Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
The true identity of Credence is finally revealed in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - along with his real name. Names are an important part of the Wizarding World. J.K. Rowling enjoys playing word-games with them and teasing deeper meanings to her characters. Sometimes they're particularly significant, as with Sirius Black - named after the Dog Star.
Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them introduced viewers to Credence, a tremendously powerful wizard who'd been brought up to fear his wizarding heritage. Rowling has always liked to establish strong relationships between her characters; as a result, as soon as Credence was confirmed to return in the sequel, it was easy to deduce that she'd be revealing his family history. Marketing for Fantastic Beasts 2 seemed to strongly imply that he'd be a Lestrange. In reality, the film ended with Grindelwald telling Credence his true name: Aurelius Dumbledore.
But what is the origin of the name Aurelius? It was originally a Roman family name, derived from the Latin word aureus which means "gilded" or "golden." There's clearly a deliberate contrast with his brother, Albus, whose first name means "white" or "bright." The name Aurelius has been associated with two important historical figures, either of whom - or possibly even both - could have influenced Rowling's decision to use this name.
The first example is Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor from 161 to 180 AD. One of the greatest Roman philosophers, his death is viewed by historians as the end of the Pax Romana and the beginning of the Roman Empire's collapse. Ironically, as important as Aurelius may be, historical records about his reign are patchy and confused. There's a degree of humor to this, given the Fantastic Beasts films do seem to be switching up the Harry Potter timeline a bit, and Credence's very existence as a Dumbledore will apparently go unrecorded by history.
But the second is even more interesting. Ambrosius Aurelianus was a British war leader in the 5th century, a legendary king of Briton who is intimately tied to the legends of King Arthur and Merlin. In fact, in the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth merged the tales of Aurelianus and the prophet Myrddin Wyllt, creating the legendary character of Merlin. Rowling has always tapped into Arthurian legends, and Albus Dumbledore himself was visibly inspired by Merlin; his appearance evokes memories of T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, and his responsibility and relationship with Harry Potter are similar to that of Merlin with the young Arthur. Significantly, Rowling makes the similarities explicit by revealing that Merlin founded a pro-Muggle organization known as the Order of Merlin; Dumbledore, meanwhile, is leader of the Order of the Phoenix.
Most viewers have focused on the fact that Credence has been revealed to be a Dumbledore, but that may not be the most important thing. J.K. Rowling is a master storyteller, and she doesn't choose names at a whim. That means the fact Credence has been given a new first name in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald is undoubtedly significant as well. Aurelius is a figure with multiple cases of history writing him out and importance beyond his recognition. For a character already established as one of the most powerful in the Wizarding World, that points towards big things to come.
- Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald/Fantastic Beasts 2 (2018) release date: Nov 16, 2018