A primer on Dante and his name

In honour of my love Dante’s 696th Jahrzeit (death anniversary), I’m rerunning the first half of my post from 5 April 2016. Dante is my next-greatest literary idol, after only Aleksandr Isayevich Solzhenitsyn.

Fresco of Dante Alighieri (May/June 1265–13/14 September 1321), by Andrea del Castagno

Dante Alighieri, né Durante degli Alighieri, was one of the greatest writers of all time, and the greatest writer of the Italian language. His choice to write in Italian instead of Latin was a huge influence on those writers who came after him. Because of this, he’s been called the Father of the Italian Language.

Dante was born in Florence, to a pro-Guelph family. His mother, Bella, died before he was 10, and his father remarried quickly. At age 12, Dante was betrothed to Gemma Donati, though he’d been in love with Beatrice Portinari since age nine. Beatrice remained the only woman in his heart, and he never mentioned Gemma in any of his poetry. Indeed, you’d never guess he had a wife from reading La Vita Nuova, the autobiographical work documenting his love for Beatrice.

Dante’s father died when he was a teenager, and Brunetto Latini became his guardian. In 1285, aged about 20, Dante married Gemma and had four children with her. On 11 June 1289, he fought in the Battle of Campaldino with the Guelph cavalry. The Guelphs were victorious over the Ghibellines, but then the Guelphs split into two factions, and Dante’s faction, the White Guelphs, got in lots of trouble with the Black Guelphs.

Dante in Exile, by Domenico Peterlini

To make a long story short, Dante was condemned to perpetual exile in March 1302, and risked being burnt at the stake if he returned to his belovèd Florence. He’d initially only been condemned to two years of exile and a huge fine, but Dante refused to pay. Not only did he feel he weren’t guilty, but all his assets had been seized by the Black Guelphs. In June 2008, Florence’s city council finally rescinded Dante’s sentence.

Recent reconstruction of Dante’s face reveals he didn’t have that famous aquiline nose after all. His nose was probably hooked, but it was pudgy and crooked, not pointy and straight.

Dante now rests in a tomb in Ravenna, in spite of repeated pleas from Florence to return the bones of one of their greatest native sons. The empty tomb in Florence, still waiting for him, bears the inscription Onorate l’altissimo poeta (Honour the most exalted poet), from Canto IV of Inferno. The next line, L’ombra sua torna, ch’era dipartite (His spirit, which had left us, returns), is hauntingly absent.

Dante is a Medieval short form of Durante, the Italian form of the Late Latin name Durans, which means “enduring.”

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The many Luc- names

I love how versatile the Indo–European names are. They have so many versions across widely differing languages, able to translate into all these languages and cultures. One of those universal names is Lucia/Lucius, which comes from the Latin word lux, “light.”

Male forms:

1. Lucius is Latin and English.

2. Loukios is Greek.

3. Lucio is Italian and Spanish. The Portuguese variant is Lúcio.

4. Lucjusz is Polish.

5. Lūcijs is Latvian.

6. Lucijus is Lithuanian.

7. Luciu is Sicilian.

8. Lucillus is an alternate Latin form.

9. Luzius is Swiss–German.

10. Lutsiy is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian.

11. Lucije is Serbian, Slovenian, and Croatian.

12. Lucianus is another Latin form.

13. Luciano is Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese.

14. Lucien is French.

15. Łucjan (WOOTS-yahn) is Polish.

16. Lucian is English and Romanian. The Czech and Slovak form is Lucián.

17. Luken is Basque.

18. Luciaan is Dutch.

19. Lučiano is a rare Croatian form.

20. Lucijano is the more common Croatian form.

21. Lukyan is Russian and Ukrainian.

22. Luzian is German.

23. Lyutsian is Russian.

24. Lyuksen is Russian.

25. Lukian is Russian.

26. Lučano is Slovenian.

Female forms:

1. Lucia is Latin in origin, and is used in English, Romanian, Italian, German, Slovakian, and the Scandinavian languages. The Spanish variation is Lucía, the Portuguese form is Lúcia, and the Icelandic variation is Lúcía.

2. Lucilla is an Italian and Latin diminutive form.

3. Lucie is Czech and French, though with a pronunciation difference. Czech pronounces the last two vowels separately, instead of as one.

4. Lucille is the French form of Lucilla.

5. Lucinda is an elaborated form of Lucia, created by the great Miguel Cervantes in Don Quixote (1605).

6. Lucija is Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian. The Latvian form is Lūcija.

7. Lucinde is the French form of Lucinda.

8. Łucja (WOOTS-yah) is Polish. This is the original birth name of my character Lucinda. Though she was born in the U.S., her parents were very Polish.

9. Lucila is the Spanish form of Lucilla.

10. Llúcia is Catalan.

11. Lucette is French, a diminutive of Lucie.

12. Liucija is Lithuanian.

13. Luus is Dutch and Limburgish.

14. Luce is a French and Italian variation of Lucia. This is also the Italian word for “light.”

15. Luzia is Portuguese and German. This isn’t to be confused with the very similar name Luiza! Though Lucia has long been the more common German form, Luzia is the older form, and has been gaining more popularity in recent years.

