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date: 21 September 2023



  • Simon Hornblower
  •  and Antony Spawforth


Prosopography is a modern term for the study of individuals, and is derived from the Greek prosōpon, one meaning of which is ‘person’. There is no agreed or official definition of prosopography, which goes under different names in different disciplines (to the social scientist, prosopography in one of its manifestations is ‘multiple career-line analysis’: see L. Stone in bibliog. below). Prosopography, as used in ancient history, is a historical method which uses onomastic evidence (see names, personal, greek and roman) to establish (i) regional origins of individuals and (ii) family connections, esp. via marriage-ties but also via *adoption (which leaves traces on nomenclature), between individual and individual and between group and group. (See genos and gens for the basic large *kinship units; but ‘group’ theories of Roman politics, see below, presuppose units made up of more than one gens. Thus Scullard posited a ‘Fulvian-Claudian group’ in late 3rd cent. Rome, see various entries under Fulvius and Claudius.) Conclusions about the origins and family connections of individuals then classically lead to inferences about their likely political sympathies and allegiances.


  • Greek History and Historiography
  • Reception
  • Roman History and Historiography

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