This article explores the continued use of titles, especially those once reserved for Roman senators, in the early Middle Ages. The scope includes literary and documentary sources in Latin throughout the western Mediterranean, with an emphasis on the documentary sources from Ravenna from the middle of the sixth through the end of the ninth century. The evidence suggests that in many areas the use of these titles diminished or essentially disappeared, while their survival in others was accompanied by dramatic changes in their significance over time. In these instances titles such as vir illustris, vir spectabilis, and especially vir clarissimus were repurposed to denote memberships in local political or social hierarchies that were themselves in flux. Thus the continuities reflected the traditions of notarial practices to a greater extent than the continued desire to use and apply signifiers derived from the late Roman aristocracy to new forms of elite identity.
Schoolman, Edward M.
"Vir Clarissimus and Roman Titles in the Early Middle Ages: Survival and Continuity in Ravenna and the Latin West,"
Medieval People: Vol. 32:
1, Article 2.
Available at: https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/medpros/vol32/iss1/2