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Nephele

Roman Naming Practices During the Principate Period

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G.O., I believe the "spurius" in the English baptismal registers that Augusta mentioned were merely notations and not actually part of the child's name. In English parish registers of the 17th and 18th centuries, one of the most commonly encountered notations for an illegitimate birth is "base begot", as many genealogists will tell you.

 

-- Nephele

 

Spot on, Nephele - but I mentioned it because the word 'Spurious' is obviously taken from the Latin 'Spurius'. Thank you for that clarification. Hehe, there is also 'dratsab' as an annotation in some parish registers in England, which if you read it backwards tells you exactly what the child was....

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Spot on, Nephele - but I mentioned it because the word 'Spurious' is obviously taken from the Latin 'Spurius'.

 

Making it a wonderful name for a character out of the Asterix books, such as the memorable Roman centurion, "Spurius Brontosaurus". :P

 

Thank you for that clarification. Hehe, there is also 'dratsab' as an annotation in some parish registers in England, which if you read it backwards tells you exactly what the child was....

 

Reading "dratsab" anagrammatically may tell you what the child was, too: "sad brat".

 

-- Nephele

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What a great article, Nephele!

 

Now I know who to go to when I need inspiration for the name of a character!

 

For example, I'm currently writing a 'backstory' for Flavia's father.

 

Any suggestions for what I've got so far?

 

You have asked me, Flavia, to write a few words describing my childhood and how I became a sea captain. I am not quite certain who your intended audience is, so I

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Thanks, Flavia! :)

 

And, thanks for that sneak preview into the family history of Captain Gaius Flavius Geminus! I see you used an actual cognomen -- "Salinator" -- to describe the occupation of the Captain's grandfather. I love your clever use of Roman names in your books, which often describe the attributes of the various characters -- actual cognomina such as "Dives" for a wealthy character, and "Praeco" for a town crier. In fact, I have to admit that, due to my interest in Roman names, I immediately figured out who the villain was in one of your books (where his name was a major clue).

 

Many people want to know the meaning of their own names, which often leads them to a curiosity about the meanings of the names of others. And, often, an interest in the meaning of names leads to an interest in etymology and language. What a wonderful incentive you've provided in your books, Caroline, for young readers to delve further into learning the Latin language through their curiosity in the names you give to your characters!

 

-- Nephele

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Hello Nephele,

That's a lot of information about the Roman names. I think I didn't understand everything (my English is not perfect, I'm dutch) but I think I have to change a lot in the story that I

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Hi, Denia. Yes, I think you may want to change some of those names in your story, although by the 1st century CE there certainly was more variety to be found in praenomina (certainly more than seventeen praenomina in use). That said, I doubt that you could get away with "Arrius" as a character's praenomen, as this was a gens name (nomen gentilicium). "Herius" is about the closest-sounding recorded praenomen that I could find. However, you might be able to get away with "Arius" (drop one of the "r's" from the name) by explaining in your story that young Arius had been born abroad, in that region of eastern Persia known as "Aria," and so Arius' father had decided to break with tradition and give his son the unconventional praenomen of "Arius" to commemorate the first member of the family to have been born outside of Italy. His full Roman name would be Arius Caecilius Severus. It's a stretch, but if you're really attached to that name, this is the best I could think of.

 

Your character's family would have to be plebeian, as there were no patrician Caecilii. The name of the father (Gaius Caecilius Severus) is fine. "Metella" is fine for the name of his wife -- this would be a feminine cognomen by which she could easily be known. In fact, she might even have been a cousin of Serverus', as "Metellus" was a cognomen in use by the Caecilii. If you make her a cousin (in which case her full name would be "Caecilia Metella"), she would have come from a more distinguished branch of the Caecilii than that of her husband's, as the Caecilii Metelli were the ones who produced a number of consuls.

 

"Lucius" is fine for the other son (Lucius Caecilius Severus). But, yes, the name "Tirza" is completely wrong for the daughter. I don't even think you could get away with explaining that the parents chose this name after traveling abroad (as you might do with the other son's odd praenomen). This is because her full name would be "Caecilia Tirza" and this really looks too much like the name of a Jewish freedwoman. You could do it anyway, if the point of the story is to create social problems for this character due to her unconventional name, but it really would be a stretch. However, you could name her "Tertia" (she'd be the third daughter born in the family) and perhaps the daughter herself might rebelliously insist on calling herself "Tirza," a similar-sounding and more appealingly exotic name to her?

 

Also, bear in mind that only members of the immediate family (and perhaps a few very close friends) would most likely address the father and sons by their praenomina of "Gaius," "Arius," and "Lucius."

 

-- Nephele

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Thanks Nephele!

