Title: Elite Strategy vs Popular Characterization: Double Names in Roman Egypt.
Authors: Broux, Yanne
Issue Date: 17-Sep-2012
Abstract: On the basis of the interdisciplinary platform Trismegistos (, the project 'Creating Identities in Graeco-Roman Egypt' studies evolutions of language use and onomastic habits in ancient Egypt, between 800 BC and AD 800. As a part of this project, my dissertation investigates the use of double names in Roman Egypt.Trismegistos gathers information about all published textual source material from Egypt in the aforementioned time span, including essential metadata such as publications, inventory numbers, provenance, date, etc. The enormous collection of onomastic data was facilitated by the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri, an online full-text corpus of Greek and Latin papyri, ostraca and wooden tablets. Anthroponyms were extracted semi-automatically and prosopographical identifications within a text were reviewed manually, resulting in in an export of 343,071 references to individuals into Trismegistos. Names in Greek inscriptions and Demotic texts were entered manually; Coptic anthroponyms were integrated through the Coptic database set up by Trismegistos fellow Alain Delattre.The first part of my dissertation is a statistical analysis of the different types of double names, followed by a socio-anthropological assessment of the phenomenon in part two. While in the Ptolemaic period double names were mainly bilingual and thus connected to the concept of ethnicity, they underwent a significant change under influence of Roman nomenclature, starting around the middle of the first century AD and culminating in the third century AD. 7,840 references to 4,342 individuals with a double name between AD 1 and AD 300 have been collected in the Trismegistos database. Most consist of two Greek names connected by the formula ὁ κalfaὶ (ἡ κalfaὶ for the ladies). This shift from Ptolemaic Greek-Egyptian to Roman Greek-Greek double names was the outcome of two structures introduced by the Roman: the strict social hierarchy on the one hand, and the municipalization of the metropoleis, which led to the rise of the local elite, on the other. This resulted in a strong emphasis on Greek identity and descent, and double names lent themselves exceptionally well for this purpose. Double names were in fact an elite naming practice. Polyonymy also existed among the lower classes, but as the formulas and types of names there show, it had a different function. Elite double names often worked vertically, allowing people to connect not only with ancestry but also with the Roman ruling class (since they were forbidden to take on the official Roman tria nomina), and therefore denoted prominence. The rural population on the other hand used extra names to horizontally distinguish homonymous people from one another.
Description: The accompanying catalogue is available at A PDF version can be downloaded at
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Ancient History, Leuven

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