Scipio (plural, Scipiones) is a Roman cognomen representing the Cornelii Scipiones, a branch of the Cornelii family. Any individual male of the branch must be named Cornelius Scipio and a female Cornelia. The nomen, Cornelius, signifies that the person belongs to the Cornelia gens, a legally defined clan composed of many familiae. The cognomen, Scipio, identifies the line, or branch within the clan. Other branches had other cognomina; during the Republic there were no Cornelii who did not belong to some branch of the ancient clan. As branches developed, each was identified by its own agnomen, such as Africanus. The formal names of the Cornelii were thus at least two names long; in the late Republic, three or more.
Individual names, or praenomina, offered but little more variation. Of 18 patrician praenomina, each clan preferred a limited repertory. The Cornelii Scipiones used only three: Gnaeus (CN.), Lucius (L.) and Publius (P.), as a glance at the list of males names below will confirm. In written records it was typically necessary to distinguish the individual with the name of a relative; for men, usually the father (patronymic). The patronymic appeared typically as initials of the relative inserted after the nomen with F. for filius ("son") or N. for nepos ("grandson"): Lucius Cornelius P. f. Scipio, "Lucius Cornelius Scipio son of Publius."
Although the Romans used Scipiones (in only a few known literary instances) as a plural to mean more than one Scipio, they customarily preferred Scipionarius or Scipioneus to refer to "a Scipio" or the plural of those words for "the Scipios." The poets however preferred the honorific Greek patronymic form, Scipiades or Scipiadas in the singular, Scipiadae in the plural (which scans better as poetry: Scípǐǎdáe), in deference to the well-known Scipionic predilection for Hellenica.
Read more about Scipio (cognomen): People of Unknown Relationship
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