Illuminations

The First Blood

 by Anthony Esolen

When I first encountered Roman history, I was puzzled by some of the cognomens of their heroes, such as Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. Was Scipio an African, or at least born in Africa? Was Tiberius's brother Germanicus born in the shadows of the Alps? It never occurred to me then that you would be given a name from some deed you had performed in battle, and that then it would become a family name, passed down to your children and your children's children. Imagine Douglas MacArthur Philippinus, or Theodore Roosevelt Mexicanus.

Sometimes your name came not from the place where you shed other people's blood to win glory for yourself, but from some peculiarity . . .

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Anthony Esolen is a professor at Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire, and the author of many books, including Life Under Compulsion (ISI Books), Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius Press, 2019). He has also translated Dante's Divine Comedy (Random House). He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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