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NOMEN (ὄνομα), name.


The Greeks, as is well known, bore only one name (Paus. 7.7.4), and it was one of the especial rights of a father to choose the names for his children, and to alter them if he pleased. (Dem. c. Boeot. i. p. 1006.39; c. Macart. p. 1075.74.) It was customary to give to the eldest son the name of the grandfather on his father's side. The history of Greece contains many instances of this custom, and Sositheus (ap. Dem. c. Macart. l.c. says, “I gave to my eldest son, as is just (ὥσπερ καὶ δίκαιόν ἐστι), the name of my father.” (Compare Eustath. ad It. 5.546; Dem. c. Boeot. i. p. 1002.27.) Similarly girls were called after the grandmother (Isae. de Pyrrh. hered. § 30). What custom was generally followed in regard to the other children may be inferred from the same passage, for Sositheus goes on to say, that he called his second son after the name of his wife's father, the third after a relation of his wife, and the fourth son after his own grandfather on his mother's side. Mothers seem also sometimes to have assumed the right of giving the names to their children (Eur. Phoen. 58), and it may be that, as in the case described by Aristophanes (Aristoph. Cl. 60, &c.), sometimes a quarrel arose between the parents, if they could not agree upon the name to be given to a child. A boy also sometimes received the name of his father, as in the cases of Demosthenes and Demades, or one similar to that of his father. Nausinicus thus called his son Nausiphilus, and Callicrates called his son Callistratus. (Boeckh, ad Pind. Pyth. iv. p. 265.) A similar method was sometimes adopted in the names of several brothers; thus two brothers in the speech of Lysias against Diagiton are called Diodotus and Diogiton. In some cases lastly, the name of a son was a patronymic, formed from the name of the father, as Phocion, the son of Phocos.

The day on which children received their names was the tenth after their birth (Aristoph. Birds 922, &c.). According to some accounts, a child received its name as early as the seventh or even fifth day after its birth. [AMPHIDROMIA] The tenth day, called δεκάτη, however, was a festive day, and friends and relations were invited to take part in a sacrifice and a repast, whence the expressions δεκάτην θύειν and δεκάτην ἑστιᾷν. If in a court of justice proofs could be adduced that a father had held the δεκάτη,, it was sufficient evidence that he had recognised the child as his own. (Dem. c. Boeot. ii. p. 1017.28.)

The fact that every Greek had only one name rendered it necessary to have an innumerable variety of names. But, however great the number of names might be, ambiguity and confusion could not be avoided; and in reading the works of the Greeks we are not always certain whether the same name in different passages or writers belongs to one or to several persons. The Greeks themselves were aware of this, and where accuracy was of importance they used various means to prevent mistakes. Sometimes they added the name of the father in the genitive case, as Ἀλκιβιάδης Κλεινίου, Πλειστοάναξ Παυσανίου: sometimes they added the name of the place or country in which a person was born, in the form of an adjective, as Θουκυδίδης Ἀθηναῖος, Ἡρόδοτος Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, Χαρμαντίδης Παιανιεύς, Δικαίαρχος Μεσσήνιος, &c.; sometimes they added an epithet to the name, expressing either the occupation or profession which a person followed, or indicating the school to which he belonged. Instances are of such frequent occurrence that it is superfluous to quote any. The custom of adding the father's name was called πατρόθεν ὀνομάζεσθαι (Paus. 7.7.4; Xenoph. Oeconom. 7.3).

In common life the Greeks had yet another means of avoiding ambiguity, and this was the frequent use of nicknames, expressive of mental or bodily peculiarities and defects. Thus Demosthenes was from his childhood called Βάταλος. (Aeschin. c. Timarch. § § 126, 141; Dem. de Cor. p. 288.180.) Aristophanes (Aristoph. Birds 1291, &c.) mentions several names of birds which were used as nicknames; other nicknames are preserved in Athenaeus (vi. p. 242). [Cf. Xen. Hell. 2.2, 31; Lucian, Symnp. 6; Athen. x, p. 436.]

(Compare Becker-Göll, Charikles, vol. ii. p. 26.)

2. Roman

It has been said that the Romans originally had only one name ( “simplicia nomina,” Varro, ap. Auct. de Praenom. 1), but Mommsen justly remarks that the instances given--Romulus, Remus, Faustulus--are all of the mythical age, and that even then we hear of Numa Pompilius, &c. (R. Forsch. 1.5). Though there can be no doubt that there was greater simplicity of nomenclature in the earliest times, and though the prevalence of single names is not impossible, the view taken by Mommsen is most probable that the early Roman custom was to have two names; the second in the genitive, representing the father or head of the household, as Marcus Marci, Caecilia Metelli. In process of time we find [p. 2.234]for freeborn men a triple name, the nomen or name par excellence to designate the gens, the cognomen the family, and the praenomen the individual. The order properly (and so used in good prose) was praenomen, nomen, cognomen; but in metrical writing this is not preserved: e. g. “Cornelius Lucius Scipio Barbatus,” as an epitaph in Saturnian verse (C. I. L. 6.1285). For formal description the name of the father, grandfather, and even great grandfather was added, and sometimes the tribe also, as M. Tullius M. f. M. n. M. pr. Cornelia tribu) Cicero (Momm. I. R. N. 4320). When the praenomen (for ordinary speech) was omitted, the order does not appear consistent in all writers. In older times the cognomen, in this case, stands first, as Pulcher Claudius, Balbus Cornelius, and this is followed by Cicero: whereas Caesar preserves the order belonging to the triple name and keeps the cognomen after the praenomen, Livy and Tacitus vary their practice (see Marquardt, Privatl. 9, note). For every-day use the praenomen alone was used for relations or intimate friends (and those who wished to appear as such) addressing each other; the cognomen alone in ordinary intercourse, with the praenomen, added sometimes in emphatic address: the nomen being used only for formal purposes. As, however, the triple name grew out of something simpler, so as time went on it spread into a much longer and more complex system of names, and finally ended in what cannot be called a system at all. It is necessary to examine the names more in detail.

