BMCR 2007.03.32

A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. IV. Macedonia, Thrace, Northern Regions of the Black Sea

, , , , , , , , , , , , A lexicon of Greek personal names. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987-2018. volumes 1-5A-C ; in 8 ; 32 cm. ISBN 0198642229 £121.00.

With LGPN IV the project to create a lexicon of all Greek personal names, from the earliest written records down approximately to the sixth century AD, has reached a very considerable distance towards its target. The five volumes published so far (volume I, on the Aegean Islands, Cyprus and Cyrenaica; II covering Attica; IIIA the Peloponnese, Western Greece, Sicily and Magna Graecia; IIIB, Central Greece), together with the addenda and corrigenda already made available as downloadable files on the project’s website, cover more than three quarters of the data collected so far. Volume V is projected to appear in three parts, covering the coastal and inland regions of Asia Minor, plus a further, final volume covering ‘unassigned’ individuals, i.e., those whose place of origin cannot be ascertained.

The present series does not include regions other than those mentioned, although the website refers to records collected by individual scholars (notably M. Sartre for Syria, B. Isaac for Palaestine, together with J. Rea and R. Coles for Egypt) that are likely to be made available electronically. The implication is that the project lacks sufficient funds to cover the second part originally envisaged by its founder and director, Peter Fraser, to include Commagene, Syria, Palestine, and Trans-Euphratene regions. This eastward sweep reflects one significant focus of Fraser’s research interests. This reviewer, like many of those who use the current volumes, would strongly urge the continuation of the project in this direction, as well as to regions outside the scope of the geographical divisions as published.

At the heart of the project is a relational database, which is regularly updated and expanded by members of the project team. This enables searches and queries to be made by individual researchers via the website, while the website itself provides the primary means of making available additions and amendments to the printed volumes, as well as further information about other aspects of the project not accessible in print form. Since an electronic archive must be maintained and refreshed, the cost of extending or expanding selected research areas should appear less daunting now than it would have ten, let alone thirty-five years ago, when the project began.

These reflections on the project as a whole arise directly from issues that emerge from an analysis of volume IV. The region under consideration here takes readers into much less well-known territory than the earlier volumes, both in geographical and academic terms. The editors have been ably assisted by a panel of experts, who include some of the foremost names in Greek and Latin epigraphy from the region’s modern linguistic divisions. A glance at the list of the abbreviated sources at the front of the book (xi-xxix) reveals titles in thirteen European languages. The appearance of the contents so soon after the publication of significant bodies of contributing data sets (e.g., inscriptions from Beroia, Byzantion, southern Illyria and Epiros, Istanbul, Kallatis, Laodikeia on Lykos, Leukopetra, Novae, Rhamnous), shows how closely the editors have worked with a wide variety of scholars on new material or documents still in preparation.

The volume contains 8,042 names, of which 6,231 are identified as masculine and 1793 as feminine (the 18 remaining are ambiguous). These names represent 33,724 individuals, of whom 29,265 are male, 4,439 female (with 20 in the ambiguous category). The total number of names registered in the online database is now 32,762, and represents 249,289 individuals, so this volume represents a mere 13.5% of the individuals known to date but 24.5% of the known names.

Despite the enormous geographical size of the territory included in the present work, at least three times the size of central and southern Greece, the numbers of names and individuals registered here pale to near insignificance in comparison with the data garnered from all the volumes published so far. But the gross numbers only tell us something rather general about the scope and range of the currently available data. The overall statistical data should not be taken at face value and comparative figures cannot be pressed closely. In a region that includes Macedonia, it comes as a surprise to find Archelaos represented only 36 times, when this name scores 110 in volume IIIB. Similarly, Antigonos has 156 entries here, whereas in volume I there are 160 entries, and in volume IIIB 109 entries. Even more surprisingly, Antiochos has a mere 47 entries, whereas in volume I the name has 124 and in volume II 133 entries. Some high scoring names from this volume are equally popular in other regions: Apollodoros scores 180, compared with 237 in volume I, and 229 in volume IIIB. Similarly, Herakleides (233), Zoilos (171), Theodoros (148), Ariston (113), Zosimos (103), Lysimachos (96), Straton (85), Philon (80), Diodoros (65), Zopyros (61), Theodotos (58), Philoxenos (55), and Sokrates (48), represent some of the names that appear in the most popular categories (those scoring 100 or more entries) of other regions. It is hard to know whether numerical variations within the incidence range of 50-100 entries reflect specific regional variations, or variations in the survival of data, or different epigraphic habits, or some other social factor. Any of these explanations, or several operating simultaneously, could explain the regional patterns as we currently apprehend them. The numerical dominance of names such as Paramonos (192; volume I: 207; IIIB: 197), Noumenios (143), Markos (105), Loukios (73) and Maximos (67) reflects the high proportion of Imperial funerary inscriptions within the data set, as well as later fashions and social processes.

