Arthurian names: Ector

The Sword in the Stone competed with Robin Hood for the place of “my favorite Disney movie” as a child, but in The Sword and the Stone, Wart’s foster-father Ector had no competition for the place of “favorite minor character”. He was just so funny! (I think the song “Scrumps” was my first exposure to drunkenness.) His name is the focus of today’s post.

Ector or Hector is the name of two Arthurian characters; in addition to Arthur’s foster-father, there is a younger half-brother of Lancelot known as Ector or Hector de Maris, whose stories can be found in the early 13th C Middle French Vulgate cycle.

The presence of this name in the Arthurian legends is a testament to the diversity of the origins of the names. While many of them come from Celtic, usually Breton or Welsh, origins, we’ve already seen one (Lancelot) that is likely of Germanic origin, and others show the influence of the Roman occupation on Celtic Britain (we’ll see some of these in future posts!). Hector adds a new lingual origin to the mix: Greek. The name is identical with Greek Greek Ἕκτωρ, of uncertain origin but possibly derived from Greek ἔχειν ‘to have, hold’. The Greek hero Hector was himself well-known throughout the Middle Ages, accounted as one of the Nine Worthies. As a result, it can be difficult to attribute use of this name medievally specifically to Arthurian sources, since there is good reason to think that many instances of the name harken back to the Greek hero. This is particularly the case with examples from 13th C England and 16th C Italy, both of which periods and places are noteworthy for the fad of reviving classical Greek names. And indeed, it is no surprise we we have examples of Hector in both contexts: In England, we have examples of Hector from 1161×1184 (see the next edition), 1190, and 1222 (Reaney & Wilson, s.n. Hector), while in Italy early 16th C examples can be found in both Rome and Naples, in addition to other examples from the 14th C on. The name also shows up in France in the 14th-16th C, and Germany in the 15th C. It was never popular, but there is no doubt that its use is directly attributable to the legendary figures, both Greek and Arthurian.

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2 responses to “Arthurian names: Ector

  1. Pingback: Arthurian Names: Kay/Kai/Cai/Cei | Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources

  2. Pingback: Monthly topic for April, and a milestone | Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources

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