Hera and Alexander: How the Title of a Greek Goddess Became one of the Most Popular Boys' Names in History November 19, 2013 00:00

Many popular Greek names are inspired by ancient Greek mythology. For instance, one of the most popular boys’ names in America today is Alexander. The name Alexander means “Defender of Men”, yet in spite of its seemingly masculine traits, in its original form, "Alexandros”, it was the title of the Greek Goddess Hera.

In Greek Mythology, Hera was the sister and wife of the most powerful Greek God, Zeus. Hera is often remembered for her negative qualities. She was jealous, vengeful and sometimes cruel - but she was also a strong and capable protector. Indeed, Hera was sometimes the only figure who was capable of protecting men from Zeus. Often she used her wit and wisdom to trick Zeus, in order to keep him from interfering in the affairs of men. In the Iliad, for instance, she distracts Zeus by using Aphrodite's powers of love and desire to lure him in, then convinces Sleep to overtake him so that Poseidon the God of the Sea, can come to the aid of the Achaens during the Trojan War - in spite of Zeus's wishes.

The Myth of Hera's strong defense of humankind was so well known to the Greeks that it was celebrated by Adrastus, who once built a temple to Hera Alexandros.

Yet while the title "Alexandros" originally belonged to Hera, it has become more popular as a man's name. In fact, it has been used by some of the strongest and most masculine men in history.

Perhaps the best known Alexander is Alexander the Great, the Macedonian King who was so successful in battle that he eventually controlled one of the largest empires in history. He was never bested in battle.

Another powerful man named Alexander was Alexander I of Scotland who was also known as "Alexander the Fierce". He earned this title by putting down a rebellion harshly and by relentlessly pursuing his attackers, even after he had chased the far away from the scene of the initial attack.

America has also had its fair share of Alexanders. Alexander Hamilton, for instance, was George Washington's Chief of Staff as well as Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton's influence on American politics was great, but his career was cut short when he was killed in a duel with the third vice-president of the United States - Aaron Burr.

Another famous American Alexander was Scottish immigrant Alexander Graham Bell, who was granted the first US patent for a telephone. Bell's father was also an Alexander - Alexander Melville Bell, who made many advances in communication for the deaf.

Several famous others have also borne the name Alexander. Among them are the Russian poet, novelist and duelist Alexander Pushkin and France's Alexander Dumas, whose stories brought many of the struggles of the French Revolution to light.

While Alexander was originally a female's title, the men who have borne it throughout history have turned it into a masculine and heroic sounding name.