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Vibius Tiberius Costa

What Name You Were Referred to in the Legion

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In regards to one of my obscure questions, about names di the centurion say:

 

Centurion: Oy you, Vibius (praenomen)

 

Centurion: Oy you, Julius (gens name/gentilicus)

 

Centurion: Oy you, Tacitus (cognomen)

 

Centurion: Oy you, Optimus (agnomen)

 

Centurion: Oy you, vtc (extreme nickname)

 

Centurion: Oy you!

 

hmmmmm any thoughts?

 

vtc

Edited by Vibius Tiberius Costa

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Did the centurion say...

Centurion: Oy you, Vibius (praenomen)

Centurion: Oy you, Julius (gens name/gentilicus)

Centurion: Oy you, Tacitus (cognomen)

Centurion: Oy you, Optimus (agnomen)

Centurion: Oy you, vtc (extreme nickname)

Centurion: Oy you!

 

I thought the standard form of address in the middle Republic would have been praenomen+gens (i.e., Marcus Tullius). But without a nomenclator standing by the centurion, I'd guess that 'extreme nicknames' (e.g., "chickpea" for a guy with a giant mole on his face; "lefty" for the guy who dropped his gladius; "hairy" for the bald guy; "silent" for the guy who never talks) would serve the purpose, become well-known, and eventually become elevated to (heritable) cognomina (e.g., Cicero, Scaevola, Caesar, Tacitus). Whether most cognomina had a military origin is an extreme guess, but ... maybe? Seems like a decent explanation for why those cognomina were so darned saucy.

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Thanks, where's Nephele when you need her. =D

 

Nephele missed this, until now. :(

 

MPC has covered this nicely -- before the end of the Republic, Romans were formally addressed by praenomen + gens, and this method of address also continued in the Senate.

 

But perhaps this would have been too lofty for mere soldiers, and since the use of the cognomen was the more ordinary form of address (without any prefixed title equivalent to our "Mr."), that's probably how the soldiers were addressed. Especially since there would have been numerous duplicate names if the soldiers were addressed by praenomen + gens. But, with thousands of different cognomina in use, there would have been less confusion of names. That is, if the centurion in charge could remember all the different names of his soldiers (as previously pointed out by MPC and Caldrail).

 

I think we can safely assume that the centurion would not be addressing his men by their praenomen, as only family members and intimates would use the praenomen. And, much as the centurion might care for his men, I don't imagine he'd care to be thought of as being intimate with any of them.

 

-- Nephele

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Thanks MPC and Nephele that is exactly the response I need.

 

vtc

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Just a hunch but ...

 

They would strive to keep it formal. That means the gens name

 

Also might i remind everyone that there were relavively few praenomens around

 

Yelling "Gaius!" or "Marcus!" would probably produce a similar effect to yelling "Soldier!"

 

Having stood in a few formations, as I'm sure some of you have, the sergeant or senior NCO (Non Commissioned Officer or in this case Centurion) simply yells: 'Soldier' and when everybody looks at him he points directly to the man he wants the attention of.

 

If that man for some reason doesn't respond or notice, the man next to him will see the intent and prompt him with a nudge or worse. When in formation the men are generally paying atttention and looking to the NCO for clues as to what's needed or expected of them.

 

My own philosophy in such matters was whenever in a formation, pay attention but maintain a low profile so as to not be volunteered for anything. The best way to be volunteered for some unwanted detail was to appear as if you were out of it, or preoccupied. The black bird gets picked a lot by hard nosed NCO's for those unwanted details. Once the NCO gets that man's number he won't be able to relax as much.

 

For the most part, when in formation the man in charge has full attention of the men. If they are too relaxed he simply calls them to attention, after which the problem ceases to exist.

 

Faustus

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Ok, so once centurion has shouted "YOU!" and the correct man has looked at him would the centurion take note of his name, I know this sounds stupid but a centurion only has 60 men, it wouldn't be to difficu;t to learn names, would it?

 

vtc

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Ok, so once centurion has shouted "YOU!" and the correct man has looked at him would the centurion take note of his name, I know this sounds stupid but a centurion only has 60 men, it wouldn't be to difficu;t to learn names, would it?

