Lex Apula Popillia de nominibus approbationibusque (Nova Roma)

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This lex is currently IN FORCE.

Approved by Comitia populi tributa
Yes: 29 No: 6 Abs.: 0
prid. Kal. Ian. Fr. Apulo C. Laenate cos. MMDCCLVIII a.u.c.


This lex provides a frame in the way prospective citizens can choose their roman name. It encompasses historical research in the form of attested lists of Republican names and takes into consideration the laws of Nova Roma that deal with citizenship approval and the scope of Pater / Mater Familias authority on this particular matter. Application to Nova Roman citizenship implies acceptance and agreement to the terms of the present lex and is subject to a probationary period as described by lex Equitia de tirocinio civium novorum. The Censores reserve the right to refuse any application that does not abide by the following articles.

For the purpose of this lex, and as per lex Labiena de gentibus is recognised as the basic unit of society in Nova Roma. Gentes are composed of many different familiae that share the same nomen. Pater / Materfamilias are head of these officially recognised familiae and not of the gentes. This lex spells out the procedures that the Censores will follow in dealing with the approval of prospective citizens to Nova Roma and the incidence those procedures will have on their names.

This lex hereby complements the lex Cornelia et Maria de mutandis nominibus whose article II.E is repealed. Whenever a contradition arises between the lex Cornelia et Maria de mutandis nominibus and the present lex de nominibus approbationibusque, the present lex shall have precedence.


This lex is based on lex Labiena de gentibus and lex Equitia familiaris and takes into consideration the fact that Familiae are now the basic social units of Nova Roma. As such Pater / Materfamilias are now head of Familiae (natural or adopted) and not Gentes as was previously the case.


The definitions below are provided to help cives understand the context within which Nova Roman nomenclature applies.

  • A Familia (pl familiae) (household) constists of a pater or materfamilias and all who are in their potestas or manus OR two heads of household together in a free marriage and all who are in their shared potestas.
  • A Domus (pl domus) or Stirps (pl. Stirpes) is an informal group of people who all share the same "nomen-cognomen" combination. There are no recognised heads of Domus; The heads of the familiae whose pater / materfamilias belong to the domus may, however, act in concert to authorise any new citizen to use their "nomen-cognomen" combination.
  • A Gens (pl gentes) regroups all the people who share the same nomen. There are no recognised heads of Gentes in Nova Roma. As long as a new citizen does not choose an existing "nomen-cognomen" combination (see domus), he/she can choose to join any gens he / she likes.

I. Names in Nova Roma

I.A. Nomenclature

As per Roma Antiqua the nomenclature of free male citizens is that of the "tria nomina" (three names) formed as "praenomen-nomen-cognomen". The preferred choice for female nomenclature in Nova Roma is also the "tria nomina": This is to reflect the equal treatment of each prospective citizen, regardless of his / her gender, required by the constitution. The Censores, however, MAY recognise the Roman tradition in naming female citizens and may, in certain exceptional cases and after a personal application to the Censores, allow the following nomenclatures: "nomen only" or "nomen-cognomen".

I.A.1. Praenomen

Here is presented a list of Republican praenomina available to the prospective citizen. Each praenomen has been historically researched and attested. This list will be reviewed as and when new evidence comes to light: Please note that NO Praenomen that does not appear on this list will be accepted by the Censorial office without a special application. Please note that this list includes all the most common praenomina: They are accepted as standards by most scholars and will also be accepted by the censores without discussion. There are however a few other, far less common, praenomina available on request, look below.

Praenomina are very often abbreviated, and the abbreviations will be used in most official communications and records.

Common praenomina: the praenomina nearer to the beginning of the list are more frequent; those nearer to the end are less frequent.

Abbreviation Male Female
C. Gaius Gaia
L. Lucius Lucia
M. Marcus Marca
P. Publius Publia
Q. Quintus Quinta
T. Titus Tita
Ti. Tiberius Tiberia
Sex. Sextus Sexta
A. Aulus Aula
D. Decimus Decima
Cn. Gnaeus Gnaea
Sp. Spurius Spuria
M'. Manius Mania
Ser. Servius Servia
Ap. Appius Appia
N. Numerius Numeria
V. Vibius Vibia

Rare praenomina: a list of Republican rare praenomina available to the prospective citizen is presented on the Name page (Index Nominum) of the main Nova Roma Website. This list will be updated by the Censores as new evidence comes to the foreground. These praenomina are only available on request and such requests must be approved by the Censores.

I.A.2. Nomen

The Nomen or genticilium serves to identify which gens a prospective citizen will belong to. The list of Nomina (or gentes) available in Nova Roma can be found in the album gentium. A citizen wishing to join a familia within a gens must seek the approval of the Pater / materfamilias of the said familia. The choice of a gens is subject to the articles II.B.i. and II.B.ii. of the present lex.

