Lexicon of Greek Personal Names

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Classics Faculty


The Lexicon of Greek Personal Names (LGPN) project seeks to create and disseminate a comprehensive and authoritative collection of personal name evidence, and so unlock the potential contained in such names for innovative research into every aspect of ancient Greek life. It covers the period from the earliest historical records (8th century BC) to the early Byzantine period (7th century AD). LGPN is not just about names but about people. Every attested bearer of a name is included. It is thus a fundamental tool for research into most aspects of social history.
The seven published LGPN volumes (an eighth is in progress) have already established themselves among the most essential items in any ancient historian's toolbox. Through a succession of conferences and publications, LGPN has encouraged a boom in onomastic awareness and research, among literary scholars and social historians as well as epigraphists. The first objective of the present application is to prepare a ninth volume that will cover what in Roman times were the provinces of Syria, Judaea Palaestina, Arabia, Osrhoene and Mesopotamia (henceforth RNE [Roman Near East]), and also the so-called 'Greek Far East' (Iran, Bactria, India). Our current estimate of the number of names involved is c. 30,000, i.e. on a scale to require a volume of 250-300 folio pages.
Unlike its predecessors, the new volume will treat regions where evidence is available on a substantial scale in languages other than Greek and Latin (principally Syriac, Hebrew, the various dialects of Aramaic and Arabic, and on a much smaller scale Babylonian cuneiform): some Greek names appear in languages other than Greek, some non-Greek names that appear in Greek (and thus fall within our remit) occur also in non-Greek sources. This is a difficult new challenge and a new opportunity, to deal with which we will recruit a researcher trained in Semitic languages and call on the advice of numerous experts. A new departure in dealing with non-Greek names recorded in Greek will be to give their form (in transcription) in the language to which they belong where known, and a reference to onomastica (where available) for those languages where the name in question is registered. We will thus provide a bridge between two classes of evidence too often kept separate through linguistic barriers.
The bulk of the material will come from RNE, and (apart from the coastal region) is of the period of the Roman empire. Even when Greek (and Latin) inscriptions start to appear in good numbers, they often contain Semitic names written in Greek, or Greco-Roman names favoured because they closely resemble Semitic names in meaning or in sound. Names are among the most important witnesses to the often elusive persistence of the indigenous beneath the Greco-Roman veneer. Major issues of cultural interaction are therefore posed by the material to be collected in this volume. The present proposal incorporates a fifth conference-plus-volume in the established LGPN series, at which leading experts will tackle these issues with the aid of the new evidence being collected by the project.
LGPN has been an important presence in the field of Digital Humanities since its inception, most recently since a major conversion of the database to allow full online searching on the basis of (e.g.) location, time, and status. But at present it provides only raw data, the names themselves, for historical linguists. Professor Sophie Minon of Lyon has proposed to collaborate with LGPN to produce a 'linguistic extension' to the database which will provide the missing linguistic analysis and allow e.g. all the innumerable compounds containing a given semantic element such as Leo-/-leos to be viewed together. We will collaborate with Professor Minon's team to add this major new component to the database. This will make it as indispensable a working tool for linguists (Greek and comparative) as it is already for historians.

Planned Impact

The potential beneficiaries of the project's work beyond professional academics are:
1/ The general public inside this country
2/ Students at both school and university level
3/ The general public outside this country. Note in this connection that ancient Greek names are attested from the territories of modern Afghanistan, Albania, Bulgaria, Roumania, Croatia, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Italy, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Macedonia, Montenegro, Russian federation, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, Syria, Turkey, Ukraine, UAE, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen. The project relates to the early history of large swathes of the globe. The work of the Lexicon is very highly esteemed in Greece as a British contribution to its cultural history. Not only do many ordinary Greeks consult it to learn about the history of their own names, but the Lexicon has also received supplementary financial support for particular projects from the most prestigious institutions, the Archaeological Society of Athens and the Academy of Athens, as also from two banks. Volume V has made it also a point of reference for the social history of pre-Islamic Turkey, and volume VI will extend this relevance to the Middle and Far East.
At an economic level one should not forget the more than £300,000 of sales of the published volumes to date, mostly abroad. But the main impact of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names will always be one of educational and cultural enrichment. Many individuals in this country, far more in some others, bear names that derive from ancient Greek names, often through the intermediary of a Christian saint. A new feature has been introduced to the website to enable such origins to be checked. But, curiosity about one's own name aside, attention to names imports a new and vivid dimension to study of the ancient world at all levels. The concepts are not difficult or technical. It is exciting to learn that the most powerful politician in thens in the 470s and 460s named a son 'Spartan', as if Mr Blair had named a daughter 'America'; looking at the mix of Greek, Carian and Persian names in an inscription from Herodotus' native city is a uniquely vivid way to come to appreciate the historian's multi-cultural world. But our project provides access not just to names but also to people, every single person from an identified place of origin whose name survives recorded in Greek over about 1300 years; it has been called the telephone directory of the Greek world. There is enormous public interest in the Greeks and in the ancient world more generally, and the challenge is to bring our work to the attention of all those who visit the classical galleries in museums, all those who holiday in classical lands, all those who engage with the classical world at school or college. Any visitor to Baalbek or Petra or (in happier times) Palmyra is faced by an extraordinary convergence of cultures, Greco-Roman architectural forms put to entirely new uses. That complicated cultural mixture appears no less in the naming practices to be studied in our new volume (and its associated conference). This evidence of names needs to be made as 'visible' as that of architecture. The most practical route to achieve this is through museums, and our plan (see 'Pathways to Impact') is to mount an 'Ancient Names' exhibition in the Ashmolean, the success of which will encourage imitations elsewhere in the country.
For reasons all too tragically familiar, the core regions to be treated in this volume are in the headlines every day. Scholars of the ancient world have participated through special lecture series in fundraising efforts to provide relief to victims of the crisis, and with the focus of the Lexicon now turning to Syria we will be honoured to join them if there is anything useful to be done.


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Description For the first time we are creating a 'telephone directory' of the Greco-Roman Near East, and one that takes account of names written in scripts and languages other than Greek and Latin
Exploitation Route Our work is in its early stages. When published it will stimulate a flood of work on the cultural implications of naming in the Greco-Roman near east.
Sectors Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description LGPN-LIng 
Organisation École pratique des hautes études (EPHE)
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution We provide expert access to the LGPN database, and onomastic expertise.
Collaborator Contribution Professor Mino anad her team provide expert philological analysis of our data
Impact The ongoing database http://www.lgpn.ox.ac.uk/names/LGPN-Ling.html
Start Year 2015
Description Lyon 
Organisation University of Lyon
Department House of the Orient and the Mediterranean
Country France 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Dr Zellmann-Rohrer is capturing names from Palmyrene and Syrian inscriptions with guidance from Dr Yon.
Collaborator Contribution Dr .B. Yon of Lyon is co-investigator. He is one of the world's leading experts in the epigraphy of the Near East,and gives us access to the other experts in the equipe at Lyon, the largest cluster of such specialists anywhere.
Impact Work on capturing names from the Roman Near East is in progress, and will appear when volume VI of the Lexicon is published.
Start Year 2016