Klytemnestra and Kronos

Klytemnestra (Clytemnestra, Clytaemnestra, Klytaimnḗstra, Klytaimḗstra) was the wife of the great hero Agamemnon, mother of Iphigenia, ElektraOrestes, and Chrysothemis, and Queen of Mycenae. Her parents were King Tyndareus and Queen Leda of Sparta.

Zeus famously took on the form of a swan to couple with Leda. Since Leda slept with both Tyndareus and Zeus on that same night, she produced two eggs, with two kids each. One egg produced Klytemnestra and Helen; the other produced Castor and Pollux.

Accounts vary on who fathered whom, and which ones were Divine and which half-immortal. The only consistencies are that Helen was fathered by Zeus, and that if only one of the boy/boy twins is Divine, it’s Pollux.

Leda and the Swan, by Francesco Bacchiacca

Klytemnestra married Agamemnon, and Helen married his brother Menelaus, when they were hiding from their double-cousin Aegisthus. He’d murdered their father, King Atreus, and sworn gruesome revenge upon his children.

According to Euripides, Klytemnestra’s first husband was King Tantalus of Pisa, whom Agamemnon murdered before marrying her. The infant son she’d had with Tantalus was also murdered by Agamemnon. In another version, Klytemnestra’s first husband was the King of Lydia.

Before the Trojan War, Agamemnon killed a deer in a sacred grove of Artemis. She punished Agamemnon by interfering with the winds and making it impossible for his fleet to sail to Troy.

The seer Calchas told Agamemnon to sacrifice his oldest daughter Iphigenia to appease Artemis. This horrified Agamemnon, and he refused to do it until he succumbed to intense pressure from the other commanders. Iphigenia was tricked into coming to Aulis with Klytemnestra, believing she was going to marry Achilles.

The Anger of Achilles, by Jacques-Louis David, 1819

Agamemnon tried to back out of it, and Achilles was pissed when he discovered he’d been used as part of this most dastardly plot. He and Klytemnestra pled with Agamemnon to spare Iphigenia. In some versions, Iphigenia was spared.

During the ten years of the Trojan War, Klytemnestra began an affair with Agamemnon’s evil cousin Aegisthus. Her heart burnt with hatred on account of Iphigenia’s sacrifice, and her first husband’s murder.

Agamemnon arrived home with his own side lover, the seer Kassandra, who had a horrible vision of their murders. Sadly, no one believed her prophecies, due to a curse from Apollo. In the best-known version, Klytemnestra murders Agamemnon in the bathtub. Aegisthus then took the throne, and had three kids with Klytemnestra.

Clytemnestra Hesitates Before Killing the Sleeping Agamemnon, by Pierre-Narcisse Guérin, 1817

Klytemnestra’s only son by Agamemnon, Orestes, eventually murdered her and his half-brother Aletes.

Klytemnestra is derived from klytos (noble, famous) and mnester (wooer, courter). The original form, Klytaimestra, may have a link to medomai (to scheme, to court).

Kronos was the youngest of the first generation of Titans, the son/nephew of Gaia and Uranus, and the father of Zeus. His Roman name is Saturn.

Uranus hated his kids, and hid them within Gaia’s body, causing her great pain. That all changed when Gaia made an adamantine sickle for Kronos and bade him hide in ambush. When Uranus approached Gaia to couple with her, Kronos sprang out and castrated him. The dripping blood produced the Furies, Meliae (ash tree nymphs), and Giants. Aphrodite was born from Uranus’s severed genitals falling into the sea.

Kronos’s queen was his sister Rhea. They ruled Ancient Greece’s Golden Age, the first of five Ages of Man [sic]. We’re currently in the Iron Age, a period of sadness, strife, turmoil, and brute force, comparable to Hinduism’s Kali Yuga. There was no need for laws during the Golden Age, since everyone did the right thing automatically.

