Thursday, 12 July 2012

Noble and Mythical Ladies

 File:'Birth of Adonis', oil on copper painting by Marcantonio Franceschini, c. 1685-90, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden.jpg

Just last month I did a post on feminine Greek names that are close in appearance and/or pronunciation to names that are currently in the England&Wales chart. This post takes things a little bit further, looking into more unusual and hidden Greek and Roman names. The list below is a mix, including the names of mythological creatures and that of women who lived in the ancient civilisations.

Acilia - Acilia Lucana was the mother of the Roman poet Marcus Annaeus Lucanus. It is the name of a district of Rome, named after the Acilia Roman family.

Carmenta - Originally named Nicostrata, she was the goddess of childbirth and prophecy. Her name means 'magic spell, oracle and song'. The prophetess was the mother of Evander.

Cleanor - At first it seems very much like a modern invention, perhaps a twist on Eleanor, but Cleanor's roots are ancient. There were a few ancient Greeks who carried the name: the mother of a famous Athenian courtesan, Lamia, and a general usually mentioned in connection to Xenophon. Cleanor, therefore, was in fact a unisex name.

Deiphile - In Greek mythology, she is the beautiful daughter of Iolaus, Heracles' nephew, but in history she was the daughter of Adrastrus, king of Arges.

Galla - Daughter, wife and regent of Emperors, Galla was a Roman lady with a powerful role in the empire. She has been described as a 'princess of great wit and piety'. There are two possible meanings for her name, that of 'rooster', stemming from Gallus, or 'inhabitant of Gaul'.

Laudice - A beautiful princess married to King Mithridates VI of Pontus. Her name is often spelt as Laodice, and there were a number of noble women from the Seleucid Empire who carried the name. It also appears in Greek mythology as the name of a lover of Poseidon and as a Trojan princess. The name means 'justice of the people' or 'people justice'.

Melite - Another name that regularly appears in Greek mythology. She was one of the fifty Nereids, daughters of Nereus and Doris, or one of the three thousand Oceanids. The name's meaning is debated; she could stem from Pheonician word 'melita' meaning 'a place of refuge' or more likely from 'honey'.

Myrrha - The name of the mother of Adonis. Her tale is not a happy one, for she fell in love with her father. Her name has for centuries been connected to myrrh, which was considered a precious commodity in the ancient world, but the name can be tracked down to the Hebrew mor, meaning 'bitter'.

Orithya - Most commonly spelt Orithyia, she was the daughter of King Erechtheus of Athens. She was taken by Boreas, the North wind, who fell in love with her. Another character in Greek mythology is Orithyia, the Queen of the Amazons. The name has the meaning of 'woman raging in the mountains'.

Pomona - The Goddess of fruit trees, orchards and gardens in Roman mythology, her name comes from the Latin for 'fruit'. If you're a fan of Paloma, why not Pomona?

Xantippe - Although we now have conflicting information about her personality, Xantippe was the wife of the well-know philosopher Socrates. Her name is thought to mean 'blonde horse'.

The names above were taken from An Historical, Genealogical, and Classical Dictionary Vol I & II.

Image: Birth of Adonis by Marcantonio Franceschini.