Monday, February 6, 2012


Andreas Kakoschke, Die Personennamen im römischen Britannien. Alpha-Omega, Reihe A, Bd 259. Hildesheim; Zürich: Olms-Weidmann, 2011. Pp. 671. ISBN 9783487146287. €248.00 (hb).

Reviewed by Andreas Gavrielatos, University of Leeds (

Version at BMCR home site

Students of epigraphy and onomastics in particular, are familiar with Andreas Kakoschke's research. His last book, Die Personennamen im römischen Britannien, is an exhaustive catalogue of personal names connected with Roman Britain mainly attested from AD 1st - 3rd c. (with a few cases dated before Christ or later until AD 410). The requirement for the recording of a name is to be borne by someone who 'lived in or spent some time in Roman Britain'. Therefore, the names attested in stone inscriptions and/or coins are included, whereas the author is selective about the names found on instrumentum domesticum. Methodologically this reveals the author's position towards the problem of identifying the origin of the bearers, especially in the latter category. Literary sources are also considered, a modus operandi that verifies the comprehensive character of the list. The scope and the sources are discussed in the brief, yet very informative, introduction of the book, both in German and in English.

The material covered by this list proves the catalogue necessary for the historian as well as for the philologist. The record of the names of persons with an administrative position in Britannia, although without a British origin, serves as a useful source for the fields of prosopography and the history of Roman Britain. Equally important is the incorporation of the names attested in ancient literature. Although it seems confusing in the first place, the source of each entry is given, thus the names and the persons can easily be identified. Moreover, under each name the comments are given individually for each entry, usually accompanied with a relative bibliography, hence a clearer view of the name's bearer can be deduced.

The method of the work and the presentation of the list are well known and have proved to be successful in the author's previous publications. In terms of methodology, the book offers a simple table-like display for each name. The information provided for each name and their entries are indicative for the problems the list solves (see below for an analysis of the structure). The material is based on a parallel consideration of the most recent publications, such as the Names on terra sigillata by Hartley and Dickinson and the latest publications of the RIB series, as well as the essential OPEL etc., along with their reviews. Due to this fact, the reader of the book has a comprehensive overview of these names, instead of a work with a restricted area of attestation. Theoretical problems on Roman onomastics are not a subject of consideration in this book. However, accounts of e.g. the influence of Romanisation on nomenclature,1 are considered and terms such as 'pseudo-gentilicium' are used, providing a clearer view of the names' function.

In the same way the book provides supportive material for a study of the bilingualism of this area; the names occurring in this milieu are of significant importance for such research2 and, even though a researcher will not find theoretical answers in this book, the linguistic origin of every name follows each name. It is noteworthy that where the origin is doubted or ambiguous, other suggestions are also made. Among the names of the list it is reasonable that one finds abundant examples of Celtic names and thus, a comparative study is supported. Hence, the book becomes a compulsory supplement to the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of Celtic names in Britain, CPNRB, which the author takes into consideration, among other sources.

The catalogue is separated into two chapters, one for the names used as nomina (175 pages) and a second one containing the cognomina (454 pages). The names are recorded alphabetically. For each name the list provides all the entries collected along with the source.

Each record consists of three parts: a) an informative table, which provides the entries for each name, b) the other records of the particular entry, merely those in the works of Lőrincz and Mócsy among others, and c) comments on the entry. The comments consist of two parts, one with the author's comments on each of the entries and another with the bibliography on the name under discussion, which takes into account the basic tools of Roman onomastics. The praenomina are not recorded separately, which is reasonable, since most are the ones widely borne by individuals in the Roman Empire. However, in cases where a particular name has been recorded with a rare use as praenomen, it is highlighted in the comments. This practice enables a further study on the onomastics of the particular area and serves as a helpful survey for the study of the praenomen, whose function is always of interest.

The entries are given in the full form (duo or tria nomina), when it is used. The provenance and the particular location where each entry is attested are also given. Prosopographical studies are further facilitated by the fact that each entry suggests the status of the person who bears the name.

Although the catalogue's main aim is a survey of prosopography, the importance of the list for its linguistic aspects is also considered. In particular, each entry is followed by the name's linguistic origin. This linguistic approach is confined in this way and the second part of the commentary for each name provides the reader with further bibliography, which is basic and not an exhaustive one. Additions can be made for some of the entries, but they are only very particular accounts. Such examples may be Solin's account of the nomen Silvius and its derivatives,3 or the suggestions for some names being in use as 'translation names' in Celtic areas, which can be applicable in the case of Primigenius. Another possible addition could be a probable Celtic origin of the nomen Trebonius. At any rate, these additions are of secondary importance; they are definitely not the main interest of the work and they do not affect the overall importance of the book.

On the other hand, the function of the names as Decknamen or 'translation names' is taken into account and references are made to the supporting bibliography, and similarly with names of ambiguous etymology and origin. Although the author accepts the origin, which he provides with the entry, the bibliography of each entry serves as an account of the suggestions and assumptions made by previous scholars. Moreover, cases of pseudo- gentilicia are clearly pointed out and the name, which they are derived from, is mentioned, but without a cross-reference if it is recorded in the catalogue, e.g. the indicative Adgennius in the very first page of the catalogue of nomina, derived from the CN Adgennus. The lack of cross-reference does not cause any problem, for the alphabetical order of the records is convenient for the reader. In general, linguistic research on the names is facilitated and definitely not restricted to the aforementioned linguistic origin.

The book is written in German, but it does not reduce its importance for the scholar or the student of Roman Britain, while the English introduction serves as an adequate guide for the understanding and the use of the book. The price (€ 248.00) might be high for an individual's budget, but it is absolutely reasonable for what it offers and a necessity for a well-resourced library.


1.   Dondin-Payre, M. & Raepsaet-Charlier, M.-Th., Noms, identités culturelles et romanisation sous le Haut- Empire, Brussels 2001.
2.   See, for example, Mullen, A., 'Linguistic Evidence for 'Romanisation': Continuity and Change in Romano-British Onomastics: A Study of the Epigraphic Record with Particular Reference to Bath', Britannia 38 (2007), 35-61.
3.   Solin, H., ' "Silvius" ', SCO 43 (1993), 359-71.

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