Hélène retrouvée: l'étymologie de grec Ἑλένη

Abstract : Helen regained: the etymology of Greek Ἑλένη The proper name Gk. Ἑλένη has not yet received a satisfying account in the framework of Indo-European etymology. Different Proto-Indo-European roots have been considered, according to the scholars’ different views about the mythological prototype of the figure of Helen. In Ancient Greek, Helen is both a mortal queen of the Homeric epos, whose beauty and seduction illuminate several steps of the Trojan war, and a goddess, worshipped in Laconia and other places, who has been assumed to be connected with vegetation and fertility. The variants of her name as recorded in the Greek dialects point to a form *ϝhελένᾱ, which could be traced back mechanically to PIE *swelenah2. Whichever root etymology is proposed, this noun would have a suffix which is extremely rare in Greek. The paper refutes the previous attempts to connect by every means Gk. Ἑλένη, who is the sister of the Dioskouroi, the twin Sons of Zeus, with Saraṇyū-, a figure of Vedic mythology who is actually the mother of the divine Twins. This interpretation, as well as the one who identifies Helen to Vedic Sūryā-, the Sun’s daughter, as the prototypical bride, is at variance with the shape of her name in Common Greek. In the Homeric tradition, the name of Helen has a masculine counterpart in Ἕλενος, the name of a Trojan hero, who was famous as seer. This piece of evidence has been underestimated. In addition, Helen shows in several well-known episodes of Iliad and Odyssey striking features of a lady who has a superior power in tracing and foretelling the human destinies. Then it is proposed to understand *ϝhελένᾱ as the commonplace recharacterization as feminine of a noun, which was based on a compound meaning “having the year(s) as a thread”, hence “spinning the course of year(s)”, epithet of a primeval goddess of fate. The person of Helen in Ancient Greece goes back to the syncretism of different mythological figures.
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Contributor : Georges-Jean Pinault <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 7:17:20 PM
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Georges-Jean Pinault. Hélène retrouvée: l'étymologie de grec Ἑλένη . Linguistique balkanique, Académie bulgare des sciences, Sofia, Bulgarie, 2015, 54 (2-3), pp.155-171. ⟨halshs-01446358⟩

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