Like most everything else in Rome, names were orderly and easily identified individuals and which group they belonged in. Roman society was very much enamored with rank and social stratification, and names were just another part of that ideology.
Each Roman had at least one name, called the praenomen. The praenomen was only used within the family or in very familiar relationships, and vas given during a special naming ceremony shortly after the birth of the baby. It can generally be equated with our first name that we use today. For the Romans, there were not many of these to choose from, and they were not widely used. In official documents the praenomen was often left out or abbreviated.
|Appius||Ap. or App.|
|Spurius||S. or Sp.|
|Tiberius||Ti. or Tib.|
Free peoples also had a nomen which identified their gens (clan). This is like the last names that we have today. Romans were often referred to by their nomen, especially if they did not have a cognomen.
The elite also had a cognomen, which identified the particular branch of the gens that they belonged to. It is by this name that Romans of the aristocracy were known.
Like ourselves, the Romans sometimes gave each other nicknames. This was referred to as the cognomen ex virtute, and it came at the end of the Roman name. The cognomen ex virtute was not (usually) passed down through the generations.
|praenomen:||nomen:||cognomen:||cognomen ex virtute:|
If their was more than one child of one gender in a family, the children were identified by putting maior or minor (oldest and youngest) or a number (first, second, third...) in front of their name.
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