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Gajus of Sweden

The Convention Of Roman Names

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This is something that has riddled me for some time. For a litterary project I'm in great need to come up with diversity of roman names. Slaves aren't a problem but I think the plebs and tha patricians very well might be. We take a famous romans patrician as an example.


Gajus Julius Caesar


Gajus is his first name, nothing speciell with that, could be anyone of the very few first names avalible.


Julius, he is of the family Julius, gens Julia.


But Caesar? As I have understod, that name signifies which branch of the family Julius he stemes from. Is this right? And if so, why couldn't he just as well be called Gajus Caesar Julius? Is the fathers or the mothers blodline the predominant one, and has that something to do with this convention?


And now he marries a woman from the family Cornelius, what would their boy or girl be named? I don't understand the logic behind this. It's common for a boy to take his fathers name, that happens but not allways.


And the plebs; do they generallt only have two names, like Lucius Priscus for instance? Or do the same mechanism apply to them to? :(


EDIT: Another thing is just a coincidence that the "ius"-name is placed in the middle. Marcus Porcius Cato. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Gajus Julius Caesar and so on.

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Caesar is a descriptive name of sorts, breaking off that family line from the rest of the Julii clan. While still related to the greater Julii family, Caesar just offers more information.


In the Republic children were generally named from the father's side of the family. A first born son was named after the father directly, while successive sons would take a name based on the time of day they were born (Lucius = light or morning), the order of their birth Secundus (second), the month of birth Septimius (September), or for other circumstances such as Posthumus (born after the death of the father).


for example... Gaius Julius Caesar (the father of the dictator) had a son, also Gaius Julius Caesar and a daughter Julia (after the clan name) Caesarensis (to specify the branch)


The dictators daughter (with the mother Cornelia of the Cornelius gens from the Cinna branch) had no naming relation to her mother at all. This daughter was named Julia Caesarensis as well. To avoid confusion (since many women in a close family line could often have all the same names) the Romans adopted the Senior/Junior ideology. They used Major and Minor (Elder and Younger) to differentiate.


A bit later, the confusion seems to have been to must and the rules got a bit more relaxed regarding daughters. Just take a look at the family tree of the Julio-Claudians to see some examples. Many of the girls are named after ancestors rather than directly after their own fathers.


A couple of good sites:



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