Victory titles

From Academic Kids

A victory title is an honorific title adopted by a successful military commander to commemorate his defeat of an enemy nation. This is a chiefly Roman practice, although other groups have made use of this practice, as well. This document is chiefly concerned with Roman victory titles.

Victory titles were treated as cognomina and were usually the name of the enemy defeated by the commander. Hence, names like Africanus ("the African"), Numidicus ("the Numidian"), Isauricus ("the Isaurian"), Creticus ("the Cretan"), Gothicus ("the Goth"), Germanicus ("the German") and Parthicus ("the Parthian"), seemingly out of place for ardently patriotic Romans, are in fact expressions of Roman superiority over these peoples. Literally, this would be like calling Erwin Rommel, George S. Patton, Jr., and H. Norman Schwarzkopf "Rommel the African", "Patton the German", and "Schwarzkopf the Iraqi", respectively. However, the correct sense is better expressed as "Rommel of African fame", "Patton of German fame", "Schwarzkopf of Iraqi fame", and so forth. Some victory titles were treated as hereditary, while others were not.

The practice of awarding victory titles was well-established within the Roman Republic. The most famous grantee of Republican victory title was of course Publius Cornelius Scipio, who for his great victories in the Second Punic War was awarded by the Roman Senate the title "Africanus" and is thus known to history as "Scipio Africanus" (his adopted grandson Scipio Aemilianus Africanus was awarded the same title after the Third Punic War and is known as "Scipio Africanus the Younger"). Other notable holders of such victory titles include Quintus Caecilius Metellus Numidicus, who was replaced by Gaius Marius in command-in-chief of the Jugurthine War, Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus, who commanded Roman anti-pirate operations in the eastern Mediterranean and was father of Julius Caesar's colleague in his second consulate (Publius Servilius Vatia Isauricus in 48 BC), and Marcus Antonius Creticus, another anti-piratical commander and father of Caesar's master of the horse, Mark Antony (of Egyptian fame).

The practice continued in the Roman Empire, although it was subsequently amended by some Roman Emperors who desired to emphasise the totality of their victories by adding Maximus ("the Greatest") to the victory title (e.g., Parthicus Maximus, "the Greatest Parthian"). This taste grew to be rather vulgar by modern standards, with increasingly grandiose accumulations of partially fictitious victory titles. In Mediaeval times, the practice continued in modified form, with Charlemagne styling himself Dominator Saxonorum ("Dominator of the Saxons") and Basil II called Bulgaroktonos ("the Bulgar Slayer").

See also: List of Imperial Victory Titles


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