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Archaic inscription [...]? ? ([...]i wanakti, "to the king") on ceramic fragment, here shown upside down; a warrior bearing a spear and mounted on a horse is also depicted.

Anax (Greek: ?; from earlier , wánax) is an ancient Greek word for "tribal chief, lord, (military) leader".[1] It is one of the two Greek titles traditionally translated as "king", the other being basileus, and is inherited from Mycenaean Greece, and is notably used in Homeric Greek, e.g. for Agamemnon. The feminine form is anassa, "queen" (, from wánassa, itself from *wánakt-ja).[2]


The word anax derives from the stem wanakt- (nominative *?, genitive ), and appears in Mycenaean Greek written in Linear B script as , wa-na-ka,[3] and in the feminine form as , wa-na-sa[4] (later , ánassa). The digamma ? was pronounced /w/ and was dropped very early on, even before the adoption of the Phoenician alphabet, by eastern Greek dialects (e.g. Ionic Greek); other dialects retained the digamma until well after the classical era.

The word Anax in the Iliad refers to Agamemnon (? , i.e. "leader of men") and to Priam, high kings who exercise overlordship over other, presumably lesser, kings. This possible hierarchy of one "anax" exercising power over several local "basileis" probably hints to a proto-feudal political organization of Aegean civilizations. The Linear B adjective , wa-na-ka-te-ro (wanákteros), "of the [household of] the king, royal",[5] and the Greek word , anáktoron, "royal [dwelling], palace"[6] are derived from anax. Anax is also a ceremonial epithet of the god Zeus ("Zeus Anax") in his capacity as overlord of the Universe, including the rest of the gods. The meaning of basileus as "king" in Classical Greece is due to a shift in terminology during the Greek Dark Ages. In Mycenaean times, a *g?asileus appears to be a lower-ranking official (in one instance a chief of a professional guild), while in Homer, Anax is already an archaic title, most suited to legendary heroes and gods rather than for contemporary kings.

The Greek title has been compared[by whom?] to Sanskrit vanij, a word for "merchant", but in the Rigveda once used as a title of Indra. The word could then be from Proto-Indo-European *wen-a?-, roughly "bringer of spoils" (compare the etymology of lord, "giver of bread"). However, Robert Beekes argues there is no convincing IE etymology and the term is probably from the pre-Greek substrate.

The word is found as an element in such names as Hipponax ("king of horses"), Anaxagoras ("king of the agora"), Pleistoanax ("king of the multitude"), Anaximander ("king of the estate"), Anaximenes ("enduring king"), Astyanax ("high king", "overlord of the city") Anaktoria ("royal [woman]"), Iphiánassa ("mighty queen"), and many others. The archaic plural Ánakes (, "Kings") was a common reference to the Dioskouroi, whose temple was usually called the Anakeion () and their yearly religious festival the Anákeia (?).

The words ánax and ánassa are occasionally used in Modern Greek as a deferential to royalty, whereas the word anáktoro[n] and its derivatives are commonly used with regard to palaces.

See also


  1. ^ ?. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek-English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ Beekes, Robert (2010) [2009]. "S.v. ?". Etymological Dictionary of Greek. With the assistance of Lucien van Beek. In two volumes. Leiden, Boston. pp. 98-99. ISBN 9789004174184.
  3. ^ "The Linear B word wa-na-ka". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of ancient languages.
  4. ^ "The Linear B word wa-na-sa". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of ancient languages.
  5. ^ "The Linear B word wa-na-ka-te-ro". Palaeolexicon. Word study tool of ancient languages.
  6. ^  in Liddell and Scott.

Further reading

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