BMCR 2024.07.11

Roman names in the Cyclades. Part II

, , Roman names in the Cyclades. Part II. Meletemata, 84. Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation, Institute of Historical Research, 2023. Pp. 504. ISBN 9789603710776.

Assembling onomastic catalogues and prosopographical commentaries is highly technical and can be quite “dull,” as Mendoni and Zoumbaki, editors of this useful volume on Roman names in the Cycladic islands, freely admit (p. 10). It is also often a rather thankless task, despite the immense labor and learning required. Nevertheless, the Section of Greek and Roman Antiquity (KERA) at the National Hellenic Research Foundation has been an enthusiastic champion of such work over the past several decades. In 1989, KERA inaugurated a major research program to create a systematic record of individuals bearing Roman personal names in the Greek speaking provinces of the eastern Mediterranean. Since then, scholars based at KERA have produced a half dozen volumes devoted to Roman names in the Greek mainland and islands: three covering the Peloponnese (RP I, 2001; RP II, 2004; RP III, 2010, containing studies), one covering Macedonia (RM, 2006), and two covering the Cyclades (RC I, 2008; RC II, 2023), the second of which is the subject of this review.[1] When taking into consideration other related works, like Byrne’s volume on the gentilicia of Athens (RCA, 2003) and the KERA produced prosopography and onomasticon of Aegean Thrace (POAT, 2007), which includes Roman names, the present state of coverage is quite extensive.

Whereas RC I, also edited by Mendoni and Zoumbaki, treated names associated with the northern and western Cycladic islands (Andros: 56, Ceos: 7, Cythnos: 3, Gyaros: 1, Melos: 50, Myconos: 2, Seriphos: 2, Siphnos: 4, Syros: 56, Tenos: 64; total: 245), RC II focuses on those from the southern islands (Amorgos: 113, Anaphe: 3, Ios: 7, Naxos: 35, Oliaros: 2, Paros: 161, Pholegandros: 3, Thera: 64, Cyclades in general: 8; total: 396). The absence of an island (e.g., Kimolos from RC I; Sikinos from RC II) reflects the lack of any Roman name preserved in the sources related to it. The exception, of course, is Delos, which the editors exclude from their project on the grounds that (1) its strong appeal to Romans and Italians prior to the Mithridatic sacks make it a special case and that (2) other scholars have already compiled similar lists for the island (p. 17).

Like the other KERA volumes, the principles of inclusion in the Cycladic catalogues are expansive. They feature not only Roman citizens, but also individuals who bore Roman or Roman-style names without necessarily possessing the civitas, as well as Greeks with a Western ethnic. As a result, the entries comprise a wide range of individuals: “Roman magistrates, exiles deported by Roman authorities, Western businessmen who temporarily or permanently settled on some island, locals who acquired Roman citizenship and consequently a Roman name, and, finally, locals who bore a Roman name out of fashion or personal taste” (RC II, pp. 17–18). There is relatively little overlap with LGPN I, which only records Roman names when their bearers also possessed a Greek cognomen. Scholars therefore will consult both resources with profit. As in RC I, stone inscriptions of all formats provide the bulk of the evidence, but occasionally the editors make use of painted inscriptions (e.g., NAX 14), coins (e.g., AM 82), instrumenta domestica (e.g., THE 4), literary sources (e.g., AM *112), and inscriptions from other regions (e.g., CYCL *7, Thuburbo Maius). The evidence ranges from the 2nd century BCE to the 6th century CE.

In a brief introduction, Mendoni and Zoumbaki lay out the parameters of the volume and emphasize their aim to provide a tool for understanding how the Cyclades were incorporated into the Roman world and how the inhabitants of these marginal islands made sense of this process. The following introductory chapter provides a helpful overview of some of the key issues at play. The first part sketches a picture of local society in the Roman Cyclades, which were always geographically separated and were now administratively divided between provinces. Thanks to this fragmentation, local traditions, particularly funerary practices, persisted despite the (uneven) spread of “Roman” features, such as buildings (e.g., marcella, basilicas, Roman-style baths) and elements from the Latin epigraphic tradition (e.g., the Latin language, the Greek rendering of dis manibus as θεοῖς καταχθονίοις/δαίμοσι, the tabula ansata format). Several islands, however, display a surprising degree of connectivity within the island complex and with the external world, such as Amorgos and Paros, which attracted prominent outsiders, and Thera and Melos, whose elites maintained strong relations with Asia Minor and mainland Greece. The second part of the chapter focuses on the names themselves and demonstrates how each island followed a different trajectory with respect to chronology, intensity, and names attested. One common thread, though, is the limited diffusion of Roman gentilicia. An island-by-island discussion illustrates the point, and two helpful tables summarizing the data from RC I and II follow. The first collects and groups (1) the gentilicia of local inhabitants or those with some genuine local connection, (2) the gentilicia of Roman magistrates, exiles, or soldiers, and (3) single names. The second quantifies the gentilicia of those with local connections and shows that there were only 74 non-imperial gentilicia, 48 of which appear only on a single island. The data, then, reflect the inability of many of the wealthiest and most prominent members of Cycladic society to obtain Roman citizenship prior to Caracalla’s edict of 212 CE and, consequently, the islanders’ lack of influential contacts at the imperial center.

