The Let's Play Archive

Ryse: Son of Rome

by Tanks

Part 9: TheBravestofLamps - Roman naming customs

Kibayasu posted:

The odds that multiple people in that group at the end were named Marius are actually pretty good because if I remember my high school Roman history correctly there were maybe about two dozen? "personal" (or first) names in widespread use throughout most of the Empire's history. They'd probably be chanting his full name.

Yep. that would be his praenomen. Romans mainly recognised each by their full name, surname, or cognomen, which was a hereditary "nickname", or combination thereof. So for example, Gaius is your first name (completely generic, like "John"), Julius is your family name, and Caesar (likely "hairy") is your cognomen. Marcus Antonius was just Marcus Antonius. Marcus Tullius Cicero is known almost solely by his cognomen ("chickpea"). Pompey the Great was the rare sort who had an actual nickname (Gnaeus Pompeius "Magnus"). There were also victory titles, such as Africanus, or Germanicus, the latter of which was even used as a first name. Some names we use are actually historical shorthand, like Caligula.

Romans could also change their names through adoption or imperial succession (Roman Emperors, for whatever reason, had a hard time having sons). Emperors usually bore several names that reflected their predecessors to emphasise their legitimacy. Gaius Octavius was adopted posthumously and became Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, then named himself Imperator Caesar Divi Filius ("Commander Caesar Divine Son"), though people just called him "Caesar". Then he received the additional title of Augustus ("revered"), and that's how we know Gaius Octavius as Augustus. "Augustus" more or less became the imperial title alongside the more generic "imperator," and the emperors adopted it formally, often in addition to "Caesar". "Caesar" eventually became the title of the junior emperor (the Roman Empire became simply too big for one Emperor) or heir presumptive.

And as mentioned, some names we use for Romans are historical shorthand. Like Emperor Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus. We call him Caligula, but he went by Gaius. His nickname meant "little soldier's boot": as a child, his father took him on military campaigns, and in the camps he dressed in a miniature Legionary uniform. He may have killed people for calling him that as an adult, but that's why we call the twerp Caligula. The nickname of Emperor Caesar Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus Pius Augustus has a similar story. He's known as Caracalla, a caracalla being a type of cloak which he loved. Like Caligula, he may have killed people for calling him that. it's plausible, since Caracalla was the second biggest turd to ever become Emperor.

Our good friend in this LP was named Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, and was born as Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus.

And returning to Damocles, Romans did use Greek names, especially towards the end of the Empire. Some emperors had Hellenic heritage, like Alexander Severus. Emperor Diocletian is known by his latinised Greek name (Diocles).

e: His full name is Marius Titus, which I'm prettu sure is supposed to be Marius Titius.