Surnames didn’t turn up until the 12th century in central Europe and they slowly spread eventually all over the world. They started with the royals and nobles, then went on to the citizens of the cities and finally reached the countryside (due to Napolean as Menke said). There had been bynames before, like Strubil (“curly head”) or Friso (“the Frisian”), but as long as they were not passed on to the children, they cannot be called surnames.
Two things made surnames neccesary in the high Middle Ages: a dramatic increase of the population and at the same time a decrease of the number of given names. A system of making up new names from the name elements of the parents (and sometimes grandparents), that had worked for a couple of hundred years, came out of fashion and so did quite a number of names. So to tell one Johannes from the other, you had to add a second name, which eventually was handed down to the children.
In Japan it became obligatory to have a second name in 1875, 1934 in Turkey and not until the 1950s in Egypt.
The Romans had a three element system: given name + clan name + cognomen. Quintus Horatius Flaccus would be: the fifth + from the Horatians clan + the Blond.
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