 

vtc

 

I suspect that Faustus is correct about the extent to which the eye of the NCO's would invariably fall on the man who made the mistake of making his presence known.

 

Despite being totally unauthentic for the 'real' Roman army I always think of the Up Pompeii episode where the slave Lurcio got drafted into the Roman military and given the 'legion' number of IV (pronounced 'Ivy' of course :D ).

 

Of possibly more appropriateness is to consider how individuals were referred to in Roman military records - if I'm not mistaken the Vindolanda tablets seem to run more to praenomen than anything else c/f -

http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/4DLink2/4D...p;submit=People

 

The report of men given various tasks with 'Marcus the medical orderly' listed by name and reports signed by an optio' such as Candidus are almost invariably a single name, which no matter how common must logically have been sufficient to identify them for military purposes. By extension probably a single name (although possibly a nick-name in some instances) must have sufficed at the level of a century.

 

Of course the usual caveat that these are the remnants of records from an Auxiliary unit rather than Legionary records apply but how men were listed in official roll calls must give a strong indicaion of how they were normally identified as individuals by their officers.

 

Melvadius

Edited by Melvadius

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if I'm not mistaken the Vindolanda tablets seem to run more to praenomen than anything else c/f -

http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/4DLink2/4D...p;submit=People

 

Using the Vindolanda tablets as a primary source for answering the question of how Roman soldiers may have been addressed was brilliant, Melvadius.

 

But, unless I'm missing something somewhere (?), I'm not seeing a lot of praenomina on that list, which appears to be composed mostly of cognomina.

 

(And, I also love that episode of Up Pompeii with "Ivy" the legionary. :D)

 

-- Nephele

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if I'm not mistaken the Vindolanda tablets seem to run more to praenomen than anything else c/f -

http://vindolanda.csad.ox.ac.uk/4DLink2/4D...p;submit=People

 

Using the Vindolanda tablets as a primary source for answering the question of how Roman soldiers may have been addressed was brilliant, Melvadius.

 

But, unless I'm missing something somewhere (?), I'm not seeing a lot of praenomina on that list, which appears to be composed mostly of cognomina.

 

(And, I also love that episode of Up Pompeii with "Ivy" the legionary. :D)

 

-- Nephele

 

You may well be right - Even when I was in the Auxilia I never could tell my praenomina from my cognomina :) Mind you thinking that for part of the time that I would also end up being called 'Ivy' may have had something to do with that :D

 

Seriously though when I looked at them I only quickly looked at a few of the tablets which fall into the category of military reports rather than personal correspondence - the name listing covers all types of correspondence. The report on work identified as being led by Marcus obviously leapt out but other reports may not have the same formula.

 

The other caveat is of course that the tablets, in most cases are fairly fragmentary often with one side or the other damaged, so anyone doing this sort of research will need to look carefully at which elements have survived to see if there is any discernable emphahsis on praenomina or (the more likely?) cognomina.

 

Melvadius

Edited by Melvadius

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You now discussed which name the Centurion would use, but how about the soldiers of one contubernium? Did they use eachothers praenomina or cognomina?

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You now discussed which name the Centurion would use, but how about the soldiers of one contubernium? Did they use eachothers praenomina or cognomina?

I still maintain that they'd frequently get nicknames for colloquial use. Not all soldiers even today are called by their names, and our naming is different, of course. Imagine a contubernium with 8 men all praenamed "Marcus" (entirely possible). Some would be named by events, "Thunder" was one name given by J. Caesar to a soldier, e.g. Some by deed, "Gaul gutter"..."Line breaker"..."Ox", whatever would be easy for the nearby soldiers to remember, based on some common event or attribute. Or they could be called "Marcus the Calabrian", etc. Nicknames existed, and many are recorded for Romans. Often not complimentary when written of opponents on the Senate floor....

 

Today, in the military, last names are frequently used, but if there are three "Smiths" in a group, one may be called "Smitty", another "Lefty" and the third, just "Smith". I think that would have been the same back then, since their naming system was much more limited.

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