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A number of visual artists, such as Michelangelo, Titian, Tintoretto, Caravaggio and Rembrandt, are commonly known by mononyms.
The modern Russian artist Erté formed his mononymous pseudonym from the initials of his actual name, as did the Belgian comics writers Hergé and Jijé.
Ancient Greek names also follow the pattern, with epithets (similar to second names) only used subsequently by historians to avoid confusion, as in the case of Zeno the Stoic and Zeno of Elea; likewise, patronymics or other biographic details (such as city of origin, or another city the individual was associated with, borough, occupation) were used to specify whom one was talking about, but these details were not considered part of the name.
A departure from this custom occurred, for example, among the Romans, who by the Republican period and throughout the Imperial period used multiple names: a male citizen's name comprised three parts (this was mostly typical of the upper class, while others would usually have only two names): praenomen (given name), nomen (clan name) and cognomen (family line within the clan) — the nomen and cognomen were almost always hereditary.
Monarchs and other royalty, for example Napoleon, have traditionally availed themselves of the privilege of using a mononym, modified when necessary by an ordinal or epithet (e.g., Queen Elizabeth II or Charles the Great).
This is not always the case: King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden has two names.
By the end of the period, surnames had become commonplace: Edmund Ironside, for example, ruled England (although Ironside was an epithet added later in life), Brian Boru was High King of Ireland, Kenneth Mac Alpin had united Scotland, and even in Scandinavia surnames were taking hold.These nicknames were either adopted by the persons themselves or conferred by contemporaries.Some French authors have shown a preference for mononyms.While many European royals have formally sported long chains of names, in practice they have tended to use only one or two and not to use surnames.In Japan, the emperor and his family have no surname, only a given name, such as Hirohito, which in practice in Japanese is rarely used: out of respect and as a measure of politeness, Japanese prefer to say "the Emperor" or "the Crown Prince".