🔼The name Aeneas: Summary
- Man Of Praise or Horrible Man
- Man Of The Well
- From the verb αινεω (aineo), to tell about or speak of, or the adjective αινος (ainos), horrible.
- From the noun עין ('ayin), fountain or eye.
🔼The name Aeneas in the Bible
The name Aeneas occurs twice in the New Testament (Acts 9:33 and 9:34 only), in the one scene in which Peter heals the paralytic of eight years, Aeneas of Lydda, a town in the plain of Sharon. But despite the relative brevity of this account in the greater arc of the Acts of the Apostles, literally nobody in its original audience would have missed the vast profundity of it.
Everybody in those days would have recognized in the name Aeneas the eponymous hero of Virgil's Aeneid, which essentially was the hip Roman version of the classic Odyssey. The Aeneid told how Aeneas, a Trojan hero from Homer's Iliad and survivor of the great battle of Troy, had sailed the battered Trojan fleet over to Italy, where he became the ancestor of Romulus and Remus, and thus the city of Rome, making the Roman Empire essentially a revived Trojan State. The Empire arose from the ashes of the Republic, which had set a course to its own demise with the fratricidal Punic Wars against Carthage, Rome's proverbial twin and revived Phoenician capital of Tyre.
But much more than mere elaborate fiction, or else the glorification of dubious claims to divine ancestry, both the Iliad and the Aeneid described the reality of the world, the real world, the world of mortals that was obviously governed by much greater spiritual forces and principles (Ephesians 6:12).
With the Aeneid, Virgil had managed to encapsulate and explain the existential origins and complex social psychology of Rome, and thus the whole of human reality. And since the ways of Rome ruled the Western world until, well, the invention of open source software and blockchain technology, the Aeneid is not merely the founding text of the Roman Empire, but also of modern Europe and ultimately the modern world. Hence Dante had Virgil guide him through hell and purgatory, whereas through heaven he's guided by Beatrice, or Beatrix, from beatus, blessed, and viatrix, a female goer of the Way (see our article on οδος, hodos, road or way).
Foundational stories are never mere fiction because a people's national identity lives in its stories. Stories that are somehow preserved (orally, in song, in hieroglyphs, in cuneiform, in colossal marble statues) also preserve the people they tell of. A people's literary corpus declares a people's collective culture and gives a people its societal soul. When David exclaimed that God's Holy One would not see decay (Psalm 16:10), he spoke of the eternal preservation of Israel's stories that had become possible with the emergence of the Semitic alphabet and its completion with vowel notation invented by the Hebrew scribes in David's time.
The Hebrew invention of vowel notation gave breath to the Phoenician abjad (consonantal alphabet), and thus life to its people. To note vowels, Hebrew scribes began to use three Phoenician symbols that already represented three consonants, namely י (yod), ה (he) and ו (waw). Their Hebrew God became known as יהוה (YHWH), or the "God of the Vowel People" (quoting Joel Hoffman's delightful book In The Beginning).
The divine Hebrew alphabet quickly flooded the ancient world and was adapted to become the Greek alphabet first (hence Helen, daughter of Zeus; see our more elaborate article on Hellas) and the Latin alphabet soon after (hence Aeneas, son of Aphrodite/Venus). Handling texts was once the prerogative of priests but now every man could learn to read, and the world had indeed become unified by a global devotion to the exchange of wisdom: indeed a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6).
Ultimately, the Torah had told of the same turbulent times as the Iliad, and both had contemplated the Bronze Age Collapse, plus the competition of the world's writing systems, and the ultimate victory of the Hebrew alphabet. Like Israel's patriarch Jacob, Rome's patriarch Aeneas of Troy was specifically struck on the socket of the thigh (compare Il.5.305 with Genesis 32:25).
