Talk: Becoming Roman at Este and Padua

Tomorrow I’ll be speaking at the Cambridge Philological Society, 4pm in the Old Senior Combination room at Trinity College. Tea, coffee and cake is provided – all welcome!

My title is Competition and Identity in Venetic Funerary Epigraphy: Becoming Roman at Este and Padua. I’m very excited about this talk, as I’ll be dealing with a lot of the detail and intricacies of the transition between Venetic and Latin in the Veneto. A lot of people know that people change their name when they become Roman citizens, but it’s rare that we have this transition documented as well as we do at Este. Because we have hundreds of urns inscribed with names (used to deposit ashes in graves), we can get a really good sense of the ways in which people created their new Roman names.

Often this takes unexpected turns, and isn’t a linear process. So for example, there is a person called Vants Rutilius son of Titus – which suggests that his father had a Roman name but he had a praenomen that was, in origin, a Venetic name. We’d normally expect that once a family has “become Roman”, then that’s it – but clearly not in this case. Lots of families show mismatches too, so the men have Roman names and the women Venetic names, or vice versa.

The residents of Este also do unusual things with women’s names in general. In Venetic, both men and women have an idionym (individual name) plus a patronymic formed from their father’s name. In Roman names, men normally have a praenomen (given name) and a gentilicium (inherited family name), while women just use the female form of the gentilicium. This transition was clearly a bit tough on Venetic women, who might have been known by one name for part of their lives and then been expected to just go by a family name, the same as all their sisters and cousins. There was a lot of push-back on this – almost all the women at Este keep a Venetic name as a kind of “praenomen”, or add a cognomen after their gentilicium. This part of “becoming Roman” never quite happened, and women in the region always individuating names.

If you’re interested in knowing more, you can click here to download a draft of my slides for tomorrow, or come along!

[Edited to add: I have just noticed a mistake on the handout from this talk. I incorrectly wrote that Livy 41.27 tells us about an Este/Padua border dispute being adjudicated by the Roman consuls – in fact, this passage tells us about the Roman consul helping to prevent a civil war at Padua in c. 175 BC. The border disputes are known to us from inscriptions, namely CIL I2 633, CIL I2 2501 and CIL I2 634. Apologies for the incorrect reference there.)

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