16. Luca (LOO-tsah) is Hungarian and Croatian.

17. Liùsaidh is Scottish.

18. Lucy is English, and has been used since the Middle Ages.

19. Lucetta is an English diminutive of Lucette. Shakespeare used it in The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1594).

20. Luciana is Spanish, Italian, Latin, and Portuguese. The Hungarian variant is Luciána, and the Brazilian–Portuguese variant is Lucianna.

21. Lucienne is French.

22. Lucina is derived from the Latin word lucus, “grove,” though it later came to be associated with all the other Luc- names. This was the name of the Roman goddess of childbirth.

23. Lucine is the French form of Lucina, and an alternate transliteration of the Armenian Lusine/Lusineh, though the Luc- root is just a coincidence in this case. It means “Moon” in Armenian.

24. Loukia is Greek.

25. Lleulu (HLYOO-loo) is Welsh.

26. Luchiya is Russian and Bulgarian.

27. Luciane is Swedish.

28. Lucienna is used in various languages.

29. Luçja is Albanian.

30. Lukene is Basque. Another Basque form is Luke, which I wouldn’t use in an Anglophone country due to the obvious pronunciation confusion.

31. Lûsîa is Greenlandic. The Finnish and Faroese form is Lusia.

32. Lusiana is Indonesian, and a rarer Romanian and English form.

33. Lukiana is Russian.

34. Lusiya is Christian Indian (i.e., Asian).

35. Lutsiya is Russian and Bulgarian.

36. Luxia is Basque and Sardinian, though very rare in the former and archaic in the latter.

37. Luziana is Basque and Brazilian–Portuguese.

38. Lukina is Russian.

39. Lyutsina is Russian.

A to Z Reflections 2016

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

This was my third year doing A to Z with this blog, and my fifth year doing it overall. As always, writing posts ahead of time was essential, though this year, I let it wait till March. Thankfully, I managed to get them all done by the end of March. However, I’d already had my list of names in mind for awhile, so I wasn’t making up my list last-minute as well.

As mentioned on my main blog, problems encountered with other blogs included:

Captchas.

Blogs without an ability to leave comments.

Blogs requiring a unique-to-the-blogger commenting service. Sorry, I won’t waste my time going through that whole rigamarole just to leave one comment. The only exception I made was for a blog with a really offensive, hurtful, ableist meme that couldn’t go unchallenged.

Comment moderation. That kind of slows down networking and conversation.

Blogs that quit participating early, or hadn’t posted anything in months, even several years.

People who only signed up to try to pimp their business, and aren’t bloggers at all.

Difficulty finding the actual blog part of a website, or the A to Z posts in particular.

Super-long posts. I’m well aware some folks may find my own posts too long, but I’ve come to learn how to make my average post about 400–800 words over the years. Once in awhile, I may have a post going up to 1,000 words. But when you start climbing well above 1,500 words, unless you have a scholarly-natured blog and aren’t a lay blogger (e.g., Science-Based Medicine), you should really consider either cutting it down or dividing it into several posts.

Post recap:

Averroes and Arachne (23 views)
Beatrice and Brunetto (16 views)
Cornelia and Cerberus (17 views)
Dante and Deianira (14 views)
Electra and Empedocles (9 views)
Francesca and Frederick (7 views)
Ghisolabella and Geryon (21 views)
Horace and Helen (11 views)
Icarus and Iphigenia (27 views)
Judith and Justinian (8 views)
Kadmos and Kalliope (17 views)
Lavinia and Leander (10 views)
Matilda and Manfred (7 views)
Nimrod and Niobe (16 views)
Ovid and Oenone (20 views)
Plutus and Piccarda (10 views)
Quintina and Quirinus (10 views)
Rachav and Rechovoam (9 views)
Statius and Semiramis (16 views)
Tiresias and Tomyris (14 views)
Ulysses and Urania (6 views)
Virgil and Veronica (7 views)
Wenceslaus and Wren (8 views)
Xanthippe and Xerxes (11 views)
Yelikonida and Yulian (6 views)
Zita and Zeno (11 views)

I already think I know what my theme next year will be. Thankfully, since my decision last summer to blacklist the persistently negative commenter I was having problems with for so long, my mind has been much more at ease when I get a comment notification for this blog. Seriously, it’s freaking rude to only ever comment on someone’s blog to tell the blogger her opinion is ridiculous, be a know-it-all, or just generally passively-aggressively berate someone for daring to express one’s opinions on one’s own blog. I had a sick feeling in my stomach every time I saw this commenter’s name, since I knew I was about to read yet another chutzpahdik comment.

