It’s all Greek to them

Fame! I’m gonna live forever!

Today’s Guardian has an article about the discovery of a coin bearing the faces of Antony and Cleopatra. If she was accurately depicted, Cleopatra wasn’t quite the hot babe of legend, and seems instead to have been charismatic. Anyway, I assume that the journalist, Martin Wainwright, has attempted to display his classical scholarship by noting that Cleopatra meant “father’s joy”. As far as I recall, the first element, κλέος, means “fame; glory”, and is, in a slightly different form, the second element of the name Heracles (-κλής; Latin Hercules) which meant “glory of Hera”. It’s actually quite a common element in personal names, including Κλεών, the tyrant of Thebes who

Fulfild of ire and of iniquitee,
He, for dispyt, and for his tirannye,
To do the dede bodyes vileinye,
Of alle our lordes, which that ben y-slawe,
Hath alle the bodyes on an heep y-drawe,
And wol nat suffren hem, by noon assent,
Neither to been y-buried nor y-brent,
But maketh houndes ete hem in despyt.”
Chaucer, The Knight’s Tale, ll. 82-89

(Don’t worry. Theseus gets classical on Cleon’s sorry ass.)

The word is derived from an Indo-European root *kleuH- “to hear” from which comes English “loud” (Old English hlūd < WGmc *xlūðaz < IE *klūtós).


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