27/11/2022

Denton – a Roman name?

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During my research I found one American amateur genealogist who claimed that Denton derived from a Roman called Julius Dentatus. Apparently this Julius had come with Gnaeus Julius Agricola (lived 40-93 CE) to Britain. Agricola was the general responsible for much of the Roman conquest of Britain. The source for much of this was from Agricola’s son-in-law Publicus Corneliue Tacitus, in his De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae which may be challenged as boosting his father-in-law, though there is archaeological evidence from northern Britain to substantiate some of this.

This genealogist went on to claim that Dentatus had built a tower on the Picts’ Wall that was later used to build Denton Hall. However, while Agricola was the general who led the conquest of Britannia, this was in the 60s/70s CE and Hadrian’s Wall was not built until the 120s CE so Dentatus would have to have been very long-lived. So I assume the genealogist’s claim to be fallacious.

The only trace I could find of a Dentatus, was Manius Curius Dentatus who had three times been a consul and whom Pliny hailed as something of a plebeian hero. The reason he had the cognomen Dentatus is that he was born with teeth already grown, it meant ‘toothy’. He was by all accounts a success, conquering the Samnites and putting down a revolt of the Sabines. In 275 BCE in the Battle of Beneventum he defeated Pyrrhus, this was the original Pyrrhic victory.

A tale, perhaps apocryphal, is told of him to underline his simple frugality. When the Samnites visited him in an attempt to bribe him to turn away, they found him roasting a simple meal of turnips. He refused their gifts of gold saying earthen dishes were good enough for him […] he preferred ruling those who possessed gold to possessing it himself. Aside – as a commissioner in 27O BCE he oversaw construction of the original Aqua Anio Vetus, Rome’s second aqueduct. However, he lived in the Republican period and died in 270 BCE, two centuries before Rome showed any interest in Britain.

Lucius Siccius Dentatus
Source: facebook.com

There is another even older Roman, Lucius Siccius Dentatus (514 -450 BCE), he sounds ferocious. Pliny the Elder described that over his lifetime Siccius had fought in 120 battles, received 45 honorable [sic] wounds and several civic crowns; in addition, he won the Grass Crown [the highest accolade that a Roman officer could receive from a legion]. Siccius was eight times champion in single combat, with forty five scars on the front of his body and none on the rear, he is reported to have been awarded no less than eighteen hastae purae [awarded a spear], twenty-five phalerae [metal or glass disks used as medals], 83 torques [a neck ring as a badge of honour], more than 160 armillae [bracelets], and twenty six coronae [crowns] of which fourteen were coronae civicae awarded for saving the life of a Roman citizen, eight coronae aureae, three coronae murales, and one corona obsidionalis or corona graminea, the highest honour for valour awarded for the deliverer of a besieged army.

Lucius Siccius Dentatus
Source: thorvaldsensmuseum.dk

Clearly no-one called Siccius names, such as Cissy or Toothy – and got away with it. I found no trace of a Julius Dentatus but I was entertained by the two tales above.

I prefer to believe Burke’s Landed Peerage (1856) that states Denton is Saxon in origin – see below.

Note on shorthand acronyms being used in the DFB:
GGF1 / GGM1 – means first great-grandfather /mother;
GU11 / GA11 – means eleventh great-uncle / great-aunt;
1C3 – means first cousin three times removed

Forward to Denton places – Forward to Middle Ages Index
Back to First Principals Index – Back to Denton Family Bible

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