[ANSTHRLD] More on Drusilla

C. L. Ward gunnora at vikinganswerlady.com
Sat May 10 14:39:37 PDT 2003

>I would like to use the nomen Drusilla, is possible;
>which I believe would be a feminine diminutive of
>Drusus (basing that idea on Iulilla being a diminutive
>of Iulius).

The suffix -illa is a standard feminine diminuitive in Latin.

In Republican Rome, women were officially known only by the female form of
their father's nomen (specifically, the nomen gentilicum or clan name),
sometimes further differentiated by the possessive (genitive) form of their
father's name (if unmarried) or husband's name (if married). The example
usually given is from Cicero:

Annia P. Anni senatoris filia (Annia the daughter of P. Annius the senator).

By the late Republic women also adopted the female form of their father's
cognomen, which was often made a diminutive (e.g., Augustus's wife Livia
Drusilla (58 BC - AD 29) was the daughter of a Marcus Livius Drusus -
actually, I think there were several women named Drusilla in the Livia gens,
and Drusa or Drusus were often found as masculine praenomens in the Claudian
gens). The later you get in the Republic and on into the Imperial period,
the whole Roman naming scheme became completely chaotic.  Lots of new
citizens were made as Rome's conquests expanded and citizenship was expanded
into the provinces, names were made up, names used by the upper classes
tended to become very long and elaborate, the distinction between nomen and
cognomen was blurred and names were intermixed, gens and familiy names were
used as personal names, and personal names were used to create new names for
gens and families. Towards the end of the Imperial era names became simpler
again, often consisting of just two names, without any reference to gens.

I don't see any documentation in my Latin materials for Drusa/Drusus as a
nomen, so (unless  there's one in the late Empire's chaotic naming period),
I don't think you'd see a feminine "Drusilla" as a nomen.  Father's cognomen
adapted to "Drusilla" yes, nomen no... But my sources are not exhaustive.

I can find other examples of the name Drusilla in use.  For instance, in the
the Vulgate Bible, Acts 24:24 reads:

Post aliquot autem dies veniens Felix cum Drusilla uxore sua quae erat
Iudaea vocavit Paulum et audivit ab eo fidem quae est in Iesum Christum.

[And after certain days, when Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was a
Jewess, he sent for Paul, and heard him concerning the faith in Christ.]

This would be the Emperor Claudius's favorite, the freedman Antonius Felix,
who eventually became procurator of Judaea. His wife Drusilla, daughter of
King Herod Agrippa the 1st, was seduced away from her royal husband, Azizus,
king of Emesa. The passage above from Acts is part of the tale of how the
Apostle Paul was arrested in Judaea and brought to trial before Felix and
his consort Drusilla, in Caesarea (c. AD 59).  The Biblical reference isn't
complementary, as this Drusilla is portrayed as rather an adulterous harlot.

P. Cornelius Tacitus writes in his Histories, Book V.9 (109AD) talks about
this same Drusilla, but he has her ancestry vetry differently derived:

Claudius, defunctis regibus aut ad modicum redactis, Iudaeam provinciam
equitibus Romanis aut libertis permisit, e quibus Antonius Felix per omnem
saevitiam ac libidinem ius regium servili ingenio exercuit, Drusilla
Cleopatrae et Antonii nepte in matrimonium accepta, ut eiusdem Antonii Felix
progener, Claudius nepos esset.

[The kings were either dead, or reduced to insignificance, when Claudius
entrusted the province of Judaea to the Roman Knights or to his own
freedmen, one of whom, Antonius Felix, indulging in every kind of barbarity
and lust, exercised the power of a king in the spirit of a slave. He had
married Drusilla, the granddaughter of Antony and Cleopatra, and so was the
grandson-in-law, as Claudius was the grandson, of Antony.]

Googling led me to the "Orlando Furioso" (1516AD) of Ludovico Ariosto Canto
37, v.52 (http://sunsite.berkeley.edu/OMACL/Orlando/), which has:

"No fairer was the dame than chaste and right,
And well deserving every praise; the peer
Derived of generous stock, and bold in fight,
As ever champion, of whose fame we hear;
And 'tis well fitting, that such valiant wight
Should joy a thing so excellent and dear,
Olindro he, the lord of Lungavilla,
And she, his lady wife, yclept Drusilla.

And, also compliments of Google, right after the end of the SCA's period in
1642, Claudio Monteverdi had a character named Drusilla in his opera
"L'incoronazione di Poppea" which is sort of set in a very fanciful Imperial


Who would ever have guessed that I'd still be using my Latin more than 20
years later?

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