What's in a Name?

When it comes to names for your character in the Heroic Age there are plenty of options. First, there
A 5th century BC pottery shard with
"Aristides, son of Lysimachos"
are historical records of hundreds of thousands of unique ancient Greek names found in literary texts, stamped on coins, on pottery, and inscriptions. Ancient Greeks typically had one name. However, they were often given other elements. For example they may be identified by their father's name, as in the case of Aristides, son of Lysimachos. Or they may have their city attached to their name like in my case I'd be: Christopher, son of Brian of Upper Heyford (Upper Heyford was the military base in England I was born). The city epitaph does not describe where my father was born.

Children were named ten days after a birth. Relatives on both sides of the family were invited to a sacrifice and a feast called the Dekate (or tenth day) in which the father would formally name the child. In Ancient Greece, a sacrifice was similar to thanksgiving. An animal was sacrificed, but only a small portion was left to the gods. The rest was eaten at a great feast by everyone gathered. Often times, the first born child would be named after their paternal grandfather, then on down the line for each child named. Sometimes, family members adopted variants of the same name, as is the case in Demippos, son of Demotimos.

A good way to come up with an original Ancient Greek sounding name is to base your character's name on a Greek word and make it into a name. In the case of Achilles, his name is a combination of "akhos" which means sorrow or grief and "Iaos" which means soldiers. His name of "Akhi-Iauos" means "he who has the people distressed."

A friend of mine presented the idea of a soldier who was born from a dragon's tooth buried in the ground. I suggested the name Dontius, since "donti" is Greek for tooth. However, he had a superior suggestion of Theseus. When the hero planted the dragon's teeth, the warriors sprung forth from the ground and fought but Theseus fled and was slaughtered. His character was the only one who survived. He took the name Theseus and now lives as a hero. He wears around his throat a necklace of dragon teeth, his fallen brothers.

What a great concept for a character, and it cuts straight to the most important part of playing in this campaign: You are a great hero. Be a great hero.

If you are looking for resources on Greek names I suggest you check out this wikipedia page.


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