Roman Naming Conventions

Roman Naming Conventions

Roman naming practices varied greatly over the centuries between the founding of Rome to the early Middle Ages. However, the practice of the elite during the period between the mid-Republic and the early Empire has come to be seen as the classical Roman naming convention. This is likely to be because this period provides good evidence of naming practices of the best documented class in the best documented Roman period.

By the end of the Republican era, a name for an aristocratic male citizen comprised three parts (tria nomina): praenomen (given name), nomen (or nomen gentile or simply gentilicium, being the name of the gens or clan) and cognomen (name of a family line within the gens). Sometimes a second or third cognomen, called agnomen, was added. The nomen, and later, cognomen were virtually always hereditary. During the Imperial period, the number and options for elements within a name considerably increased. The naming conventions for the later period grew out of a desire to indicate status, connections and ancestry, in a way that was much more wide-ranging than could be shown by the tria nomina.

During the Empire, superficially the naming conventions appear to dissolve into anarchy. In fact, this was not the case as new conventions developed, which were themselves internally coherent. A wide range of naming models developed.

Females were officially known by the feminine form of their father's nomen gentile, followed by the genitive case of their father's (husband's if married) cognomen and an indication of order among sisters. By the late Roman Republic, women sometimes also adopted the feminine of their father's cognomen. A woman usually did not have the praenomen and agnomen, unless the parents chose to give her those.

Read more about Roman Naming Conventions:  Early History, Mid/late Republic To The Early Empire, Names Under The Empire

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