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The word genos was widely and variously used in Greek of all periods to denote ‘species’, ‘genus’, ‘sort’, ‘category’, ‘birth’, ‘kin’, ‘race’, ‘lineage’, ‘family’, ‘generation’, ‘posterity’, etc. Probably from its use to denote ‘(noble) lineage’, it came to be used in 4th‐cent. bc Athenian orators and inscriptions in a quasi‐precise sense to denote a set of families or individuals who identified themselves as a group by the use of a collective plural name. Some such names were geographical or occupational, but most were patronymic in form, implying the descent of their members from a fictive or real common male ancestor. About 60 such groups are known. Some 4th‐cent. evidence suggests that a genos could be a constituent part of a phratry, perhaps as its most prominent oikos (‘house’).

Subjects: Classical studies

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