stuff, it might kind of give certain connotations to people who hear it. And we still obviously have people who have very famous, recognizable last names in our society. So I think that that really resonates with me the status, the kind of recognizable aspects of names. I think that’s what I take away from this.

Dr G 1:03:43
Yeah, for sure. And I think you can clearly see the legacy of how influential naming conventions are, when we think about how society works and operates, even within the sort of paradigms of the modern world. There is, depending on where you live, there is the tendency for women to change their name after they get married. And that is a legacy of sort of patriarchal structures. And it’s letting people know that there’s a kind of a primacy of a masculine line.

Dr Rad 1:04:21

Dr G 1:04:22
And those sorts of things tell you something about the way society works. And people who resist it, or people who accept it are either embracing or criticizing elements of that structure. And the Romans are doing similar things as well, like their naming conventions are not set in stone. Now. They do change over time, and they adapt for the need that they have for the way that this society is operating as well. So you know, poor 38 names. He’s trying to do something there. He’s got a plan and it’s built on a legacy of names adding to your legacy over time. Like he didn’t just come out of nowhere, presumably somewhere in his ancestry is somebody with 22 names and bumps out to 28 names and so forth and so on. So it’s kind of, he’s just sitting at this real crescendo, where it’s like, okay, is this it? Is this where we say enough is enough?

Dr Rad 1:05:22
The man isn’t, I mean, I’d almost say that he’s trying to get away with something and like, be fraudulent in his ancestry, except that it’s so frickin obvious that I can’t believe that I have to believe it has to be true. Like, it’s just crazy otherwise.

Dr G 1:05:34
Look, the the sense in which he’s got, he’s got that huge legacy from all different parts of all different families. This idea that, that actually, the history of his family is so transparent, that he can tell you the depth of his legacy, and the legacy that he stands upon. That’s really fascinating to me, because, I mean, it’s, it’s outrageous, but hilarious.

Dr Rad 1:05:58
Yeah. And I suppose it’s probably good to note, although I’m sure most people know this. But just in case you don’t, because we don’t know where in the world you might be from. In Australia, and places like America and England and that sort of thing. You still have quite a lot of names that are derived from Latin that are used quite commonly today. So if you’re a Mark, if you are an Anthony, if you are an Amelia and Amanda, a Miranda, you have a name that is derived from Latin.

Dr G 1:06:31
I think that’s a happy note to wrap up on.

Dr Rad 1:06:33
I think so too. Well, goodbye Dr. G, I say formally in respect of your academic credentials.

Dr G 1:06:42
So Well, Dr. Rad, respecting also your academic credentials. A huge shout out to our Patreon supporters for suggesting this topic to us.

Dr Rad 1:06:54

Dr G 1:06:55
And a huge thanks to everyone who listens to our show. If you’d like to support our work, there are many ways you can do it. You could leave a review of the podcasts wherever you listen to it. You could also buy us a coffee on Ko Fi. Or you could sign up to be a Patreon as well. We’d love that! No obligation, the episode will be free to you anyway. But, you know, thank you for listening.

Dr Rad 1:07:23
Indeed. And we’ll just quickly say that if you want to check out the sources that we use to put together this episode, and also our sound credits, you should check out the show notes at the partial And you can also use that to find out how to support us but really, one of the best ways to support us and the cheapest is to just tell someone about the show and tell them that you love it.

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