Ancient Greece: From the Mycenaean Palaces to the Age of Homer

By Sigrid Deger-Jalkotzy; Irene S. Lemos | Go to book overview

2

WANAKS AND RELATED POWER TERMS
IN MYCENAEAN AND LATER GREEK

Thomas G. Palaima

There have been numerous advances in scholarship1 (since Carlier, Royauté and Palaima 19952) affecting the interpretation of the two lexical items (wa-na-ka = later wanaks and qa-si-re-u = later basileus) and related terms (e.g., lāwāgetās and e-ke-ra2-wo) associated with the concept 'king' within Greek language and culture. Here I shall deal with them systematically under various subject headings that I hope are more than arbitrary. My main aim is to demonstrate that the most recently proposed etymologies of the term wanaks either confuse the functions of the wanaks within the Mycenaean texts for the essential meaning (and ideological basis) of the word itself or are attractive as explanations for the meaning of the term, but ultimately unconvincing in accounting for its history.

I argue that the essential meaning of the wanaks has to do, as in Hittite, with 'birth, begetting and fertility' and then with 'lineage'.3 I then discuss many aspects of the attested functions of the wanaks in Mycenaean society.


THE ETYMOLOGY OF WA-NA-KA, QA-SI-RE-U AND E-KE-RA2-WO:
LINEAR B, HITTITE AND HOMER

There are no convincing, that is, widely accepted, Indo-European etymologies of the Mycenaean terms wa-na-ka (later Greek

) and qa-si-re-u (later Greek

1 I dedicate this paper to the late Kees Ruijgh whose scholarly erudition, integrity, deep huma-
nity and generosity are sorely missed by all of us who still work at the Mycenaean texts that he
understood so deeply and explicated so clearly. I was helped in writing this paper by discussions
with graduate students in Austin, particularly Kerri Cox, Amy Dill, Stephie Nikoloudis and
Dimitri Nakassis. Mark Southern and Sara Kimball advised me on some Hittite matters. All
flaws in what I present here are mine.

2 See also Carlier 1990 and 1995 and Kilian 1988.

3 I rely on the Hittite evidence for four reasons: (1) the contemporaneity and proximity of the
Hittite culture to the Mycenaean; (2) the relatively ample written historical documentation per-
tinent to activities and functions of specific Hittite kings and to the ideology and practice of
Hittite kingship; (3) the Hittites had reached a level of state formation more advanced than the
Mycenaeans and under roughly parallel conditions; (4) the Hittite institution of kingship was
heavily influenced by preceding indigenous and surrounding cultures, which I have come to
believe is also the case with Mycenaean kingship.

-53-

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