6

We have the name of a Romano-British Potter from the 2nd century A.D. whose name is SECVNDVA. Is this a male or a female name?

7

This may really be SECVNDVS: when computers try to automatically transcribe older letters, S is often mistakenly transcribed as A. And SECVNDVS (= Secundus) is a common male name.

I have never heard of SECVNDVA (-VA doesn't look right to me).

SECVNDA, however, would be a common female name. The ending -A is feminine for this type of word.

We could be more certain if you could provide us with more context. A photo, a scan, more information about the source.

| improve this answer | |
  • 3
    I also think it's most likely to be Secundus. cf. SECVΛDVS.FE britishmuseum.org/collection/object/H_1853-0502-220 (a side note: do we even know of any female potters in Roman Britain?) – Alex B. Jul 20 at 15:52
  • 3
    @AlexB.: Good example. I wouldn't expect female potters in Britain either. – Cerberus Jul 20 at 15:58
  • 6
    the only source I can find that mentions Secundua [sic] is Buckland, P.C., Hartley, K.F. and Rigby, V. 2001. The Roman Pottery Kilns at Rossington Bridge. Excavations 1956–1961. Journal of Roman Pottery Studies Volume 9. Oxford: Oxbow/Study Group for Roman Pottery. We'll need to see a photo to speculate further. – Alex B. Jul 20 at 18:20
  • 2
    While computers may have difficulties transcribing the letter S and mistake it as A, please note that also on standard English keyboard, the S key is next to the A key and people may have a similar difficulty too. Then if the name is foreign, a proofreader may miss that easily. – Eleshar Jul 21 at 11:32
  • 3
    Update: a quote from NAA Monograph Series No. 3 Artefacts Volume 2 A Roman Roadside Settlement at Healam Bridge: The Iron Age to Early Medieval Evidence :110 : “ The optimum date of Sarrius’s productions in north-east England and in Scotland is within the period AD 140-165. They were not necessarily contemporary, but the wall-sided mortaria made at Bearsden and at Rossington Bridge (stamped by his associate Secundua) would best fit a date no earlier than c.AD 140. Further details of his work can be found in Buckland et al. (2001, 45-47) and Breeze (2016)” [emphasis mine - Alex B.] – Alex B. Jul 21 at 18:11
3

While "Secundus" was a common male name, "Secunda" (not "Secundua") would be a common female "name". For most of Roman history, women did not have given names, only family names, so they were distinguished by birth order (or presumably by nicknames in less formal settinds). "Secunda" would have been the second-oldest daughter.

Males were not as often named by ordinal numbers, but could be. In the case of a male, that would be his official given name (praenomen). Also, for men, these need not indicate birth order. You might be called "Quintus" after your grandfather "Quintus", for example

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    The question says Secundua, though. – Cerberus Jul 20 at 17:21
  • I'm not aware of that as a word, much less a name, which would be why I misread it. – C Monsour Jul 20 at 17:25
  • @Cerberus I misread it myself! Thanks for pointing this out. – Alex B. Jul 20 at 17:46
2

I agree with the others that Secundua is an unlikely name. It is probably a misspelling for Secundus or Secunda. Let me, however, entertain the possibility that the name is actually Secundua and see which gender it should be.

The name Secundua would have to be in the Latin first declension. (There are also three Greek types of first declension words, but this would be in the only Latin type.) Most words and names in this group are feminine, like Secunda would be. But not all are; there are exceptions both in names (Seneca) and other words (nauta). Whether cognomina (e.g. Seneca and Pansa) are masculine or natural gender is a matter of taste, but they are at least mostly used as masculines — the only conclusion I want from these is that you cannot reliably deduce the gender from the ending of the name.

Based on form alone you could thus reasonably guess that it is feminine but you couldn't be sure. You simply cannot deduce the gender by looking at the name; you actually have to know the name to be sure.

| improve this answer | |
  • Strictly.speaking, don't all cognomina have natural gender? Seneca is whatever gender its referent is. (I'm not sure the extent to which women used cognomina, but since cognomina were sometimes treated as heritable, this must have happened at least once in a while.) – C Monsour Jul 21 at 10:42
  • @CMonsour Cognomina were mostly used by males, at least as an only name. Typically the name Seneca is used to refer to Lucius Annaeus Seneca, a male (or two). Modern last names have arguably natural gender, but Roman cognomina aren't quite the same. And the main point is: cognomina like Seneca and Pansa can refer to males despite looking feminine, so you can't deduce the gender from form alone. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 21 at 10:48
  • So would one of their daughters, for disambiguation, have been Annaea Seneca, Annaea Senecae, or Annaea Senecarum? – C Monsour Jul 21 at 14:36
  • @CMonsour Good question! I recommend taking that to a separate question. My only point here was that Seneca is most often masculine; whether it is always masculine is irrelevant for my argument but certainly interesting. It would be a digression here, though. – Joonas Ilmavirta Jul 21 at 16:37
2

some images from Buckland et al. (2001) - there should be more but I don't have access to it yet.

enter image description here

enter image description here

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.