Period and Persona: Names

Within the SCA there is a vast wealth of knowledge withing the medieval context.  Had I gone with a later period I would have already known and registered that name a year ago. The earlier you go the harder it becomes.  Gaul, especially pre-Roman Gaul is a tough place to find naming resources that are available to the public and in English. I have been slowly acquiring a small repository of sources.

Some of my “Early Period” friends have me a little concerned about registering a name for myself.  There are few if any known heralds who have a good amount of experience with early, non-Roman names for Iron Age populations in Europe.  As a result some people are outright denied their chosen names due to a lack of familiarity with an obscure period and location.  Hopefully it won’t go that way for me, but I am thinking that if I ever have designs for taking a position, perhaps looking into becoming a herald for ancient persona would be right up my alley.  I would love to help people having a tough time with it.

For those who don’t want to go digging into finding obscure books you have to translate from another language, the three I would suggest are:

Public Databases

S-Gabriel on Gaulish Names

This has a list so limited that the list of names are not why I recommend this location.  This site gives you a general understanding of Gaulish onomastics.  If you have no reference for Gaulish names, this would be step 1.   There are facets of Gaulish onomastics not covered (such as place names being used as personal names), common name elements, and direct translation of a Gaulish name to a Latin variation, or culturally blended names.  I feel that if you follow the suggestions from this site then you will have an easier time registering your name, but the real historical options are much more varied than this site offers.

University of Nottingham’s Celtic Names of Roman Britain Database

Now this is a special little source.  If you are looking for Celtic names from Britain during Roman occupation, this is a great site.  Even if you are looking for names on the continent there is a section that notes whether the name is found in other areas of the Empire.  This is the largest public database for decidedly non-Irish Celtic women’s names.  However, some of these name are name fragments and might be a hard pass for heralds.  Dudes generally get more love in any of the name lists.

University of Warsaw’s Roman Bastard Database

This is another incredible source.  However, if you are not familiar with Gaulish/Celtic onomastics it can be hard to pull the Celtic bastards from the mix.  You can search via time period and location.  If you are interested in Greek/Egyptian or a Mediterranean blended persona, there is also a wealth of options here.  Visually I could not identify many female celtic names, but there were a few celtic male names altered or blended.

Three sites is not much, especially for the available list of women’s names, but that doesn’t mean the info isn’t out there.  Unfortunately much of it is not available in English, or it was a low-print book that might run you several hundred dollars to acquire.  There are some academic articles available but not all of them are publicly available.

Anything from Xavier Delamarre!

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The current person of interest for Gaulish onomasticcs is Xavier Delamarre who is a scholar in Indo-European Studies, Old Celtic onomastics, and Old Celtic languages.  Unfortunately his books are in French.  In 2017 the latest version of his “Les Noms Des Gaulois” was published and I managed to get a copy for around $40.  I’m slowly working my way through it with the help of translation apps.  This had the largest list of male and female names I have seen in one place, though I have found individual names in others sources not listed in his book.  He has a chapter on the use of “freed/freedom/freed man/ freed woman” related words used in the naming of formerly enslaved Celts.  Much like some enslaved populations over the last few centuries, the Ancient Celts even took on names equivalents to “Freeman”.  That has options for amazing flavor when building a persona.

Touching multiple sources has made me realize just how massive an area these names and cover and how it’s impossible to really have them all in one place.

Articles

Celticization and Romanization of Toponymy in Central Spain, Leonard A. Churchin, 1997

This is something you may not be able to acquire online, but you can if you can get the appropriate database access at a local university’s library.  While this focuses on Celt-Iberian names it does have several dozen naming options available.  What I particularly loved about this article was that it gave many examples of how place names can be used as personal names.  “Mantua” for example is seen being used as both a name for a person while also being a place name for a town in the region.  I loved the names Ariolica, Libora and Soria from this article but I am not going to an Celt-Iberian persona.  This could be great for others though!

Celts and Raetians in the central-eastern Alpine Region during the Second Iron Age: multidiscilinary research, Sima Marchesini, 2016

While this isn’t strictly an onomastics article, it is focused on my extremely specific region and time period.  This is my source for three women’s names for Celtic Rhaetia/Raetia: Vitamu, Pianu, Esumne.  This also sources the traditionally masculine ending of -u used for women, which I found particularly interesting.

Traces of Celtic Population and Beliefs in the Roman Provinces of the Central Balkans, Nadezda Garilovic, 2013

This is of particular interest for Balkan Celtic personas.  While this doesn’t touch heavily on onomastics, there are a few choice names to be found via funerary markers and the occasional tablet or bit of pottery.  Some of these names come off as very Latin but with a spelling noting some Celtic elements.  Surrila, for example, appears in a few different linguistic lists and clearly bridges multiple cultures in it’s use.

Books

Other than anything by Xavier Delamarre there is a book on my wishlist…

“A Corpus of Latin Inscription of the Roman Empire Containing Celtic Personal Names” by Marilynne E. Raybould, Patrick Sims-Williams. 

Someone I know managed to snag a copy and send me some info from it: holy crap.  This is a beautiful books filled with a good number of names as well as a wide variety of naming conventions. YES.  It’s primarily funerary writing that talks about the names, relationships, and sometimes even the professions of the people they denote. However, the publisher only works with mail-in paper purchases and is the most snail of snail mail.  I was hoping to get in a name submission for myself before the end of January but I may be waiting a few months for my copy.  BOO.

Right now these are the sources I am enjoying,  Additionally I am also reading a blog which touches on Astures names and identity which may be of some use to myself or others when looking for a name for themselves.

I leave you with a little humor, a few names you probably don’t want to consider: Mianus, Spenis and Togivepus.  These would be unfortunate.

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