🔼The name Adria: Summary
- Of Water
- From the noun adur, water.
🔼The name Adria in the Bible
The name Adria (or Adrias, rather) belongs to the sea we moderns refer to as the Adriatic Sea, which is the sea between the eastern coast of Italy, and the western shore of Illyricum (modern Croatia). It is mentioned only once in the Bible, namely in Acts 27:27, where we read that Paul and company had been driven about the Adrias for 14 days by an unusually long lasting storm, only to end up wrecked on Malta, south of Sicily, a considerable distance away from the Adrias (and see our article on Adramyttium for a quick look at why all this might be).
🔼Etymology of the name Adria
The Adrias was named after Adria, a booming Etruscan city on the north-east coast of Italy, a little to the south-west of modern Venice. The name Adria, in turn, appears to derive from the noun adur, meaning water, from the Venetic language, which was part of the Illyrian language group, which derived from Proto-Indo-European. This noun adur derives from the same PIE "wodr" from which English gets its noun "water" and Greek its noun υδωρ (hudor), which in turn resulted in the "hydro-" prefix.
Note that the name of the Roman emperor Hadrian (who reigned from 117 to 138 AD) also stems from this same noun adur, and thus means Of Water, or rather: Mariner. The Latin term for Adriatic Sea was Mare Hadriaticum.
The modern term Adriatic Sea concerns a rare case of over-redundance. The city Adria (Watery Place) was named after the "water" it was positioned on and from which it derived its livelihood. In time, that "water" was named after the town that was named after it: Adrias, or the Water of the Watery Place. In later times, the word "sea" (or mare in Latin) was added, making the Adriatic Sea the Sea of the Water of the Watery Place.
But note that in the Greco-Roman mind, steering a ship was highly similar to governing a nation, and both a holy task: the word for ship, namely ναυς (naus), closely corresponds to the word for temple, namely ναος (naos), and a temple was also the governmental heart of a city. From the verb κυβερναω (kubernao), to steer or pilot a ship, come our words "government" and "cybernetics" (which is the study of control). All this suggests that the city of Adria was not so much named after the sea it was positioned on, but rather for the high liquidity of people within her borders.
A widely acknowledged reason for Adria's prosperous success was the diversity of its people, which consisted of Etruscans and Latins, and Greeks, Celts and Illyrians, and probably many more ethnicities. And as everywhere, the consistency and peace of a multi-cultural city was a testament of the wisdom of its leaders — which is why the governments of great cities invariably boasted about their city's diversity: compare Il.2.803-804 to 1 Kings 10:24, Acts 2:9-11 and Revelation 21:26. That said: the liquidity after which Adria was named, may not have been the physical sea it was situated on, but rather the "sea of people" that very often rises in violent storms but which the wise leaders of Adria kept well appeased (which is of course also the theme of Matthew 8:23-27).
That said, the two-week "storm" that drove Paul's Alexandrian "ship" violently about and had him finally crash on Malta, was probably not an atmospheric storm but rather a social one.