Damaris (biblical figure)
Damaris (Δάμαρις) is the name of a woman mentioned in a single verse in Acts of the Apostles (17:34) as one of those present when Paul of Tarsus preached in Athens in front of the Athenian Areopagus in c. AD 55. Together with Dionysius the Areopagite she embraced the Christian faith following Paul's speech. The verse reads:
- "Howbeit certain men clave unto him, and believed: among the which was Dionysius the Areopagite, and a woman named Damaris, and others with them." (KJV)
As usually women were not present in Areopagus meetings, Damaris has traditionally been assumed to have been a hetaera (courtesan, high-status prostitute); modern commentators have alternatively suggested she might also have been a follower of the Stoics (who welcomed women among their ranks) or a foreigner visiting Athens. The Georgian text of Acts makes Damaris the wife of Dionysius.
She is a Saint of the Greek Orthodox Church, remembered on 3 October together with Dionysius the Areopagite 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.
The etymology of the name is uncertain. Proposals include derivation from damar δάμαρ "wife, spouse", a contraction of the classical Greek name Damarete Δαμαρέτη (attested as the name of a daughter of Theron of Acragas and wife of Gelo), or derivation from damalis δάμαλις "heifer"; Coptic derivation has also been considered.
- e.g. Clare K. Rothschild, Paul in Athens: The Popular Religious Context of Acts 17 (2014), p. 97; Josef Hainz, "Personenlexikon zum Neuen Testament. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft", Darmstadt 2004.
- Craig S. Keener, Acts: An Exegetical Commentary : Volume 3: 15:1-23:35 (2014).
- 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)...
- Mark W. Hamilton, Thomas H. Olbricht, Jeffrey Peterson (eds.), Renewing Tradition: Studies in Texts and Contexts in Honor of James W. Thompson (2006), 217.
- Church of Greece
- Mark W. Hamilton, Thomas H. Olbricht, Jeffrey Peterson (eds.), Renewing Tradition: Studies in Texts and Contexts in Honor of James W. Thompson (2006), 210f.