Examination of Macedonian Names of 14th Century in the Themes of Thessalonike and Strymon reveals the Greek Character of Macedonia.
THE study of names can tell us a great deal about a society, for names are primarily a means of social identification. People identify themselves or are identified by others in ways which may reveal kinship patterns, migration movements, economic differentiation or social stratification, superstitious beliefs. Children may habitually be named after the paternal or maternal grandparents, after parents or Siblings. Names may show adherence to a religion or to superstition: the Byzantine parents who named their children Aporicto or Evreto (“rejected” and “founding”) were trying to deceive death, while a man named Prousenos testified to his parents’ nostalgia for a lost homeland in Asia Minor. Proper or family names which continue over more than one generation can show the interest of the family itself or of the state in identifying people over time.
The Byzantine peasants in Macedonia of the fourteenth century were commonly identified by a baptismal or given name and some other form of identification: a profession, an indication of geographical origin, a nickname, or an indication of relationship to someone else. Both the given names and the “family” names are of interest here.
Some names are very common. Men are often named Nikolaos, Demetrios, Konstantinos, Ioannes, Vasileios, Michael, Manouel, Stamates, Theodoros. Somewhat less frequent are the names Modestos, Nikephoros, Theiotokios, Kyriakos, Foteinos, Athanasios, Petros, Alexios, Stefanos, Xenos. Most of these, with the exception of Xenos, Alexios, Modestos and Foteinos, are also common modern Greek names. On the other hand, Evangelos and Eleutherios, which occur frequently in modern Greece, are rare in the fourteenth century.
Women were most often called Maria and Anna (as in modern Greece), Zoe, Arete, Chryse, Argyre, Kale, Theodora, Eirene, Xene, Eudokia, Elene, Georgia, and less frequently Vasilike, Ioannousa, Kyriakia, Rossana or Rossa, Siligno, Sophia, Foteine, Theophano, Stammatike, and Marina. The name Aikaterine, one of the commonest modern Greek names, is very rarely encountered.Some Christian names are very similar to those found among the peasants of the Morea in the same period. They fall into three categories:
(1) Those referring to God, the Virgin, and Christ;
(2) Saints’ names; and
(3) Those deriving from feasts of the Christian calendar.