Once upon a time, she was nearly as common as Julia.
Thanks to Rachel for suggesting the Ancient Roman Annia as Name of the Day.
The evergreen Anna has been in use for centuries. But this name is linked not to the Hebrew Channah, but to the Latin Antonius and the equally classic Anthony.
Head back to Rome around the time of the Second Punic War. You’ll find members of the Annia family rising to important roles as early as the 300s BC. By 153 BC, Titus Annius Luscus was a consul. For the next few centuries, the Annii were among the movers and shakers of the ancient world.
Well-born women who wore the name included:
- Annia Aurelia Faustina, wife of Roman Emperor Elagabalus in 221;
- Her mother, Annia Faustina, wife of Roman Consul Tiberius Claudius Severus Proculus;
- Her mother, Annia Aurelia Galeria Faustina, wife of Roman Senator Gnaeus Claudius Severus;
- Go back another generation, and she’s related to none other than Emperor Marcus Aurelius, via his sister Annia Cornifica Faustina. Two of his daughters were called Annia, too.
Marcus Aurelius was considered the last of the Five Good Emperors. Among other things, the quintet chose their successors for their capabilities rather than blood relation. (Then Marcus Aurelius went old school and named his son, Commodus, successor. But that’s a topic for another site.)
Back to Annia. Expectant mothers didn’t loll about their villas with debating whether Cornelia was becoming too popular or if Lucretia would hate her name. Names were dictated by family tradition. Just like George Foreman called all his kids George, in Ancient Rome, siblings shared names. In fact, in a guest post by Nephele at Nameberry, she explains that daughters were sometimes referred to by the equivalent of One, Two and Three.
While plenty of Ancient Roman names have made it into the 21st century, Annia has faded into obscurity. She’s never appeared in the US Top 1000, and notable bearers are quite difficult to find.
One famous Annia is Annia Hatch, a member of the 2004 US women’s gymnastics team. Hatch won silver in Athens, after several years of struggle. As if it isn’t tough enough to make it to the top of your game, Hatch was born in Cuba, started her competitive career there and found herself tangled up in international diplomacy when she left her home country.
Here’s the hang-up with Annia. Her pronunciation should be either the three syllable ahn EE ah or AN ee ah. But it is tempting to see Annia as a respelling of the Slavic diminutive Anya/Anja, pronounced AN yah. (After listening to multiple snippets on YouTube of Annia Hatch’s 2004 Olympic performance, I’m convinced that the name flummoxed broadcasters, too, as I hear it pronounced both ways.)
If you’re looking for a more elaborate version of Anne, Annia might not go far enough. Annika, Annabel, Anneliese and Annamaria are all options that add a few more sounds into the mix. And yet ancient Annia does sound surprisingly fresh and current in the twenty-first century.