In some cases popular names doubtless reflect the popularity of certain cults. Dionysios was a top name in all regions, but in volume IV we have 660 entries (volume I: 608; II: 1103; IIIA: 313; IIIB: 389), which is likely to be a fair reflection of the importance of Dionysiac cults in all areas covered by this volume. Apollonios has 390 entries (volume I: 532; II: 574; IIIB: 103). This incidence is something that we might have expected on the basis of Ionian preferences for Apollo. The cult of Achilles in the northern Black Sea area should be taken more seriously (Achilleus: 38; Achillas: 10).

It is when we examine the full list of the most popular names that similarities and differences emerge between the region discussed here and those covered by previous volumes. There are just nine names that score more than 200 entries: Dionysios (660), Alexandros (444), Apollonios (390), Poseidippos (331), Demetrios (305), Philippos (246), Artemidoros (245), Herakleides (233), and Bithys (211). Specific regional preferences are clearly visible in Alexandros (cf. volume I: 242) and Philippos (cf. volume I:194; II: 157; IIIB:137), even though these names were very popular elsewhere too. The next group of high scoring names, between 100 and 200, consists of sixteen items: Dioskourides (189), Paramonos (192), Apollodoros (180), Zoilos (171), Diogenes (164), Antigonos (156), Theodoros (148), Noumenios (143), Menandros (129), Moukatralis (126), Ptolemaios (124), Nikanor and Poseidonios (both 117), Ariston and Asklepiades (both 113), and Amyntas (100). As we move down to those names with between 50 and 100 entries, the patterns become clearer still: Heros (97), Lysimachos (96), Straton (85), Metrodoros (84), Kotys (81), Philon (80), Theophilos (76), Seuthes, Epikrates, Hermes (all 72), Aulozemis (71), Nikon (70), Nikias, Nikolaos (69), Teres, Papias (67), Nikandros, Papas, Antipatros, Diodoros (65) Ioulianes, Kleopatra (64), Pothos, Philotas (63), Hestiaios (62), Zopyros, Dizas (61), Dadas (59), Athenodoros (58), Kassandros (57), Alexandra, Apollonides, Glaukias (56), Philoxenos, Dionysodoros (55), Moukaporis, Theodotos, Agathokles (54), Agathenor, Satyros (53), Chrestion (52), Asklepiodoros (51), Agathous, Apellas, Hekataios, Ammia (50). The ordering of the commonest Greek names shows resemblances with the pattern of the most popular names in the Aegean Islands, and, to a lesser extent, central Greece. Bearing in mind that the numbers represent a very long time scale, and include changes of fashion, aspiration, and affiliation over many centuries, the fact that patterns of any kind are observable, even at this rather generalised level, is indicative of continuing networks of communication and commemoration alongside newer trends. The strong showing of some female names, notably Kleopatra, and Alexandra, is an interesting reflection of the wider social impact of Hellenistic queens.

Among the more popular names are some that would not normally be considered ‘Greek’ names, notably Bithys, Moukatralis, Aulozemis, Dizas, Dadas and Moukaporis, which represent the most visible items in a very long list of ‘indigenous’ forms, for the most part represented by singletons. The editors have taken the appearance of a name in Greek letters as a criterion for inclusion in the Lexicon. But the criterion of script alone has a number of unintended consequences. Other reviewers have addressed the difficulties presented by Latin names transliterated into Greek.1 It may be fanciful to think that we could one day discover a Druid’s name in Greek letters (Caes. B. Gall. 6.13-14), although this would surely merit a postscript in the Lexicon. More serious are the repercussions for what one reviewer, Stephen Lambert, has called ‘onomastic lexicography’.2 If a name is a Greek name, then it is likely to have a stem and suffix of a known Greek form. A significant number of names in LGPN IV do not correspond at all closely to known lexical models, so it is unclear whether, in the event of a genitive case, it is legitimate to reconstruct the nominative according to regular Greek forms, or whether different rules should be applied. As Dan Dana has pointed out,3 if such assumptions are applied systematically, they may distort the body of evidence. Dana has already isolated a sizeable number of ‘ghost’ names in LGPN IV that can be eliminated, if some lexical errors of this kind, as well as a certain number of errors generated by incorrect modern transmission, are taken into account. The grammatical formation of names is a matter that deserves more serious scrutiny. (Accentuation, however, is something that the editors have addressed: p.x).