One of a few crucial differences between the Iliad and the Torah, however, is that there is only one reference to writing in Homer and that a very negative one: "fatal tokens; many murderous signs incised in a folded tablet" (Il.6.169). Contrarily, four centuries before the completion of the alphabet, YHWH gave Israel the law by writing them on stone tables, and ordered Moses and all the Israelites to write his commandments on all doorposts and gates (Deuteronomy 6:9, 11:20). God essentially ordered Israel to become literate, and so to invent the alphabet that made popular literacy possible.
The compass and weight of the Aeneid was quickly recognized by emperor Augustus — the Aeneid was published in 19 BC and Augustus had become emperor (and Rome had become Empire) in 27 BC. Augustus' original name had been Octavian, or Eighth. Peter healed Aeneas in his "eighth" year of paralyses, by which author Luke basically states that Peter's introduction of the Gospel to Europe gave humanity the skeletal strength that Augustus' obscene Empire could never hope to provide (see our article on the proverbial duo the blind and the lame).
With the Aeneid, Virgil had demonstrated how Rome had emerged as the focal point of Greek statecraft and Phoenician commercial wisdom; literally as the love child but ultimately the theocidal successor of the two great spirits of the ancient world. Virgil's Aeneid explained the world at large, and showed why Rome was its legitimate heir.
The authors of the New Testament, obviously, politely contradicted all this, and retold the familiar stories by grinding them to dust first and then re-arranging the dislocated facts upon the vast framework of intersecting historical fractals. The facts may seem obvious to everyone, but they are but the mushrooms that are thrust up by invisible networks below, and the authors of the New Testament had identified different and much greater networks than Virgil or even Homer had.
According to the New Testament, the Eternal Word of God — that's the invisible "mycelial network" that thrusts all "mushroom events" to the visible surface (Colossians 1:16-17) — had come into the world quite like vowel notation had done in the days of David. The symbols that made up the Name of God were both consonants and vowel, and so Jesus had been both human and divine. Just like the Creator, Jesus spoke in parables (Matthew 13:35), which is what we moderns call fractals, and was able to fold the vast cosmos of human information (John 21:25) onto a singularity from which everything else could be derived (Matthew 7:12), without ever erasing or adding a single letter (Matthew 5:18).
Script gives communal life and Jesus represented a greater method of data retention, just like the vowels had. A mind without script can't contemplate abstract ideas (you can point at a chair and discuss this chair with a neighbor, but you can't point at love or hate or anything like that until you can give these things a tangible "body" by means of script), but the Way of Jesus allows the contemplation of, and even merger with, things so utterly abstract, so utterly without a physical component, that this Way even allowed man to come to God, the extreme of all abstraction, the very harmonic One of Everything (John 14:6, Romans 8:28-29). Just like the word LOVE gives a tangible body to an utterly abstract idea, so that humans can "handle" that idea, so Jesus gave God a physical presence (Hebrews 1:3). He indeed is the Word of God (John 1:1).
When Luke wrote Acts, Jerusalem had already been destroyed, and Luke very clearly composed his story as a reaction to Virgil's Aeneid, which itself derived its narrative momentum from the destruction of Troy. Troy was famously sacked upon the introduction of the great wooden horse. Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, the son of Vespasian who was nicknamed the Muler (the Mule Man, on account of a commercial enterprise involving mules), making Titus the Son of the Muler. Literally nobody in the first century would have failed to connect these things with the story of Jesus' triumphant entree into Jerusalem, riding on a mule's foal rather than a war horse (Zechariah 9:9, Matthew 21:5).
The Trojan Penates (house gods) instructed Aeneas and his Aeneads (obviously a wink to Jason and his Argonauts) to head for Italy because of great things to do there. Likewise, the Lord took stance by Paul's side and told him: "Take courage; for as you have solemnly witnessed to My cause at Jerusalem, so you must witness at Rome also" (Acts 23:10, also see 27:24).
