Greek names and freed status in Roman Italy: why ancient historians can’t ignore statistics

Myles Patrick Lavan*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

The rule of thumb that an individual with a Greek name can be assumed to be of freed status is widely used in the social history of Roman Italy. This paper shows that it is based on a logical fallacy and must be abandoned. There is no valid way to use names to impute the status of individuals without knowing the mix of statuses in the population. The paper goes on to show that it possible to make inferences based on onomastics but that it requires a formal statistical model of the relationship between names and status. The method is illustrated by application to the lists of members of collegia from Roman Ostia.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-30
Number of pages30
JournalChiron: Mitteilungen der Kommission für Alte Geschichte und Epigraphik des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts
Volume52
Early online date5 Dec 2022
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2023

Keywords

  • Statistics
  • Liberti
  • Manumission
  • Legal status
  • Names

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