Friday, May 7, 2010


Perseus, the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians. Perseus was the Greek hero who killed Medusa and claimed Andromeda, having rescued her from a sea monster.

Because of the obscurity of the name Perseus and the legendary character of its bearer, most etymologists pass it by, on the presumption that it might be pre-Greek. However, the name of Perseus’s native city was Greek and so were the names of his wife and relatives. Perseus might be from the ancient Greek verb, perthein, “to waste, ravage, sack, destroy”, some form of which appears in Homeric epithets. According to Carl Darling Buck (Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin), the –eus suffix is typically used to form an agent noun, in this case from the aorist stem, pers-. Pers-eus therefore is a sacker of cities; that is, a soldier by occupation, a fitting name for the first Mycenaean warrior.

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