How did Paros get its name and what does it mean in Greek mythology?
Paros is a beautiful island in the central Aegean Sea, part of the Cyclades group. It is famous for its white marble, its picturesque villages, its sandy beaches and its rich history. But how did Paros get its name and what does it mean in Greek mythology? In this blog post, we will explore the origins and the legends of this enchanting island.
The name of Paros
The name of Paros has been associated with different sources and meanings throughout the centuries. According to one version, the island was named after Paros, the leader of the Arcadians who colonized it in ancient times. Paros was a son of Parrhasius, a king of Arcadia, and a descendant of Lycaon, the first king of Arcadia who was turned into a wolf by Zeus for his impiety. Paros led his people to the island after they were attacked by the Dorians and established a city on the site of the present capital of Parikia.
However, this story is considered to be an etymological fiction, a common phenomenon in Greek legends that tries to explain the origin of a name by inventing a mythical ancestor or a heroic deed. In fact, ancient names of the island are said to have been Plateia (or Pactia), Demetrias, Strongyle (meaning round, due to the round shape of the island), Hyria, Hyleessa, Minoa and Cabarnis. Some of these names may reflect the pre-Greek inhabitants of the island, such as the Carians, the Leleges or the Pelasgians, who left traces of their culture and language in some toponyms and inscriptions.
Another version connects the name of Paros with the Phoenician word parosy or parathy (meaning ivory), referring to the color and quality of the island’s marble. Indeed, Paros was renowned in antiquity for its fine white marble, which gave rise to the term “Parian” to describe marble or china of similar qualities. The Parian marble was used for many famous sculptures and buildings, such as the Temple of Zeus at Olympia, the Venus de Milo, the Hermes of Praxiteles and many others. The island had numerous quarries and mines, some of which are still visible today.
A third version relates the name of Paros with the verb paro (meaning to pass by or to stop), implying that the island was a convenient stopover for travelers and sailors in the Aegean Sea. Paros was indeed strategically located in the center of the Cyclades and had fertile land and natural harbors. It was an important maritime power and a commercial center since ancient times, trading goods with Egypt, Assyria, Crete and other regions. It was also a cultural hub, producing many poets, sculptors and philosophers.
The mythology of Paros
As with most Greek islands, Paros has its share of myths and legends that reflect its history and identity. Some of these myths are:
- The myth of Alkaios: According to this myth, Alkaios was the first king of Paros and a son of Minos, the legendary king of Crete. He built a city on the site of Parikia and named it Minoa after his father. He also introduced the worship of Apollo and Artemis on the island. He had a son named Nausithous who became the king of Phaeacia (a mythical island that hosted Odysseus) and a grandson named Alcinous who married Arete, a daughter of Rhexenor (a king of Athens).
- The myth of Archilochus: Archilochus was one of the most famous lyric poets of ancient Greece and a native of Paros. He lived in the 7th century BC and wrote poems about love, war, politics and personal experiences. He was known for his sharp wit and his use of personal elements instead of heroic ones in his poetry. He was also a soldier who fought against Thasos (a neighboring island) and died in battle. According to a legend, he was killed by a Thasian soldier named Calondas who threw a spear at him while he was looking at his shield, which he had dropped to save his life. Calondas was later cursed by the oracle of Delphi for killing a servant of the Muses and died of a disease.
- The myth of Parian Chronicle: The Parian Chronicle was a marble stele that contained a chronological list of events from the creation of the world to 264 BC. It was made by the Parians in the 3rd century BC and was dedicated to Apollo. It was discovered in Paros in 1627 and is now kept in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It is one of the most valuable sources of ancient Greek history and chronology. Some of the events recorded in the Parian Chronicle are: the flood of Deucalion, the Trojan War, the foundation of Rome, the birth of Homer, the Persian Wars, the Peloponnesian War, the rise of Alexander the Great and many others.
These are some of the stories that make Paros a fascinating island with a rich heritage and a unique charm. If you want to discover more about Paros, you can visit its archaeological sites, its museums, its churches, its villages and its beaches. You can also enjoy its local cuisine, its festivals, its nightlife and its hospitality. Paros is an island that will captivate you with its beauty and its spirit.
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