Sunday, July 01, 2007

Women's names in the Roman Republic

Okay, I have been rather expecting to do this blog but really waited until someone brought it. And someone did bring it up on Dear Author. Basically is Silvana Junia's name correct? It doesn't appear to go with the accepted Roman nomenclature.
In official documents (and really official documents are all we have to go on) women are referred to by one name -- the name of the family that their hand belongs to. It would sort of be like always being called Ms Styles. I gave my hand in marriage when my dh and I wre married, thus my husband's family has *control*.
In most cases in the late Roman Republic, a woman's hand stayed with her birth family. Sold and Seduced goes into this somewhat. She does not strictly belong to her husband's family. It is why the Rome tv series is sort of wrong when they call Servilia -- Servilia of the Junii. Her guardian (and thus ultimate control of her money) stayed within her family the Servilii. Atia's fortune stayed with the Atii. Livia with the Livii etc.
From reading Cattalus's poems to his mistress, it becomes quite clear in my mind that he probably calls Clodia Cynthia to her face. Or otherwise, why use that name? Circero refers to the same woman as *Ox eyes*. And if you read Roman gravestones there is some indication that pet or nicknames were used for women, even if they did not appear on official documention. We also know that slaves were given names. If slaves, horses and dogs have names, why don't free women? Surely within a family which has more than one daughter, people would call them by different names and not just Big and Little.
Anyway, I decided that Silvana would have a pet name. It was one that her lover, her family or very close friends would use. In all official documents, she would appear as Junia but she thinks of herself as Silvana. Silvana is slightly less traditional because she is a notorious society hostess.
Simarily, in S&S, Lydia is the pet name for the heroine in S&S. I needed the heroine to have a pet name because control of her hand changes and her name would change in official documents.
I put both Silvana and Lydia before the family name to show that they were pet names and would not therefore be on official documentation.
It is also for ease of readibility. It could become very confusing to the reader very quickly. And the last thing I want to do is to confuse the reader.
Anyway, I think it works, and more importantly I know WHY I did it. it bothers people, I am sorry but it worked for me.
Authencity rather than 100% accuracy.
And if anyone does know with absolute certainity what Cattalus called Clodia when he spoke to her, I would love to know as well.


Kate Hardy said...

This is a really interesting post, Michelle.

I discovered this week that Spanish surnames have similar intricacies.

Sorry, can't answer your Catullus question (but I do like the poetry - for some reason, our Classics teacher never told us about it at A level. Luckily one of the English teachers did *g*)

Michelle Styles said...

Oh I am pleased you found it interesting Kate.

Names can be so confusing and off putting. For the writer, there is is a necessity of trying to strike the right balance.
However one does it, you have to be consistent as well.

Anyway, hopefully my reasoning makes a certain amount of sense.