Zita and Zeno

Z

Saint Zita of Lucca (ca. 1212–27 April 1272), by Arnould de Vuez, Copyright Velvet

Santa Zita is mentioned in Canto XXI of Inferno, though of course not as a resident of Hell. Since she lived in Tuscany, I can only imagine Dante venerated her as much as just about everyone else.

Zita was born in the village of Monsagrati in Tuscany, near Lucca, and became a servant in the Fatinelli home at age twelve. She wasn’t treated very nicely, by either her masters or fellow servants, but she continued to keep a cheerful countenance and kind heart. Eventually, she became head of all the home’s affairs, and her uninterrupted piety moved the Fatinellis to become religious. She viewed her terrible treatment as penance assigned by God. By the time of her death, the Fatinellis almost worshipped her.

About 150 miracles were attributed to her, and she was discovered to be an incorruptible when she was exhumed in 1580. In 1696, she was canonized. The people of Lucca loved her, and a popular cult grew up around her. Eventually, other parts of Europe began venerating her too.

Zita means “little girl” in Tuscan Italian.

Zeno of Citium (ca. 334–262 BCE)

The Zeno who appears in The Divine Comedy (Canto IV, Inferno) is Zeno of Citium, not Zeno of Elea. This Zeno appears among the righteous non-Christians stuck in Limbo, and founded the Stoic school made famous by Seneca. He formulated his philosophy while studying with Crates of Thebes, a Cynic, and also studied with several Platonists and Megarians.

Zeno hailed from Cyprus, and was probably of Phoenician descent. Starting about 300 BCE, he taught in Athens. Initially, his followers were called Zenonians, but eventually came to be called Stoics, after the Stoa Poikile (Painted Porch), where Zeno taught. Many people admired him, among them frequent visitor King Antigonus II Gonatas of Macedonia. Zeno was offered Athenian citizenship, but he declined it out of loyalty to his homeland.

Zeno is the Latin form of the Greek name Zenon, which in turn derives from Zeus. The name Zeus is related to Dyeus, the name of an old Indo–European god, which probably means “sky” or “shine.”

Virgil and Veronica

V

Publius Vergilius Maro (15 October 70–21 September 19 BCE)

Virgil, Dante’s idol, is his guide through Hell and most of Purgatory. He appears right in Canto I of Inferno, shortly after the book begins. Dante is initially rather frightened to see this shadowy figure, but ecstatic once he realizes who it is. Virgil then comforts him and promises to guide him on the amazing otherworldly journey he’s about to undertake.

While I was rushing on my downward course
Suddenly on my sight there seemed to start
One who appeared from a long distance hoarse.
When I beheld him in that great desert
“Have pity on me!” I cried out to his face,
“Whatsoever—shade or very man—you are.”
He answered me: “Not man; man once I was.
My parents both were of the Lombard name,
Of Mantua by their country and by their race.
Sub Julio I was born, though late I came:
In Rome the good Augustus shone on me,
In the time of the false gods of lying fame.
Poet was I, and sang of that just son
Of old Anchises, who came out from Troy
After the burning of proud Ilion.
But you, why do you turn back so annoyed?
Why don’t you climb the Mount Delectable
The cause and the beginning of all joy?”

Virgil derives from the Roman family name Vergilius, which is of unknown meaning. During the Late Roman Empire and the Middle Ages, Vergilius morphed into Virgilius. This happened either because of a false etymology with the Latin word virgo (virgin) and Virgil’s excessive modesty, or an analogy between the Latin word virga (wand) and the prophetic, magical powers attributed to Virgil during the Middle Ages. Though I tend to prefer the authentic forms of names, I far prefer Virgil to Vergil. The E spelling looks kind of ugly to me.

Virgil was of course the author of The Aeneid, Latin’s greatest epic, about legendary hero Aeneas escaping Troy at the end of the Trojan War, having many adventures, and eventually founding Rome. He worked on the book during his final 11 years. I’m long overdue to revisit this book, with a better, more updated translation. Virgil also wrote The Ecologues and The Georgics.

Bearing of the Cross with St. Veronica, by Lucas van Leyden

Saint Veronica was said to have wiped Jesus’s face with her handkerchief, towel, or veil on the Via Dolorosa, and when he gave it back to her, it bore the image of his face. Every year in Rome, this artifact was exhibited at Easter and New Year. This incident is mentioned in Canto XXXI of Paradiso.

The story of Veronica wiping Jesus’s face isn’t mentioned in the Bible itself. The apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus identifies Veronica as the woman who was healed when touching Jesus’s hem on the Via Dolorosa.

Veronica is an alternate Latin form of the Macedonian name Berenike (Berenice), which means “bringing victory,” from the elements phero (to bring) and nike (victory). The original Greek form is Pherenike. The spelling was influenced by the Latin phrase vera icon, “true image.” It only became popular as an English name in the 19th century.

Veronika is the spelling used in most of Eastern and Central Europe; Weronika is the Polish version; Verónica is the Spanish form; Véronique is the French form; and Verônica is Portuguese.