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Nephele

Some Facts About Ursus

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No, not the UNRV Moderator -- I mean the name. :)

 

Having been afflicted with insomnia these past couple of evenings, I thought I'd pass some time in compiling this little offering, inspired by the screen name of our own Ursus.

 

In the consular fasti (of the Empire), Ursus is found as a cognomen of the Iulia gens. This cognomen was also found in the Cornelia gens (though not among any Cornelian magistrates of the Republic), as Pliny the Younger addressed several of his letters to his friend, Cornelius Ursus.

 

Of all the Latin cognomina derived from the names of animals, Ursus (meaning "bear") was among the most common, along with Aper ("wild boar"), Aquila ("eagle"), Capreolus ("roebuck"), Leo ("lion"), Taurus ("bull"), and Vitulus ("bull calf").

 

Of these, Ursus and Leo were the two most frequently found cognomina in Christian documents, popular with Christians (and pagans, too) because these names suggested strength and valor.

 

The following list of variants of the cognomen Ursus has been compiled from The Latin Cognomina, which the author Kajanto researched from "all available collections of inscriptions as well as the literary documents of antiquity down to approx. 600 A.D." I have taken this information and worked out the statistical comparisons for the purpose of the following listing:

 

Ursus/Ursa

The most commonly found form of this name, representing slightly more than a third of all recorded Romans to have borne some form of the name Ursus. This is also the only form of the name which appears to have been borne by members of the senatorial class.

 

Ursulus/Ursula

Ursinus/Ursina

Ursio

These cognomina, listed in order of frequency, represent between 20 and 10 percent of all recorded Romans who bore some form of the name Ursus.

 

Ursicinus/Ursicina

Ursacius/Ursacia

Ursilla

Ursianus

Ursinianus

These cognomina, listed in order of frequency, represent between 5 and 1 percent of all recorded Romans who bore some form of the name Ursus.

 

Ursenius/Ursenia

Ursatius

Ursicius

Ursico

Ursiclus, Ursiculus

Ursilianus

Ursinia

Ursella

Ursulianus

These cognomina represent less than 1 percent of those who bore some form of the name Ursus. Ursenius/Ursenia also appears as a rare nomen gentilicium. Ursico has a Celtic suffix.

 

The Latin name Ursus has evolved into various modern-day forms of given names, including Orson (English, via the Norman French word ors, via the Latin word ursus), Orsino and Orso (Italian), and Urs (German). The name of Ursula ranked in the 630th place among frequently occurring girls' names in the 1990 U.S. Federal Census.

 

Numerous Italian surnames are derived from the Latin Ursus, most notable among these being Orsini, the name of a powerful Italian family which produced three popes (Celestine III, Nicholas III, and Benedict XIII) and who traced their lineage back to a 10th century Ursus de Baro of Rome.

 

If anyone here has additional trivia regarding the Latin cognomen of Ursus, please feel free to add.

 

-- Nephele

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All I've got is the memorable first line of Victor Hugo's great novel, The Man Who Laughs:

Ursus and Homo were fast friends. Ursus was a man, Homo a wolf. Their dispositions tallied. It was the man who had christened the wolf: probably he had also chosen his own name. Having found Ursus fit for himself, he had found Homo fit for the beast.

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Very interesting. :)

 

 

In the consular fasti (of the Empire), Ursus is found as a cognomen of the Iulia gens.

 

Colin Wells relates an interesting story about this. According to a story told by Dio (whose veracity can be questioned) there was a Lucius Julius Ursus Servianus. This Ursus was considered by the emperor Hadrian to be a successor. While 90 years old, he had the benefit of being married to Hadrian's sister, and his grandson was Hadrian's only living male blood relation. Unfortunately Ursus Servianus ran afoul of Hadrian for some unspecified reason and was put to death. Even had he been chosen he certainly could not have lived long in the office, which lends doubts that Dio's story is even true in the first place!

 

But it's the one mention of an Ursus I have in my collected Romanophilia books.

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While 90 years old, he had the benefit of being married to Hadrian's sister, and his grandson was Hadrian's only living male blood relation. Unfortunately Ursus Servianus ran afoul of Hadrian for some unspecified reason and was put to death.

 

Now see there Ursus, even your namesake--a Julian--wasn't safe with those emperors running amuck! :)

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Now see there Ursus, even your namesake--a Julian--wasn't safe with those emperors running amuck! :)

 

A true Julian would have overthrown the emperor and seduced his wife. The blood apparently had run a little thin.

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