Roman Female Cognomina : Studies in the Nomenclature of Roman Women

Abstract: This study investigates the cognomina of Roman women. The cognomen was the latest component of the Roman onomastic system and in the course of the early first century CE it came to be the most important individual name of Roman citizens. Roman women, unlike men, did not normally bear any individualizing first names and most women during the Republic (509–27 BCE) had only their father’s gentile name in the feminine form. Through the emergence of the female cognomen, all Roman women eventually came to have an individual name and, consequently, a genuine individual identity in the public eye.The thesis offers, on the one hand, a comprehensive investigation on the typology of female cognomina and the various ways they could be formed; and on the other hand, a survey on how these cognomina could be chosen and for what reasons. These practices are investigated over a time period of c. 400 years (c. 100 BCE – 300 CE), in different geographical regions throughout the Roman Empire (with emphasis on the city of Rome and the Italian peninsula), and in different social strata. The material consists of written primary sources, mostly of inscriptions in Latin and Greek but also of testimonies of ancient authors. The study consists of five main chapters. Chapter 1 describes the scope, methods, sources, and scholarly framework of the study and offers a general description of the Roman onomastic system and the cognomen. Chapter 2 explores the types, variety, and formal and semantic aspects of female cognomina. Chapter 3 investigates the early chronology and the emergence of the cognomen in women’s nomenclature, presenting and analyzing the earliest datable evidence. Chapter 4 provides a survey of the various possibilities for choosing a cognomen, but also a survey of the non-use of cognomina in the imperial period. Chapter 5 summarizes the key findings of the thesis with a concluding analysis.