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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2014

Richard Janko*
University of Michigan


Nouns and personal names ending in –εύς –ῆϝος are unique to Greek, and have often been deemed pre-Hellenic in origin simply on account of the lack of Proto-Indo-European (PIE) correspondences. Our failure to find convincing etymologies for βασιλεύς, ἑρμηνεύς, and βραβεύς has itself contributed to this view. However, we should hesitate, for general reasons, to posit pre-Hellenic origins for these words, since viable explanations both of βασιλεύς and of ἑρμηνεύς (if not of βραβεύς) lie near to hand. Although the explanation of βασιλεύς that will be proposed below still presents difficulties, I believe that it improves on previous attempts.

Research Article
Copyright © The Classical Association 2014 

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I thank my colleague W. Benjamin Fortson IV and an anonymous reader for this journal for very helpful suggestions and improvements.


1 For a valuable survey of such words in Homer, see Risch, E., Wortbildung der homerischen Sprache (Göttingen, 1974), 156–9Google Scholar.

2 Schindler, J., ‘On the Greek type ἱππεύς’, in Davies, A. Morpurgo and Meid, W. (edd.), Studies in Greek, Italic and Indo-European Linguistics Offered to Leonard Palmer (Innsbruck, 1976)Google Scholar, 349–52, at 349.

3 Ibid., 350–1. See further Hajnal, I., ‘Das Frühgriechische zwischen Balkan und Ägäis: Einheit oder Vielfalt?’, in Meiser, G. and Hackstein, O. (edd.), Sprachkontakt und Sprachwandel: Akten der XI. Fachtagung der Indogermanischen Gesellschaft, 17.–23. September 2000, Halle an der Saale (Wiesbaden, 2005), 199203Google Scholar.


4 κέραμος is surely from the root of κεράννυμι and refers to the mixing of clay for potting, despite the hesitations of R.S.P. Beekes on semantic grounds (Etymological Dictionary of Greek [Leiden and Boston, MA, 2010], 1.674). χαλκός is notoriously obscure (see ibid., 2.1611–12).

5 Schindler (n. 2), 350–1, developing an idea of B. Thibau, ‘Βασιλεύς’, RBPh 25 (1946), 582–7, at 583.

6 Schindler (n. 2), 352.

7 Hajnal (n. 3), 200.

8 This contraction is seen in, for instance, thematic subjunctives such as *b here–e– > *b herē–, e.g. ϕέρηται. As was noted by Schindler (n. 2), 351, there is no evidence for a suffix in the lost ‘e-coloured’ laryngeal *–h 1u–, yielding a declension *–e–h 1u–s *–e-h 1–os.

9 This is the usual view, as in e.g. Beekes, R.S.P., Comparative Indo-European Linguistics: An Introduction (Amsterdam and Philadelphia, 1995)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 68; Egetmeyer, M., Le Dialecte grec ancien de Chypre (Berlin and New York, 2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 1.415–18. The prevailing explanation (as in Rix, H., Historische Grammatik des Griechischen [Darmstadt, 1976]Google Scholar, 122–4) is that βαϲιλεύϲ has a hysterodynamic inflection, i.e. it originally belonged to the wider class of nouns that carried the accent on the suffix in the nominative singular and on the ending in the genitive singular: cf. ἀρήν ἀρνός ‘lamb’, from *ϝρήν ϝαρνός, PIE *ṷrḗn *ṷṛnós (for the paradigm, compare Sanskrit urā ukṣṇás ‘bull’). Rix also holds (47) that the long vowel of the Homeric declension –ῆ(ϝ)ος –ῆ(ϝ)ι is formed from the locative which had no suffix: compare Hittite harnāus (nominative) and harnāu (locative), ‘birth-stool’, which was apparently a noun originally in *–ōus (Sihler, A.L., New Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin [Oxford, 1995]Google Scholar, 331). Similarly Beekes (this note), 181. This approach is less elegant and convincing than is Schindler's.

10 See Fortson, W.B. IV, Indo-European Language and Culture: An Introduction (Oxford and Malden, MA, 2004)Google Scholar, 63–4.

11 Egetmeyer (n. 9), 1.415–17.

12 For the Arcadian evidence, see Dubois, L., Recherches sur le dialecte arcadien (Louvain-la-Neuve, 1986)Google Scholar, §66.

13 Egetmeyer (n. 9), 1.415–16.

14 The identification of the obscure Mycenaean words e–re–de (PY Fr 1228, Mn 1411) and ma–se–de (PY Cc 1285, Mn 1411) as examples of these accusative singulars is improbable, pace Egetmeyer (n. 9), 1.417; they seem more likely to be toponyms with the allative suffix –δε.

