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The Wikipedia article on the subject notes that the term damnatio memoriae, referring to the relegation of a person's name to oblivion, as if they never existed, is a neo-Latin expression first attested in 1689.

What wording do the ancient sources use when speaking about the practice? While the German Wikipedia article refers to the term abolitio nominis, I seem to be unable to find any direct references to it either.

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  • Possible lead for a Post-classical alternative: I think in the Old Testament the name of Moses is commanded to be erased from Egiptian history by the Pharaoh, but I don't know if it is elaborated as a properly named concept
    – Rafael
    Feb 27, 2018 at 12:49

1 Answer 1

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  1. Russian and polish wikipedia say the classical term was memoria damnata, or abolitio memoriae, without, however giving a direct source. Goettingen's Institute of Archealogy uses memoria damnata in a short article on the concept
  2. Adrastos Omissi, Emperors and Usurpers in the Later Roman Empire: Civil War, Panegyric, and the Construction of Legitimacy, Oxford University Press, 28 june 2018, page 36, ISBN 978-0-19-255827-5 says

On near-equivalent terms used by Roman writers, see F. Vittinghoff, Der Staatsfeind in der römischen Kaiserzeit: Untersuchungen zur 'damnatio memoriae', Neue deutsche Forschungen, Abteilung alte Geschichte 2, Berlin, Junker und Dünnhaupt, 1936, pages 64-74

  1. This monography Der Staatsfeind in der römischen Kaiserzeit: Untersuchungen zur 'damnatio memoriae' exists. Unfortunately, I couldn't find an available copy
  2. Yet, the Martelage et damnatio memoriae : une introduction, Stéphane Benoist, Cahiers du Centre Gustave Glotz, Année 2003, 14, pp. 231-240, mentions, and quotes! the german monography: enter image description here

"oder genauer der memoria damnata" - "or, more precisely, the memoria damnata"

Note, at this point, the relevant comment: Please note that Vittinghoff rejects "memoria damnata" just like "damnatio memoriae" as erroneus and says Roman historians either talked about individual sanctions or talked about the decision to condemn the name or image in general. – Sebastian Koppehel Apr 17 at 18:34

  1. In Mutilation and Transformation, damnatio memoriae and roman imperial portraiture, Eric R. Varner, 2004, Brill, page 2, one can read

When discussing the condamnation of a person's memory and monuments, ancient authors usually combine the word memoria with particulary strong verbs damnare, condemnare, accusare, abolere, or eradere

with the following footnote:

enter image description here

Memoria damnata seems to be recurrent.

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    Please note that Vittinghoff rejects "memoria damnata" just like "damnatio memoriae" as erroneus and says Roman historians either talked about individual sanctions or talked about the decision to condemn the name or image in general. Apr 17 at 18:34
  • Thanks much pápilió for the excellent summary! I see a lot of paper digging coming my way! :-) Would you mind incorporating the Sebastian's note into to the answer? The comments are fleeting, and his seems to add a very useful bit of information. As part of your welcome to SO, a tidbit: If you want to link to a comment, it is the comment's date ("N hours/days ago" or a real date after a few days) that is a hyperlink to it. This isn't intuitive and hard to find at first.
    – kkm
    Apr 20 at 6:01

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