Elinor No More

With my transition away from Elizabethan England and towards Roman Gaul over the last few years, my SCA name of Elinor Strangewayes no longer really fits me. That, and I’ve come to the unavoidable conclusion that the name “Elinor” is currently about as popular in the SCA as the name “Raven” is at your local Ren Faire, or “Madison” at a daycare. Shout my first name, and you get half a dozen ladies named Elinor/Eleanor/Alianor in response. I’m ready for something else.

I wanted a name that reflected the time period and region of my current research: Romanized Gaul, circa 1st-2nd centuries. I’m intrigued by how local and invasive cultures intermingled. The Gauls typically used a given name and patronymic system (“Dave, son of Bob”) among themselves, sometimes adding a tribal affiliation if necessary. The Gauls became Romanized fairly quickly after the Gallic Wars ended, though, and their language and distinct naming practices vanish within a few hundred years. During that transition period, you see a hybrid mix of Roman cognomen (equivalent to our first names) and Gaulish patronymics.

That was the pattern I set out to copy: Pick a good Roman woman’s cognomen and a Gaulish man’s name for the patronymic. I live on a rural homestead, so Agricola seemed a good choice. It means “farmer” (we get “agriculture” from the same linguistic root).  A Julia Agricola was born in AD64 – on the early end of my preferred date range, but quite reasonable.

For the patronymic, I wanted to find a man’s name from one of the tribes of Eastern Gaul. My partner’s persona is a Romanized Germanic tribesman, so having my persona reflect an affiliation from one of the Gallo-Germanic boundary tribes would be good. (David Cuff wrote a fascinating PhD thesis on the families of Roman auxiliary soldiers, including their marriage practices.) There are a few tribes along that frontier: The Aedui, Sequani, Treveri, Mediomatrici, and Helvetii are among the most prominent. Our local Interlibrary Loan Department was able to get me a copy of David Ellis Evans’ book Gaulish Personal Names, which when combined with Joshua Whatmough’s Dialects of Ancient Gaul is practically the Bible for the subject.

During my search for a patronymic, I happened to be discussing the subject of Romanization one afternoon with a fellow Roman-persona friend. He asked if I had settled on a name yet, and when informed that I hadn’t, he immediately claimed me as a member of gens Julia. (Ironic, since Julia Agricola was one of the examples I was using to cite that cognomen!) I was initially skeptical of the idea, since I wasn’t sure there were period examples of a traditional Roman woman’s two-part name construction with a so obviously non-Roman name tacked on at the end as a third component. However, Karin Stüber’s article “Effects of language contact on Roman and Gaulish personal names” provided the breadcrumbs I needed to document a three-part name system by citing examples of Romano-Gaulish women’s names in that format in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum: Iulia Bellorix Abrextubogi f[ilia] (CIL XIII.5665) and Iul(ia) Litumara Litavicci f[ilia] (CIL XIII.4711).

Iulia Litumara Litavicci filia translates as Julia Litumara, daughter of Litaviccus. (Patronymics take the father’s name in the genitive case.) Litaviccus was an Aeduan name  from the present day French regions of Saône-et-Loire, Côte-d’Or and Nièvre. One prominent leader of that name served in the Gallic Wars – the Aedui had initially supported Caesar against Vercingetorix, but switched sides as the war progressed. Litaviccus inflamed his countrymen’s anger against Rome by spreading rumors that the Romans were massacring the Aedui they captured. Caesar settled the affair by parading captured Aeduan nobles, proving they were still alive, and the Aeduan soldiers surrendered. Litaviccus escaped. I like the story, and the sound of the name, so Litaviccus is as good a patronymic as any. It’s a little early (the war leader dates from 50BC, and the CIL inscription appears to be undated) but I will give it a shot.

So my final result is this: Iulia Agricola Litavicci filia – Julia Agricola, daughter of Litaviccus. It’s a name that reflects a person living with one foot in Rome and the other in Gaul – Roman enough to have a gens affiliation and to be giving children Roman names, but still Gaulish enough to include the father’s name at the end… and an obviously Gaulish one at that!


Cuff, David B. The auxilia in Roman Britain and the Two Germanies from Augustus to Caracalla: Family, Religion and “Romanization.” PhD Thesis, University of Toronto, 2010.

Evans, D. Ellis. Gaulish Personal Names: a Study of some Continental Celtic Formations. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967

Whatmough, Joshua. The dialects of ancient Gaul: prolegomena and records of the dialects. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970.

Stüber, Karin. “Effects of language contact on Roman and Gaulish personal names,” in: Tristram, Hildegard L. C. (ed.), The Celtic languages in contact: papers from the workshop within the framework of the XIII International Congress of Celtic Studies, Bonn, 26-27 July 2007, Online: Universitätsverlag Potsdam, 2007. 81—92.



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