Anachronistic Nomenclature

Published June 12, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So there’s a couple of names I’m wondering if it’s okay to use in my books.  I’m probably the only person who would care, but…

All right, so the first word is “Hittite.”  It’s originally a Hebrew term used to refer to the people now known to the archaeological community as the Neo-Hittites.  The people now called Hittites by archaeologists were a much earlier, Late Bronze Age empire with their capital in Hattusa (Bogâzkale, modern Turkey), and their empire included Troy, and had clashes with other major empires of the day, including Egypt and Assyria.  They called their kingdom the Land of Hatti, however.  The word “Hittite” is, as I said, Hebrew, and dates to a later period, thus it’s anachronistic for Late Bronze Age peoples at the time of the Trojan War to be using it…

…but it’s really awkward trying to talk about “the people of Hatti” and “the Land of Hatti,” especially since no one will know what I’m talking about.  (If anyone other than me ever reads it, that is.)

The second word is “pharaoh.”  I know, right?  But it, too, is a Biblical name, not what the Egyptians actually called their ruler.  I haven’t the foggiest what they did call their rulers, to be honest, but I know it wasn’t “pharaoh.”  Now, Ilios barely even mentions the Egyptians, and I could easily enough excise the need to use the word “pharaoh” from Memnon’s chapter, which is, I think, the only place it comes up.  But in one of my quasi-Young Adult novels, they actually go to Egypt and meet with Ramses II, so I can’t just avoid the issue there.  And I know it’s wrong to use “pharaoh” and yet I know that if I didn’t use it, everyone would go “what’s wrong with you?  The king of Egypt is called the pharaoh!”  (Again, only if other people saw it.)

I guess my problem here is that I feel like there’s something hypocritical about my behavior regarding these words.  Because I don’t feel like I should be trying to avoid using “pharaoh” even though I know it’s wrong.  And yet I hate myself for even contemplating using “Hittite” in the re-writes of Ilios and the quasi-YA books.  Given that the stem “hatt-” is very similar to “hitt-“, it seems likely that “Hittite” is, in fact, at least partially based on what the Neo-Hittites called themselves, whereas I have no such guarantee for “pharaoh” being in any way related to whatever the Egyptians actually called their kings.  (In fact, from what I’ve seen of Egyptian names, I’d suspect that it decidedly isn’t.)  That being the case…am I just being a colossal moron about this?

Any thoughts?

(BTW, yes, I realize that “nomenclature” wasn’t the right word to use.  But it sounded good.)


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