This Italian surname of TON was originally derived from the Latin name Antonius, and was one of the commonest European given names. It was an ancient Roman family name of unknown etymology. The most famous member of the family name was the soldier and triumvir Mark Anthony (Marcus Antonius, circa 83-30 BC). The popularity of the given name in Christendom is largely due to the cult of the Egyptian hermit St. Anthony (AD 251-356), who in his old age gathered a community of hermits around him, and for that reason is regarded by some as the founder of monasticism. It was further increased by the fame of St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231) who has always enjoyed a great popular cult, and is believed to help people find lost things. Antony of Thebes (called Antony the Great) was born in the year 251, in Upper Egypt. He sold his possessions for the poor at the age of 20, and withdrew into the wilderness, and took up his abode in an old ruin at the top of a hill, where he spent 20 years in the most rigorous seclusion. In the year 305, he was persuaded to leave this retreat by the prayers of numerous anchorites, and then founded a monastery. In 355 the venerable hermit, then over a hundred years old, made a journey to Alexandria, but feeling his end approaching he retired to his desert home, where he died in 356. The bulk of European surnames in countries such as England and France were formed in the 13th and 14th centuries. The process started earlier and continued in some places into the 19th century, but the norm is that in the 11th century people did not have surnames, whereas by the 15th century they did. In many parts of central and western Europe, hereditary surnames began to become fixed at around the 12th century, and have developed and changed slowly over the years. As society became more complex, and such matters as the management of tenure, and in particular the collection of taxes were delegated to special functionaries, it became imperative to distinguish a more complex system of nomenclature to differentiate one individual from another.
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