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.
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.
l.c. says, “I gave to my eldest son,
as is just (ὥσπερ καὶ δίκαιόν
), the name of my father.” (Compare Eustath.
5.546; Dem. c.
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.
, &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
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
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 ὁ Κλεινίου, Πλειστοάναξ ὁ
: sometimes they added the name of the place or
country in which a person was born, in the form of an adjective, as
Θουκυδίδης ὁ Ἀθηναῖος, Ἡρόδοτος
Ἁλικαρνασσεύς, Χαρμαντίδης Παιανιεύς, Δικαίαρχος ὁ
&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
; Xenoph. Oeconom.
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.
§ § 126, 141; Dem.
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
; Lucian, Symnp.
Athen. x, p. 436.]
(Compare Becker-Göll, Charikles,
vol. ii. p.
It has been said that the Romans originally had only one name (
“simplicia nomina,” Varro, ap. Auct. de
1), but Mommsen justly remarks that the instances
given--Romulus, Remus, Faustulus
all of the mythical age, and that even then we hear of Numa Pompilius,
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
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 family, and the praenomen
the individual. The order properly
(and so used in good prose) was praenomen, nomen,
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.
(Momm. I. R. N.
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.
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.
This, the gentile name, in patrician families always ended in
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
Avidiacus) as Gallic; enus
&c.) as Etruscan: some others are formed
from the names of towns, whence the family sprung, as Norbanus,
stands apart, and
was perhaps an original cognomen turned into a.omen (Mommsen,
This individual name was given to boys on the ninth day after their
birth on the dies lustricus
when it is said (Auct. de Praen.
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
There survived 18 for patrician families, represented in an
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:
&c.); yet those who became nobiles
followed the patrician rule, so that the
Domitii have only the praenomina Gnaeus
(Suet. Nero 1
). The reaction under Sulla revived some old
praenomina or introduced others, as Faustus,
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
&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
consul in B.C. 9, and so described on a coin.
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
). 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.
14). As to their origin we can have little doubt that they
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;
they mark an origin, as Sabinus,
(As regards the representative of the
cognomen in family emblems, the apex
the Flaminii, the torques
Manlii, &c., see INSIGNE
) It is probable that under. the Republic the
third name implied nobilitas,
came later to be the mark merely of freedom
(Cod. Just. 7.16
);, 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
in classical Latin (Cic. pro Mur. 14
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
was not usual after Sulla,
when the original cognomen was added instead of the altered nomen:
e. g. M. Terentius Varro Lucullus.
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.
). The cognomina ex virtute
were passed on to children (Cic. de
), 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
Quadratus, P. Aelius Aelianus Archelaus Marcus.
As a climax we have a string of thirty names.
In later times We find a pure nickname, which is termed signum
(Tac. Ann. 1.41
), coupled by the words s. v. or qui et,
as “Eustatius sive
Lampadius” (C. I. L.
Datellius Trophimus qui et Fortunatus,” but sometimes as
Lucilius Metrobius signo
(C. I. L.
10.3796). Remarkable instances of these
“Cedo alteramn” (Tac. Ann.
ad ferrum” (Lamprid. Aurelian.
Names of Women.
Wives and daughters added originally the name of the man in whose
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.
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.
). The names
indicating servile origin disappeared in the second generation.
1-68: a mass of
literature on the subject is cited by Marquardt on page 6.)