Wikipedia:Naming conventions (ancient Romans)

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There are about 5,000 citizens of ancient Rome about whom we have some biographical information, and for a combination of reasons, naming each one uniquely for articles is not straightforward. Even the twenty-odd most famous can be problematic: Caesar usually means Julius Caesar, but the cognomen was later used by all Roman emperors. (The problem is not unique to Wikipedia: the Oxford Classical Dictionary has an appendix of alternative names by which some Romans are known, and Pauly-Wissowa uses a numbering system.)

This convention is intended to amplify the use of the most common name in English, and to cover the cases of extreme ambiguity and obscure personages.

Article titles[edit]

Common names as regularly used in English are preferred to the Latin forms or official nomenclature, which should be created as redirects. Examples of article titles:

Many Roman men, particularly those of middling fame, will be known by their tria nomina, a set of three names (Manius Curius Dentatus): the praenomen, the first or personal name; nomen, the name of the family (gens or clan); and cognomen, a third name, originally an individual's nickname, used to designate the descendants of his branch of the gens. Some men may have additional names (agnomina).

Do not use abbreviations or filiations in article titles (see below), but users will benefit from having these forms as redirects: Cn. Pompeius Magnus for Pompey. Redirects should also help with orthography found in older literature: Caius Julius Caesar for Julius Caesar.

Honorifics and offices are included in the article title only when necessary for disambiguation; see below.


For articles on Roman emperors, use the common name in English sources: Caligula, not Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus or the more generic and ambiguous Gaius.

A few exceptions have been made when a name is far more commonly used in English for another figure.

Abbreviations and filiations[edit]

Abbreviations and filiations used in Roman nomenclature by specialist publications unnecessarily confuse the general reader, and are mostly to be avoided. Although abbreviations of praenomina (first names) should not be used in article titles or the bold lead, they may be useful for concision in tables (for example, list of Roman consuls is introduced with a key to abbreviations) or for sidebars and navigational templates.

Abbreviations for common praenomina are standardized (for a list, see praenomen#Masculine names). When expanding abbreviations, be aware that C. stands for Gaius, and Cn. for Gnaeus, though Caius and Cnaeus may be found in older literature; M. for Marcus and M'. for Manius are easily confused.

Filiations are sets of abbreviations that denote ancestry:

Marcus Baebius Q. f. Cn. n. Tamphilus
expanded: Marcus Baebius Quinti filius Gnaei nepos Tamphilus
translation: "Marcus Baebius Tamphilus, son of Quintus, grandson of Gnaeus"
article title: Marcus Baebius Tamphilus

Names incorporating filiation should not appear as article titles or in the bold lead, but can be used for redirects, or for prosopographical lists, where the convention should be explained.


Article titles for the biographies of ancient Romans often need to be disambiguated. The Romans used a limited number of names, and family names were carried on for generations (see Category:Prosopography of ancient Rome, and prosopographical lists such as Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi for a specific example). Article titles may be disambiguated through an epithet or agnomen commonly used in English or by a parenthetical word or phrase: Antoninus Pius, Constantine the Great (an anomaly among article titles for emperors), Gaius Papirius (Pontifex Maximus). Other forms of disambiguation include:

  • Highest office. Men who had a public career should usually be distinguished by the highest office held, as in Lucius Valerius Flaccus (consul 195 BC) and Gaius Carrinas (praetor 82 BC). Preferably the year should be included beside the office, even the individual is the only of his name to have held it, in order to help readers and editors to more easily identify the period in which such person flourished. If a man held the office more than once, use only the year of his first term.
  • Notability. A Roman who held no office may be distinguished by most notable activity, occupation, or role: Gaius (jurist), Lucius Calpurnius Piso Frugi (usurper).
    • This form of disambiguation may be used instead of highest office if the figure achieved greater notability in another area: Marcus Antonius (orator).
    • "General" is usually too vague to disambiguate Roman men, as the English word represents a broad category of military commands and titles among the Romans, and such commands were common among the ruling elite.
  • Personal relationship. If a person's primary notability is a familial or other personal relationship to a better-known person, it may be acceptable to disambiguate accordingly: Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus (husband of Claudia Antonia).

Gens articles[edit]

There are currently over 450 articles on Roman gentes, most of which were originally created with the titling style "Blankia (gens)". Even though the word "gens" should not be considered disambiguating, some editors over the years have deleted it as unnecessary disambiguation, and moved some of the articles to the bare nomina, which would normally designate individual women of these gentes. As a result, this style is now deprecated, and new articles in this series are being created without parentheses, i.e. "Blankia gens", a style followed by a number of notable reference sources. Eventually the older articles will be moved to this style as well, but this has not yet been done with most articles to avoid breaking links, particularly with the larger articles. Gentes are feminine, even though in many cases most or all of the notable members were men. The articles must therefore be titled with the nomen in the feminine form: e.g. the article for persons named "Caecilius" and "Caecilia" will use "Caecilia".