View Full Version : Were the names of the Greek gods also common names at the time?

06-06-2019, 12:50 AM
Hi all the title encapsulates my question, but I'm writing a retelling of common Greek Myths and I'm wondering if names like "Zeus" "Athena" "Ares" were also names that mortals could have had at the time.
Similar to the fact that there are modern people with the name "Jesus" despite that name being associated with a religious figure. I don't know enough about the actual history to say for sure but I would assume the names were derived from actual names in Ancient Greece. If anyone has answers or can point me to reliable sources that verify this fact, please let me know!

L.C. Blackwell
06-06-2019, 04:50 AM
The name "Jesus" is the anglicization of the Greek and/or Latin forms of the Hebrew name that English people would recognize as Joshua. The name was very common, both before and after the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

I am not an expert on Greece, but in the short explorations that my research has led to recently, I have not encountered any historical Greek or Roman person who bore the name of one of the major "gods."

There are instances where it seems to have been acceptable to incorporate the name of a god into a person's given name: for instance, Mithridates, after the god Mithras, or Apollodorus or Apollocrates, for Apollo. We also have a Satyrus and a Dionysius, and a Chaeron.

The Roman emperor Elagabalus held the name of his god, but he was in fact born in Syria and was culturally Syrian, not Roman.

Here is a list of ancient Greeks: it may give you some ideas, at least for the common names of men. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_ancient_Greeks

Norman Mjadwesch
06-06-2019, 05:28 AM
Iíve just had a skim through the index of my textbooks and can confirm what LC Blackwell has said. Iíll concede that an index is a small sample of names and that mostly there are only occasional references to multiple people who bear the same name, so this could perhaps simply be one of numbers and not necessarily a true indication of historical usage?

Some names share a resemblance to known gods, e.g. Apollocrates could be derived from Apollo.

Are you just after confirmation that people may have had the same names as gods or are you tying a character to a deity as a line-of-descent claim?

06-06-2019, 06:35 AM
Yes, I'm just trying to confirm if there could have been mortals with the name "Zeus" or "Aphrodite" walking around Ancient Greece or if those names were off limits for mortals.

06-06-2019, 07:02 AM
This looked like it might help:
Ancient Greek Names (https://tekeli.li/onomastikon/Ancient-World/Greece/Male.html)

A couple similar ones but no Zeus on their list.
Zagreus Zamolxis Zenicetes Zenodoros Zephyrinus Zethus Zeuxidamos Zeuxis Zosimus

06-06-2019, 08:55 AM
I would think that, at a time when the Greek gods were believed in, it would be a heck of a burden to put on an infant. And, an easy target for mockery later.
Especially when there were stories about the gods walking among men.
"Hey, jerk, the real Poseidon called, he wants his name back!"

06-06-2019, 09:00 AM
According to Wikipedia, ancient Greeks might have so-called theophoric names, that is names derived from gods, but not exactly the same as the names of the gods.


06-06-2019, 04:21 PM
So, my impression is that you could have Apollodorus, meaning lover of Apollo, but being "Apollo" would be considered an affront to the god. I mean, how many of their myths warned people against matching themselves against/comparing themselves to the gods? Arachne comes to mind first and foremost. So I suspect that it would be very rare for an ancient Greek person to actually bear the name of a god or goddess, rather than a name derived from the name of a god or goddess.

06-06-2019, 06:32 PM
Not sure if this helps you or not. First is how Jesus got the name and where it came from. https://www.behindthename.com/name/jesus

This one is Greek baby names and where they came from. http://www.greece-is.com/article/a-greek-name-for-your-newborn-child/

I doubt they ever named their kids after a Greek god. They were too afraid of them at the time and would fear retribution by them. Just like the early Christians would not have named their children God.

06-08-2019, 10:08 AM
Not sure what the names of the Greek gods translate to, but I'd assume they were unique to them and not existing names. Ancient people held their gods in the highest esteem and gave them names that honored them and proclaimed their power. Normal human names werent going to cut it. Even gods that started out as ordinary mortals usually got a new name or title upon achieving godhood. Jesus is just Joshua, an existing mortal name, but Christ isnt.

06-08-2019, 12:54 PM
No is the answer on the Greeks.

Jesus is, as already said, Joshua. Christ comes from Christus, from Christos, merely meaning 'the anointed one'.

- Classical scholar.