Ancient Greek names in Hesiod’s Theogony

The Theogony of Hesiod (Theogonia of Isiodos in Greek) seems to have been the earliest surviving literary version of the creation of the Earth and the birth of the gods of the Greek pantheon. In this myth for the creation of the world, the creation of the Earth coincides with a rise in the powers of the ruling gods. The Theogony is a synthesis of the Greek traditions and myths in a way that would be most understandable by people.

Most cultures have myths that help to explain the creation of the universe and the beginning of time, as well as the origin of names. Because the origin of the universe is unknown, each culture has tried its best to make sense of this mystery. Greek names are embedded with a meaning, and that is what makes them stand out from other given names in other languages and cults. It is said that only the names of Native American Indians follow the same pattern as the ancient Greek names, describing the characteristics of a person.

Greek names are mostly explained through mythology and legends, as well as poetry. Of course, in Greece we have the ancient Greek names and the Orthodox names that are associated with the Christian religion. Some of these names are of ancient Greek origin, while others are based on the Hebrew and Latin tradition.

The Theogony of Hesiod explains the birth and meaning of various important ancient Greek names. After all, the main purpose of the Theogony is the explanation of phenomena, the analysis of the traditions that made the Greeks so different than others and of course the cosmogony. After all, most of the greek words and names used today in many languages to explain certain phenomena, conditions and phobias are first found in the Theogony.

Ancient Greek Names in the Theogony

Hesiod

The first entity that ruled the universe was called Chaos. The word chaos literally means a wide-open space, but it can also describe a deep cavern or chasm.

Two other important entities (Titans) were Gaia (Earth) and Uranus (Sky):

  • The name of the goddess Gaia literally means “earth” or “land”.
  • The name of Gaia’s child and husband, Uranus, means “sky” or “heaven”.

There is a close connection between these god-like figures and the physical elements suggested by their names. In this sense, Gaia is both a goddess and the earth itself, and, similarly, Uranus is both a god and the heaven.

The Greek names of Gods and deities are usually associated with the human condition that these deities symbolize. For instance, Achos means pain or distress, Phovos means fear, Lethe means forgetfulness,

Hesiod also suggests that Greeks were creating their names using words of their literature, or words that would have a strong symbolism: Perikles (from the word “kleos”, which means fame), Androklis (the glory of a man), Apollodoros (gift from Apollo) and so on.

In any case, ancient Greeks were using the names of Gods and deities to explain phenomena they could not understand, including meteorological, geological and others.

This is why we have names such as:

  • Aither – meaning the air
  • Cyclons for cyclones
  • Typhon for typhoon
  • Imera for the Day
  • Erevos for the darkness
  • Helios for the Sun
  • Selene for the Moon
  • Eos for the Dawn and so on.

It comes as no surprise that many phobias as well are based on ancient Greek names of deities and other Greek words. There are phobias such as:

  • Astraphobia, the fear of lightnings, from the Greek word astrapi = lightning
  • Keraunophobia is the fear of thunders, from the word keravnos = thunder
  • Atychiphobia, the fear of failure, from the Greek word atychia = misfortune
  • Erotophobia, the fear of anything related to sex

Theoforic names in Hesiod

One of the important category of names found in the Theogony of Hesiod, is the so called theoforic names, which are based on the names of Gods.

This category has given us the most popular and common ancient Greek names, and the adjectival names based on the Gods’ names such as Dionysios – from Dionysos, Apollonius – from Apollo, Demetrius – from Demeter. There are also names such as Diogenis, Diodotos, Diophilos, Dioklis, Apollodoros, Theokles, Theodoti and so on.

Theoforic names are not only based on the names of the Olympian Gods, but derive from the other cults, or less important deities, semi gods and river gods.  After all, in the Theogony we find traces of names that come from other cults as well; for instance, name Isidoros comes from the introduction of the Egyptian Goddess Isis to the Greek culture towards the end of the 4th century BC.

Examples of Greek names found in the Theogony of Hesiod

Nyx = night
Eros = love
Mnemosyne: Memory
Apate:deceit
Geras: old age
Thanatos: death
Hypnos: sleep
Cyclones: cyclons
Titanes= Titans
Okeanos = oceanus
Helios = Sun
Kronos = Cronus
Olympos = Olympus
Physis = Nature
Nymphe = the Nymphs

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