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Surnames of the Junii

Article by Nephele

The Junii followed on the heels of the Licinii as one of the most celebrated of the Roman plebeian gentes. However, the plebeian Junii were unusual in that Rome's first consul (in the earliest days of the Republic when only patricians were consuls) was a member of the Junii. One explanation offered for this apparent discrepancy is that L. Junius Brutus (relative of King Tarquin and thereby a member of the nobility), ended the patrician line of the Junii when he executed his own sons for treason. Whether the Founder of the Roman Republic was patrician or plebeian, it is at least certain that all subsequent members of the Junii who survived the Founder and his sons were plebeian.

I have attempted here to list and define the various surnames used by the Junii of the Republic, particularly those who served in magisterial positions during the time of the Republic as noted in Broughton's Magistrates of the Roman Republic. For the purpose of this list, I have included cognomina, adoptive cognomina, and agnomina under the collective term of "surnames."

Surnames of the Junii

Albinus - Meaning "white, whitish" and most likely referring to hair-color. This was a surname of the Postumii (originally "Albus" and later lengthened to "Albinus"). The surname found its way into the family of the Junii Bruti when Decimus Junius Brutus (one of Caesar's assassins and also one of his most trusted heirs) was adopted by Aulus Postumius Albinus, consul of 99 BCE. Instead of fashioning himself thenceforth as "A. Postumius Albinus Junianus" (as would have been the customary expectation from such an adoption), this member of the Junii became known as "D. Junius Brutus Albinus," retaining his birth name and adding to it the cognomen of his adoptive father.

Brutus - Meaning "dimwit, brutish." Livy related in his History of Rome (1.56) that the original member of the Junii to bear this surname -- Lucius Junius Brutus (consul of 509 BCE) -- pretended to be a harmless idiot in order to avoid the same fate suffered by the chief men of the city, as well as his brother, who had been put to death by Brutus' uncle, Tarquin the Proud.

Bubulcus - Meaning "one who plows with oxen." Pliny related in his Natural History (18.3) that the first member of the Junii Bubulci had received this surname on account of his skill in breeding oxen.

Callaecus - See Callaicus.

Callaicus - Also appearing as "Callaecus" and "Gallaecus." This was a victory surname conferred upon Decimus Junius Brutus (consul of 138 BCE) for having defeated the 60,000 troops of the Gallaeci of northwestern Spain.

Damasippus - Meaning "tamer of horses." This was a surname of the Licinii which most likely found its way into the Junia gens through the presumed adoption of Lucius Junius Brutus Damasippus (a partisan of Marius) into the Licinii. If this was the case, then this Brutus shares in common with D. Junius Brutus Albinus (see Albinus) the same uncustomary form of an adoptive name -- having taken only his adoptive father's cognomen while retaining his birth name.

Gallaecus - See Callaicus.

Gracchanus - Meaning "pertaining to Gracchus." This surname of the Sempronia gens found its way into the Junia gens when the historian, Marcus Junius Gracchanus, adopted this surname to express his friendship for Gaius Sempronius Gracchus (the younger of the famous Gracchi brothers and tribune of the plebs from 123 to 122 BCE).

Iuncus - See Juncus.

Juncus - Meaning "a rush" [botanical] or "a twig resembling a rush."

Manlianus - An adoptive surname which found its way into the Junia gens when the son of Titus Manlius Torquatus (consul of 165 BCE) was adopted into the Junii and thereby became Decimus Junius Silanus Manlianus.

Despite being an adopted member of the Junii, when Manlianus was charged with robbery and oppression during his Praetorship in Macedonia (142 BCE), his birth father Torquatus requested (in a classic display of Roman values taking precedence over "family values") that the Senate refer his son's investigation to him. Torquatus subsequently found his son guilty, and punished him with banishment. Manlianus hanged himself, and Torquatus sternly (and no doubt with some amount of Roman pride) refused to attend his son's funeral.

Norbanus - Meaning "from Norba," an ancient town of Latium known today by the modern-day name of "Norma." This is an unusual name, in that this was originally a cognomen that developed into a nomen gentilicium through use as such. According to Broughton, at least three magistrates of the Republic bore this name with no apparent accompanying gens name. However, it is thought by some others that the Gaius Norbanus who was consul in 83 BCE may actually have been a member of the Junia gens.

Paciacus - See Paciaecus.

Paciaecus - Also rendered as "Paciacus," possibly derived from the Latin root word pax, pacis, originally meaning "a contract, treaty," and which came to mean "peace" in the sense of a cessation of hostilities between two warring factions. Broughton doesn't list any magistrates of the Republic bearing this surname, but there is a L. Junius Paciaecus recorded in history who served under Caesar in the Spanish war of 45 BCE.

Pennus - Meaning "sharp-featured." This surname also appears in the Quinctia gens

Pera - Meaning "wallet."

Pullus - Meaning "youngster," and also a term of endearment.

Scaeva - Meaning "left-handed."

Silanus - Meaning "of or from the forest of Sila." Sila was a large forest noted for its great yield of pitch, in the country of the Brutii (in southern Italy, a region known today as Calabria). These Brutii were not named after the Junii Bruti, but instead derived their name from the literal meaning of "brutus," having been a savage Italian tribe descended from refugee slaves of another tribe, the Lucani.

Chase, George Davis. "The Origin of the Roman Praenomina." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology Vol. 8. (1897), pp. 103-184
Cramer, The Rev. J.A.Geographical and Historical Description of Ancient Italy with a Map, and a Plan of Rome. Vol. II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1826.
Kajanto, Iiro. The Latin Cognomina. Helsinki: Keskuskirjapaino, 1965.
Lewis, Charlton T. and Charles Short. A Latin Dictionary: Founded on Andrews' Edition of Freund's Latin Dictionary.. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1879.
Livius, Titus. The History of Rome: The First Eight Books Trans. D. Spillan. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1853.
Plinius. The Natural History of Pliny.. Vol. IV. Trans. John Bostock and H.T. Riley. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1856.
Smith, William, ed. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: John Murray, 1890.

Did you know?

There was no direct Roman equivalent of "sir" or "madam".


Surnames of the Junii - Related Topic: Gracchi Brothers


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