I'm going to change Arrius into Arius. I like that name too. Someone else once suggested Appius, but that doesn't sound 'cool' enough :P . Arius is all right!

 

I'll have to think a little longer about Tirza. :lol: Tertia won't do, because she's the first and only daughter and the second child in this family.

I'm wondering if another solution will do: She changes her name into Tirza after becoming a christian. I heard people sometimes changed their name after being baptized. But actually I wonder if her father would agree with that. Hmmmm. Need some more time for this...

 

Other question: The father, Gaius, is an aedilis (is this the correct word? He's a member of the city's management). Is this possible for a plebeian? Or should I change his job. Or did his marriage help him to reach this position?

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I'll have to think a little longer about Tirza. :lol: Tertia won't do, because she's the first and only daughter and the second child in this family.

 

In which case her name would most obviously be "Caecilia."

 

I'm wondering if another solution will do: She changes her name into Tirza after becoming a christian. I heard people sometimes changed their name after being baptized. But actually I wonder if her father would agree with that. Hmmmm. Need some more time for this...

 

I don't think there's much evidence of early Roman Christians ever being in the habit of changing their Latin names to Hebrew names. The Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum lists many Christians with Latin names and, when they did change their names, it would generally be to something of a theophoric variety (such as Deigratia or Deogratia, meaning "god's grace," or Deodata, meaning "god-given), or to something representing Christian virtues. But, really, it wasn't until a few centuries after the time period in which you've set your story, that the Christians began adopting names for themselves from holy scripture and martyred saints.

 

Besides all of this, your character wouldn't really want to attract attention to her Christian beliefs, by going around telling people that she's adopted a "Christian" name, would she?

 

Other question: The father, Gaius, is an aedilis (is this the correct word? He's a member of the city's management). Is this possible for a plebeian? Or should I change his job. Or did his marriage help him to reach this position?

 

Yes, a plebeian could be elected to the office of aedilis. I believe that, by the time period in which you've set your story, there were no class restrictions on any of the magisterial offices. But there are others here who perhaps can answer that better than I.

 

-- Nephele

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I'll have to think a little longer about Tirza. :lol: Tertia won't do, because she's the first and only

Other question: The father, Gaius, is an aedilis (is this the correct word? He's a member of the city's management). Is this possible for a plebeian? Or should I change his job. Or did his marriage help him to reach this position?

 

Yes, a plebeian could be elected to the office of aedilis. I believe that, by the time period in which you've set your story, there were no class restrictions on any of the magisterial offices. But there are others here who perhaps can answer that better than I.

 

-- Nephele

 

Indeed, the office of aedilis plebis was a plebeian one from its inception in 494 BC. The aedilis curilis was established as patrician only in 367 by the Lex Licinia Sextia, but plebes were admitted almost immediately. Your character could be either without issue.

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OK, then Gaius' job is not a problem.

 

I've been thinking about another name for Tirza all night. I don't want to name her just "Caecilia". Somehow the name "Tacita" crossed my mind. Is this possible?

If it isn't, I'll call her "Tertia", like you, Nephele, suggested. I changed the order of the children. Now she's the third and youngest child. In another topic you told me about the age of marriage and now she's three years younger than before.

So: Tacita or Tertia, that's the question...

 

I'm really pleased with these advices. I have another family with difficult names... Would you mind helping me with them too?

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OK, then Gaius' job is not a problem.

 

I've been thinking about another name for Tirza all night. I don't want to name her just "Caecilia". Somehow the name "Tacita" crossed my mind. Is this possible?

If it isn't, I'll call her "Tertia", like you, Nephele, suggested. I changed the order of the children. Now she's the third and youngest child. In another topic you told me about the age of marriage and now she's three years younger than before.

So: Tacita or Tertia, that's the question...

 

I'm really pleased with these advices. I have another family with difficult names... Would you mind helping me with them too?

 

Well, "Tacitus" is a cognomen most readily recognized as belonging to the historian who was a member of the Cornelii, but that doesn't mean your girl's parents couldn't call their daughter "Tacita." They'd have to have a reason for calling her that, though, and the name signifies someone with a reserved nature, not inclined towards much talking. If your girl is outspoken and bubbly, then it would seem odd that her parents might have named her "Tacita." Really, the name "Caecilia Tertia" would be the most likely for her, as the third-born daughter of her father Caecilius.

 

Glad to have been of some help. Feel free to ask anyone on this board for help, but I'm also happy to be of any assistance.

 

-- Nephele

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Thank you, Nephele. I finally made up my mind. Her name will be

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Thank you, Nephele. I finally made up my mind. Her name will be

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All right, I will use "Servius Vinicius Domitus". Sounds good. :(

I'll think about another name for Marius. I understand most people wouldn

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