By Stephen Wilson
Names are by no means given by chance; they're selected and bestowed in response to ideas that mirror basic beneficial properties of the society and tradition involved. this can be a examine of the character and background of naming practices in Western Europe.
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Additional resources for The means of naming: A social and cultural history of personal naming in western Europe
Varro mentions a woman with large breasts called Mammosa, which sounds like an equivalent of male corporeal cognomina. But the use of cognomina proper by women, whether inherited or personal, was virtually unknown at this time, and we are dealing here with privately used alternative names or nicknames. Antonius, the triumvir, was an actress called Cytheris, whose “real” name was Volumnia, as an ex-slave of Volumnius Eutrapelus. Stage-names were obviously not typical, but slaves and freedwomen, like their male counterparts, did at this time often take the master’s or patron’s name, usually in addition to their own individual name.
Many families had been decimated in the purges of Tiberius, Caligula, Nero and Domitian. The last emperor of noble stock was Galba in AD 69. But the process of biological wastage and rapid turnover of political personnel were longer-term and more decisive factors. ”8 During the Empire there was a similar movement, extending further down the scale of the élite. Senators lost their monopoly of high civil and military offices to equestrians and others. At the same time geographical expansion opened up the élite, and an international aristocracy emerged.
Sometimes by contrast in some provinces those with Greek cognomina were either free-born Greeks, like the immigrant architects, sculptors and others at Leptis Magna in the time of Septimius Severus; or free-born non-Greeks who assumed Greek names because they had high status locally like the upper-class natives in Ptolemaic Egypt. In choosing or retaining Greek names for their slaves, Roman slave-owners were reflecting their acquaintanceship with Greek culture and language— many upper-class Romans could speak Greek by the late Republican period— as well as perhaps their uneasy sense of superiority towards them.
The means of naming: A social and cultural history of personal naming in western Europe by Stephen Wilson