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Tuomo Nuorluoto

My dissertation project with the preliminary title Roman Female Cognomina: Studies in Roman Onomastics concerns the names used by Roman women, their cognomina in particular, during a time span of approximately 350 years, from the first emergence of female cognomina in the latter half of the second century BCE to the Constitutio Antoniniana in 212 CE. The cognomen was the last component of the Roman name system to establish itself and eventually the last one of it to survive. During the early imperial time it gradually became the most important individualizing name of Roman citizens, thus taking over the initial function of the praenomen. To women, who as a rule did not have official praenomina, the importance of the cognomen as an individualizing name element is significant, but a comprehensive study on the topic is yet to be made. The intention is to systematically study female cognomina from various perspectives, discussing in detail such phenomena as the emergence and establishment of the female cognomen, its form, type, distribution and semantics, as well as the inheritance of different name elements, and even certain structural issues, such as polyonymy (i.e. cases with more than the usual number of names in the official nomenclature).

The choice of a name is always closely linked to a certain cultural context (especially in ancient Rome) and should therefore be studied not only from a purely philological but also from a larger cultural historical perspective. The aforementioned phenomena will thus be approached from a three-fold point of view, the research material being observed in different time periods, different social groups (with emphasis on the upper classes) and different geographical areas. This approach, I believe, will contribute greatly not only to the knowledge of the onomastic habits of the Romans, but also to the knowledge of the Roman society and the Latin language on a larger scale.

As for the research material, all written accounts that are of some relevance to the topic are taken into account. The largest and most important (even if quite heterogeneous) source material for someone working on Roman onomastics, consists of diverse Latin and Greek inscriptions. They are important for both a quantitative and a qualitative reason. First, they give us information of thousands and thousands of individuals, completely missing from other sources. This is particularly the case with people of the lower strata, but also with many upper-class men and women, especially during periods poorly documented in literary sources. Second, inscriptions often record a person’s nomenclature in a more complete and detailed manner, whereas literary sources tend to use abbreviated name structures, referring to individuals usually with one or two names, which may even be corrupted by the complex manuscript tradition. Furthermore, inscriptions, unlike literary accounts, are almost exclusively contemporary documents. However, the literary testimony of ancient writers is, to be sure, of great value, whenever available. This naturally concerns chiefly the upper rather than the lower strata. In addition, numismatic material and papyri can and will be used when necessary and possible.

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