Surnames as we know them today were first assumed in Europe from the 11th to the 15th Century. The employment in the use of a second name was a custom that was first introduced from the Normans. They themselves had not long before adopted them. It became, in course of time, a mark of gentler blood, and it was deemed a disgrace for gentlemen to have but one single name, as the meaner sort had. At first the coat of arms was a practical matter which served a function on the battlefield and in tournaments. With his helmet covering his face, and armour encasing the knight from head to foot, the only means of identification for his followers, was the insignia painted on his shield and embroidered on his surcoat, the flowing and draped garment worn over the armour. This surname of ASAY was a Russian patronymic from the given name AFANASI (originally from the Greek ATHANASIOS) meaning immortal. The name owes its popularity to the cult (especially in the Eastern Church) of St. Athanasius (c.297-373), bishop of Alexandria, one of the most influential fathers of the Christian church. Russian surnames are almost exclusively patronymic (occasionally metronymic) in form, usually ending in 'ov' or 'ev'. Habitation and topographic names are rare, and many common Russian surnames are polygenetic, and their literal meaning is clear, even though the reason for their adoption may not be. In the Middle Ages heraldry came into use as a practical matter. It originated in the devices used to distinguish the armoured warriors in tournament and war, and was also placed on seals as marks of identity. As far as records show, true heraldry began in the middle of the 12th century, and appeared almost simultaneously in several countries of Western Europe. The lion depicted in the arms is the noblest of all wild beasts which is made to be the emblem of strength and valour, and is on that account the most frequently borne in Coat-Armour.
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