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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  24 April 2013

Arturo Echavarren
Spanish National Research Council (CSIC)


The formula cognomen + nomen, as portrayed in Latronis enim Porcii (Sen. Controv. 1 praef. 13), the first double-name reference without praenomen in Seneca the Elder's work (henceforth referred to simply as Seneca), emerged as a result of the radical changes which the Roman onomastic system began to experience at the end of the Republic. On account of a wide variety of factors, both social and linguistic, the cognomen seized the role of diacritic name and individual signifier, having ousted praenomen from its ancient throne; the relatively limited number of praenomina in common use contributed substantially to their waning. The formulae of two constituents visibly reflected the progressive decline of praenomina; during the Early Principate double names still represented the usual formal means of reference (tria nomina being highly formal, mostly occurring in official contexts), but it mostly consisted of nomen + cognomen rather than praenomen + nomen or praenomen + cognomen. The formula nomen + cognomen, which developed once personal cognomina began to spread among the lesser classes, was primarily crafted for addressing men of ambiguous status, peregrini and freedmen. Thus, Cicero tends to avoid its use in naming members of the nobility, whom he refers to with a clear preference for the older, lustrous conjunction praenomen + cognomen.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2013

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The research for this paper was completed with the support of the ‘Junta para la Ampliación de Estudios’ (CSIC), JAE-Doc Program, co-financed by the FSE. I am very grateful to Bruce Gibson and the anonymous referee for detailed criticism and helpful suggestions.


2 On the development and evolution of the Roman naming system, see Bailey, D.R. Shackleton, Two Studies in Roman Nomenclature (Atlanta, 1991 2)Google Scholar; Salway, B., ‘What's in a name? A survey of Roman onomastic practice from c. 700 b.c. to a.d. 700’, JRS 84 (1994), 124–45Google Scholar; Solin, H., ‘Namensgebung und Politik. Zum Namenswechsel und zu besonderen Vornamen römischer Senatoren’, Tyche 10 (1995), 185210Google Scholar; Rix, H., ‘Römische Personennamen’, in Eichler, E. et al. (edd.), Namenforschung. Ein internationales Handbuch zur Onomastik 1 (Berlin/New York, 1995), 724–32Google Scholar; Jones, F., Nominum ratio. Aspects of the Use of Personal Names in Greek and Latin (Liverpool, 1996)Google Scholar; Castritius, H., ‘Das römische Namensystem – Von der Dreinamigkeit zur Einnamigkeit?’, in Geuenich, D., Haubrichs, W. and Jarnut, J. (edd.), Nomen et gens. Zur historischen Aussagekraft frühmittelalterlicher Personennamen (Berlin/New York, 1997), 3040Google Scholar; Solin, H., ‘Zur Entwicklung des römischen Namensystems’, in Geuenich, D., Haubrichs, W. and Jarnut, J. (edd.), Person und Name. Methodische Probleme bei der Erstellung eines Personennamenbuches des Frühmittelalters (Berlin/New York, 2002), 117.Google Scholar

3 Cf. Solin (n. 2 [2002]), 6–9; Salomies, O., Die römischen Vornamen: Studien zur römischen Namengebung (Helsinki, 1987), 280–2.Google Scholar

4 Cf. Dickey, E., Latin Forms of Address. From Plautus to Apuleius (Oxford, 2002), 50–1.Google Scholar

5 See Lahmeyer, G., ‘Über die Reihenfolge der Eigennamen bei den Römern’, Philologus 22 (1865), 469–94Google Scholar, at 492–3; Schulze, W., Zur Geschichte der lateinischer Eigennamen (Berlin, 1904)Google Scholar, 491; Adams, J.N., ‘Conventions of naming’, CQ 28 (1978), 145–66CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 165–6; Dickey (n. 4), 67–8. On the naturalization of cognomina amongst all ordines in Late Republic and Early Empire, see Solin, H., ‘Sul consolidarsi del cognome nell'età repubblicana al di fuori della classe senatoria e dei liberti’, in Epigrafia. Actes du colloque international d'épigraphie latine en mémoire de Attilio Degrassi pour le centenaire de sa naissance (Rome, 1991), 153–87Google Scholar, and Gallivan, P., ‘The nomenclature patterns of the Roman upper class in the Early Empire’, Antichthon 26 (1992), 5179CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Cf. Bailey, D.R. Shackleton, Cicero's Letters to Atticus, Vol. 1 (Books I–II) (Cambridge, 1965), 402–3.Google Scholar

7 See Curschmann, J., Zur Inversion der römischen Eigennamen. I. Cicero bis Livius (Büdingen, 1900)Google Scholar, 38; Axtell, H.L., ‘Men's names in the writings of Cicero’, CPh 10 (1915), 386404Google Scholar, at 396; Salway (n. 2), 130; Jones (n. 2), 40.

