Namesakes and King

So, when we examine more and more cultures and sites, we inevitably come across something I personally to find to be very interesting: Names. How we define things when we talk about them is of critical importance.  Often times, the names the names we use for a civilization is completely different than the one used by the people of that civilization/culture.

 A good example of this would be China. The name for China in Chinese is “Zhongguo.” With it’s Japanese name being “Chugoku.” Namely, it sounds fairly different from the English name of “China.” So, the question then becomes where names of these things come from? In my mind, one thing starts to arise: Kings.

So what strikes as being the most prolific is how history tends to emphasize the the power of individuals. And of course, who would be the most powerful and influential but Kings?

The Namesakes from Kings: 

So I’d like to take my time here and discuss How Kings have Influenced the naming of various things in history. An example we discussed in class would be the Sapa Inca. Inca itself meaning “King.” And of course, then when we refer to their civilization, we call them “Inca.”

Hey look, It’s a Sapa Inca!

So in this regard, a King defines the name of the people itself, which shows the importance and influence of the King. In a more extreme example, we have Qin Shihuang of the Qin Dynasty of China. It is supposed that he is the namesake of China. Being the first Chinese Emperor, his name Qin, ultimately became the namesake of his entire empire/people/country/civilization for thousands of years.

(Just to make it as painfully obvious as possible)




It’s Emperor Qin…


Kings also give names to not just their own people, but often times set precedent for rulers  that come after them. By following the name of a previous king, it also channels the authority, achievement, and power of that King. The most striking example of this seems to be the case of Julius Caesar.

Caesar was probably among the most prolific Kings (being the catch-all for ruler in this case) who ever lived. And what is important to note is that the number of titles he gave his name to. First off, it’s important to note that Caesar itself become the name of the leader of the Roman Empire, so even his successors wanted to channel his name.

It is also interesting to note though, that a variety of other European titles are derived from Caesar as well: The most notable are the Russian Tsar, and the German Kaiser, the terms for Caesar in Russian and German respectively. It was even flat out stated that by the German Chancellor (during the founding of Germany), that the name was chosen to channel the the authority of the Caesar himself.


So, I guess, I just wanted to make a point, that although we examine cultures and their contexts in Archaeology, it is also important to keep in mind the the influence of Individuals upon cultures. And in the most direct way, that’s usually some kind of King. So whether it’s  The Dolce of Italy or the Emperor of Japan, I’d implore to think not just about the events and culture, but the people within them, and how they fit into the Big Picture.


3 thoughts on “Namesakes and King

  1. I, too, have had the same thought that the names we have encountered in the course this semester have been very interesting. To me, this includes both the names of the civilizations we have studied as well as the names of the leaders. For instance, I was surprised to learn that the Inca civilization was named after their kings. And the kings weren’t really named “Inca” as much as they were titled “Inca” by their people.
    I have always thought that there is so much in a name. For new parents, sometimes their scariest or biggest responsibility is in the naming of their newly born child or children. Whether we as people tend to live up to the name we were given or there exists some unexplainable force that pushes parents toward naming their children according to their future personality characteristics, it is fairly obvious that people tend to fit their names. Of course, we live in a time where anyone can change their name, and with it, their entire identity. Therefore, it is not surprising that certain historical people (and people in pop culture!) choose to rename themselves with something that is more appropriate for the image they wish to portray to the public.
    I think this is exemplified in your post, especially considering the part about Caesar. Because Julius Caesar made the position of emperor appear to powerful and therefore the name so desirable, all future emperors wished to show that they had the same power by also going by Caesar.

  2. What a great way to compare all of the topics that we’ve learned about in this course as language is a feature common to almost all human cultures.You bring up very interesting points about the nature of language and its great importance with kingship. Even though it seems silly to think that something as simplistic as the noise that comes from one’s mouth could mean the difference between someone being considered royalty or just another peasant. You’re point about Caesar is key to why namesake matters so much (the Cartoon Network reference is awesome by the way). Succeeding rulers of that empire adopted parts of his name to help and try and prove that their ruling was legitimate. This is not the only example of this. In the Mayan empire in particular, keeping your kingship was not as easy as one would imagine. It was a constant struggle to maintain kingship, and namesake was a common way to connect way that kings connected themselves with previous rulers.

    Another key point that you bring up is difference between native language and English, and how things as fundamental as the name for the region itself may be drastically different as to what we are familiar with. It is easy for people, especially those that only know one language much like myself, to have the naïve belief that their language is sole way that everyone describes things. This is certainly not the case. It makes me wonder what other names we have also given to other ancient artifacts or sites that might have been drastically different from the terms used in antiquity. As was stressed heavily in the class, context is everything, for which language cannot be excluded.

  3. I also have wondered about the names that we have seen throughout the entire class. I think it would be an amazing to put faces to all the names we have talked about in class. I guess i never realized that Inca was named by the ruler either its seems like a very interesting concept that the Inca followed. Names are very important and to be able to name the entire empire after your won name is a great honor.
    I also think this was a great way to link almost all of the topics together. Every topic that the professor talked about had a great ruler. Most of the time it seemed that most of the ruler, leaders, kings had very similar names. I dont know if this was just coincidental or was it the fact that people named their children lose to the names of the leaders in order to possible gain some type of royal lineage.

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