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What’s in a name? How Alexander and Caesar’s names were adopted.

This is a “did you know” post—maybe you already did, and if not, here’s some interesting tidbits on how Alexander and Julius Caesar’s names have morphed into meaning conqueror or leader!

Let’s take Alexander the Great. The young Macedonian built a vast empire stretching from his homeland all the way to the borders of India, before he died in 323 B.C. He laid foundations of many cities - the most famous being Alexandria of Egypt. There have been many other Alexandrias built after him. But did you know that Alexander also founded Kandahar in Afghanistan?

Alexander’s name took local flavors—in Persia, he was called “Iskander”, possibly a shortened form of “Al-Iskander.” Iskander also took the form of Sikander or Sikandar. Did you know that Sikandar, in Persian and Hindi, means “conqueror” or “warrior”? There are many people named Sikandar in the east, which is really a Persian name for none other than Alexander. It’s used both as a name and as a title for ruler. This Wikipedia article lists names and places of this variant. I even found a Bollywood song that translates to “I am the Sikandar here!”

Similarly, while it’s not clearly established, Kandahar could simply be “Is-Kandar” become “Kandar” —> “Kandahar.” There are towns called “Iskandariya” which is simply a variant of “Alexandria.”

Next, Julius Caesar. Similarly, the german term “Kaiser” which is used for emperor or ruler came from “Caesar.” This great article gets into more detail on the adoption of Caesar’s family name into simply meaning ruler. The Russian Czar, too, evolved from Caesar, using the path of “Tsar” from “Tsesari.”

While I do not have a compelling evidence, the Sanskrit word “Kesari,” which is usually alluded to someone with the heart of a Lion, or someone who is brave, may too have originated with “Caesari” (in Latin the ‘C’ was really ‘K’!).

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About Jay Penner

Jay Penner writes fast-paced, realistic ancient historical fiction. His highly-rated books regularly feature in category bestsellers on Amazon. He is the author of Spartacus, Cleopatra, and Whispers of Atlantis series. Reach out to him or subscribe to his popular newsletter.

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