The register is organized by island in alphabetical order. Headwords are in Greek or Latin capitals as they survive in the cited documentation and appear in Latinized alphabetical order with precedence given to gentilicia. Apart from several suspect cases, each individual has a unique reference derived from an abbreviation of the name of the island and a sequential number. References with an asterisk (*) denote Roman magistrates.[2] The entries themselves generally list, according to the availability of information, local and/or Roman offices held, date, key epigraphical editions and bibliography, findspot and current location, and a description of the stone. Very frequently there follows a quotation of the entire or relevant portion of the text(s). The entries close with a commentary, which are often quite rich in their discussion not only of the onomastic and prosopographical data, but also of epigraphic, institutional, linguistic, archaeological, and historical points of interest and the relevant scholarship.

Whenever possible, Mendoni and Zoumbaki personally inspected the stones or the squeezes held in the archive of Inscriptiones Graecae in Berlin. This meticulous and painstaking effort is most welcome, especially since the material has not received much attention since Hiller von Gaertringen published IG XII 3 (1898), XII 3 Suppl. (1904), XII 5 (1909), and XII Suppl (1939). In the process, the editors checked previous readings and restorations, proposed new ones of their own, and collected evidence from unpublished inscriptions.[3] Most points are relatively minor, such as reading Ἀλ̣β̣ανίου (Albanius) instead of Ἀαρανίου (Aarvanius, otherwise unattested) at IOS 1. Others, however, are more consequential. For instance, at THE 61 the editors confirm the IG readings ΟΥΛΤΕΙΝΙΑ (Voltinia) and ΒΕΙΒΙΑ (Vibia) against the more recent suggestions of ΟΥΑΤΕΙΝΙΑ (Vatinia) and ΒΕΙΘΙΑ (Bithia), and supply photographs of the squeeze.[4] As a result, the individual’s purported Thracian origins, based on the name Bithia, can safely be rejected, while the presence of the tribus Voltinia makes this individual one of only a handful of women in the Roman world who mention their tribal affiliation.[5]

Although Mendoni and Zoumbaki stress that these texts are not proper editions, scholars will want to consult them, and especially their commentaries. Some caution is warranted, however. The texts do not always reproduce the most recent editions (e.g., AM 19, AM 31, AM 110, NAX 5, PAR 110) and sometimes include (mostly trivial) misprints like incorrect letters (e.g., AM 87, PAR 100 no. 1) or line breaks (e.g., AM 12, NAX 30). Occasionally the photographs in the plates contradict the printed text (AM 101, ANA 3, NAX 13, NAX 19, NAX 21, PAR 65, PAR 86). At least once entries citing the same inscription reproduce different texts (PAR 17, PAR 32). Only rarely do these slips have any impact on the names, however. For instance, THE *47 reproduces the text of IG XII 3, 326 instead of Hiller von Gaertringen’s revised readings at XII 3 Suppl. p. 283. Consequently, the headword for this individual ought to be ΠΟΠΙΛΛΙΟΣ ΠΡΕΙΣΚΟΥ, not ΠΟΠ[ΙΛΛ]ΙΟΣ ΠΡΕΙΣΚΟΥ.[6] Similarly, plate 33a shows that more letters are legible at PAR 86, where the given text Δονάτε | [Πάν]ωνος χρη[στὲ] | [- – -] χαῖρε should be Δονάτε Πά|[ν]ωνος χρη|[σ]τ̣ὲ χαῖρε. Furthermore, the restoration of the patronymic Πο[υβλί]ου at PHO 2–3 seems too long for the space allowed by previous editors (1–2 letters, according to the IG), as well as in the drawing at plate 38b. While somewhat frustrating, these minor issues, not wholly unexpected in such a complex volume, hardly detract from Mendoni and Zoumbaki’s excellent work.

