Thanks for that info Thurston. Let me start by saying that I'm not proposing anything in particular here, my question arises because I have seen that there is a false paradigm going the rounds at the moment about archery in the bronze age. And then because I noticed an odd coincidence about the name Hercules and the old root of 'arc' as a bow.
Archery definitely took a backward step around 1000 BC or a bit earlier, and people are buried with the new bling of swords and such, rather than arrows as previously seen. Its interesting that the wristguards in many earlier high status burials suddenly disappear, but these weren't apparently 'real' wristguards, they were stone amulets worn on the outside of the arm as some religious artefact. So the disappearance of the arrows and wristguards signifies a religious shift, not a shift out of archery, which we have other evidence for as continuing to exist in military terms (although a lesser status, but to assume no battles were ever fought, no duns ever needed defending, except by a heroic one-on-one fight, is romantic overkill, not full reality).
At the same time, we have literally oodles of instances of archery and famous archers in all the cultures of the west that I've looked at, and these stories are often at key points in stories, as though they are a primary element in the tale, not as something just tacked on as an afterthought. Meaning, that archery was never abandoned, in warfare or in mythology.
So my question then is this, that if the paradigm that archery disappeared is wildly incorrect, then we need to look again at the words for bow/arrow/archer, and reassess them and their history. And in the middle of that search, the greatest archer of mythology turns up with a name that looks surprising like the old root for 'herk-' bow. Now that may just be a strange coincidence, or maybe not, this is point where I reach the limit of my competence and need to ask an expert linguist who has a chance of answering the question linguistically speaking.
Before I get on to Hercules, its interesting the placenames that are mentioned in the piece you sent through, that some of them are in Arkaddia, which is said to be named after Arcas, the archer who is turned into Ursa Minor. And the coincidences begin to pile up ...
In general I have no problem with all the folk etymology of trying to figure out how and why Herakles is so named. Nor should we expect anything less than localisation to his stories, because that is a common experience of myths, especially one that take on such significance to the Greeks as this one did. The thing that raises a flag is that all these people, from ancient Greece up to now, all have to struggle to try to explain the name. But if Herakles was originally a hero from the north western EU areas, then of course we should expect the Greeks to normalise it to something they can 'understand'.
Another big problem with the Labours of Hercules that people have struggled with now for millennia, is that there are many indications that his labours have to do with the zodiacal constellations. But the problem is that it is a struggle to fit them into the then current Greek/Western/Babylonian astrology. Some fit, some just don't. And as I'll talk about in a minute, Hercules himself isn't portrayed in a constellation until many centuries after the story exists. But what if these labours fit a slightly alternative zodiacal scheme? ie. the Celtic one, or some other? And if we start thinking about stags and boars and such, we are right into key Celtic themes.
I haven't made a big study of this history of Hercules. But this is a brief outline. Pindar c. 522 – c. 443 BC knows some story about Herakles, but he already has trouble with the name, and claims that the story belongs to a hero when he had another name. So already the name is problematic. Over the next centuries especially from around 300bc to 0ad the myth of Herakles takes off in a big way in the intellectual circle of Greece, but, his name remains a subject of angst. But note here, that we are well over half a millennium into the period when modern people are claiming there is virtually no archery, and yet here we have the greatest archer of them all being fated as the world's greatest champion. We just cant have this both ways!!
Interestingly though, we perhaps can see the Greek myth evolving over time, as Herakles according to WP wasn't "accepted into the Olympian Pantheon [until] Classical times". And of course today we tend to hear the story through Roman mouths, so we tend to think of him as always being superhero and son of Zeus. But perhaps the most telling fact here to show that Herakles was being adopted and developed in Greece, is that he doesn't show up in Greek/Babylonian astronomy. And for such a significant hero, this is a major lack. In Babylonian starmaps, the constellation that we today know as Hercules, is a 'standing man'. The Greek poet Aratus 315 BC/310 BC – 240 BC (note here we are well into the period when the story of Hercules is prevalent in Greek culture) says that the constellation is known as The Kneeler: Right there in its [Draco's] orbit wheels a Phantom form, like to a man that strives at a task. That sign no man knows how to read clearly, nor what task he is bent, but men simply call him On His Knees [Ἐγγόνασιν "the Kneeler"]. So at this late point, the constellation still isn't called for Heracles. What's really fascinating about this statement though is that archers in early art are commonly depicted on their knees as they draw back the bow.
