Damaris (biblical figure)
Damaris is a woman mentioned in the New Testament, living around 55 AD in Athens, Greece. According to the Acts of the Apostles (17:34), she embraced the Christian faith following the speech of Paul of Tarsus, given in front of the Athenian Areopagus. She might have been of high social status because only such women were allowed to assist the Areopagus meetings. This may be the reason why her name has been especially recorded. She may have been a foreigner, since women of Athens would not likely have been present.
According to Christian tradition she was Dionysius the Areopagite´s wife, and she is remembered to be his faithful assistant in organizing the incipient church when her husband became Bishop of Athens. The calendar of the Greek Orthodox Church describes her instead as a disciple of Dionysius. Apparently, for Luke the Evangelist, having such elite citizens converted to the new faith was very important because it served as an example of depriving luxury and wealth to serve Christ.
There is no universal consensus about the meaning of her name. Apparently it is the Hellenization of the Celtic name Damara, the goddess of fertility. With the subsequent invasions of the Gauls to Asia Minor and their permanent establishment in the Galatia region, the intermixing of both Greek and Celtic cultures may have given birth to the "Graeco-Celtic" name Damaris.
This was very common in the Hellenistic culture developed by Alexander the Great and his successors. Following this pattern, Artemis of Ephesus, which had previously been assimilated with an ancient local goddess of fertility happens to be the exact parallel with the Celtic deity.
On the contrary, those who support the pure Hellenic origin of the name, state that it is the "modern" Hellenistic form (or contraction) of the classical name Damarete, like Theron of Acragas's daughter who became the wife of Gelo of Syracuse. Others, instead, find it in the word "damalis" which in Greek language means "a heifer", hence the name.
In the Greek Orthodox Church, Saint Damaris is celebrated on 3 October, together with Saint Dionysius and two other disciples of Dionysius, who also became martyrs. 3 October in the Julian calendar, which is used by the Old Calendarists. currently coincides with 16 October in the Gregorian calendar.
In modern Athens, Saint Damaris is also honoured by having a street named after her -Odos Damareos- siding the Profitis Ilias Square, which is one of the main urban open spaces in the Pagkrati neighborhood.
- "Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Dictionary", Review and Herald Publ.Assn, 1979
- Acts (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament) Darrell L. Bock - 2007 "The reference to Damaris continues Luke's focus on the response of women (Acts 16:15; 17:4, 12). She may be a foreigner, since women of Athens would not likely have been present (Witherington 1998: 533)...
- Church of Greece
- P.Grimal, "Dictionaire de la Mythologie Grecque et Romaine", Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1979
- "Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary", Vol.VI, Review and Herald Publ. Assn., 1988
- G.Mpampiniotis, "Lexikon tis Neas Ellinikis Glossas me scholia gia ti sosti chrisi ton lexeon", Kentro Lexikologias E.P.E., Athens 1998
- R.Graves, "The Greek Myths" Vol. II, Alianza Editorial (Madrid), 1985