15 See Hajnal, I., Mykenisches und homerisches Lexicon: Übereinstimmungen, Divergenzen und versuch einer Typologie (Innsbruck, 1998)Google Scholar, 60–9, for an Indo-European etymology, which Beekes (n. 4) does not notice.

16 Chantraine, P., Dictionnaire étymologique de la langue grecque (Paris, 1968–80)Google Scholar, 1.167.

17 Beekes (n. 4), 203, with references to earlier suggestions, none of which convinces either him or me. So too Frisk, H., Griechisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg, 1954–70)Google Scholar, 1.223; Chantraine (n. 16), loc. cit.

18 Cognates include Anglo-Saxon here, the Old Norse epithet of Odin herjann, the Old British ethnonym Coriono-totae, and Middle Irish cuire ‘crowd’; see Beekes (n. 4), 1.732.

19 Ruipérez, M.S., ‘Ko–re–te–re et po–ro–ko–re–te–re à Pylos’, in Lejeune, M. (ed.), Etudes mycéniennes (Paris, 1956)Google Scholar, 105–20, at 107–8, but cf. Jorro, F. Aura, Diccionario micénico (Madrid, 1985–93)Google Scholar, s.v.

20 Benfey, T., Griechisches Wurzellexikon (Berlin, 1839–42)Google Scholar, 2.29; Curtius, E., ‘Beiträge zur griechischen Etymologie’, RhM 4 (1846), 242–59Google Scholar, at 258–9; cf. Döderlein, L., Homerisches Glossarium (Erlangen, 1850–8)Google Scholar, vol. 2, no. 2007; Prellwitz, W., Etymologisches Wörterbuch der griechischen Sprache (Göttingen, 1892)Google Scholar, 45.

21 For a list of such names see Dornseiff, F. and Hansen, B., Rückläufiges Wörterbuch der griechischen Eigennamen (Berlin, 1957)Google Scholar, 217.

22 Such formations were certainly not understood by Thibau (n. 5), 582, which is why he rejected this etymology.

23 von Kamptz, H., Homerische Personennamen (Göttingen, 1982), 23–4Google Scholar, 125 (this work is an unaltered Jena dissertation of 1958); Palmer, L.R., The Interpretation of Mycenaean Greek Texts (Oxford, 1963), 7980Google Scholar; Palmer, L.R., The Greek Language (London and Boston, MA, 1980)Google Scholar, 34.

24 Von Kamptz (n. 23), 126, 337. For an eloquent protest against this ready resort to pre-Hellenism see Palmer (n. 23 [1980]), 97–8.

25 So already Fick, A. and Bechtel, F., Die griechische Personennamen nach ihrer Bildung erklärt und systematisch geordnet (Göttingen, 1894 2)Google Scholar, 425.

26 Palmer (n. 23 [1980]), 35–6.

27 Ventris, M. and Chadwick, J., Documents in Mycenaean Greek (Cambridge, 1973 2)Google Scholar, 405.

28 Sihler (n. 9), 328.

29 Hence one must reject Windekens, A.J. van' proposal (Dictionnaire étymologique complémentaire de la langue grecque [Louvain, 1986], 38–9)Google Scholar that it means ‘holder of the throne’, from βάσις taken as ‘pedestal’, ‘throne’, with a suffix in –λ–.

30 Pylos tablet Fn 79. See Heubeck, A., ‘Beiträge zu einigen griechischen Personennamen auf der Linear B-Tafeln’, Beiträge zur Namenforschung 8 (1957), 2835Google Scholar, at 30; Palmer (n. 23 [1963]), 79–80; Mühlestein, H., ‘Redende Personennamen bei Homer’, SMEA 9 (1969), 6794Google Scholar, at 76; Risch (n. 1), 192 n. 12; Palmer (n. 23 [1980]), 35.

31 Palmer (n. 23 [1963]), 79–80; Palmer (n. 23 [1980]), 97–8.

32 See further Nagy, G., The Best of the Achaeans (Baltimore, MD, and London, 1979)Google Scholar, 70 n. 1.

33 Benfey (n. 20), loc. cit.

34 See e.g. Beekes, R. S. P., The Development of the Proto-Indo-European Laryngeals in Greek (The Hague and Paris, 1969)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Rix (n. 9), 36–9.

35 See Beekes (n. 4), 1.192.

36 The presence of * is proved by, for instance, the Latin form, which would otherwise be †vătus < *g wh 2–tós, cf. fătus from fateor like ϕατός < *b hh 2–tós from ϕημί. If Mycenaean a–pi–qo–to /amp hig wotos/ ‘round’ (?), an epithet of tables and hearths on Pylos tablets Ta 709 and Ta 715, is a compound of this verbal adjective, this fact would prove the former presence of the *, but its meaning and derivation are not wholly certain (Aura Jorro [n. 19], 1.85).

