The Harvest Moon, and Roman Names

As I was walking back from choir practice this evening, ruminating on my day and considering what I was most thankful for today, I crossed an east-west artery and saw, far off down towards the Commons and the distant downtown, a massive harvest moon the colour of parchment or tea stains.  I love those sort of sudden vistas.  One of the things I am perennially grateful for, especially once the leaves fall, is the view I have down to the Northwest Arm as I walk to and from work down a different east-west road.

These glimpses of the sea, of the Moon, of the stars I also saw tonight, remind me of the wider world, that all is not city and human habitation.  That I see such things so regularly is one reason I prefer Halifax to Toronto as a place to live.  In Toronto I never saw out unless I was high up in a tower, and I was rarely high up in a tower, except for Robarts library, where my carrel had no view because of some strange residue betwixt the wind panes.

But tonight, the Moon.

Today I learned that I have really no idea how Roman names work.

I know there aren’t very many first names in circulation: Marcus, Publius, Caius, Gnaius, a handful of others.  I think the second and third names are different sorts of family names — and there I falter.  A student asked me about this in class today and all I could say was that it is indeed curious that we say Cicero for Marcus Tullius Cicero (though in some works I’ve seen Tully), and Virgil for Publius Virgilius Maro.  I’m sure I’ve looked this up before in trying to figure out what on earth Anicius Mancius Severinus Boethius would have been called by, say, his friends, but somehow I’ve never gotten it clear.  Something to look into, obviously.


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