There is a question about why Kirk's middle name was Tiberius from an in-universe perspective. The answers explain that Kirk was given the name after his grandfather (Tiberius Kirk) and that his grandfather had an interest in the Roman emperors.

But why, out of universe, was Kirk's character given the name Tiberius? Did one of the show's producers have an interest in the Roman emperors? There's some information on the choice of Kirk's last name on Memory Alpha and Wikipedia, but no explanation about his middle name. Memory Alpha makes the connection to the historical Tiberius, but it doesn't have any citations and merely provides speculation. It also says

The name might also possibly have been influenced by the maverick Roman politician Tiberius Gracchus.

If Kirk's character was given the name because of a fascination with Roman emperors like Tiberius (which seems to be the case), then why Tiberius instead of another emperor (a more influential/famous one such as Augustus, Trajan, Marcus Aurelius, Constantine, etc.)?

  • You don't always need to name someone after one of the MORE well-known of a particular group. Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 19:22
  • There was a mention of this in one of the Star Trek novels (I've read dozens, so please excuse my inability to be specific), where it said that Kirk actually USED his middle name as a reminder of the type of leader/authority figure that he would never, ever want to be. He would tell himself "remember Tiberius!". Amusingly. the fans, before it was revealed that the "T" stood for Tiberius, commonly said that it stood for "Tomcat".
    – user71272
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 20:40
  • Possible duplicate of James T. Kirk: Why "Tiberius"?
    – Pieter
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 6:31
  • 3
    @Pieter In the first line of this question, the OP mentions that older question and why it's different: the old one asks for an in-universe reason, while this one asks for an out-of-universe reason.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 8:55

2 Answers 2


Writer David Gerrold claims credit for "Tiberius" as Kirk's middle name. It first appeared in the Animated Series episode "Bem"


Gerrold: Yes. I’ll tell you how that happened. I got the name from a book I’d read about the history of torture. So, Dorothy and I were at a Star Trek convention in 1973 and somebody asked “What does the T in James T. Kirk stand for?” And without really thinking, I said “Tiberius.” It got a big laugh and it became a running gag. Then, when I was writing that episode I decided to put it in. Dorothy ran it by Gene Roddenberry, and he said, “Sure, let’s go ahead.” Then I recapped it in a Star Trek novel I wrote a year or so later, and I showed where the name Tiberius came from. The funny thing is if anyone really knew (back in 1973) where the name came from, I never would have been able to use it.

  • 8
    Interesting stuff. Given that Roddenberry had used the (relatively unlikely) middle name in a prior series, it strikes me that Gerrold's recollection may be at variance with reality. Still gets my +1 though...
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 18:00
  • Interesting find, +1! As @Valorum points out, though, it's oddly coincidental that a character from an earlier Roddenberry show was given the same middle name about a decade before David Gerrold claims he came up with Kirk's middle name. I'm not sure which answer to accept!
    – Null
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 18:10
  • @Null - Definitely this one.
    – Valorum
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 18:19
  • Of further interest, we first see reference to Kirk's middle name in the same episode with Gary Lockwood (pictured in Valorum's answer), and has Kirk's middle initial as an 'R' - tos.trekcore.com/gallery/albums/1x03/wherenomanhasgone398.jpg
    – NKCampbell
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 19:10
  • 1
    @NKCampbell That grave marker is rather strange, showing "James R. Kirk" apparently living between 12771 and 13137, or a total of 366 of what certainly can't be Earth Years. James T. Kirk, meanwhile, was born in 2233.
    – user11521
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 19:52

The name James Tiberius Kirk appears to be an homage to an earlier Roddenberry character, William Tiberius Rice.

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As to why Tiberius was chosen, you may wish to note Gene Roddenberry's extreme Roman fetish (Vulcan, Romulan, Reman, Orion, Cerberus, Gaia, Isis III, Janus VI, Kronos, Minos, Oceanus IV, Persephone V, Pollux IV, Sarpedion, etc) when choosing place and people names and his tendency to recycle characters and plots into future works.

  • 9
    Most of those "Roman" names you listed sound Greek to me. Wasn't Nausicaa in Homer's Odyssey? Wouldn't Persephone be Proserpine to the Romans?
    – user14111
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 21:35
  • 2
    @user14111 - The Romans appropriated a lot of Greek Mythology (and got paid back in kind when the Greeks appropriated their name and called their empire "Roman" for its last millennium). If you prefer, consider it a "Classics fetish" instead.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Sep 8, 2016 at 22:42
  • 3
    FWIW, Vulcan is Roman (Greek Hephaestus, or actually Ἥφαιστος but who's counting?), Romulus and Remus are Roman, Orion and Cerberus are the same to both, Gaia is Greek (Roman Terra), Isis is a Greek and then Roman name for an Egyptian, Janus is Roman, Kronos is Greek (Roman Saturn), Minos I think is the same in both, so is Oceanus, Persephone is Greek (Roman Proserpina but hardly anyone says that in English), Pollux is both, I don't know who Sarpedion is but presumably based on the name Sarpedon. In all cases by "is Roman/Greek" I mean "is an English transliteration of a Roman/Greek name". Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 0:44
  • So among those examples, when given a choice between a Roman and a Greek name for the same thing, it's more common to take the Greek one but not quite always. Like T.E.D. says the source is neither purely the Roman versions nor purely Greek. All the ones that are the same in both, the common forms originate in Greece, unless you want to claim Minos actually is a Minoan name ;-) Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 0:52
  • 1
    @Kevin: sure, but the "Isis" version of that name originates in Greek. The Egyptian name was (probably) more like "Aset", so I suppose "Isis" is a loose transliteration. Commented Sep 9, 2016 at 8:16

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