Roman Names in Inscriptions and Literature

For an introduction to names, see this post.

Names in Roman Inscriptions

The given name of a Roman citizen on a stone inscription appears as complex as possible. In fact, it looks so complicated that I’m not sure I understand all of it–readers, feel free to assist me.

  • In addition to a given figure’s name, we find (i) the praenōmina of father, grandfather and great-grandfather as well as (ii) the tribe to which the figure belong
  • the Romans were divided into tribes in order to centralize voting, sacrifices, etc. — members of a tribe elected tribunes as tribal representatives

Mārcus Tullius Cicerō Mārcus Tullius Mārcī fīlius Mārcī nepōs Mārcī pronepōs Cornēliā tribū Cicerō.

  • Mārcus, the praenōmen
  • Tullius, of the gēns Tullia
  • Mārcī fīlius, son of Mārcus
  • Mārcī nepōs, grandson of Mārcus 
  • Mārcī pronepōs, great-grandsom of Mārcus
  • Cornēliā tribū, in the Cornelian tribe
  • Cicerō, the cognōmen

This would have been abbreviated M TVLLIVS M F M N M PR COR CICERO

Names in Roman Literature

Here, the system is simplified:

  • Mārcus Tullius Cicerō Mārcus Tullius Mārcī fīlius Cicerō
  • the father’s name is included, but nothing else
  • poets, of course, will use synecdoche or metonymy to rename their subjects as needed

Women, for contextual comparison, were denoted with the possessive genitive of their father’s or husband’s name.

  • Caecilia Metellī = Caecilia, daughter of Metellus
  • Postumia Servī Supliciī = Postumia, wife of Servus Suplicius

The Essential AG: 108 n1

Famous Phrase: eō nōmine [by that name]

(a legal phrase denoted sovereign immunity–a U.S state may not be sued eō nōmine: that is, under its own laws. It must be tried at the federal level)

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