A supernatural storm drove the Aeneads to the Phoenician queen Dido of Carthage and then to Sicily. Likewise, Paul and his shipmates aimed to reach Phoenix of Crete (Acts 27:12), but after fourteen days of violent storm — natural storms last a mere few days at best; see our article on ανεμος (anemos), wind — they ultimately wrecked on "a certain island" (27:26-27), which in this version of the story appeared to be Malta.
The island's leading man was named Publius, which, conveniently, also happened to be the praenomen of Virgil, whose full name was Publius Vergilius Maro. On Sicily, Aeneas' father died. On Malta, Paul first shook off Dike and tossed her into the fire, and then healed Publius' father. The final pun here is that Virgil's family estate had been impounded by Octavian, to pay his troops for their victory at the Battle of Philippi. Paul's healing of Publius' father was a blatant instance of Jubilee.
For more Biblical reflections on legendary characters related to Aeneas, see our articles on:
- Alphaeus, the father of James and Joses, who appears to have been named after Alpheios, great-grandfather of Orsilochus and Crethon, who were slain by Aeneas of Troy in the final year of the battle (Il.5.542);
- Agrippa, king of Latinum a very symbolic ten generations after Aeneas of Troy;
- Aretas, king of Damascus and noted adversary of Paul, whose original name was Aeneas.
🔼Etymology of the name Aeneas
According to the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, the name Aeneas derives from the adjective αινος (ainos), meaning horrible or terrible. However, the same Homeric tradition had observed that "murderous" script, and specifically the "fatal tokens" of a writing standard, would be detrimental to the natural bio-diversity of human languages. In this particular case, a loss of diversity would strongly increase order and thus freedom-by-law (see our article on ελευθερια, eleutheria, freedom-by-law), but that promise had clearly been beyond the Homeric scope. The Bible writers favored writing standards, and would not have derived the name Aeneas from the adjective αινος (ainos), horrible, but rather from the verb αινεω (aineo), to tell about or speak of:
The verb αινεω (aineo) means to tell about or speak of, often in a very positive way: to praise, extoll or recommend. In the New Testament, this verb appears solely with God as its object. Noun αινεσις (ainesis) describes an instance of the verb: an act of telling about or praising. Noun αινος (ainos) describes a thing told. Noun αινιγμα (ainigma) describes a story with a riddle: an enigma.
Unused in the New Testament, the very similar adjective αινος (ainos), means horrible or terrible: an αινολυκος (ainolukos) is a terrible wolf, an αινολογος (ainologos) is a terrible speaker. Perhaps this strange duality is similar to that found in our English verb to fear (which means both to revere and to be afraid of).
The name Aeneas may even be taken as a derivative of the Hebrew noun עין ('ayin), meaning both fountain and eye:
The noun עין ('ayin) means both eye and fountain, well or spring. This might be explained by noting that the eye produces water in the form of tears, but perhaps more so in that water and light were considered deeply akin (see our article on the verb נהר, nahar, both meaning to shine and to flow). In that sense, the eye was considered a fountain that watered the outward face with water and the internal mind with light. Verb עין ('in) means to eye or regard. Noun מעין (ma'yan) describes a place with a spring.
The name Aeneas may mean Praise or it may mean Horrible, and actually in both cases refer to the Latin adaptation of the Greek alphabet. A similar duality may exist in the name Hellas, which likewise may mean Profaned (from חלל, halal, to profane) or Enlightened (from הלל, halal, to shine).
The name Aeneas may also have been Semitic in origin — quite a few Greek words are. Particularly many abstract terms appear to have been imported into the Greek language basin along with the alphabet. As modern linguistics have shown, writing and reading literally builds consciousness and mind, and script could be rightly regarded as a well of life. Hence the name Aeneas may also mean Fountain Man or Man Of The Well — and Biblical wells from that of Jacob to that of Jesus are all about mind-forming information technology; see for a review of the cognitive equivalent of the hydrological cycle, our article on the noun νεφελη (nephele), cloud, or φρεαρ (phrear), which describes a manmade well or cistern.