Mycenaean theophoric names




Railsback, Jason Brooks

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The majority of Mycenaean Greek vocabulary, perhaps 60-70%, as preserved on the Linear B tablets consists of personal names, and from the moment of decipherment, their importance has been recognized. Many studies have been produced concerning the identification, morphology, and cultural significance of individual names as well as categories of names. One type of name which has received scant attention is the theophoric name. These names, which are vastly more common in later Greek than in Mycenaean, are formed from the name of a god. The goal of this paper, after enough data has been collected about individual theophoric names, is to draw conclusions about their function in Mycenaean society. The first step in extracting historical or linguistic value from a particular name is relating it, or its component parts, to later, alphabetic Greek names and forms. Unfortunately, the syllabic script, which probably posed no difficulty to the scribes in identifying individuals by name, presents the modern scholar with several problems in correctly interpreting personal names. Some Linear B forms are transparently related to later Greek, while others have two or more possible explanations. Many fail to offer any obvious intrepretation as Greek, and it has been estimated that, out of 2,000 different personal names in Linear B, nearly 700 have not been identified. Some of these are certainly "Minoan" names, and the larger number of such names at Knossos testifies to this. On the other hand, some of the names for which Greek explanations are accepted may have actually been "Minoan." In this field, certainty is not possible, and we must put a good deal of faith in probability