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FORVM`s Classical Numismatics Discussion Board  |  Numismatic and History Discussions  |  History and Archeology (Moderator: David Atherton)  |  Topic: Roman Emperors' nicknames? 0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic. « previous next »
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cliff_marsland
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« on: November 14, 2009, 02:09:13 pm »

The Byzantines were big on nicknames, but besides "Caligula",   and official honorary titles regarding military victories, were there any nicknames for Roman emperors, both good and bad?

I find myself using nicknames, usually derisive or at least flippant, instead of the leader's (or well-known politicians') given name.   .  I'm sure it must have been the same back then.  or even  for any country now, as well. 

I'm especially curious to see if Augustus has any nicknames.
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« Reply #1 on: November 14, 2009, 02:13:47 pm »

Hi,

Well, Caracalla, Elagabalus and Augustulus (for Romulus Augustus) are three that spring to mind. And wasn't Augustus a title or a sort of nickname for Octavian?

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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #2 on: November 14, 2009, 02:23:52 pm »

Ok, I overlooked those guys' nicknames.  I was referring to nicknames that weren't so famous.  Fictional example, Tiberius the "dour sourpuss", stuff like that.  Byzantine examples Michael "the drunkard", Basil "the Bulgar slayer."

When I find myself using nicknames, 95% of the time it's for a public figure I don't like or feel ambivalent about, which I'm sure is fairly universal insofar as public nicknames..   However, there are some affectionate nicknames.
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commodus
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« Reply #3 on: November 14, 2009, 03:07:23 pm »

Many such epithets were assigned later and are not nicknames, as such.

True nicknames used in the emperors' own lifetimes include the aforementioned Caligula, Caracalla, Elagabalus (or Heliogabalus), etc.

Augustus was a title conferred upon Octavian, though it was used essentially as a name by him.

Some others (many, but not all, used during the emperors' own lifetimes):

Antoninus Pius
Maximinus Thrax
Godian III Pius
Philip the Arab
Constantius Chlorus
Constantine the Great
Julian the Philosopher or Julian the Apostate (depending on who is describing him)

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Robert_Brenchley
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« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2009, 03:30:42 pm »

Don't forget Claudius Gothicus.
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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #5 on: November 14, 2009, 04:26:13 pm »

I'm well-familiar with those official and semi-official nicknames, I was wondering if there were any lesser-known ones?  Perhaps even from a grafitto?  Those seemed to have some curses.
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Maffeo
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« Reply #6 on: November 14, 2009, 04:54:33 pm »

cliff_marsland is making a good point. Some nicknames gained currency and were generally used, and possibly were known, and perhaps tolerated, by the so-denotated emperors themselves (I suppose 'Caligula' might be one). Of these there are traces in the extant literary sources. But the really interesting nicknames would be those that were only used privately. behind the emperors' backs.... (was Nero known as 'fatso', or some other emperor as 'the windbag' or 'the bungler', in some circles?). But then, what sources could we have on such as these? cliff rightly suggests graffiti, but how could one know just to whom a particular graffito refers - dicey chronology or circumstantial evidence?
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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #7 on: November 14, 2009, 05:09:54 pm »

Yes, Maffeo, that's exactly along the lines of what I was asking.  I was basically wondering if there was any ancient equivalent to say, President Nixon's "Tricky Dick", etc.  The current Pres. and his predecessor also have a lot of nicknames, but I doubt many of them will be recorded in history books.   Every one of them must have had nicknames.  Surely there must have been some equivalent in ancient times.

The Seleucids seemed to have a lot of nicknames.  I don't think Antiochus Grypos probably approved of "hook nose."  I'm guessing that was a later nickname.
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Jochen
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« Reply #8 on: November 14, 2009, 05:19:16 pm »

I remember that Dio Cassius has called Caracalla often 'Tarautas', an insulting nickname according to a sanguinary and hated gladiator.