37 Rix (n. 9), 146.

38 Hom. Od. 8.113.

39 Hom. Od. 8.250, 383.

40 Risch (n. 1), 52.

41 Janko, R., ‘The use of πρός, προτί and ποτί in Homer’, Glotta 57 (1979) 24–9Google Scholar.

42 See Beekes, R.S.P., ‘ΠΡΟΤΙ ΙΛΙΟΝ ΙΡΗΝ’, Mnemosyne 26 (1973) 387–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

43 So Householder, F.W. and Nagy, G., Greek: A Survey of Recent Work (The Hague, 1972)Google Scholar, 66: cf. ὠλεσίκαρπος for οὐ–. On the Aeolic phase of the epic tradition see further Janko, R., The Iliad: A Commentary. Volume IV: Books 13–16 (Cambridge, 1992), 1519Google Scholar.

44 Curtius (n. 20), 259.

45 Fr. 133,6 Radt (anapaests) = Hsch. Lex. ζ 27 Latte.

46 Risch (n. 1), 192.

47 I thank the anonymous reviewer for raising this.

48 Ol. 1.89; Pyth. 3.85, 4.27, 10.31.

49 M-01a in Brixhe, C. and Lejeune, M., Corpus des inscriptions paléo-phrygiennes (Paris, 1984)Google Scholar. The tomb is sixth century b.c. or earlier.

50 Ventris and Chadwick (n. 27), 409, 510, citing PY Jo 438. For recent views, see the essays by Carlier, P., Iacovou, M., and Palaima, T.G. in Deger-Jalkotzy, S. and Lemos, I. (edd.), Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer (Edinburgh, 2006)Google Scholar; Ruijgh, C.J., ‘Mycenaean and Homeric language’, in Duhoux, Y. and Davies, A. Morpurgo (edd.), A Companion to Linear B (Louvain-la-Neuve, 2008–11)Google Scholar, 2.253–98, at 263.

51 /angelōn g wasileus/, unless a–ke–ro is a man's name.

52 The expected Dorian form of this word, γεροντία, is attested at Xen. Lac. 10.1 and Nic. Dam. fr. 103(3) Jacoby.

53 Ventris, M. and Chadwick, J., Documents in Mycenaean Greek (Cambridge, 1956)Google Scholar, 171.

54 C.W. Shelmerdine, ‘Mycenaean society’, in Duhoux and Morpurgo Davies (n. 50), 1.115–58, at 135.

55 See Yamagata, N., ‘ἄναξ and βασιλεύς in Homer’, CQ 47 (1997), 114CrossRefGoogle Scholar. Epic phrases such as घεὺϲ δὲ θεῶν βαϲιλεύϲ are demonstrably innovative compared with phrases containing ἄναξ (Hoekstra, A., Epic Verse before Homer [Amsterdam, 1979], 97–9Google Scholar).

56 Shelmerdine (n. 54), 135.

57 Thus Sihler's reconstructed paradigm based on *g watilews ([n. 9], 330) is probably incorrect in this respect.

58 There is no sound evidence that West Greek (i.e. North-west Greek and Doric) was spoken anywhere south of the Gulf of Corinth before the fall of the Mycenaean palaces or indeed before the Iron Age began in 1100 b.c. or later, but this is not the place to argue this point.

59 Chantraine (n. 16), 751; the different view of Beekes ([n. 4], 1017) is wholly unconvincing.

60 Hsch. Lex. β 284 Latte.

61 Oxford English Dictionary, s.v., 2736.

62 Βαϲιλεύϲ was occasionally a name in the historical period, but this is clearly a secondary development.

63 Schindler (n. 2), 349.

64 Pind. Ol. 2.85. The root is unattested in Mycenaean.

65 So Beekes (n. 4), 462, with references to earlier works.

66 Yakubovitch, I., ‘Review of I.J. Adiego, The Carian Language’, JNES 71 (2012), 131–3Google Scholar, at 133.

67 Adiego, I.J., The Carian Language (Leiden and Boston, MA, 2007), 40–1Google Scholar.

68 Yakubovitch (n. 66), 133.

69 Biggs, R.D. et al. (edd.), The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL, 2006)Google Scholar, s.v. targumannu.

70 Forrer, E., ‘Vorhomerische Griechen in den Keilschrifttexten von Boghazköy’, Mitteilungen der deutschen Orient-Gesellschaft 63 (1924), 122Google Scholar; see further e.g. Bryce, T.R., The Kingdom of the Hittites (Oxford, 2005 2)CrossRefGoogle Scholar, 359.

71 See Adiego (n. 67), 238–41.

72 For the Carian evidence, see Adiego (n. 67), 258.

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