Names used in the story

Names of characters  

All the names used in the story are real Roman or Gaulish names. Archaeologists over decades have collected thousands of names found stamped on plates and bowls made in Roman Gaul. The names were put on the pottery by the people who made them. We have used these as a source for many of the names in the story. We also used names found on grave inscriptions, letters and other writings.

1st century pot with a broken potter’s name stamp, which reads “… ECUND…”, probably part of the name of Secundus, who worked in southern Gaul.  Photo Wolfgang Sauber via Wikimedia Commons

We used the name of Secundus, found on the broken pot above, for one of the blond slaves at Maximus’s town house. Secundus means “second child”.

Here are other names from the story, and why we chose them:

AMMONIUS – the school teacher. This was the name of a real teacher in 4th century Gaul, known from a poem written by his student Ausonius. 

BALBUS – A Latin name, popular in Gaul and found on pottery.

BERATIUS – the farm manager. The name comes from a 3rd century grave inscription in Rome and we chose it in honour of Dr Jacques Bérato, the archaeologist who excavated the villa at Taradeau on which Villa Rubia is based, and who kindly answered many questions we asked him. 

BUCCO – the cat. This was the name of a character in a type of comic pantomime. It probably means “puffy cheeks” (maybe because the character was greedy).

CAROTUS – the slave. Carotus means “dear one” in Latin – but there is a similar Latin word, carota, that means carrot and the name inspired Anna to come up with the character of the red-haired boy! 

DANNORIX – Father’s assistant from the north. This is a Gaulish name from a potter in north-eastern Gaul, near Augusta Treverorum (Trier). “Rix” meant “king” in Gaulish and was a very common name ending. The name of the comic book character Asterix is a play on this.

DONATA – Valentia’s mother. The name means “gift” in Latin, and is the origin of the word “donation” in English.

FLORA – the girl at school. The Latin name means “flower” and is still used in English to refer to flowers and plants. 

GABRINA – the grumpy housekeeper at the villa. A Latin potter’s name meaning “small goat”.

GLUPPUS – a slave at the town house. This is a real potter’s name!

HABITA – Valentia’s nurse. A Latin potter’s name which possibly means “healthy”.

LUPA & KILLER – the guard dogs. These are names suggested for dogs by a Roman writer on farming and a Greek writer on hunting. Lupa means “wolf” and we have used the English translation of the Greek name Kainon (Killer).

MAXIMUS (full name Rubius Valentius Maximus) – Valentia’s father and master of the villa. Maximus means “The Great” and was a popular name in the 4th century. We took the name Valentius from a grave inscription found at Fréjus (Forum Julii), the nearest large town to the villa of Taradeau (used as the model for Villa Rubia). 

MELIOR – the apprentice painter. The name is from the grave inscription of a young apprentice.

POPPILLUS – Carotus’s grandfather and the villa baker. This is a potter’s name meaning “baker” in Gaulish, but Anna chose the name for Carotus’s “pop” before we discovered what it meant! 

PEREGRINUS – Perry’s Latin name. There is a grave inscription in Arles of a slave who was called Peregrinus. The Latin means “traveller”, which we thought was a good name for a time traveller.

Illustration by Anna Ciddor from THE BOY WHO STEPPED THROUGH TIME showing Perry (Peregrinus), Carotus and Valentia

RISSUS – official at the Mint. We chose this Latin potter’s name in honour of Richard Reece, a world famous archaeologist and expert on late Roman coins who gave us lots of advice for the scene at the Mint and the money at the market. 

RITTIA – the little slave girl at the villa. A Gaulish name meaning “of the river ford” (a crossing place over a river, like the one in chapter 20).

RUFUS (full name Ausonius Leontius Rufus) – the boy at school. Ausonius was a 4th century Gaulish teacher and poet, and the other names come from letters written by him and the 5th century Gaulish writer Sidonius. 

TADIUS – the head painter. The name comes from a description by the Roman writer Pliny of Spurius Tadius, the painter who “first introduced the most attractive fashion of painting walls with pictures of country houses”.

URBINUS – the steward at the townhouse. A Latin name meaning “town man”.

VALENTIA (full name Camilla Valentia) – the daughter of the master of the villa. Valentia means “healthy” (the Roman word for goodbye – “Vale” – means “be well”).

Names of places

AQUAE SEXTIAE – Roman name for the modern town of Aix, in the south of France. The Latin name means “waters of Sextius”, from the local mineral springs and the name of its Roman founder Sextius Calvinus.

ARELATE – Roman name for the modern town of Arles, in the south of France. The name is Gaulish and means “In front of the marsh”. It is near the famous marshy region of France called the “Camargue”.

AUGUSTA TREVERORUM – Roman name for the modern town of Trier, in what is now Germany. The Latin name means “Augustus’s City of the Treveri” (Augustus was the first emperor of Rome, and the Treveri were the local people who lived in this region).

FORUM JULII – Roman name for the modern town of Fréjus, in the south of France. The Latin name means town of Julius Caesar.

FORUM VOCONII – a small town which was a stopping place on the Via Aurelia, listed on ancient journey guides. Its modern location is uncertain but is close to Le Cannet-des-Maures in southern France.

VIA AURELIA – An important Roman road from Arelate (Arles) to northern Italy, rebuilt by the Emperor Aurelius (270-275) and re-named after him.

VILLA RUBIA – means Villa of Rubius and is recorded in this region of Gaul. We liked this name and decided one of Maximus’s names could be Rubius.

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