Kronos knew he’d be overthrown by his kids, just as he’d overthrown Uranus. Thus, he swallowed each right after birth. With Gaia’s help, Rhea switched Zeus with a stone wrapped in swaddling-clothes. After Zeus grew to manhood, raised away from Kronos, he either cut Kronos’s stomach open or gave him an emetic to free his older siblings Poseidon, Demeter, Hades, Hera, and Hestia.

Zeus and his siblings waged war against Kronos and the other Titans, with the help of their newly-freed siblings the Cyclopses and Hecatonchires (Hundred-Handed Ones). All but six of the Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus. Accounts vary on Kronos’s fate.

Kronos may be derived from the Proto–Indo–European ker, “to cut.”

Chronos and Circe

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Marble statue of Chronos in the Knight’s Hall (Warsaw Royal Castle), Copyright Kalinka261015

Chronos, not to be confused with Zeus’s father Cronus (Kronos), is the personification of Time in Greek mythology. Indeed, his very name means “time.”

According to the Orphic tradition, Chronos, who never ages, produced Chaos and Aether, two of the fifteen primordial deities. Chronos himself is also a primordial deity. Aether (i.e., Ether) personifies the pure upper air which the other deities breathe, and Chaos was the first thing to come into existence.

The Orphic tradition goes on to depict Chronos as having created a silvery egg in the Divine Aether. This egg produced Phanes, the hermaphroditic deity of procreation and the generation of new life. Phanes birthed the first generation of official deities, and thus became the ultimate creator of the cosmos.

Pherecydes of Syros believed Chronos to be one of the three eternal principles, the others being Zeus and Chthonie (who ruled the subterranean realm). In this version of events, Chronos’s semen was put in recesses, from whence it produced the first official generation of deities.

Painted by Beatrice Offor, 1911

Circe is a goddess of magic, and alternately depicted as a witch, sorcerer, enchanter, or nymph. Most sources name her as the daughter of sun god Helios and Oceanid Perse, though a few sources say her mother was Hecate, goddess of witchcraft.

Circe was known far and wide for her most extensive knowledge of herbs and potions. With her potions, herbs, and magic wand, she transformed her enemies, and those who offended her, into animals. Perhaps most famously, she transformed Odysseus’s men into pigs in Homer’s Odyssey.

Some traditions say Helios and her subjects exiled her to the mythological island of Aeaea (a.k.a. Eëa or Aiaía) for killing her husband, the prince of Colchis. Aeaea is the setting of the Circe episode in The Odyssey. Later traditions depict Circe leaving or destroying the island and moving to Italy.

The Wine of Circe, by Edward Burne-Jones

When Odysseus and his men arrived on Aeaea, they found Circe in a mansion in the middle of a clearing in a dense forest. They were very taken aback at how docile the wolves and lions wandering around were, not suspecting they were Circe’s victims.

By supper, Circe laced the food with one of her magical potions and served from an enchanted cup. After Odysseus’s men made figurative pigs of themselves, Circe turned them into literal pigs with her magic wand. Eurylochus, the second-in-command of the ship going home to Ithaca, suspected a trick, and escaped.

When he went back to the ship to warn Odysseus and the others who’d stayed behind, Odysseus went to rescue his men. On his way to Circe’s mansion, Athena sent the messenger god Hermes with special instructions. Odysseus was to use the holy herb moly to protect himself from Circe’s spells, and then to draw his sword and make as if he were going to attack her.

Odysseus chasing Circe. Lower tier of an Attic red-figure calyx-krater, Copyright Marie-Lan Nguyen (2011)

Odysseus managed to free his men, but he couldn’t resist the temptations of the flesh. He stayed on Aeaea for a year, with Circe as his mistress. He wasn’t exactly as faithful as Penelope during his 10-year voyage home, even if he was true to her in his heart while he was boinking all these other women.

Some traditions say Circe and Odysseus had three sons, given various names. Circe has also been a very popular subject for artists, writers, musicians, and dancers over the centuries.

Circe is the Latinized form of Kirke, which may possibly mean “bird.”

