I would like to know how to decline the name Gnaeus in vocative. I see three options:

  • Gnaee (regular declension)
  • Gnai (would make sense by analogy to Gai if the name is pronounced /gnaius/)
  • Gnaeus (if no declined vocative sounds natural, nominative is a reasonable choice)

It is hard to search for the nominative used as vocative, and the same problem comes with the variant Gnaei of my second option. Searching The Latin Library gives no results for Gnaee or Gnai. Gnaee sounds weird but I can't figure out if that sounded too weird to the Romans as well.

Is there an attested (preferably classical) vocative of the name Gnaeus?


2 Answers 2


I searched for the vocative form Gnaee in several corpora but did not find any results. A general web search seems to reveal only automatically generated vocatives, which I would not lend much credence to, as well as the excellent 16th century example cited by @JoelDerfner in Juan Luis Vives's De Initiis Sectis Et Laudibus Philosophiae. The two alternatives in the critical apparatus (Gnee and Cnee) correspond to a pretty common transposing of ae to e (saeculorum > seclorum) and g to c (Gaius > Caius).

To add some more classical weight to this, I looked up similar names ending in aeus whose vocative forms are attested in the classical corpus. Here are some examples:


turba ruunt et "Hymen" clamant "Hymenaee!" frequenter (Ovid, Heroides XII)

nec lenius altera virgo
aestuat, utque celer venias, Hymenaee, precatur. (Ovid, Metamorphoses, IX)

(and many more)


Dulce periculum est,
o Lenaee, sequi deum
cingentem viridi tempora pampino. (Horace, Carmina, III)

huc, pater o Lenaee, ueni, nudataque musto
tinge nouo mecum dereptis crura coturnis. (Vergil, Georgicon, II)


ne caedes confusa manu permissaque fatis
te, Ptolemaee, trahat. (Lucan, Bellum Civile, X)

All things considered, Gnaee is definitely a safe supposition as the vocative of Gnaeus.

  • 4
    Even though Gnaee appears to be absent in extant classical literature, the analogy with the attested vocatives from -aeus makes a very strong case. Thanks!
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented May 9, 2016 at 16:38

Eureka, as the scientist said. J. L. Vives, 16th century humanist, uses the vocative of Gnæus Pompeius in Pompeius Fugiens (page 136 of the Brill edition of his early writings, volume I). Brill spells it Gnæe, but the notes seem to indicate that one ms spells it Gnee and three others spell it Cnee.


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