Roman Life Cetera
Roman Names

     In the time of the Republic and thereafter, three names were customary for freeborn male Romans. The first name was called a praenomen. The second name was the nomen gentile or clan name. The third name, the cognomen, was the name of the family branch. Here are the full names (as well as the short forms we generally use today) of some famous Romans.
Gaius Julius Caesar ('Caesar') Marcus Tullius Cicero ('Cicero')
Publius Ovidius Naso ('Ovid') Publius Vergilius Maro ('Vergil')
Gaius Valerius Catullus ('Catullus') Quintus Horatius Flaccus ('Horace')
     Women, even aristocratic women, usually received simply a nomen, the feminine form of the father’s nomen. That is why Cornelius’ daughter is called Cornelia. If there had been more than one daughter in the Cornelian family, the older would be called Cornelia Major and the younger Cornelia Minor. A third daughter would be named Cornelia Tertia! Of course, a name could be modified to indicate affection, as when Cicero addresses his daughter Tullia as Tulliola ('little Tullia').

     Believe it or not, there were only a couple of dozen praenomina in common use by the Romans. Below is a list of the commonest praenomina along with their abbreviations.

A. = Aulus N. = Numerius
App. = Appius P. = Publius
D. = Decimus Q.= Quintus
C. = Gaius Ser. = Servius
Cn. = Gnaeus Sex. = Sextus
K. = Kaeso Sp. = Spurius
L. = Lucius Ti. = Tiberius
M. = Marcus T. = Titus

     The nomen or nomen gentile was the gens, or family name. Just a few examples of the hundreds of nomina are Aemilius, Cornelius, Claudius, Flavius, Julius, Tullius.
     In creating a nomen for yourself consider these examples: Michael Foster could become Marcus Fosterus. Ann Foster could be Fostera or Fosteria. Peter Corso could be Publius Corso and his sister would be known as Corsina. If you have a name that translates easily into Latin, then by all means use it. Wolf, for instance, becomes Lupus or Lupa.

     A cognomen often originated in a descriptive nickname that came to be passed down the family line. For example, C. Mucius, later known as Scaevola, was a Roman hero who sacrificed his right hand in an ancient war. This event was memorialized in his family with the cognomen 'Scaevola' which translates as 'Lefty.'
     Marcus Tullius Cicero, of oratorical fame, has a praenomen of Marcus, a nomen or clan name of Tullius, and a cognomen of Cicero, which translates as ‘chickpea’! Had his ancestors been farmers? Did some forefather have an exceptionally snub nose? We don't know, but Cicero's opponents didn't hesitate to ridicule his cognomen when they were trying to lessen the impact of his oratory on listeners.
     Pick out a cognomen that might describe yourself in some manner. Use the dictionary or go to the Latin I Links and visit the internet pages under 'Names.' A cognomen could refer to a quality or state of mind, such as Felix (fortunate); the color of your hair, such as Rufus (red); a hobby, such as Saltator/Saltatrix (male/female dancer) or Artifex (artist). Remember that the cognomen will be passed on to future generations, so don’t saddle yourself with a ‘Cicero"!

     Sometimes a second cognomen, called an agnomen, was added. These descriptive names could further distinguish one branch of a family from another. The agnomen might refer to high political office that an ancestor had held, such as Marcus Porcius Cato Censor. An agnomen could be given as an honor to a man who had distinguished himself in war: Publius Cornelius Scipio received the agnomen 'Africanus' because of his military triumphs in the province of Africa. Other generals received agnomina of 'Britannicus' or 'Hispanicus' or 'Asiaticus' or 'Germanicus or 'Aegypticus' for similar military feats in the provinces. Such agnomina could become hereditary.
     Have you some accomplishment of which you are especially proud? Can you turn the place where it happened into an agnomen? Have you achieved a school office or service award?

     Now let's review the names of the Cornelian family:

  Praenomen Nomen Cognomen
Grandfather Titus Cornelius Calvus "Baldy"
Uncle Titus Cornelius Calvus
Father Gaius Cornelius Calvus
Son Marcus Cornelius Calvus
Mother   Aurelia  
Daughter   Cornelia  

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