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Oct 29

What does the Greek name "Damneion" mean? Was that even a real name or a title?

1 comment

In Book XX, Chapter 9, Section 1 of the Antiquities, Josephus writes that when the Roman governor Albinus was away, the "very insolent" high priest Ananus ( Ἄνανος), son of Ananus stoned James, " the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ". So Albinus wrote that he would punish Ananus and Herod Agrippa removed him from the high priesthood and replaced Ananus with "Jesus, the son of Damneus". (Ἰησοῦν τὸν τοῦ Δαμναίου).

In subsequent sections, Josephus apparently refers to Ananus as "Ananias". In Chp. 9, Section 2, Josephus writes about the high priest Ananias and the high priest Jesus, saying that "the high priest, Ananias ( Ἀνανίας)... increased in glory every day, and this to a great degree, and had obtained the favor and esteem of the citizens in a signal manner; for he was a great hoarder up of money: he therefore cultivated the friendship of Albinus, and of the high priest [Jesus], by making them presents". Loeb's Edition of the Antiquities has a footnote that "Ananias" could be another name for "Ananus". In 1st century Judea, there were high priests, and some of them held office, whereas others did not. To give a comparison, today there are rabbis, ministers, retired rabbis and retired ministers).

In Chp. 9, Section 4, Josephus talks about Jesus ben Damnaeus again: "And now Jesus, the son of Gamaliel, became the successor of Jesus, the son of Damneus, in the high priesthood, which the king [Agrippa] had taken from the other".

(You can read the Antiquities in Greek and English here: http://perseus.uchicago.edu/perseus-cgi/citequery3.pl?dbname=GreekTexts&getid=0&query=Joseph.%20AJ%2020.202

And here: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/josephus/ant-20.html )

My first question is: What does the name "Damneion" mean in Greek?

When Josephus refers to Ἰησοῦν τὸν τοῦ Δαμναίου, isn't the last name there a declension of Δαμναιος? Does Damneion come from the Greek word δαμνάω/δάμνημι, meaning to overpower, control, subdue? If so, does the name Damneion mean Overpowered / Subdued?

My second question is: Could that really be the person's first name?

On very rare occasion, there were ancient high priests with Greek names (eg. Theophilus in the 1st century, and Alexander and Antigonus in the 1st cent. BC). But the name "Damneus" or "Damneion" never shows up anywhere as a person's name except in the case of this person in Josephus' Antiquities. My theory is that the person's name was not really Damneion, but that Josephus, who was writing for the Roman nobility, was using the name as part of his artistic license. In ancient Rome, there was a practice of erasing disgraced or condemned (in Latin, I think that this is "Damnatio") political figures' names called abolitio nominis (abolition of the name). In modern times, this is called " Damnatio memoriae". My theory is that Josephus was calling the person "Damneion" as a kind of "abolitio nominis" out of disrespect. Maybe "Damneion" was really a disgraced figure like Ananus, whom Josephus dislikes and whom he perhaps later calls "Ananias" instead of using his other name, Ananus. How would you answer these two main questions?

Oct 30Edited: Oct 30

Syncellus theorizes that it means Edomite: ιδουμαιος Georgius Syncellus, Ecloga chronographica, p. 413 line 27

A.A. Mosshammer, Georgius Syncellus. Ecloga chronographica, Leipzig: Teubner, 1984: 1-478. Damneion though is a much different word than Idumean. I think that it is not the meaning. But it shows that Syncellus did not take the name to actually be a real normal first name of Damneion. Also, thanks (to BPK) for confirming that it's a Hapax, never showing up elsehwere in Josephus. Benjamin Kantor, BPK , said it looks like Subduer in the chat box. (" It is difficult to know with so little information. It has a nominal morpheme ending on it, naturally, so perhaps something like 'subduer' yes ")

 

A analogous name that Ben gave is νικητης meaning victor (feminine)/ So based on this response, it looks like a real name or honorific that his father could have been given.

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