1. The origin of the Latin word
persona (“mask, role, status”) is unknown; it may be Etruscan. The philologist Gavius Bassus (1st cent. bce) traced the “origin” of the word to the function of the ancient theater mask, namely that of a megaphone which concentrated the voice and caused it to “sound through” (
per-sonare; cf. Gellius,
Noctes Atticae V 7) in a more sonorous way. The corresponding Greek word is πρόσωπον/
prósōpon, “face, mask, front.” The word “persona” is employed in grammar, rhetoric, jurisprudence, and philosophy. What the modern age subsumes under person, personhood, and “personality” (Personality/Personality psychology), however, was referred to in antiquity by way of the concepts of “self” (
se, ipse), “distinct nature” (
propria natura), “character,” “awareness/conscience” (
conscientia), “reason,” etc. The word is not used in Roman or, analogously, in Greek theology.