Modern parents have stepped into the wayback machine to revive Henry and Oliver. But some have gone farther, all the way back to ancient times. Today’s choice comes to us from that collection, but brings with him a surprisingly modern sound.
Thanks to Bek for suggesting our Name of the Day: Titus.
Yesterday we covered Priscilla, a noble Roman name found in the New Testament. Titus shares her pedigree.
The Emperor Titus ruled from the years 79 to 81. A successful military commander before assuming the throne, Titus’ reign was cut short when he died of a fever. Saint Titus was a companion of the apostle Paul. Based on the number of bearers in the historical record, it appears that Titus was quite common in the ancient world. In addition to the emperor and the saint listed above, there’s also:
- Banker and supporter of the arts and letters Titus Pomponius Atticus. He’s not a household name, but you’ll recognize his best friend – Cicero. Cicero’s treatise on friendship, De Amicitia, was dedicated to Titus.
- While we know him as Livy, the historian was born Titus Livius.
- Fictional Titus Pullo appears on HBO’s series Rome. He’s loosely based on a Roman soldier mentioned in some historical accounts.
Others hear Titus and think immediately of Shakespeare. The Bard’s Titus Andronicus chronicles a Roman general’s destructive, bloodthirsty feud with Tamora, Queen of the Goths.
There’s no consensus about his origins, but the best theory is that it comes from titulus – title of honor. This might make it the rough equivalent of naming a modern boy King or Earl, but it’s quite a subtle – and unproven – link.
What’s certain is that Titus has been revived by daring parents over the ages. Rembrandt van Rijn chose it for his son, and the child is captured in many of his father’s works.
Titus became a surname along the way. Silas Titus fought in the Union Army during the Civil War, and went on to become a founding father and prominent citizen of Syracuse, New York.
More recently, you might recall comedian Christopher Titus’ FOX edgy sitcom, Titus. While the show is history, he continues to perform on the stand-up circuit.
We can find plenty of men called Titus in the US Census records from the 19th century. He never reached as high as other choices like Virgil or Homer, but appeared in the US Top 1000 several times in the 1880s and 90s.
But Titus’ reign really begins in the year 1960. While he’s usually been at the fringes, it is safe to say that Titus has been steadily in use since that time. Today, he ranks #500. That puts him at his most popular in centuries.
Two factors are in favor of a Titus revival. We’ve mentioned the fashionable nature of Roman names before. Titus is also advantaged by his easy nickname – Ty. Like Cash/Cassius, it’s an appealing compromise between the fleeting and the enduring. With Tyler ranking #21, Ty #237, Tyson #269 and Tyrone, Tyree, Tyrese and Tyrell also charting in 2007, it’s easy to imagine that parents might love the sound, but long for something more classic. Titus more than fits the bill.