Personal Names in the Roman World - Interesting Reading  

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Personal Names in the Roman World
By Clive Cheesman

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The Romans were unusual in the ancient world for having many names. A male Roman citizen would probably have three names and may well have had many more. Some of the names were received at birth, some inherited, some assumed by way of adoption or patronage. Greek writers record their bewilderment at this complex system and even the Romans themselves debated its origin.

This book ' the first synthetic treatment of Roman naming practices in English, and the first in any language for more than half a century ' builds on recent scholarship to trace the story of Roman names from the earliest recorded examples down to the end of the Western empire in the fifth century AD. The author places the evidence in its social, cultural and linguistic context, and where appropriate draws on comparative material from other eras and regions. He looks closely at the names of women, non-citizen inhabitants of the Empire and slaves, and concludes that for all their apparent oddity, Roman naming practices fit ancient models. They were governed and replicated not by law, as has been suggested, but by conservatism and a spirit of emulation. With the spread of empire and the incorporation of other cultures into the citizen body, the practices evolved beyond recognition, leaving behind the beginnings of medieval naming systems.

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