Nomenclator: Ancient Roman Name Remember-er

In ancient times, well-to-do Romans didn’t have to worry about remembering people’s names. Why? Because they had special name-remembering slaves to do the job for them.

These slaves were called nomenclators, from the Latin words nōmen, meaning “name,” and calō, meaning, “call together, summon.”

Essentially, a nomenclator was a social secretary. He accompanied his master in public and reminded him of the names and details of important individuals, such as business acquaintances. Nomenclators were particularly useful to politicians soliciting a votes in elections to public office.

The Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum owns a 1st century epitaph for a guy named Aristarchus who worked as a nomenclator. (The name Aristarchus is based on the ancient Greek words aristos, meaning “best,” and archos, meaning “master.”)

Are you good at remembering names? Would you have made an efficient nomenclator?

Sources: nomenclator – Charlton T. Lewis, Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary, Nomenclator – Wiktionary, ‘Working IX to V’ in Ancient Rome and Greece

P.S. I learned about this interesting ancient job from episode 51 of the Happier with Gretchen Rubin podcast.

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