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Surnames of the Manlii

Article by Nephele

The Manlii, in terms of patrician prestige and influence, were not far behind the five princely clans of the Aemilii, Claudii, Cornelii, Fabii, and Valerii. In fact, the 19th century classicist Mommsen included the Manlii among these aforementioned gentes maiores, from whose ranks the patrician princeps senatus -- "chief of the senate" -- was always chosen. This was because, in the year 209 BCE, a member of the Manlii was proposed as princeps senatus.

Titus Manlius Torquatus should have received this honor, as tradition required that the princeps senatus had first to have been a censor and Manlius was the most senior of the ex-censors still living. However, the two incumbent censors disagreed over the choice, with one of them proposing for the position of princeps senatus the five-time consul Quintus Fabius Maximus Verrucosus, proven (by the nominating censor) to be "first man of the Roman state." It was this man, not surprisingly a Fabian, who ultimately was appointed to be "first man of the senate" instead of Manlius. (Livy, 23.11)

Thus it was a member of the Manlii who, despite this disappointing turn of events, nevertheless made history for having been passed over in what was Rome's first irregular appointment of a princeps senatus.

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

Acidinus - Derived from the surname "Acidus," meaning "unpleasant, disagreeable; acidic."

Atticus - Meaning "of or pertaining to Attica or Athens." This surname (which was found in various Roman families) did not indicate that the bearer came from Greece, but rather it indicated that the bearer possessed a certain refined style associated with Greek culture and philosophy. It is interesting to note that the name has survived to modern-day times with much the same suggested meaning behind it. For it was another Roman Atticus -- Titus Pomponius Atticus -- whose most fitting cognomen/nickname was used by author Harper Lee for the name of a character in her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird: the erudite and ethical lawyer, Atticus Finch.

Capitolinus - A geographical cognomen, relating to Rome's Capitoline hill. The Manlii used this surname to indicate that they lived on the Capitoline, but they later dropped this surname when their Capitoline house was abandoned.

Cincinnatus - Meaning "curly haired; having locks or ringlets of hair." This surname would be exclusive to the Quinctii, if not for also belonging to Cn. Manlius Cincinnatus, the first member of the Manlii to become consul (in 480 BCE).

Fulvianus - An adoptive surname, belonging to L. Manlius Acidinus Fulvianus, born a member of the Fulvii who was adopted into the Manlii (probably by L. Manlius Acidinus, praetor urbanus in 210 BCE). The Manlii and the Fulvii were already closely connected, and it was this adoption which saved the Manlii Acidini line from becoming extinct. What makes this adoption exceptional, is that the adopted L. Manlius Acidinus Fulvianus was co-consul in 179 BC with his birth brother, Q. Fulvius Flaccus. This was the only instance of two brothers serving as consuls in the same year.

Imperiosus - Meaning (in a good way), "possessed of command; mighty; powerful." But, in a bad way, meaning, "imperious, domineering, tyrannical." This surname was first borne by L. Manlius Capitolinus Imperiosus, the dictator of 363 BCE and father of T. Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus (see Torquatus). It is more than likely that his surname was regarded in the bad sense of the meaning, as this Manlius was unpopular with the Roman people due to his renowned haughtiness.

Lentinus - Meaning "slow; sluggard."

Longus - Meaning "tall."

Mancinus - Derived from the Latin mancus, meaning "maimed or infirm, especially in the hand."

Priscus - Meaning "ancient" -- not as in age, but rather "old-fashioned," and referring to a nostalgia for earlier times.

Sergianus - An adoptive surname. From what can be determined from inscriptions on coins, it appears that there might have been at least two members of the Sergia gens who were adopted into the Manlia gens and rose to a magisterial position during the time of the Republic. One was a Monetal of ca. 100 BCE: A. Manlius (his possible adoptive surname is found abbreviated as "Ser." The other was a possible Legate in Spain, ca. 42 BCE: T. Manlius (his possible adoptive surname is found abbreviated as "Sergia" on a coin of Brutobriga in Spain.)

Torquatus - Meaning "adorned with a neck-chain, collar, torques." The first member of the Manlii to bear this surname was T. Manlius Imperiosus Torquatus, dictator of 353 and 349 BCE, consul of 344 and 340 BCE, and son of L. Manlius Capitolinus Imperiosus (see Imperiosus). He acquired this victory surname (which became hereditary) when he fought a champion of the Gauls in single combat, slew his opponent, and took his opponent's torques to wear thenceforth around his own neck as his prize and tangible symbol of his victory.

Volso - See Vulso.

Vulso - Also "Volso." Possibly derived from volsus, vulsus (a participle of vello), meaning "plucked smooth, beardless, hairless."

Chase, George Davis. "The Origin of the Roman Praenomina." Harvard Studies in Classical Philology Vol. 8. (1897), pp. 103-184
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: 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.
Shields, Charles J. Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. New York: Macmillan, 2007.
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".


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