Ptolemy c. AD 100 – c. 170 finally lists the constellation as Heracles. And Dionysius c. 60 BC – after 7 BC is busy trying to explain why the great champion is now on his knees. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dionysius_of_Halicarnassus. So we can see how late this elevation into the stars was. ( BTW, this constellation of Hercules has the shape of a swastika, a symbol which we find going back millennia in rock art. )
And one last thing of interest is this story that I'll mention, is that this constellation picture of kneeling Hercules with his club and bow, the super strong champion, is the same one that is related by a Gaul to be the same as Ogma. Ogma, the god who is the 'champion' of the TDD, but who we also know has a strong connection to fine speech. I haven't been able to find anything that connects Ogma to a famous bow, but if anyone comes across anything please let me know? So I'm not sure how this fits, or whether its a false friend, or what.
So, here's the question again. Is it linguistically possible, long before the story reached Greece, that the name Hercules has arisen from the ancient word herk/arc for bow?
On Tue, 8 Mar 2016 14:26:03 +0000, Thurston Shaylor <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>On Tue, 8 Mar 2016 01:57:25 +0000, Helen McKay <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>>Thanks Martin. What you say about 'cles' is fine. And its also said that the Hera- part is from Hera (who basically hated him, so why would he be >her champion?)
>What about the morrigan and Cú Chulainn - maybe a hero needs to be provoked onto greatness? With respect to the name though there's a good summary in Emma Stafford's Herakles:
>"One line of enquiry which was popular in antiquity was etymology, the attempt to discover the truth about a thing by analyzing its name. Most ancient writers interpreted Herakles’ name as meaning ‘glory (kleos) of Hera’, some attempting to explain the apparent paradox this involves, given Herakles’ notoriously bad relationship with the goddess. According to Pindar (fr. 291 SM), the hero was originally called Alkeides, ‘descendant of Alkaios’, but was renamed Herakles by Hera herself in grudging recognition that his kleos had been won as result of her harassment; Apollodoros attributes this name change to the Delphic oracle. According to Diodoros (4.10.1) and others the original name was simply Alkaios (‘Strong’), which would reflect what we know of historical naming practices, since this is the name of his paternal grandfather. The change to Herakles was made by the people of Argos, impressed by the infant hero’s feat in strangling the snakes sent by Hera, or else it came about much later, when Herakles had assisted Hera by overcoming the giant Porphyrion. Such explanations have not entirely satisfied modern scholars. The name appears to be formed on a principle common to many others familiar from ancient Greece, i.e. by adding a suffix to the name of a deity – Herodotus and Apollodoros are ‘gifts’ of Hera and Apollo respectively, while Herakles is exactly paralleled by Diokles and Themistokles, ‘glory of’ Zeus (‘Dios’ is the genitive case) and Themis, goddess of Order. This kind of name might well reflect the parents’ relationship with a particular deity, expressing thanks for answered prayers or dedicating the child to the god’s future protection. As goddess of marriage, as well as principle deity of the city of Argos, Hera would be an entirely appropriate choice for real Argolid parents to honour in the naming of their son. Farnell (1921, 99–101) indeed took the very normal formulation of Herakles’ name as support for the supposition that he began his career as a mortal (whether fictional or real) and was only later deified. Pötscher (1971) dispensed with the apparent inappropriateness of ‘glory of Hera’ by supposing an original version of the story in which Herakles’ deeds were performed on Hera’s orders, to which the motifs of Hera’s hostility and jealousy of Alkmene were only added subsequently. More recently, West (1997, 471) has revived the theory that the first part of Herakles’ name is related to the word hêrôs, ‘hero’, as well as to Hera, both of which may be derived from the Indo-European root *yêr- meaning ‘year’."
>>The problem I think is that this name is probably really ancient, so that each culture may have over the many centuries adapted his name to >something that makes sense to them in their language. That's a common adaption of famous names and places. So we know that Hercules >wasn't a native Greek hero, he had to come from somewhere else, so my question is whether the story was a SW European one first? not the >other way round ...?
>Can you expand on your idea that he isn't a native Greek hero and had come from somewhere else? The name seems Greek and his story has a very specific geographic focus:
>"It is certainly true that Herakles has a strong mythological attachment to the Argolid, as we have seen in the story of his ancestry. Six of his labours are set in various parts of the Peloponnese, and their traditional sequence follows a geographical expansion which adherents of the historicist approach would see as representing the historical spread of Argive power: Nemea (the lion) and Lerna (the hydra) are in the Argolid itself; Mount Erymanthos (the boar), Keryneia (the hind) and Lake Stymphalos (the birds) in Arkadia; and the stables of Augeias at Olympia"
>Which aspects are you suggesting come from somewhere else? I know one Latin story of Hercules was thought to have been borrowed across to him from a native figure named Recaranus or Garanus for example?