Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Are There Examples of Individuals With the Praenomen Μαρκίων Before 'Marcion of Pontus'?

It is a question which I have often pondered - are there any examples of people with the Greek name Μαρκίων before the advent of Marcion? I have searched high and low and can't find a single example. Here are the results from an exhaustive Google Book search for Μαρκίων.

The closest I get to examples of the name Μαρκίων is the rendering of the names related to the Roman Marcia clan (named after Ancus Marcius the fourth king of Rome) into Greek. The name is NEVER used as a personal name. The best known example of this name appearing in a Greek text is in Plutarch's Coriolanus whose first words read:

The patrician house of the Marcii at Rome (Ό Μαρκίων οίκος εν 'Ρώμη) furnished many men of distinction. One of them was Ancus Marcius, the grandson of Numa by his daughter, and the successor of Tullus Hostilius in the kingship.

The name 'Marcius' however was very old fashioned and seems never to have been used again as a personal name in the first century. Marcius was ultimately replaced by Marcus as a praenomen.   When Μαρκίων does appear in obscure legal documents it would impossible to mistake it for a real name. It is again only related to the nomen of people belonging to the clan of Ancus Marcius such as see in  a contract from Oxyrhynchus dated to 154 CE for a Roman named Gaius Marcius Apionos. It must be stressed that this man would certainly never have been called Μαρκίων.

Indeed our earliest pseudo-historical reference to Marcion - the story which appears in Book Three of Irenaeus's Against All Heresies viz. 'and Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion, and said, "Dost thou know me?' 'I do know thee, the first-born of Satan' - would not have developed NATURALLY from a person with the nomen 'Marcius.'

We can develop a lot of imaginary theories of course. But we end up back to two inevitabilities - (a) the name derived its origins from a misunderstanding based on a translation from another language besides Greek and (b) the original name was ultimately related to 'Mark.'

There simply are no examples of people with the Greek personal name Μαρκίων in the surviving literature before the invention of the heretical boogeyman from Pontus.

Email stephan.h.huller@gmail.com with comments or questions.

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