Āgnōmina

Somehow, this post got very political. I trust you’ll still enjoy it.

Agnōmina

Fourth or fifth names may be added to denote particular family distinctions.

  • Pūblius Cornēlius Scīpiō Āfricānus Aemiliānus=
  • Pūblius (my widdle Pubb-pie, as his mother might say)
  • Cornēlius (an important gēns with uncertain origins)
  • Scīpiō (the Scīpiō family, descended from some particular Cornelian nicknamed for his ‘ceremonial rod’)
  • Āfricānus (for Pūblius’ exploits in Africa)
  • Aemiliānus (adopted from the Aemilian gēns)

The Romans simply saw these as further cōgnōmina, but later writers described these as agnōmina 

Gēns vs. Familia

If you’re worried about the difference between the gēns and the ‘family,’ just imagine that each gēns stretched back to some great ancient ancestor, whereas each family stretch back to some more recent republican ancestor

  • We’re distantly related to Thomas Jefferson (gēns Jeffersōnia)
  • I heard this form uncle George (George Jeffersōnia Bush Īrācānus)
  • George W. would have been George J. B. Minor in his early days
  • You may think he doesn’t deserve the āgnōmen ‘Īrācānus,’ and neither do I–so let’s realize just how political these little nicknames really are [I’m sure a number of Romans refused Scīpiō his ‘Āfricānus’]
  • George’s great-grandfather, Sam Prescott Bush, may have added a fifth āgnōmen–the gēns name of the Rockefellers–because he rose to prominence with the aid of John’s brother, Frank Rockefeller
  • This entire example is complicated by the fact that the Bushes would be publicans not patricians

The Essential AG: 108a

Famous Phrase Revisited: ‘cēterum autem censeō Fedem dēlendem esse.’ [and what’s more, I claim that the Fed must be destroyed]

Ron Paul as Catō Maior

[if you have no idea what my politics are, then I’ve designed this post correctly!]

Roman Names

Summary of Name Structure

The typical Roman had three names: the praenōmen (first name), the nōmen (gēns name), and the cōgnōmen (family name).

  • Mārcus Tullius Cicerō =
  • Mārcus (what’s up, Marcus?) +
  • Tullius (the time-honored descendants of Servius Tullius, 6th kind of Rome)
  • Cicero (the Cicero family, descended from some particular Tullian who earned the nickname ‘chickpea’)

A gēns is much larger than a family, and a Roman was more formally and less intimately attached to the name. ‘Mārcus Tullius Cicerō‘ may be compared to todays ‘John Proper III, descendant of James Black, Duke of York.’

  • On the day-to-day, he was just Mārcus Cicerō
  • When two members of the same family are mentioned together, the cōgnōmen is plural: Pūblius et Servius Sullae

What About Women?

No first names–no praenōmina, and no family names–no cōgnōmina.

  • Cicero’s daughter was Tullia
  • Further daughters would have been Tullia secundaTullia tertia, etc. 

The Essential AG: 108, 108b

Famous Phrase: nōmen est ōmen : the name is a sign

[tied with nominative determinism–the outlook that given names inform what we become and how we develop]