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]

Greek Aspirates in Latin

Greek Aspirates in Latin

Appearance of Aspirates

“The aspirates are almost wholly confined to words borrowed from Greek” (AG, 4.1 ftn)

These are ‘ph’ (cf. φ), ‘ch’ (cf. χ) and ‘th’ (cf. θ)

Because words containing aspirates are nearly always Greek, consider aspirates a marker of caution for the dreaded Greek declensions of Latin nouns

Pronunciation of Aspirates

The world ‘aspirate’ is from the Latin aspīrāre (ad + spīrāre, to breath on)

  • The sound we ‘breath onto’ these letters is an ‘h’
  • The aspirates, in Latin (ph, ch and th) are pronounced p+h, c+h, and t+h 

In late antiquity, ph began to approach f, to distinguish it from p

Quick Sample of Some Greek Nouns with Aspirates

I’ll review these declensions more fully later on:

  • Anchīsēs, Anchīsae, Anchīsae, Anchīsēn/am, Anchīsā (first declension)
  • Panthūs, Panthī, Panthō, Panthūn, Panthō (second declension)
  • Xenophōn, Xenophontis, Xenophontī, Xenophonta/em, Xenophonte (third declension)

Famous Phrase: ad usum Delphinī (for the use of Dauphin)

[used to demarcate works banned or edited for improper passages; originally used on special editions of Greek and Roman classics which Louis XIV gave to his heir apparent, the Dauphin of France]