Ghisolabella and Geryon


Ghisolabella is one of the harder people to find any information about outside of The Divine Comedy, and the name itself is just as hard to track down the etymology of, but I just had to feature it. From the moment I first saw the name at about age 24, I fell in love with it. It’s so unusual, pretty, and flowery. Some people might find it strange I tend towards these kinds of flowery, stereotypically feminine names for women when I’m such a proud so-called “tomboy,” but as I discussed in the recent 12-part gender-critical series on my main blog, no one is 100% masculine or feminine by what our society has declared as such. Everyone exists along a spectrum.

Bella and Ella are super-trendy, super-oversaturated nicknames now, but if you want a less common nickname to help your daughter stand out from the crowd, you can use Ghisa, Ghisi, Sol, Sola, Isola, or Ghisola. It seems as though this name may be a Medieval elaborated form of Ghisola, which appears to be the Italian form of the Germanic name Gisila (Giselle), which means “hostage” or “pledge.”

Ghisolabella is mentioned in Canto XVIII, as the sister of Venedico Caccianemico. Venedico is a right fiend who sold Ghisolabella to the Marquis Obizzo II d’Este of Ferrara, as part of a dastardly plot to get Ghisolabella to do their bidding. After she’d escaped that sordid union, she married Niccolò de Fontana.

Dante and Virgil on the Back of Geryon, by Bertel Thorvaldsen

Geryon (GEH-ree-ahn) is a giant human-faced, winged monster, symbolizing fraud in The Divine Comedy. He lives between the Seventh and Eighth Circles of Hell. Though there are numerous accounts of his appearance, Dante gives him a kind face, lion’s paws, a poisonous stinger on his tail, and the body of a wyvern (i.e., reptilian). Virgil calls him in Canto XVI, and he takes Dante and Virgil into the Eighth Circle on his back in Canto XVII. Later on, in Canto XXVII of Purgatorio, Virgil mentions him.

Geryon was the son of Chrysaor (human brother of Pegasus) and Callirrhoe (one of the Naiads, or water nymphs), and the grandson of Medusa. He dwelt on Erytheia, an island of the Hesperides. In Greek mythology, Geryon most prominently features in the tenth labor of Hercules. This labor involved capturing Geryon’s herd of magnificent red cattle. When Hercules reached Erytheia, he killed both Geryon’s two-headed dog Orthrus (Cerberus’s brother) and his herdsman Eurytion. Geryon went after Hercules, but was felled by a poisonous arrow.

Geryon may possibly mean “singing” in Greek, according to Theoi Greek Mythology.


7 thoughts on “Ghisolabella and Geryon

  1. Sola is definitely a pretty nickname for Ghisolabella!

    BTW (and I apologize if this seems a rude or lazy question) what’s the URL for your main blog? You’ve sometimes mentioned it before, and I’ve thought I’d like to read it, but I could never find a link. I’ve been very caught up in studying our society’s restrictive sense of gender roles lately, so I’d love to read that series of posts you just mentioned!

  2. I too am interested in gender and categorization, including naming. Legacy includes both of these. Ghisolabella is such a feminine name, was shortening of names common before contemporary times?

  3. Pingback: A to Z Reflections 2016 | Onomastics Outside the Box

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