🔼The name Archelaus: Summary
- Leading The People, Chief Of The People
- From (1) the noun αρχη (arche), chief or ruler, and (2) the noun λαος (laos), (common) people.
🔼The name Archelaus in the Bible
The name Archelaus occurs only once in the Bible, namely in Matthew 2:22, where we read that Joseph feared to take Jesus and Mary to Judea, where Archelaus reigned, and instead settled in the Galilee.
Archelaus was the principle heir and son of Herod the Great with his Samaritan wife Malthace. Upon the death of his father, Archelaus inherited half his kingdom, namely Judea, Samaria and Idumea, while the other half was carved up between his half-brothers Antipas (Galilee and Perea) and Philip (Ituraea and Trachonitis) and aunt Salome (Jabneh and other cities).
From his ascension in 4 BC on, Archelaus was thoroughly disliked by both his brothers and his Jewish subjects, and was ultimately deposed by emperor Augustus and sent into exile to Gaul in 6 AD. Thus Judea became a Roman province.
The name Archelaus was not a Herodian invention. Several mythical figures named Archelaus existed, perhaps most notable a son of Heracles, and one Heraclid who founded Aegae, the original capital of Macedon.
🔼Etymology of the name Archelaus
The name Archelaus consists of two elements. The first part of our name comes from the noun αρχη (arche), in this case meaning chief or ruler:
Noun αρχη (arche) and prefix αρχι (archi-) both speak of beginning (hence our words archaic and arch-father). This may be a beginning in time but also in quality or political hierarchy, and so these words often express primality and hence being boss or best or highest (hence our word archangel). The word αρχων (archon) denotes a ruler or chief-in-office.
The second element of our name is the noun λαος (laos), meaning (common) people:
The noun λαος (laos) means people and is one of a few words to do so. What precisely distinguishes this word from the others is hard to say — it mostly implies the common masses at large, but so do the others — but it bears a remarkable resemblance to the noun λεον (leon), lion, which helps to explain the many proverbial lions romping around ancient texts. That word in turn looks like it has to do with the adverb λεως (leos), wholly or entirely, which is turn relates to the adverb λιαν (lian), very, very much or greatly.
The name Archelaus means Leading The People or Chief Of The People, and perhaps to some observers somewhat reminds of the Orthodox title: First of the Equals.