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The Best Ancient Roman Baby Names

Rarely does a whole class of names from a place or historical period undergo this widespread a revival, but several forces are at work that are making us take a fresh look at ancient Roman names.
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Ancient Roman names are being rediscovered in the modern world in a major way. Rarely does a whole class of names from a place or historical period undergo this widespread a revival, but several forces are at work that are making us take a fresh look at ancient Roman names.

The first Big Read, which featured "To Kill A Mockingbird" and its hero Atticus Finch brought that name to contemporary consciousness. Then there was the HBO series "Rome." But "The Hunger Games" which features ancient Roman names for most of its male characters has popularized the genre like nothing else.

Of course, many ancient Roman names have survived and thrived in modern times, including some of our picks. And then there are others that have been slumbering for centuries but are reawakening now. Here, our favorites from this very appealing group.

ANTONIA: Antonia is a lovely if sleepy feminine form of Antonius aka Antony and Anthony. Its recent fall from the Top 1000 might be the best possible reason to use it.

AUGUSTUS: All Augustus-related names have recently been rediscovered, from August to Augustine to Augustus itself, which means "great" and was given to the first Roman emperor.

AURELIA: Aurelia, the name of the mother of Julius Caesar and a common choice in Ancient Rome, means gold. Attractive Aurelia relatives include Aurora, Oriana, and Aurelius.

CASSIUS: Cassius, until recently best-known in the modern world as the birth name of boxer Muhammad Ali, is due for new appreciation in all its forms, which include Cassian and the feminine Cassia. Singer Bobby Brown named his son Cassius, which was also the appellation of American abolitionist Cassius Clay.

FELIX: Happy, fortunate Felix -- the name was originally adopted by the Roman Sulla who believed he was blessed by the Gods -- is a new style favorite. Felix was also the name of four popes and dozens of saints.

JUSTUS: The Roman name Justus, which naturally means "just," is a precursor of the modern word name Justice and also of Justin. But we like the original for both its meaning and its authenticity.

LIVIA: While Olivia sits squarely in the middle of the Top Ten, Livia is a lesser-known and completely independent ancient name that feels sleek and modern.

OCTAVIA: Octavia relates to the number eight and is the feminine form of Octavian, the original name of the first Roman emperor, called Augustus.

ROMULUS: The mythical Romulus, twin brother of Remus, was one of the founders of Rome. His name inspired such modern derivatives as Romilly, Roman, and Romy, but there's no reason you can't use the original Romulus.

RUFUS: Rufus, which means "red-haired," has been given some serious contemporary cool by singer Rufus Wainwright. A figure in both the New Testament and Gossip Girl, Rufus is also the name of several saints.

TATIANA: Tatiana is the feminine form of the Roman name Tatius of unknown meaning. Saint Tatiana, martyred in third century Rome, was much revered in the Orthodox Church, explaining the name's popularity in Russia.

TANAQUIL: Tanaquil, the name of the wife of the fifth king of Rome, may be a Latinized form of an Etruscan name relating to the goddess Thana. The best-known modern bearer was ballerina Tanaquil LeClerq.

URBAN: Urban, which means "city dweller" and was used for eight popes, has been obscure in the modern world but has strong possibilities for the contemporary child, whether he lives in Brooklyn or Bozeman.

VITA: The life-affirming Vita, pronounced vee-ta, is best known now as the name of Virginia Woolf confederate Vita Sackville-West.

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