Prospective citizens are authorised to petition the Censores if they wish to create a new Gens, thus introducing a new nomen in Nova Roma. If their claim is justified, historically valid and supported by adequate evidence, the censores may, exceptionally, consider such request and eventually decide to authorise the creation of a new gens.

I.A.3. Cognomen

The magistrates of Nova Roma understand the personal nature of cognomina and the fact that they reflect physical or behavioural characteristics. Therefore cognomina may be accepted even if they don't appear on the recommended list. The prospective citizen must be able to justify his / her choice on either historical or personal grounds and that must be subject to the expressed condition that the chosen cognomen be a Latin word. Please note the restriction applied to cognomina that are already attached to a family in a particular gens (see point II.B.i.a of the present lex). A list of recommended cognomina can be found in the Nova Roma web-pages for Roman names. This list will be updated by the Censores as and when new evidence comes to light.

Special Cognomina: this lex revokes article II.E of lex Cornelia et Maria de mutandis nominibus whereby special cognomina were known under the word "agnomina".

Honorary cognomina including, but not limited to, Maximus, Magnus, Augustus are conferred upon a citizen by special dispensation. They can be awarded by a vote of the Senate in recognition of service to Nova Roma. They are not available to be chosen at the application stage.

Geographical honorary cognomina that refer to a provincia or regio (e.g. Germanicus, Britannicus) of Nova Roma and Roma Antiqua are subject to the same limitations as they were customarily bestowed upon a general after a successful campaign. Rare exceptions can be made by the censores in the case of citizen born in the provincia covering the territory of his/her macronation. In that latter case, the geographical cognomen will not be seen as honorary and can be requested at the application stage.

Cognomina that refer to the name of a deity will not currently be accepted unless the prospective citizen specifically expresses a desire to honour a god or goddess that he / she already worships and contact the Censores to present his / her case prior to sending his / her application.

I.B. Name change

I.B.1. Introduction

The choice of a Roman name being a very personal and intimate matter, the Censores and their staff must do their utmost to guide and help prospective citizens to choose the right name on the first instance. As such, no name change should be allowed after the original application has been approved to the satisfaction of all parties involved. However, on exceptional circumstances, the Censores reserve the right to authorise such name change if the citizen in question can effectively argue his / her case and only if this change affects the praenomen, cognomen or agnomen. The ruling of the Censores is final.

In case of a nomen change (i.e. change of gens), the only procedure authorised is that of adoption. Adoption takes the forms of adrogatio or adoptio according to the status, Sui Iuris or Alieni Iuris, of the adopted party. The procedures of Adoption are defined by the lex Equitia familiaris and the effect on name are described below: the citizen wishing to change his / her nomen must seek approval from the new Pater / Materfamilias whose domus he / she wishes to be part of. Upon approval, this prospective citizen will take the praenomen, nomen and eventual cognomen of his / her new Paterfamilias / Materfamilias.

Recent experiences, however, where the Censorial Cohors had to deal with multiple adoptions of several members of the same gens into one familia has shown that in these cases the only distinction between members of that familia would have been to add yet another cognomen (primus, secundus, tertius etc.) to distinguish one civis from the other. The censorial office judged that this solution was not satisfactory as it cannot ensure that each civis would easily be identifiable nor that his / her own individuality would truly be reflected in their new name. The following articles, I.B.ii and I.B.iii, reflect those experiences and propose a way of dealing with adoptions that is consistent with traditional Roman nomenclature and the spirit of flexibility and practicality that were qualities of our forefathers.

I.B.2. Adoption involving two cives belonging to two different gentes

I.B.2.a. The adopted party will take the Nomen AND Cognomen of his / her adopting parent.
I.B.2.b. The adopted party will add to his / her new name a second cognomen based on the root of his / her old Nomen to which will be added -ianus / -iana according to the gender.
I.B.2.c. The adopted party will be able to retain his / her praenomen should he / she wish to, so long as the adopting parent agrees.
I.B.2.d. Example: M. Anicius Brutus wishes to be adopted by the paterfamilias L. Lucretius Candidus. M. Anicius Brutus wishes to keep his Praenomen Marcus. His new name, after the adoption is completed, will be: M. Lucretius Candidus Anicianus.

I.B.3. Adoption involving two cives belonging to the same gens

I.B.3.a. The adopted party will take the Nomen AND Cognomen of his / her adopting parent.
I.B.3.b. The adopted party will retain his / her old Cognomen and use it as a second cognomen in his new name. This second cognomen will not be inherited by his / her filiifamilias.
I.B.3.c. The usual Cognomen resulting from adoption (ending in -ianus / -iana and based on the root of the nomen of the adopted party and as defined by the lex Equitia familiaris is dropped.
I.B.3.d. The adopted party will be able to retain his / her praenomen should he / she wish to, so long as the adopting parent agrees.
I.B.3.e. Example: M. Anicius Brutus wishes to be adopted by the paterfamilias L. Anicius Lepidus. M. Anicius Brutus wishes to keep his Praenomen Marcus. His new name, after the adoption is completed, will be: M. Anicius Lepidus Brutus. Please note the difference with point I.B.2.d above where the new name would have been: M. Anicius Lepidus Anicianus.

