Publication Date



The onomasticon of Hellenistic Uruk demonstrates that, in some cases, individuals with Greek names were included in otherwise Babylonian families. Often, such Greek names have been interpreted by scholars as evidence for Hellenization. This article suggests an alternate explanation, based on evidence throughout the family trees for a series of naming practices that focus on the perpetuation of names of female relatives and transmission of preferred family names through maternal lines. Particularly important to this discussion are the practices of mammonymy, a term coined here to refer to papponymy’s gendered parallel, i.e., the naming of a girl after her grandmother or other female ancestor, and the practice, previously unexamined in the Assyriological literature, of “maternal-line papponymy,” the tradition of naming a son for his maternal grandfather or other male ancestor from a maternal line. Maternal-line papponymy can be observed in family trees in which the members bear only Babylonian names, as well as in family trees that include individuals with Babylonian names and individuals with Greek names. The Greek names used for boys are often those of fathers or grandfathers of women with Greek names who married into these Babylonian families. This article argues that the incorporation of Greek names into the elite Babylonian families of Hellenistic Uruk cannot be assumed to be straightforward evidence of impulses toward “Hellenization.” Rather, this evidence indicates that Greek names were given to sons in such families within the context of traditional Babylonian maternal-line naming practices. This finding has important implications for scholarship’s understanding of acculturation and the display of cultural identity in Hellenistic Babylonia.

Document Type



Greek, Babylon, Uruk, names, naming practices, family names, identity, family tree


Near Eastern Languages and Societies | Other Classics




Journal of the American Oriental Society 134.2