What sort of glory?
May 29, 2008 2:16 AM   Subscribe

The etymology of Greek "glory" names...

I'm just wondering what the sense of names like "Heracles," "Cleopatra," and so, is. How is Heracles, the son of Zeus and apparently perennial irritant to Hera, associated with her and glory, for example? Is there an explanation, or am I being presumptuous?
posted by clockzero to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia on Heracles :
The child was originally given the name Alcides by his parents; it was only later that he became known as Heracles.[1] He was renamed Heracles in an unsuccessful attempt to mollify Hera.
The intertubes on Cleopatra:
CLEOPATRA "glory of her father" from Greek kleos "glory" and pater "father". This was the name of several women in the Ptolemaic royal family of Egypt.
posted by ghost of a past number at 3:08 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Vaguely remembered words of a professor of mine: Hera is closely associated with the Argive, and Heracles as well (outside of the connection of his name). So initially Heracles would have been positively associated with the cult of Hera - a hero of the Argolid, doing dangerous feats in the service of the goddess of the Argolid. Then, as their respective cults expanded, and their worshipers moved, stories about the great feats that Heracles did in the service of Hera (slaying monsters and so on) made less sense without the strong connection between the two, and were reinterpreted as trials imposed upon Heracles by Hera.

Consider also the context of Athens- Heracles was commonly viewed as a protégé of Athena (patron of Athens, unsurprisingly). As a result, he was very frequently depicted in the art of Athens, on pottery and in statuary, though he is a Doric hero and Athens an Ionic city. Too close an association with Hera would put him into the position of serving two mistresses, so there is another likely cause for reinterpretation and reinvention of the myths. By the time Theseus replaced Hercules as a "home-grown" Ionic hero for the Athenians, you had several generations of plastic and literary art pushing for a more antagonistic relationship between Hera and Heracles. Zeus being a horndog that Hera was constantly trying to catch and/or punish did not help.

The Transformation of Hera and Ethnic Identity in Greek Antiquity are two books with more background I found in a quick search, so you can see how badly I've mischaracterized the actual scholarship. The former has a bit of discussion of other 'kleos' names, but not much. This website has an excerpt from the Oxford Classical Dictionary's entry on Heracles, with a tiny bit of discussion about migration of worshipers as the basis for the relationship between Hera and Heracles.

Caveat: I am not a classics scholar, and I am not your classics scholar.
posted by that possible maker of pork sausages at 5:38 AM on May 29, 2008 [1 favorite]

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