Monday, February 8, 2016

Literary Names: The Iliad

We everlasting gods . . . Ah what chilling blows
we suffer—thanks to our own conflicting wills— 
whenever we show these mortal men some kindness.

The above is a line from Homer's Iliad, an ancient Greek poem about the Trojan War, and the precursor to the Odyssey. A few weeks ago I reviewed some of the names in the Odyssey, so today I'll be looking at the great options found in the prequel!

It hadn't occurred to me that this could be a viable name until I saw it on the French name site, JolisPrénoms, as Achille. In English, unfortunately, the "Achilles' heel" connotation might be hard to shake. In the Iliad, Achilles is a powerful and confident warrior, albeit with a few minor weaknesses (his heel and women among them). But this name could be a nice alternative to Axel or Asher! The name meaning is unknown, but could be related to "pain" or the Achelous River in Greece.

Another warrior and the son of Aphrodite, Aeneas is the protagonist of another classical epic, the Aeneid. While I would recommend this name based on its similarities to Elias or Ansel, the sound is too similar to a human body part for me to recommend it wholeheartedly. Instead, here are some other Trojan warriors I'm not reviewing below: Polydamas, Glaucus, Agenor, Dolon, Pandarus, Antenor, Asius, Asteropaeus, Cebrionus, Deiphobus, Euphorbus

The Greek goddess of love, Aphrodite is a supporter of the Trojans in this epic. As a namesake, she suggests strength, femininity, and compassion - but that might be a hard name to live up to. There are a few fictional Aphrodite's floating around, and at least one with the cute nickname Afy. Roman form Venus has been used far more often, especially during the mid-twentieth century. What do you think, readers? Is Aphrodite wearable or best left to the classics? 

The mightiest warrior in the Trojan army and brother of Paris, Hector has a typically masculine feel. Hector means "holding fast", and works well cross-culturally. Its popularity in the Spanish-speaking community has made it popular in the US, UK, and Spain. I think it could be a great substitute for trendy Hunter or Victor, with the same warlike connotation. 

The "face that launched a thousand ships", I think Helen has gotten a worse reputation than she deserved - it's not her fault that childish men chose to fight over her. The name Helen has also been incredibly desirable - it was in the top 10 for about 40 years. Nowadays, variation Elena is more popular, with similar Eleanor, Ella, and Helena not far away. But this name is a classic, and will connote elegance, maturity, and beauty for years to come. 

Queen of the gods and wife of Zeus, Hera is the goddess of marriage and motherhood. While she's often painted as jealous or vengeful, I see her as another powerful goddess standing up for herself. The name Hera is a nice combination of Hannah and Sarah, aurally, and won't raise eyebrows like some of the other Greek goddess names. Hera has also been used in a few sci-fi TV shows and video games, for other nerds like me out there. 

Now a very common name for girls, the original Paris was a Trojan prince whose actions were guided by self-interest (not "love for Helen"). Personally, I think the name works better for boys, and a few celebrities have agreed. The undertones of a Trojan warrior might be missed in favor of Ms. Hilton or the city, so beware of confusion surrounding Paris

The king of Troy and a wise and benevolent leader, I'm surprised this name hasn't gotten more popular with its similarities to Liam. It's certainly unique - I haven't found any records of its use in SSA data - and it means "exceptionally courageous". His wife, on the other hand, has a less euphonic name: Hecuba. Priam may surprise some, but I think it's a winner. 

The devoted mother of Achilles, Thetis is also known as the goddess of water - an unexpected option for babies born near oceans or lakes? It's an uncommon alternative to -is names, like Paris, Isis, or Alexis. Thetis' grandmother was also an "aquatic sea goddess", similarly named Tethys (a great option). To me, there aren't many drawbacks to this ethereal name!

Ruler of the gods and all-powerful deity, Zeus ends up on the side of the Trojans in the Iliad. As a name, however, it would be pretty difficult to wear. Still, 99 babies were born Zeus in 2014, and the numbers have been rising over the past decade. Like Aphrodite, I'll leave this up to you, readers! Is Zeus going too far, or is it a rising star?

Other names related to the Iliad include Troy, Homer, and Ilia (a region of Greece). What are your favorites? Tell me in the comments!

1 comment:

  1. This is a great post. I was thinking of writing a post about names in the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid but I think it'd take me a while to go through all the names, both major and minor. I've always liked the character of Achilles- he was tremendously flawed, yes, but he was always so interesting. He was a warrior who knew he was fated to die at Troy but fought anyways for the glory and the fame as opposed to a long, obscure life; and I always found his interaction with Priam at the end as one of the best, most enduringly human pieces in the Iliad