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Surnames of the Livii

Article by Nephele

The Livii were a plebeian gens which attained noble status and prominence as early as the 4th century BCE, when the first of the Livii Drusi (who acquired his surname due to legendary single combat with a Gallic champion) was made Master of the Horse for the dictator Lucius Papirius Cursor (324 BCE). Barely a generation following this, the first of the Livii to attain the consulship was Marcus Livius Denter (302 BCE).

I have attempted here to list and define the various surnames used by the Livii 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 Livii

Aemilianus - This adoptive cognomen illustrates the close family ties between the plebeian Livii and patrician Aemilii. The two consuls of 219 BCE were L. Aemilius Paullus and M. Livius Salinator, close colleagues, and the son of Paulus was adopted by Salinator (this son's name thus becoming M. Livius Aemilianus). This adoption of a patrician into a plebeian clan was unprecedented at the time.

Claudianus - An adoptive surname, borne by Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus (Praetor or Iudex in 50 BCE), who had been adopted into the plebeian Livii from the patrician Claudii and had been previously known as Appius Claudius Pulcher. This is the Claudianus who was the father of Livia, wife of Augustus.

Denter - Meaning "tooth; having teeth," and most likely derived from the Latin word dens ("tooth"). It could have been given to a person who was said to have been born with teeth, or otherwise it might have been applied to an adult possessing prominent teeth.

Drusus - According to Suetonius (in his life of Tiberius), the original Drusus acquired his name as a victory title for having slain in single combat a leader of the Gauls named "Drausus."

Libo - Meaning "sprinkler," a surname possibly derived from the office of libation-pourer at the sacrifice. Although no member of the Livii with the surname of "Libo" appears in the magistracies of the Republic compiled by Broughton, I have included the surname on this list to show the ties that existed between the Livii and other notable gentes of Republican Rome. Marcus Livius Drusus Libo (consul in 15 BCE), was born a member of the Scribonii Libones, and is believed to have been adopted by Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus (Praetor or Iudex in 50 BCE, noted as the father of Livia, wife to Augustus). Libo's adoptive father, Claudianus, had been himself adopted into the Livii from the Claudii. (See Claudianus.)

Macatus - Possibly derived from the Latin verb maco, macere, meaning "to maul, beat, hack." Marcus Livius Macatus defended the town and citadel of Tarentum against Hannibal in the year 214 BCE.

Mamilianus - Due to transcribers not being in agreement as to the correct reading of the Capitoline marbles (broken into three fragments), the name of Marcus Livius Drusus Aemilianus (father of the consul of 147 BCE) is sometimes transcribed as "Mamilianus" instead of "Aemilianus."

Ocella - Meaning "having small eyes." Lucius Livius Ocella has been identified with Lucius Julius Mocilla. See the entry for "Mocilla" in Surnames of the Julii.

Salinator - Meaning "salt-dealer." While the surname "Salinator" is also found in other gentes, it was an especially noted surname of the Livii due to it having been given to Marcus Livius Salinator (consul of 219 and 207 BCE) when, as censor in 204 BCE, he contrived and imposed a higher taxed price for salt (a valuable commodity) in the country towns and markets than in Rome, in retaliation for the resentment Salinator felt over how he had been shabbily treated by these townspeople regarding (in Salinator's opinion) an unjust sentence in a court case.

Broughton, T. Robert S. The Magistrates of the Roman Republic 2 vols. New York: The American Philological Association, 1952.
Cassius Dio Cocceianus Dio's Annals of Rome Trans. Herbert Baldwin Foster. Troy, New York: Pafraets Book Company, 1906.
Kajanto, Iiro. The Latin Cognomina. Helsinki: Keskuskirjapaino, 1965.
Livius, Titus. "The History of Rome: Books Twenty-seven to Thirty-six.." Trans. Cyrus Edmonds. London: Henry G. Bohn, 1850.
Matz, David. Famous Firsts in the Ancient Greek and Roman World.. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2000.
Münzer, Friedrich. Roman Aristocratic Parties and Families. Trans. Thérèse Ridley. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.
Smith, William, ed. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: John Murray, 1890.
Suetonius [C. Suetonius Tranquillus]. The Lives of the Caesars.. Trans. J.C. Rolfe. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1913.

Did you know?

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


Surnames of the Livii - Related Topic: Political Violence


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