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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #9 on: November 14, 2009, 08:31:05 pm »

Very interesting, thanks!  That's along the lines of what I was looking for.  Do any other examples come to mind?
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« Reply #10 on: November 14, 2009, 11:07:57 pm »

I'm sure there were plenty of such nicknames in circulation for various emperors that never made it into writing so that posterity would know them. Too dangerous at the time.
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« Reply #11 on: November 15, 2009, 03:30:54 am »

He wasn't a Roman emperor, but one source records that Antiochos Epiphanes was know to the Jews as Antiochos Epimanes, 'Antiochos the Mad'. History, of course, blames him for what seems to have been as much an internal conflict as anything.
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Jochen
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« Reply #12 on: November 15, 2009, 03:57:29 am »

According to Sueton (Tiberius 42, 1) Tiberius was given the nickname Biberius Caldius Mero, something like 'hote wine guzzler'.
Elagabalus was called by Dio Cassius 'The Assyrian' because of his strange garment, regarded as barbaric.
Libius Severus: Theophanes and the Paschal Chronicle report that he had the cognomen "Serpentius." That surely was meant pejorative (serpens!).

BTW It is very time consuming to get these names out of the web!

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« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2009, 05:37:41 pm »

The Byzantine Constantine V Copronymous comes to mind.  He apparantly 'soiled' the water when being baptized and some people just won't let you live down something like that even if you were a baby at the time.
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« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2009, 05:46:55 pm »

I can only think of the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes, meaning G-d Manifest... Named by himself.  He did'nt like the fact that the Judeans, however, called him Antiochus Epimanes - Antiochus "The Madman".
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« Reply #15 on: November 16, 2009, 10:36:58 pm »

There were many nicknames in the kingdoms of Alexander's successors.  Knock-knees, hook-nose, pot-belly, and evil-doer among them.  Much more colourful than the Romans.
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« Reply #16 on: November 17, 2009, 12:49:05 am »

What about Cicero=chickpea, Brutus=fool and Crassus=fatso (fat guy)?

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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #17 on: November 17, 2009, 01:36:26 am »

Which of those nicks went to the Alexander successors, moonmoth?  I'm guessing hook nose was Ptolemy.
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moonmoth
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« Reply #18 on: November 17, 2009, 03:06:10 am »

I made a table of the names given to them, officially and unofficially, to give me a better grasp on what people meant by them all.

http://www.forumancientcoins.com/moonmoth/hellenic_names.html

Knock-Knees was Antigonos II Gonatas; Hook-nose was Antiochos VIII Philometor, aka Grypos; Pot-Belly and Evil-Doer were both Ptolemy VIII, aka Physkon and Kakergetes.  Another unusual name was Cutter-up of Tuna Fish, Kybiosaktes, which was applied to Seleukos VII Philometor, but that is not such a snappy insult in English.

Bill
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« Reply #19 on: November 17, 2009, 10:24:29 pm »

Ah, ok, I thought you meant the immediate successors of Alexandria.

Cutter-up of tuna fish?  That's a new one on me.

Some of the others would be apt insults for public figures, even in the modern day.
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cliff_marsland
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« Reply #20 on: November 21, 2009, 02:17:21 pm »

I just checked out moonmoth's table, and these are fantastic!  A lot of these are still relevant today!  Well, perhaps not cutter-up-of-tuna-fish...

Aside from coinage, where it's clear the message was meant to be taken literally, I wonder how many ones like "Savior", "Messiah", etc. were meant sarcastically when applied to leaders?

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Maffeo
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« Reply #21 on: November 21, 2009, 03:23:50 pm »

Great list! I love the notion of a king being nicknamed 'sausage' . Someone with the apposite erudition (and lots of spare time  Grin) might compile similar lists for Pharaos, Chinese Emperors, US Presidents, etc. etc.
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« Reply #22 on: November 21, 2009, 03:37:34 pm »

Yes, I agree, it would be very interesting to compile such a book.  I'm pretty familiar with the U.S. nicknames, but I'll have to google to see if there's anything for the Europeans.

One of my favorites was Zabinas. I had forgotten about that one.  My other favorites were knock-knees and evil-doer.
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« Reply #23 on: November 21, 2009, 04:22:03 pm »

One that struck me and seemed to fit the portrait on his coins was Leopold “The Hog Mouth,” Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Arch Duke of Austria, King of Hungary, King of Bohemia, Duke of Tyrolia, and so on. I am fairly certain he was never called  that to his face. His coins depicted him with a HUGE protruding lower lip.
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« Reply #24 on: November 21, 2009, 05:45:25 pm »

I think this can be of interest: http://wapedia.mobi/en/List_of_monarchs_by_nickname

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