The many forms of Claudia

I’ve always really liked the name Claudia, and am really glad it’s so low down in the Top 1000. It would be a shame if such a lovely, underrated name shoots up the charts and becomes super-trendy overnight. In the U.S., it was #714 in 2015, and #314 in England and Wales. The name is more popular in Catalonia (#12), Galicia (#24), Italy (#65), Spain (#14), and Romania (#49).

The spelling Claudia is used in English, Italian, Spanish, Romanian, German, and Dutch. The variation Cláudia is Portuguese, and Clàudia is Catalan. Other forms include:

1. Klaudia is Polish, Hungarian, Slovak, Czech, and German. One of my Hungarian characters is named Klaudia, with the less-common nickname Udika. More common Hungarian nicknames are Dia, Klaudi, and Klau.

2. Klavdia is Greek and Georgian.

3. Klavdiya is Russian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian, with nicknames including Klava, Klasha, Klasya, Ava, Klanya, Klavdyusha, Klavdyunya, Klakha, and Klavdyukha.

4. Klaudie is Czech. The last two letters are said separately, not as one.

5. Claudie is French.

6. Claudette is a variant French form.

7. Claudine is also French.

8. Claude is a unisex French name.

9. Klavdija is Slovenian.

10. Klaudija is Croatian.

11. Gladys is Welsh.

12. Gwladys is a Welsh variation.

13. Gwladus is the original Welsh form.

14. Claudiana is Brazilian–Portuguese.

15. Kládía is Icelandic.

16. Klaoda is Breton.

17. Klääša is Sami, a native Siberian language.

18. Klaudyna is Polish.

The many nicknames for Katherine

In addition to being a venerable, versatile, timeless classic, Katherine also seems to be tied with Elizabeth as having the most nicknames, both in English and many other languages. It also has options for child-like nicknames vs. more grownup nicknames the bearer can eventually graduate to.

1. Kate/Cate is a nickname that works well on all ages.

2. Katie/Katy/Kati suggests a more youthful Katherine, the kind of nickname a young girl would go by before graduating to Kate.

3. Kathi/Kathie/Kathy/Cathy/Cathie might seem a bit dated now, since so many Boomer women have that nickname, but I’ve never found it intrinsically middle-aged. It helps when you’ve known people your age with a name more commonly associated with an older generation.

4. Kay/Kaye might be out of fashion now, but I’ve always loved this name. It’s so cute.

5. Kit is a nickname I’ve always loved, in no small part because this is the name of one of my favoritest characters.

6. Kitty is rather out of fashion, though I’ve never understood why it’s not used so much anymore. It’s so cute, and has really nice vintage vibes. The Hungarian version is Kitti, short for Katalin.