Two studies by Sverkos and Doukellis follow the register. Drawing upon the data of RC I–II, Sverkos traces the origins of Roman gentilicia in the Cyclades in order to argue that although Delos undoubtedly played an important role in their diffusion, many individuals and families seem to have had no connection with the island. In a generously documented and wide-ranging discussion incorporating data from across the Mediterranean, Sverkos dedicates individual sections to gentilicia that are rare and do not occur on Delos.[7] His comments, which include many insightful observations on names in general, will be of great interest to those working on Roman onomastics far beyond the Cycladic islands. Doukellis’ contribution is a stimulating piece on names and the expression of identity in the complex local world of the Cyclades. In highlighting the rarity of Roman names in the region and their high degree of variation from island to island, Doukellis emphasizes the enduring importance of local contexts within the broader imperial world, and, consequently, the need to avoid a strict binary between Greek and Roman identities, which were more fluid and could “meander” between the local and the oecumene.

The volume closes with an extensive bibliography, several detailed indices (i. Roman personal names; ii. select persons not listed in the register; iii. select Greek and Latin terms), and 47 plates with 90 photos of the stones or squeezes of 71 different inscriptions. Some important recent bibliography is missing, such as Lavan and Ando 2021 on Roman and local citizenships. Sadly, there is no index of epigraphic and literary sources as in RC I, and the promised (RC I, p. 23) general index covering both volumes has not materialized. The many photographs are welcome, but sometimes the choice to provide a squeeze rather than the stone is puzzling (e.g., plate 2a–b, a stele with a banquet relief). Perhaps the culprit for these slight drawbacks is the long delay in publication of this volume, the research for which the authors acknowledge was nearly complete more than fifteen years ago (p. 9). In any case, Mendoni and Zoumbaki have certainly achieved their goal of providing more than a simple onomasticon. A treasure trove of data and insightful observations, RC II is a major contribution to the now burgeoning study of Roman Greece that will take its place alongside the other KERA volumes as an invaluable tool and prompt for future research. The online database that will collate the published and future data, projected in RP I (p. 11), remains eagerly awaited.[8]



LGPN I = P.M. Fraser and E. Matthews, A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names I, Oxford, 1987.

POAT = M.-G. Parissaki, Prosopography and Onomasticon of Aegean Thrace, Athens, 2007.

RC I = G. Mendoni and S. Zoumbaki, Roman Names in the Cyclades I, Athens, 2008.

RC II = G. Mendoni and S. Zoumbaki, Roman Names in the Cyclades II, Athens, 2023.

RCA = S.G. Byrne, Roman Citizens of Athens, Leuven, 2003.

RM = A.B. Tataki, The Roman Presence in Macedonia, Athens, 2006.

RP I = A.D. Rizakis and S. Zoumbaki, Roman Peloponnese I, Athens, 2001.

RP II = A.D. Rizakis, S. Zoumbaki, Cl. Lepenioti, Roman Peloponnese II, Athens, 2004.

RP III = A.D. Rizakis and Cl.E. Lepenioti, Roman Peloponnese III, Athens, 2010.



[1] See also A.D. Rizakis, ed., Roman Onomastics in the Greek East: Social and Political Aspects, Athens, 1996, the proceedings of an international conference held in 1993.

[2] In RC I asterisks instead denote individuals of equestrian or senatorial rank. For instance, Tiberius Claudius Attikos Herodianos of Marathon (CEOS *1), the younger brother of Herodes Attikos, is not known to have held any Roman office and may have died young (see RCA Claudius 9).

[3] I counted 17 unpublished inscriptions from Amogos (AM 3, 23/47, 75, *84, 108), Paros (PAR 29, 69, 77 no. 2/155, 108/112, 119, 148, 153), and Thera (THE 6, 16, 27, 40, 42).

[4] It is worth noting that the current text of this inscription (IG XII, 3 870) on PHI (PH76406) mistakenly prints Οὐατεινία instead of the IG’s Οὐλτεινία; Sverkos makes this same error on p. 410.

[5] Other new restorations or readings include AM 18, AM 27, AM 104, NAX 1/7, NAX 6, NAX 25, PAR 16, PAR 26, and THE 22.

[6] Also printed incorrectly in Text 2 at THE 30, where there are several errors in Text 1 (IG XII 3, 325); compare the photograph of both inscriptions in Hiller von Gaertringen Thera I 1899 (Berlin), pl. 14.

[7] Albanius, Caedicius, Ful(l)ius, Maius, Mam(m)ius, Milionius, Mustius, Nostius, Pandusinus, Pollius, Robius/Rubius, Septicius, Vareius, and Varisidius; see also the brief remarks on Atin(n)ius (p. 411).

[8] For now, see Zoumbaki’s online database for the project “Mobility and economic migration in the Mediterranean: Italiote Greek and Roman ‘entrepreneurs’ in Greece” (