8 It seems quite probable that in Catullus' line ‘Marrucine Asini’ (12.1), the first word is not a cognomen but a geographical epithet. See Nisbet, R.G.M. and Hubbard, M., A Commentary on Horace Odes, Book II (Oxford, 1978)Google Scholar, 167. The formula is only found once in the Rhetorica ad Herennium (3.21.34), Julius Caesar (B Civ. 2.33.3) and Cornelius Nepos (Att. 18.3–4), and three times in Varro (Rust. 1.2.7, 2 praef. 6, 2.11.12). Cicero also appears to dislike cognomen + nomen, whose original informal flavour determines its usage in his letters rather than in his speeches (see e.g. Att. 6.1.25, 8.15.3, 13.52.1, Q Fr. 2.4.1, 13.2, Fam. 6.12.2, 13.64.1). See also Curschmann (n. 7), 1–41. Horace's works, where cognomen + nomen is moderately frequent, seem crucial to the consecration of the style in Latin literature, as they explore the stylistic applications of the placement of the cognomen to first position, upon which communicative emphasis is automatically laid, thus favouring the modelling of puns on proper names (Carm. 2.2.3, 9.19, 11.2; Ep. 1.2.1, 8.1, Sat. 1.7.1, 5, 35, 9.61, 10.80, etc.). See Rudd, N., ‘The names in Horace's Satires’, CQ 10 (1960), 161–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Absent in Sallust, the formula is quite common in Livy, although he tends to use it for naming sources rather than historical figures (see e.g. 3.5.12, 4.20.8, 4.23.1, 7.9.4, 9.38.16, 9.46.3, 10.9.10, 33.30.10, 39.41.6, 39.56.7), as noted by Ogilvie, R.M., A Commentary on Livy, Books 1–5 (Oxford, 1984)Google Scholar, 570. Valerius Maximus, who prefers traditional formulae with praenomen, makes slight use of cognomen + nomen (see e.g. 3.2.6a, 4.1.13, 6.1.13, 8.7.5, 8.11.2, 8.15.8). Velleius Paterculus, however, takes keen delight in this formula, using it forty-two times (see e.g. 1.14.4, 1.14.6, 2.1.4, 2.12.2, 2.16.4, 2.33.4, 2.38.2, 2.39.2, 2.78.3). If Cicero showed a preference for the use of cognomen + nomen in reference to lesser men, Valerius Maximus and Velleius, both writing during Tiberius' reign, tend to use this formula in addressing men of senatorial rank.

9 On 55 b.c. as date of Seneca's birth, see Bornecque, H., Les déclamations et les déclamateurs d'après Sénèque le Père (Lille, 1967)Google Scholar, 10, and Sussman, L.A., The Elder Seneca (Leiden, 1978)Google Scholar, 20. Griffin, M., ‘The Elder Seneca and Spain’, JRS 62 (1972), 119Google Scholar, at 5, places Seneca's birth some years later, around 50 b.c., and is followed by Fairweather, J., ‘The Elder Seneca and declamation’, ANRW 2.32.1 (1984), 514–56Google Scholar, at 517. Regarding the date of the composition of the Controuersiae and Suasoriae, it appears quite clear that Seneca wrote his anthology in the winter of his life. As revealed by Artigas, E., ‘La datación de las Controversias de Séneca el Viejo: la cuestión de los prólogos’, in Ezquerra, A. Alvar (ed.), XI Congreso Español de Estudios Clásicos (Madrid, 2005), 749–56Google Scholar, the prefaces convey significant data which show that most of Seneca's work was written by a.d. 31. On oldness as a trait of Seneca's style, see Artigas, E., ‘Les Controvèrsies de Sèneca pare, obra de vellesa’, in Usobiaga, B. and Quetglas, P.J. (edd.), Ciència, didàctica i funció social dels estudis clàssics (Barcelona, 2004), 135–43Google Scholar.

10 According to Tacitus, Cassius Severus was sordidae originis, maleficae uitae, sed orandi ualidus (Ann. 4.21.3). We shall hear more about him later.

