Naxos is a Greek island and the largest of the Cyclades. It is famous for its rich history, culture, and natural beauty. But how did Naxos get its name and what does it mean in Greek mythology? In this blog post, we will explore the origins and meanings of the name Naxos, as well as some of the myths and legends associated with the island.
The origins of the name Naxos
The name Naxos has been used since ancient times, but its etymology is uncertain. There are several possible sources and meanings for the name, depending on different traditions and interpretations. Here are some of the most common ones:
Naxos, son of Endymion:
According to one myth, Naxos was the son of Endymion, a king of Elis who was loved by the moon goddess Selene. Endymion had four sons: Aetolus, Paeon, Epeius, and Naxos. Naxos was the eponym of the island of Naxos, where he settled and ruled.
Naxos, son of Apollo:
According to another myth, Naxos was the son of Apollo, the god of light, music, and prophecy, and Acacallis, a daughter of Minos, the king of Crete. Acacallis was banished by her father for her love affair with Apollo, and she gave birth to Naxos on the island of Dia (another name for Naxos). Naxos became the king of the island and named it after himself.
Naxos, son of Polemon:
According to a third myth, Naxos was the son of Polemon, a king of Lydia who was descended from Heracles. When the Carians from Latmia invaded the island of Strongyle (the old name for Naxos), they made Naxos their king because he was an upright and famous man.
Nasso, the Italian name:
Under Venetian rule, from 1207 to 1564 CE, the island was called by its Italian name, Nasso. This name may have derived from the Latin word nassa, meaning “basket”, referring to the shape of the island or its abundant fishing resources.
The meaning of Naxos in Greek mythology
Naxos also has a significant role and meaning in Greek mythology. The island is connected to several gods and heroes who had important events or adventures there. Here are some of the most notable ones:
Zeus was the king of the gods and the ruler of Olympus. He was born in Crete but was raised in Naxos by his grandmother Gaia (the earth goddess) and his foster mother Amalthea (a goat nymph). He grew up in a cave on Mount Zas (meaning “Zeus”), where he received his thunderbolt from an eagle. Zeus was worshipped on Naxos as Zeus Melosios, patron of sheep and shepherds.
Dionysus was the god of wine, festivities, and the primal energy of life. He was the son of Zeus and Semele, a mortal princess who died when she saw Zeus in his full glory. Zeus saved their unborn child by stitching him into his thigh, and Dionysus was born on Naxos. He was raised by three nymphs: Filia, Kleide, and Koronis, who hid him in a cave from the wrath of Hera (Zeus’ wife). Dionysus loved Naxos so much that he made its land fertile with vineyards and wine. He was worshipped on Naxos as Dionysus Eleutherios (meaning “the liberator”).
Ariadne was the daughter of Minos and Pasiphae, the king and queen of Crete. She helped Theseus, a hero from Athens, to kill the Minotaur (a half-bull half-human creature) and escape from the Labyrinth (a maze-like structure). She eloped with Theseus but he abandoned her on Naxos, either by his own will or by the intervention of Dionysus. Dionysus fell in love with Ariadne and married her on Naxos. He gave her a crown of stars that became the constellation of Corona Borealis. Ariadne was worshipped on Naxos as Ariadne Aphrodite (meaning “the lovely one”).
Apollo was the god of light, music, and prophecy. He was the son of Zeus and Leto, a titaness who gave birth to him and his twin sister Artemis on the island of Delos. Apollo was associated with Naxos and its neighboring islands as the leader of the Cyclades (meaning “the circular islands”). He was worshipped on Naxos as Apollo Delios (meaning “the Delian one”) and Apollo Aigletes (meaning “the goat-like one”), patron of goats, florists, and musicians.
Naxos is a fascinating island with a rich and diverse history and mythology. Its name has various possible origins and meanings, reflecting its cultural and historical influences. Its myths and legends reveal its connections to some of the most prominent gods and heroes of ancient Greece, who shaped its identity and character. Naxos is an island that deserves to be explored and appreciated for its beauty and significance.
- Stephanus of Byzantium, s.v. Naxos
- Apollodorus, 1.7.6
- Scholia on Apollonius Rhodius, 4.1492
- Diodorus Siculus, 5.51.3
- Pausanias, 5.1.4
- Naxos – Wikipedia
- Naxos island in Mythology | Naxos History | Greece