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i know this subject as been discussed before but I am still unsure of why some had two names and others three.

 

At first I understood the third name to be a patrician 'label' but then I read that VIPSANIA (as in Marcus Vipsania Agrippa) was an ultra-plebian tribe. So why the third name?

Also very occasionally I read about Patricians with only two names, such as Marcus Antonius.

 

So what gives?

 

Any imbecile level explanation, or directions to one, would be greatly appreciated.

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Short and quick answer...

 

The patrician families were the first to employ cognomina, to distinguish different families within the same gens. (Just as today, we hear of "The Boston Cabots" or "The New York Astors".)

 

The plebians varied in their use of cognomina, although eventually many of them wound up copying the patricians in order to sport the tria nomina that became a distinctive sign of Roman citizenship. Not all did, however.

 

And then, there were those notable Romans for whom three names just weren't enough, and so they added on agnomina to celebrate various honors given to them, as well as to distinguish themselves from an older (Maior) or younger (Minor) member of the family with the same name. As was the case with Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Maior.

 

EDIT: Added note...

 

Also very occasionally I read about Patricians with only two names, such as Marcus Antonius.

 

Actually, Marcus Antonius (the triumvir) was of a plebian family.

 

-- Nephele

Edited by Nephele

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All in all one must remember that there were very few Praenomens. The Gens names could become very confusing as former slaves took their masters' names.

Furthermore the Gens was more of a clan name than a modern surname

 

In my understanding the three names became nearly a necessity.

 

Also beware........

I suspect the Praenomen or Cognomen of many Persons are often lost to history.

 

Who amongst the uniformed public really know that Caesar was Gaius Julius Caesar?

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All in all one must remember that there were very few Praenomens.

 

Actually, there were quite a few praenomina (compared to what most people commonly read about Roman names). At least 64 have been recorded. The reality is that there were few praenomina in common use.

 

And, while former slaves did customarily take the praenomina and nomina gentilicia of their former masters, there wasn't much concern about confusion because the freedman would continue to use his original name as his new cognomen. As in the case of Tiro, the slave of Marcus Tullius Cicero. Upon manumission, Tiro became "Marcus Tullius Tiro."

 

-- Nephele

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All in all one must remember that there were very few Praenomens.

 

And, while former slaves did customarily take the praenomina and nomina gentilicia of their former masters, there wasn't much concern about confusion because the freedman would continue to use his original name as his new cognomen. As in the case of Tiro, the slave of Marcus Tullius Cicero. Upon manumission, Tiro became "Marcus Tullius Tiro."

 

-- Nephele

 

Very true Nephele, but it only goes to prove my point

 

it made cognomina necessary in roman society as slavery was a gateway into citizenship.

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Very true Nephele, but it only goes to prove my point

 

it made cognomina necessary in roman society as slavery was a gateway into citizenship.

 

Ah, yes, I see what you mean!

 

-- Nephele

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Would a son inherit all the names of his father?

Of did the agnomina only apply to the person who earned the title (Africanus/'Germanicus)

 

Why did the Emperor Claudius not take the agnomina Britanicus?

Why use it on his son?

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Actually, there were quite a few praenomina (compared to what most people commonly read about Roman names). At least 64 have been recorded. The reality is that there were few praenomina in common use.

 

here is a list I nabebd from wiki (it has been glanced through by me to try and verify it:

Appius (Ap.)

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Would a son inherit all the names of his father?

Of did the agnomina only apply to the person who earned the title (Africanus/'Germanicus)

 

Sometimes agnomina became hereditary, and then the sons (and daughters, too) might carry on the name. I previously mentioned Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Maior, and he was called "Maior" because one of his sons was known as Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus Minor ("Minor" being somewhat like our "Junior"). In addition to at least one other son named Africanus, P. Scipio Africanus Maior also had a couple of daughters named Cornelia Scipionis Africana, although they would have been distinguished by either "Maior" and "Minor", or "Prima" and "Secunda" respectively.

 

Why did the Emperor Claudius not take the agnomina Britanicus?

Why use it on his son?

 

Actually, the Emperor Claudius did bear the additional agnomen of Britannicus, himself -- which was granted to him by Senate decree.

 

VTC, nice list you found at Wikipedia. There are a few more praenomina I could add to that, including Novius, Statius, Sertor, Ovius, Iulus, etc. Many of these praenomina were in use among the rural peoples of Italy living outside the city of Rome itself.

 

-- Nephele

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