11 See Adams (n. 5), 165; on Seneca's use of formulae with praenomen, see Echavarren, A., Nombres y personas en Séneca el Viejo (Pamplona, 2007)Google Scholar, 284. See e.g. L. Arruntius (Controv. 7 praef. 7), L. Asprenas (Controv. 10 praef. 2), P. Asprenas (Controv. 1.1.5; 1.2.9; 1.4.2, 12; 1.8.4; 2.2.4; 2.3.8; 2.6.3; 7.8.6; 9.2.3; 10.4.19, 25; Suas. 7.4), Q. Haterius (Controv. 1.6.12; 4 praef. 6; 7.1.4; 7.2.5; 7.8.3; 9.6.8; Suas. 6.1; 7.1), M. Lepidus (Controv. 10 praef. 3), etc. On distinguishing the illustrious senator M. Lepidus from his relative M'. Aemilius Lepidus (cos. a.d. 11), praeceptor of Germanicus' son Nero (Controv. 2.3.23), see Syme, R., ‘Marcus Lepidus, capax imperii’, JRS 45 (1955), 2234.Google Scholar

12 See Echavarren (n. 11), 293, 297. Triarius occurs both as nomen and, much less frequently, as cognomen; see Kajanto, I., The Latin cognomina (Rome, 1982 2)Google Scholar, 320. Although we cannot establish the declaimer's nomenclature with any certainty, if Triarius is here a nomen, then this man did not possess a cognomen, like all of the declaimers named by unaccompanied nomen in the first section (M. Argentarius, T. Labienus and Passienus). See Echavarren (n. 11), 316.

13 This Rubellius Blandus, whose praenomen, according to Syme, R., ‘The marriage of Rubellius Blandus’, AJPh 103 (1982), 6285Google Scholar, at 65, might be Lucius, was the grandfather of C. Rubellius Blandus, suffect consul in a.d. 18. In a.d. 33 this senator married Julia, Drusus' daughter and Tiberius' granddaughter (Tac. Ann. 6.27.1).

14 Marullus (PIR 2 V M 350), possibly himself a Spaniard, was the teacher of rhetoric of Seneca and Porcius Latro (Controv. 1 praef. 22), probably in Rome, as argued by Sussman (n. 8), 20–1, and Migliario, E., ‘Orientamenti ideologici e relazioni interpersonali fra gli oratori e retori di Seneca il Vecchio’, in Gualandri, I. and Mazzoli, G. (edd.), Gli Annaei. Una famiglia nella storia e nella cultura di Roma imperiale (Como, 2003), 101–15Google Scholar, at 103. The invariable usage of cognomen alone in reference to this rhetor appears to be a gesture of intimacy. His cognomen, which is rather uncommon, may be derived from Maro, as suggested by Solin, H., Beiträge zur Kenntnis der griechischen Personennamen in Rom (Helsinki, 1971), 77–8.Google Scholar

15 Cornelius Hispanus (PIR 2 II C 1371) was a minor declaimer, perhaps from Hispania. Thus, Weinrib, E.J., The Spaniards in Rome: From Marius to Domitian (Cambridge, MA, 1990), 106–7Google Scholar; contra, Griffin (n. 9), 12 n. 143.

16 Sepullius Bassus (PIR 2 III S 360), perhaps related to P. Sepullius Macer, moneyer in 44 b.c., is a mediocre declaimer mentioned only in Book 7 of the Controuersiae. He exhibits a rare nomen from Transpadane Italy. See Syme, R., ‘Eight consuls from Patavium’, PBSR 51 (1983), 102–24, at 123 n. 129.Google Scholar

17 Pompeius Silo (PIR 2 VI P 653), regarded as a man of intelligence (Controv. 9.2.22), perhaps a Spaniard, as Weinrib (n. 15), 107 suggests, was a poor declaimer but a competent advocate (Controv. 3 praef. 11). Among his possible descendants we might mention M. Larcius Magnus Pompeius Silo, suffect consul in a.d. 83. This declaimer is named twenty times by nomen + cognomen, thirty-nine times by cognomen + nomen, five times by cognomen and, remarkably, once by nomen (Controv. 1.4.10).

18 Echavarren (n. 11), 287–8.

19 For a similar antithesis, cf. Cic. Fam. 7.10: Una mehercule nostra uel seuera uel iocosa congressio pluris erit quam non modo hostes, sed etiam fratres nostri Aedui. The caustic wit of Cassius Severus, himself a delator, was proverbial: in magna parte librorum suorum plus bilis habeat quam sanguinis (Tac. Dial. 26.4). On account of his many slanders of the Roman aristocracy, Cassius was deprived of his property and exiled to the inhospitable island of Seriphos, where he died (Tac. Ann. 4.21.3). On his activities against the regime, see D. Lassandro, ‘La condanna di Cassio Severo’, in Sordi, M. (ed.), Processi e politica nel mondo antico (Milan, 1996), 213–28Google Scholar, and Deroux, C., ‘Auguste, Cassius Severus et le procès de Nonius Asprenas (Suetone, Aug. LVI, 6 et Dion Cassius LV, 4, 3)’, Latomus 63 (2004), 178–81Google Scholar. He has been doubtfully identified with the anonymous addressee of Ovid's Ibis. See Herrmann, L., ‘La faute secrète d'Ovide’, RBPh 17 (1938), 695713CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at 709–12.