II. Approval procedures and names

II.A. Introduction

II.A.1. ((Joining gentes))

This lex applies the revocation by lex Labiena de gentibus of the right of former heads of Gentes (until now also known as Patres / Matresfamilias) to approve or reject the application of a prospective citizen to join a particular Gens.

II.A.2. ((Joining familiae))

This lex confirms the right of heads of Familiae known as Pater / Materfamilias to approve or reject the application of a prospective citizen to join a particular Familia.

II.B. Approval authority

II.B.1. Approval authority in a Familia and / or Domus

II.B.1.a. Familia
Each Familia duly registered with the censorial office will be headed by a Pater / Materfamilias chosen as per the recommendations found in lex Labiena de gentibus.
II.B.1.b. Domus
Each Domus duly registered with the censorial office will be confirmed in its position by the right of using a reserved and specific cognomen within a Gens to differentiate itself from other Domus in that Gens.
No prospective citizen of a particular Gens may choose the cognomen of a Domus already existing within that Gens, unless the prospective citizen has been approved by all the Patres / Matresfamilias of the familiae existing in the said Domus. In effect the new prospective citizen will become the pater / materfamilias of a new Familia within the Domus.
Existing citizens must go through the process of Adoption (either adoptio or adrogatio) to enter an existing Domus. See point I.B.iii.
II.B.1.c. Approval authority of the Pater / Materfamilias
The Pater / Materfamilias of a Familia duly registered with the censorial office will have the ultimate authority in accepting or rejecting the application of any prospective citizen wishing to join this Familia.
II.B.1.d. The duty of the Pater / Mater Familias in guiding prospective Citizens.
II.B.1.d.i As the person responsible to welcome new citizens into the Familia and guiding them in Nova Roma, the Pater / Materfamilias has the duty to help and support the prospective citizen in his / her choice of name, following the laws and edicta that guide such selection, before the familial approval reaches the censorial office.
II.B.1.d.ii. Should it come to the attention of the Censores that a Pater / Materfamilias repeatedly approves prospective citizens with names that do not compy with the present lex, a censorial investigation may be launched as to why that is. If no satisfactory explanation is provided, the Censores may issue a public reprimand against the said Pater / Materfamilias for non adherence to Nova Roman practice as defined by the laws, edicta and decreta of Nova Roma.

II.B.2. Approval authority in a Gens

II.B.2.a. The Gens in Nova Roma
II.B.2.a.i. A Gens in Nova Roma is composed of many different Familiae that share a common nomen.
II.B.2.a.ii. Although members of a particular Gens may wish to organise themselves as they see fit, for the purpose of this lex and in accordance with lex Labiena de gentibus the Censores do not recognise the authority of a head of a Gens as far as approving citizens is concerned.
II.B.2.a.iii. Building on the above point, closed Gentes are now abolished as prospective citizens are free to join any Gens they wish as opposed to officially recognised Familiae and Domus that are allowed to present possible restrictive entry conditions.
II.B.2.b. Approval authority to acceptance in a Gens
II.B.2.b.i. Any prospective citizen may choose the Gens of his choice providing he / she doesn't seek to belong to an already existing Domus. In the latter case approval authority falls within the rights and duties of the Pater / Materfamilias as stated in II.B.1.b.
II.B.2.b.ii. The Censores will hold the ultimate authority to approve or reject prospective citizens seeking admission in a Gens but not in a recognised Familia.

III. Sources

Roman Nomenclature:

Diana Bowder "Who Was Who In the Roman World", Cornell University Press, 1980

John Boardman, Jasper Griffin, Oswyn Murray "The Oxford History of the Roman World", Oxford University Press, 2001

T. Robert S. Broughton "Magistrates of the Roman Republic", Vol. 1 and 2, American Philological Association/Scholars Press, 1986

Mika Kajava "Roman Female Praenomina" Institutum Romanum Findlandiae Vol. XIV, Rome 1994: Senatorial Women's Praenomina in the Republican and Imperial Periods ( p. 136)

O. Salomies, "Die romischen Vornamen" (Commentationes Humanarum Litterarum 82, 1987).

B. Salway, "What's In A Name? A Survey Of Roman Onomastic Practice From c.700 B.C. to A.D. 700"




Section headers in double parentheses are unofficial and have been inserted for convenience.

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