On Names
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Categories: Ancient

On Names

In Southwest Asia in the first millennium BCE, most names meant something. Iranian, Babylonian, and Greek names tended to be meaningful phrases or adjectives in their native language. This leads to some moments of enlightenment as one learns the languages after getting to know the characters. Pharnabazus, for example, was “the gift of majesty,” and Alkibiades was “mightily forceful,” while Gadaljama’s fellow-tennant Rimut-Ninurta, the son of Murašȗ was “Gift-of-Ninurta, the son of the Wildcat.” Ninurta was a warlike god, so I wonder if the son lived up to his parents’ expectations, and how choosing a name for a new child worked when the parents didn’t need name-books to tell them what different possibilities meant.

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