20 Bornecque (n. 9), 173–6; Fairweather, J., Seneca the Elder (Cambridge, 1981), 277–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Balbo, A., I frammenti degli oratori romani dell'età augustea e tiberiana, 3 vols. (Alessandria, 2007)Google Scholar, 2.247–53; Echavarren (n. 11), 167–9. According to Seneca, Gallio was one of the four most eloquent men of his time (Controv. 10 praef. 13). Bolton, J.D.P., ‘A curiosity in Seneca’, CQ 6 (1956), 238–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar at 240–1 suggests that Novatus' adoption, dated circa a.d. 52, occurred per testamentum rather than by adrogatio. This senator has been identified with the Gallio to whom Ovid addresses the briefest letter in the Epistulae ex Ponto (4.11).

21 Adams (n. 5), 165–6; Salway (n. 2), 130. See e.g. Controv. 1.1.14, 25; 1.6.8, 10; 1.7.12; 1.8.9; 2.1.33; 2.3.14. Similarly, in naming his closest childhood friend, the Spanish rhetorician M. Porcius Latro (PIR 2 VI P 859), who died in 4 b.c., Seneca displays a preference for unaccompanied cognomen rather than for cognomen + nomen. The Spaniard is referred to by cognomen alone in 105 cases, whereas he is only addressed by cognomen + nomen in five passages (Controv. 1 praef. 13; 2.1.17; 7.4.10; 9 praef. 3; 10.4.21). It must be noted that Latro is given the conjunction cognomen + nomen in his first appearance (Controv. 1 praef. 13); the use of this onomastic formula, as opposed to nomen + cognomen, is here to be regarded as a proper gesture of intimacy, in keeping with what Seneca says about his long friendship with Latro. On Latro's life and declamatory skills see Fairweather (n. 20), 251–70, and Duret, L., ‘Dans l'ombre des plus grands I. Deuxième partie: orateurs et déclamateurs’, ANRW 2.30.3 (1983), 1503–60, at 1518–25.Google Scholar

22 On this declaimer, whom Seneca regards as one of the best of his time (Controv. 10 praef. 13), see Bornecque (n. 9), 145–8; Assereto, A., Gaio Albucio Silo (Genoa, 1967)Google Scholar; Echavarren (n. 11), 50–4; Balbo (n. 20), 1.48–70.

23 See a prosopographical commentary on this conceited declaimer in Bornecque (n. 9), 160–2, and Echavarren (n. 11), 101–4. Although Greek, Cestius Pius had the habit of declaiming always in Latin (Controv. 9.3.13), in spite of his sometimes poor competence in this language, as Seneca notes in Controv. 7.1.27.

24 On Suas. 7.12–13, depicting a enjoyable joust between Cassius Severus, a passionate admirer of Cicero, and Cestius Pius, see Rayment, C.S., ‘Presumption rebuked’, CJ 42 (1947), 259–60Google Scholar.

25 There exists, however, a greater affective distance involving the delator Romanius Hispo, whose harsh bitterness and malevolence is often exposed by Seneca (Controv. 1.2.16; 2.5.20; 7.2.13, where he attacks Cicero; 9.3.11; 10.1.13). He is named thirty-four times, eight times by nomen + cognomen and twenty-six by cognomen + nomen. In spite of the distinctiveness of both his nomen and his cognomen (see R. Syme, ‘Personal names in Annals I–VI’, JRS 39 [1949], 6–18, at 14–15), which would ensure the fulfilment of the diacritic function in using either unaccompanied name, Seneca visibly eschews the use of single-name formulae in referring to him. The only passage where a single name appears to be employed is immediately followed by a lacuna: Romanius tamen … (Controv. 7.4.10). It may be hazarded without discomfort that after tamen we probably would have run into the cognomen Hispo. One of the three codices antiquiores, the Bruxellensis 9581–95, however, does not read Romanius here but romanis, so we cannot be sure of this personal reference at all. On the nomen of this declaimer, either Romanius or Romanus, see Badian, E., ‘More on Romanius Hispo’, RSA 3 (1973), 7785Google Scholar.

26 See e.g. M. Brutus (Controv. 10.1.8; Suas. 6.11), P. Scipio (Suas. 7.8), P. Clodius (Controv. 7.2.13), C. Caesar (Suas. 6.13), Q. Catulus (Suas. 7.3), Cn. Pompeius (Controv. 5.1; 7.2.6; 10.1.8; 10.3.5; 10.6.3; 10.7.2–4), Sex. Pompeius (Suas. 6.11), M. Cato (Controv. 1 praef. 9; 7.6.17).

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