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Bacchus Βάκχος

(816 words)

Author(s): F. Graf
I. Name Bacchus is the form the Greek Dionysus took in Rome. The name derives from the Greek epithet Βάκχος which denoted both the ecstatic Dionysus and his follower (fem. βάκχη). The epiclesis denoted a fundamental cultic aspect of the Greek god which had become prominent in Roman cult also, as had been the case in other neighbouring cultures: the Etruscans assimilated it as an epiclesis of their god Fufluns, the indigenous equivalent to Dionysus (Fufluns Paxies) (Cristofani & Martelli 1978), the Lydians, like the Romans, transformed it into the name of the god (Bakis) (Graf 1985:285–2…

Dionysus Διόνυσος

(3,517 words)

Author(s): F. Graf
I. Name Dionysos, the Greek god of ecstasy, bears a name of uncertain etymology, although resembling the usual Greek types of anthroponyms (e.g. Dio-doros, “gift from Zeus”). Accordingly, ancient authors agree to see the name of Zeus (gen. Διός) in the first half; some understood -νυσος as a foreign word for son (“Son of Zeus”), others derived it from the mythical place of his upbringing, Nysa (“Zeus from Nysa”). These etymologies are linguistically valueless, but reflect the god’s status with regard to Zeus, whom mythology makes his father. At the same time, Greek myth regularly …

Athena Ἀθήνη

(1,950 words)

Author(s): F. Graf
I. Name Athena is the main polis divinity in Greek religion. The Romans identified her with Minerva (etrusc. Menrva); the Greeks themselves found numerous homologues in the ancient Near East, e.g. the Egyptian Neith of Saïs (Mora 1985:95) and the Ugaritic-Syrian Anat ( CIS 1, 95). The affiliation between the armed Greek goddess and Near Eastern armed goddesses like Anat or Ishtar (Colbow 1991) is controversial, but Oriental influence is plausible. In the Bible, Athena occurs only as the root element in the toponym Athens ( Acts 17.15) and in the anthroponym Athenobius ( 1 Macc. 15.28). II. …

Aphrodite Ἀφροδίτη

(2,373 words)

Author(s): F. Graf
I. Name Aphrodite was the Greek goddess of love whose sacred animal is the dove (Pirenne-Delforge 1994). The Greeks derived her name from ἀφρός “foam”, and explained it from her birth myth (Hesiod Th. 191). Modern etymologies found no general consent, be it the rare Indo-Europaean ones or those deriving her name from a Semitic language (Burkert 1977:240 n.18). The goddess was identified with several Oriental goddesses, from Egyptian Nephthys to Phoenician Astarte, Assyrian Ishtar and Arabian Alilat (Herodot. 3, 8. 131; M. Höfner, WbMyth. I/1, 423; Mora 1985:86–90). The Romans id…

Zeus Ζεύς

(4,140 words)

Author(s): F. Graf
I. Name Zeus is the main divinity of the Greek pantheon. His name is of undisputed Indo-European origin, connected with Lat. Iu-piter, Rigveda Dyaus (pitar) etc., derived from the root * diwu-, “day (as opposed to night)” (Lat. dies), “(clear) sky”. He is identified with local weather gods of Asia Minor, with great sky gods (Zeus Beelsêmên, Baalshamem) as well as local Baʿalim of Syria and Palestine, and with the Egyptian Amun/Ammon. In the Bible, he appears in 2 Macc. 6.2 (the temple in Jerusalem and the sanctuary of Garizim are rededicated to Zeus) and in Acts 14.12–13 (the inhabitants o…

Heros ἥρως

(1,765 words)

Author(s): F. Graf
I. Name Heros (ἥρως) is a word of uncertain etymology, perhaps related to the name Hera (Augustine, CD 10, 2; Adams 1987). It has two main semantic fields: in Greek myth and epos, a heros is a human warrior of the heroic age; in religion, he is a (real or fictitious) dead person who remained powerful also in death, and who therefore received cult. Religious theorists defined heroes as intermediate beings between man and God (ἡμίθεοι, half-gods). In the Bible Heros occurs only in the toponym ‘City of the Heroes’, which is the LXX rendering for Goshen in Gen. 46.28–29. II. Identity Greek relig…