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More babies named after heroes of Greek and Roman mythology

Maximus, Leonidas, Ariadne...oh my!


What’s in a name? Plenty of pop culture and mythology, particularly when it’s a boy.

In 2016, there were 2,108 babies with the name Maximus. Compare that to just 11 boys with the name in 1999, a year before Russell Crowe hit the screen as the character in the movie “Gladiator.”

Related: Georgia’s most popular baby names are William and Ava for the second year in a row

Almost any name from Greek and Roman mythology that has been featured in movies or TV shows has become fair game for parents naming newborns, according to trend data from Names.org. And while the trend mostly applies to boys’ names, there is at least one girl in the bunch.  

Actress Jessica Lucas played the role of Ariadne in 2014’s “Pompeii.” That same year, the number of girls born with the name almost doubled from the previous year. In 2016, a record high of 387 girls were born with the name which means “very holy.” 

Some names anchored in classical mythology  -- Lucius, Julius, Ashur, Hector -- have always lurked in the background. They weren’t hugely popular, but you may have come across one or two people with those a names.

I grew up with a classmate named Julius and one named Lucius and both of them were born in the 1970s, for example. But there are other names that went from practically zero to hundreds after movie releases. 

In 2006, the year “The 300” was released, the parents of 19 babies thought Leonidas was a good name for a boy. A decade later, 591 boys were given the Greek name that means “lion like.”  

Any mother can understand the impulse to name a baby boy Achilles (Greek for “pain’) after giving birth, but the name comes with a lot of baggage for a baby to carry. 

Most Americans agreed until 2004 when Brad Pitt hit the big screen as Achilles in the film “Troy.” Previously, babies born in the U.S. named Achilles hovered in the single digits. Just two years later in 2006, 160 baby boys were born with that name and it has been on the upswing since. 

Some parents have taken names based on ancient mythology in a more creative direction using them as inspiration for names that only sound as if they are from the era.

That would include the 13,000 boys across the country who have been given the name Demarcus, a name that Names.org classifies as purely American. 


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About the Author

Nedra Rhone has been a features reporter with the AJC for 10 years. She’s written about everything from fashion to food to news.