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Aeneas Αἰνείας

(761 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Aeneas, already a prominent Trojan hero in Homer’s Iliad, is best known to us as the central figure of Virgil’s Aeneid, whose task it is to create the Roman identity and destiny. His name occurs as that of the paralysed man cured by Peter at Acts 9.33–34. The name appears to be Greek, based on the root for ‘praise’ (αἰν-). The form Aineas (as at Acts 9.33), as opposed to Aineias, is originally the Doric dialect form according to Pape-Benseler 1884 s.v.; the Latin is in either case Aeneas. II. Identity Aeneas, the son of lame Anchises and the Goddess Aphrodite (Venus), is presen…

Dioskouroi Διόσκουροι

(804 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name The Dioskouroi, twin heroes and brothers of Helen, occur as the mascot or ensign of the ship in which Paul and his fellow-travellers reach Syracuse after their shipwreck on Malta ( Acts 28.11). They presumably also lend their name to the month Dioskoros at 2 Macc. 11.21. II. Identity ‘Dios-kouroi’ (‘youths of Zeus’) in mythology is the title of the Tyndarids (sons of Tyndareus) at Sparta, namely Kastor and Polydeukes (in Latin, via Etruscan, Castor and Pollux). The Greeks inherited these horsemen twins from Indo-European times, as congeners in Sanskrit (the Aśvins) and Latvian …

Makedon Μακεδών

(903 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Makedon (‘Macedonian’) is the eponymous hero of the inhabitants of Mace-donia in northern Greece. Macedonia and Macedonians figure in both Apocrypha and NT. II. Identity Macedonians particularly need an eponym (Thessalos), as Macedonia had only marginal claims to Greek status before the conquests of Philip II (359–336) and Alexander the Great (336–323). Their speech seems to have been intermediate in status between a dialect of Greek and a closely related language (Indo-European *bh gives b not ph: hence the names Berenike and Bilippos not Pherenike and Philippos). Makedon f…

Perseus Περσεύς

(872 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Perseus, the name of the slayer of the Gorgon Medousa and the rescuer of Andromeda, is also the name of the elder son and heir of Philip V of Macedon (ruled 179–168 bce). His defeat by the Romans at Pydna, which ended the Third Macedonian War (171–68 bce), is referred to at 1 Macc. 8.5 (“Perseus king of the Kittieis”). II. Identity The more memorable stories of Perseus are woven into a single narrative of birth by Zeus to Danaë (despite her imprisonment), of being cast adrift in a chest (λάρναξ) with his mother, of conflict at adolescence with a hostile king (Akrisios), of the…

Thessalos Θεσσαλός

(722 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Thessalos (‘Thessalian’) is the eponymous hero of the Thessalians, the inhabitants of Thessaly in northern Greece. His name may be found in Thessalonike (modern Saloniki), the second city of modern Greece and already a place of importance by the time of Acts. II. Identity The Greeks often traced the beginnings of a tribe or a city to a significant person of mythic times (a ‘hero’; Heros) after whom that tribe or city was named (the ‘eponymous’ hero). The process is so old that some mythic eponyms survive whose tribes have been lost (Dowden 1992:75–76): Danaos (and his fifty daugh…

Menelaos Μενέλαος

(836 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name The name of Menelaos, the husband of Helen, is borne by the emissary of the hellenising high priest Jason at 2 Macc. 4.23 who supplanted him ca. 172/1 bce. He precariously maintained a successful relationship with Antiochos IV Epiphanes and subsequently Antiochos V Eupator until finally, around 163 bce, the latter had him executed ( 2 Macc. 13.3–8). Menelaos’ name is of a common Greek type: he who puts ‘might’ (μένος) into the ‘army’ (λαός). II. Identity The story of Menelaos centres on the Trojan War. He exists in order to have Helen stolen from him by Paris and…


(646 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Quirinus, a Roman god progressively identified with Romulus, occurs as a theophoric element in the name of P. Sulpicius Quirinius at Luke 2.2. II. Identity It is difficult to obtain any accurate understanding of archaic Roman religion (say, before 509 bce) and Quirinus is even by these standards unclear. His festival is obviously the Quirinalia on 17th February, but what happened there is known neither to us nor, apparently, to Ovid. For some reason his name links with the title of the Roman citizens in assembly, the ‘Quirites’.…

Daphne Δάφνη

(606 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Daphne, metamorphosed into Apollo’s laurel tree (Gk.: Daphnē) to escape his amorous intentions, gave her name to a suburb of Antioch ( 2 Macc. 4.33). The name can also result from the spelling in Greek of Hebrew placenames—the fortress Tahpanhes in the LXX (e.g. Jer. 2.16) and a source of a tributary of the Jordan (Jos., BI 4:3 and Tg. Num. 34:11). II. Identity Stories involving Daphne are variously sited, but seem to go back to a tale focussing on the River Peneios or its tributary the River Ladon on the fringes of Elis and north-western Arcadia. She…

Silvanus aediculae

(323 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Silvanus is used in Latin for the Greek name Silas (or vice-versa). This has the effect of remodelling the name into a theonym. The name is borne by a distinguished Christian in Acts and some of the letters. II. Identity III. Identity in the Bible Silvanus is the Latin name in the Vulgate of the Greek Silas (itself representing an Aramaic name)—the leading Christian brother mentioned at Acts 15–18. Strikingly, even the Greek text names him as ‘Silvanus’ at 1 Thess. 1.1 and 2 Thess. 1.1 (and 1 Pet. 5.12, unless that is a different Silvanus), suggesting the deliberate adopt…

Patroklos Πάτροκλος

(472 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name The name of Patroklos, the close companion of Achilles in the Trojan War, is given to the father of Nikanor, the high-ranking Greek commander of a force of 20,000 men with instructions to put down the revolt of Judas Maccabaeus ( 2 Macc. 8.12). II. Identity From the perspective of Trojan War mythology, Patroklos would appear to be a figure developed by Homer in his Iliad to anticipate the death of Achilles’ close friend Antilochos and Achilles’ own death—a later part of the story of Troy which Homer does not himself tell. If this is so, it would explain…

Jason Ἰάσων

(990 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name The name of Jason, the hero who led the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece, is borne by several persons in 2 Macc and in the NT. II. Identity The name ‘Iason’ appears to refer to ‘healing’ (ἰάομαι), something for which one might naturally turn in cult to a hero. Correspondingly, Pindar referred to a myth that the centaur Cheiron taught Jason medicine ( Pyth. 4:119 and scholiast). Yet one cannot help suspecting that this is folk-etymology, given his father ‘Aison’ and a possible tribal name and eponym ‘Iasos’ (speculatively, Dowden 1989:122). He receives cult at Abde…

Skythes Σκύθης

(617 words)

Author(s): K. Dowden
I. Name Skythes (‘Skythian’) is the eponymous hero of the Skythians, an Indo-European people to the north of the Greek world. Skythians themselves have a mythic quality, occurring in 2-3-4 Macc. and Col. 3.11 as a byword for barbarism. Otherwise the name only occurs in the placename Skythopolis ( 1-2 Macc.). II. Identity For the standard Greek use of eponymous heroes to account for the beginnings of a tribe, see Thessalos. The Skythians are a rather different case, as …