1. Nomen.

This, the gentile name, in patrician families always ended in ius, which probably marks an original patronymic: the terminations, eius, aius, aeus, eus are merely variations of it. Other terminations of the nomen mark a different origin, and are thus classed by Mommsen,--acus (e.g. Avidiacus) as Gallic; enus as Umbrian; na (Caecina, &c.) as Etruscan: some others are formed from the names of towns, whence the family sprung, as Norbanus, &c.: Verres stands apart, and was perhaps an original cognomen turned into a.omen (Mommsen, R. Forsch. 1.51).

2. Praenomen.

This individual name was given to boys on the ninth day after their birth on the dies lustricus [LUSTRATIO p. 102]: when it is said (Auct. de Praen. 3) that this name was not given till the assumption of the toga virilis, it can only be meant that the official entry was then made: for we have inscriptions speaking of young children under their praenomina (C. I. L. 10.2221). The number of recognised praenomina was originally larger, and Varro (as cited by the above author) mentions as ancient praenomina disused in his time
  • Agrippa
  • Ancus
  • Caesar
  • Faustus
  • Hostus
  • Lar
  • Opiter
  • Postumus
  • Proculus
  • Sertor
  • Statius
  • Tullus
  • Volero
  • Vopiscus

There survived 18 for patrician families, represented in an abbreviated form:

  • Aulus (A.)
  • Decimus (D.)
  • Gaius (C.)
  • Gnaeus (Cn.)
  • Kaeso (K.)
  • Lucius (L.)
  • Manius (M'.)
  • Marcus (M.)
  • Publius (P.)
  • Quintus (Q.)
  • Servius (Ser.)
  • Sextus (Sex.)
  • Spurius (Sp.)
  • Tiberius (Ti.)
  • Titus (T.)
  • Mamercus (Mam.)
  • Appius (Ap.)
  • Numerius (N.)
The number, no doubt, decreased from the custom of different families using only a few praenomina, usually only five or six (the Cornelii used only Cn,, L. and P.). Of the above some were used by particular families and by no other; K., for instance, by the Fabii and Quinctilii alone, Mam. only by the Aemilii. (See Mommsen, op. cit. 15.) In plebeian families there was not the same restriction, and a greater variety appears:
  • Novius
  • Vibius
&c.); yet those who became nobiles followed the patrician rule, so that the Domitii have only the praenomina Gnaeus and Lucius (Suet. Nero 1). The reaction under Sulla revived some old praenomina or introduced others, as Faustus, Iulus, Cossus: but it is difficult to say how far all such should be regarded as genuine praenomina. Mau is probably right in his note on Marquardt, Privatl. 13, when he demurs to the view that
  • Paullus
  • Agrippa
  • Nero
  • Drusus
  • Germanicus
&c., became praenomina, and holds them rather to be cognomina which by a later fashion for various reasons in some distinguished families displaced the proper praenomen, as when we find Africanus Aemilius Regillus a consul in B.C. 9, and so described on a coin.

3. Cognomen.

Every Roman citizen, besides: belonging to a gens, was, also a member of a familia, contained in the gens, and as such he might have a cognomen or third name, which marked off that familia from others of the same gens. This was in the Republic probably universal, or nearly so, in patrician families (Plutarch, however, Cor. 11, says that C. Marcius had no cognomen till he took Corioli). In plebeian families it was not the rule: for instance, the Marii, Sertorii, and Mummii had none (Plut. Mar. 1); but many afterwards gained them, as Pompeius, when he took the cognomen Magnus. Some from mere assumption took cognomina to which they were considered to have no right: witness the case of Staienus calling himself Paetus (Cic. Clu. 26, 72). Marquardt, from the fact that the cognomen stands after the tribe, when the tribe also is given, conjectures that the use of cognomina does not date further back in ordinary usage than Servius Tullius: as a legal form in laws and decrees, it is enjoined only in Sulla's time (see the citations in Marquardt, op. cit. 14). As to their origin we can have little doubt that they were personal names, originally given for some reason (often a bodily peculiarity) to some man, and then transmitted to all his family: sometimes they are descriptive, as Pulcher, Calvus, Naso; sometimes they mark an origin, as Sabinus, Maluginensis. (As regards the representative of the cognomen in family emblems, the apex of the Flaminii, the torques of the Manlii, &c., see INSIGNE) It is probable that under. the Republic the third name implied nobilitas, but it came later to be the mark merely of freedom (Cod. Just. 7.16, 9);, and in Juv. 5.127, “tanquam habeas tria nomina” means rather, as Professor Mayor says, “as though you were free,” than, as Marquardt puts it, “tanquam nobilis sis.”