7. Kasia (KAH-shah) is the Polish nickname for Katarzyna.

8. Kaja is the Scandinavian and Slovenian nickname for Katarina, and an Estonian nickname for Katariina.

9. Kari is Norwegian.

10. Kaia is Estonian and Norwegian.

11. Katya is the Russian nickname for Yekaterina.

12. Karin is Swedish.

13. Katrin is Estonian, German, and Swedish.

14. Kadri is Estonian.

15. Kati (with a long A, not like the English Kati) is Estonian and Hungarian.

16. Käthe is the German nickname for Katharina.

17. Kätchen is German.

18. Katja is Scandinavian, Slovenian, Dutch (for Katrijn), and German.

19. Trijntje is Dutch. I think Dutch nicknames are just adorable!

20. Rina is Dutch and Italian (for Caterina).

21. Ina is Dutch, German, Scandinavian, Limburgish, and Croatian.

22. Carine is French.

23. Kát’a (pronounced like Katya) is a Czech nickname for Kateřina and a Slovak nickname for Katarína.

24. Katka is Czech and Slovak.

25. Kačenka is Czech and Slovak.

26. Katuška is Czech and Slovak.

27. Kat’ka is Czech and Slovak. The letter T’ is different from plain T, and pronounced like the TY in Katya.

28. Káča is Czech and Slovak.

29. Kačka is Czech and Slovak.

30. Katika is Hungarian.

31. Kató is Hungarian.

32. Kata is Hungarian, Finnish, and Croatian.

33. Katica is Hungarian, Slovenian, Serbian, and Croatian.

34. Karina is Scandinavian.

35. Ríona is an Irish nickname for Catriona.

36. Cáit is Irish.

37. Kajsa is Swedish.

38. Katyenka is Russian.

39. Katyusha is Russian.

40. Katrė is the Lithuanian nickname for Kotryna.

41. Tina is Dutch and Croatian.

42. Cadi is the Welsh nickname for Catrin.

43. Kaisa is Estonian and Finnish.

44. Riina is Estonian and Finnish.

45. Triinu is Estonian.

46. Karen is Danish.

47. Iina is Finnish.

48. Rini/Riny is Dutch.

49. Cato is Dutch.

50. Tineke is Dutch.

51. Eka is the Georgian nickname for Ekaterine.

52. Cátia is the Portuguese nickname for Catarina.

53. Kaatje is Dutch.

54. Kat is English.

55. Katici is Hungarian.

Graceful names

The name Grace has had a huge surge in popularity in the last twenty years. It was in the U.S. Top 20 from 1880 to 1908, and then remained first in the Top 50 and then the Top 100 until 1938. It never dropped below #397 (in 1977), but it didn’t regain its former popularity until 1995, when it re-entered the Top 100 at #97. It began surging upward quicker and quicker, peaking at #13 in 2003 and 2004. In 2015, it was #19.

If you like the name and/or its meaning, but would prefer something a bit more below the radar, here are some names to consider. As always, these could be used for fictional characters or pets, not just children. I know some of these names wouldn’t work so well in a modern, Anglophone country!

Unisex:

Chisomo is Chewa, a Bantu language spoken in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Mozambique.

Yahui can mean “graceful favour/benefit” in Chinese.

Yating is a Chinese name composed of the elements ya, which can mean “graceful, refined, elegant,” and ting, which can mean “graceful, pretty.”

Yazhu can mean “graceful lute/zither” in Chinese.

Zedong is a Chinese name composed of the elements ze, which can mean “grace, brilliance, moist,” and dong, which can mean “east.”

Female:

Amara is Igbo, a language spoken in Nigeria.

Amarachi means “God’s grace” in Igbo.

Charis is Greek.

Eun-Jeong is a Korean name composed of the elements eun, which can mean “attentive, careful, anxious” or “charity, kindness, mercy,” and jeong, which can mean “graceful, pretty.”

Ghada means “graceful woman” in Arabic.

Graça is Portuguese.

Gracia is Spanish.

Gratia is German.

Grazia is Italian.

Juan can mean “graceful” in Chinese. For obvious reasons, I wouldn’t recommend this in either an Anglophone or Hispanophone country!

Krupa is Sanskrit.

Lavanya is Sanskrit.

Na can mean “graceful” in Chinese.

Nyazik means “graceful” in Turkmen.

Sanaz may mean “full of grace” in Persian.

Seo-Yeon is a Korean name composed of the elements seo, which can mean “auspicious, felicitous omen,” and yeon, which can mean “graceful, beautiful.”

Ya can mean “graceful” in Chinese.

Yaling can mean “graceful tinkling of jade” in Chinese.

Yawen can mean “graceful cloud patterns” in Chinese.

Male:

Armo is Finnish.

Chares is Greek. This was the name of the sculptor of the Colossus of Rhodes.

Chariton is Greek.

Esmond is derived from the Old English elements east (grace) and mund (protection).

Fadl is Arabic.

Gratian comes from the Latin name Gratianus.

Hulderic means “graceful power/rule” in Ancient Germanic.

Khariton is Russian and Georgian.

Sulo is Finnish.

Zayn is Arabic.