The most interesting and productive areas for future research lie in the exploration of individual names and their associations, dynastic, social, and cultural. Omissions, particularly in a work spanning so large a cultural space, and including much new work, are inevitable. Unless the reviewer happens, like Dana, to have a personal inventory of specific groups of names, or chances on lacunae during a random search, gaps are difficult to spot. Most of the checks that I performed on various case studies are included. I happened by chance to look up a second century BCE inscription from Kassandreia, and believe that the three magistrates named on the stone and their patronymics, Herakleides, an agoranomos from Kassandreia, his father Serambyllios, Herakleides’ fellow magistrates, Apollodoros, son of Apollodoros, and Dionysios, son of Kallistratos, seem to have slipped the net.4 Among the complete names preserved as graffiti from Pistiros, in inland Thrace, I was disappointed not to find Maron, a name with a small distribution in Macedonia and Pontic Thrace, whose associations with Aegean Thrace are strong (Maroneia).5 This is one case where we are entitled to see the appearance of the name as a direct reflection of the known commercial connections between Pistiros and Maroneia in the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. The parameters of a lexicon of ‘Greek’ names have been under more strain in LGPN IV than in any previous volume of the project. The editors have been well aware of this difficulty (p.x). When the project was conceived in 1972, the issue of identity had yet to become a significant abstract tool for understanding the mentalities of peoples in antiquity. The idea of ‘Greek names’ was therefore a rather more innocuous concept than it is today, when the very notion of what constituted Greekness, and how identities were manipulated in a Greek context, are matters for serious reflection.6 Yet, despite the manifest difficulties of working with names from different linguistic traditions, the project has in some respects outpaced the discourse on identity. Names are intensely personal signifiers and the selection of a name across generations reflects the conscious creation of personal narratives about identity. The use of Greek as a mechanism of transmission is an independent driver of this creative process. I salute the editors and their team of experts and advisors for completing this stage of the project and for producing a remarkable resource. Additions and amendments will be keenly awaited on the website.


1. R.W.B. Salway, review of P. Fraser and E. Matthews, eds, A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names, Vol. III.A. The Peloponnese, Western Greece, Sicily, and Magna Graecia. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1997, in BMCR 2000.02.40. P.J. Smith, review of P.M. Fraser and E. Matthews, eds., A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names. Vol. III.B. Central Greece, from the Megarid to Thessaly. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 2000, in BMCR 2001.09.34.

2. S. Lambert, review of S. Hornblower and E. Matthews, eds., Greek Personal Names: Their Value as Evidence. Proceedings of the British Academy, 104. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001 (BMCR 2001.08.22).

3. D. Dana, ‘Les noms de facture thrace dans LGPN IV: les noms fantômes et d’autres corrections’, ZPE 157 (2006) 127-42. Dana is preparing a lexicon of Thracian words and names, which would replace the now much outdated monograph of D. Detschev, Die thrakischen Sprachreste (Schriften der Balkankommission, linguistische Abteilung 14, Vienna, 1957.

4. M.B. Hatzopoulos, Macedonian Institutions under the Kings II (1996) no.69.

5. L. Domaradzka, ‘Catalogue of graffiti discovered during the excavations at Pistiros- Vetren, 1988-1998’, in J. Bouzek, L. Domaradzka, and Z.H. Archibald (edd.), Pistiros 2. Prague, Karolinum Press, 2002, 224 no. 45.

6. J. Hall, Hellenicity: Between Ethnicity and Culture, Chicago, 2002. See also J.N. Adams in J.N. Adams, M. Janse, and S. Swain (edd.), Bilingualism in Ancient Society. Language Contact and the Written Word, Oxford, 2002, 103-19, on Italians in Delos; Chr. Müller and C. Hasenohr (edd.), Les Italiens dans le monde grec, II e siècle av.J.-C. – I er siècle ap. J.-C.), Paris, 2002.