The nobiles, however, proceeded further to multiply their cognomina: such fourth or fifth names were still, like the third, called cognomen in classical Latin (Cic. pro Mur. 14, 31): the practice of calling them agnomina did not begin till the grammarians of the 4th cent, A.D. Under this head we have (i.) the adoptive names, for which see ADOPTIO Vol. I. p. 26. It may [p. 2.235]be observed that the termination anus was not usual after Sulla, when the original cognomen was added instead of the altered nomen: e. g. M. Terentius Varro Lucullus. It is a peculiarity that Brutus adopted by Q. Servilius Caepio is called simply Q. Caepio Brutus (Mommsen, R. Forsch. 51). (ii.) The cognomen ex virtute: Africanus, Asiaticus, &c. (iii.): Those added more like nicknames, as Q. Caecilius Metellus Celer (cf. Plin. Nat. 7.54). The cognomina ex virtute were passed on to children (Cic. de Rep. 6.11), though how far is uncertain: Mommsen thinks, only to the eldest son.

The name-system became altered or altogether lost under the Empire. The emperors, as Gaius and Titus, used sometimes the praenomen alone with the imperial title, sometimes the cognomen only, as Imp. Caesar Vespasianus (see Mommsen, R. Forsch. 741): for the citizens, as mentioned above, we find sometimes the use of cognomen in place of praenomen, sometimes the multiplication of gentile names by, adding the names of the mother's family or other relations; sometimes again a second praenomen is put in, often quite out of its place: e. g. C. Antius Aulus Julius: Quadratus, P. Aelius Aelianus Archelaus Marcus. As a climax we have a string of thirty names. (Orell. 2761.)

In later times We find a pure nickname, which is termed signum (Capitol. Gord. 4.8) or vocabulum (Tac. Ann. 1.41), coupled by the words s. v. or qui et, as “Eustatius sive Lampadius” (C. I. L. 5.4410), “M. Datellius Trophimus qui et Fortunatus,” but sometimes as Lucilius Metrobius signo Sapricus (C. I. L. 10.3796). Remarkable instances of these signa or vocabula are “Caligula,” “Cedo alteramn” (Tac. Ann. 1.23, 41), “Manus ad ferrum” (Lamprid. Aurelian. 6).

Names of Women.

Wives and daughters added originally the name of the man in whose manus they were, the wife her husband's, the daughter her father's, as Metella Crassi, Caecilia Metelli; but later it became usual for the daughter to express the relationship by adding f. after the father's name. The praenomen might be used also before the gentile name, as Securda Valeria M f., but without the limitation of praenomina observed in the sons of the family. In the later Republic the single gentile name is more common; but under the Empire we find two names usual, formed from the nomen and cognomen of the father, or the combined gentile names of father and mother (Caecilia Metella, Valeria Attia): three names are exceptional (Suet. Cl. 56).


Slaves originally bore the affix por = puer to the master's praenomen, as Marcipor or Marpor, Quintipor, &c., which Pliny (Plin. Nat. 33.26) thinks pointed to the simplicity of life when a man had usually only one slave: it must be observed, however, that the termination is found comparatively late (Sall. Hist. iii. fr. 69), and also that we find it for freedmen, “Aulus Caecilius, Auli libertus, Olipor.” When slaves were multiplied and servus legally replaced puer, we find slaves in republican times distinguished by their ownnames with the master's in inverted order: thus the slave of P. Egnatius is “Pharnaces Egnatii Publii servus” ; under the Empire more naturally as “Eleuthetus C. Julii Florentini servus.” A curious practice was the tacking on the name of a pievious master with the suffix anus, as “Secundus Caesaris servus Crescentianus,” “Anna Liviae serva Maecenatiana,” when the slaves had been formerly in the household of Crescens or Maecenas.


Freedmen originally took before their own names the gentile name of their master and any praenomen, as L. Livius Andronicus, the freedman of M. Livius Salinator. The condition is also expressed in inscriptions: e. g. “M. Ramnius P. l. Diopantus” means that Diopantus was a freedman of P. Ramnius, and took for himself the praenomen M. Latet it became customary to take the master's praenomen also. Freedmen of a woman took the names of the father of their mistress, as “M. Livius, Augustae l., Ismarus.” Cicero however, while Tiro becomes M. Tullius Tiro, gives Dionysius the nomen of Atticus and his own praenomen (Cic. Att. 4.1. 5, 1). The names indicating servile origin disappeared in the second generation. (Marquardt, Privatleben, 6-28; Mommsen, Röm. Forschungen, 1-68: a mass of literature on the subject is cited by Marquardt on page 6.)

[L.S] [G.E.M]

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