pagan

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No_C_Nada

Senior Member
Castillian - Perú

What is the origin of the word
pagan? I have heard that it was originally from Greek.

Thanks, in advace, for your help.

 
  • fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Latin paganus literally means “country folk”, from pagus “countryside”. In the meaning "non-Christian" it is a calque on Greek ethnikos. The English word “heathen” conveys the same idea (compare “heath”).
     
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    ancalimon

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Latin paganus literally means “country folk”, from pagus “countryside”. In the meaning "non-Christian" it is a calque on Greek ethnikos. The English word “heathen” conveys the same idea (compare “heath”).
    What's the etymology of the word?
     

    ThomasK

    Senior Member
    Belgium, Dutch
    This is what you find at etymonline.com:
    heath (n.) Old English hæð "untilled land, tract of wasteland," earlier "heather," influenced by Old Norse heiðr "field," from Proto-Germanic *haithiz (cognates: Old Saxon hetha, Old High German heida "heather," Dutch heide "heath," Gothic haiþi "field"), from PIE *kaito "forest, uncultivated land" (cognates: Old Irish ciad, Welsh coed, Breton coet "wood, forest").
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Pagus is from the verb pango, to fix, to drive/plant into the ground. It was an adminstrative distinct in Roman Gaul. The Gaulic provinces were subdivided into civitates and the civitates into pagi. As an administrative unit, the pagus was continued in Romance speaking parts of the Carolingian empire (gawi, modern German Gau, in the Germanic speaking parts). The words pays (French), paese (Italian) and pais (Spanish) are derived from pagus.

    Already in Roman times, the pagi as a collective term became a synonym for rural areas and paganus, a person from the pagi, became a synonym for countryman, farmer. This is continued in the French word paysan and the English word peasant.
     
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    sotos

    Senior Member
    Greek
    Pagus is from the verb pango, to fix, to drive/plant into the ground. It was an adminstrative distinct in Roman Gaul. The Gaulic provinces were subdivided into civitates and the civitates into pagi. As an administrative unit, the pagus was continued in Romance speaking parts of the Carolingian empire (gawi, modern German Gau, in the Germanic speaking parts). The words pays (French), paese (Italian) and pais (Spanish) are derived from pagus.

    Already in Roman times, the pagi as a collective term became a synonym for rural areas and paganus, a person from the pagi, became a synonym for countryman, farmer. This is continued in the French word paysan and the English word peasant.
    Interesting. I wonder if pagan is related to pagus via the meaning of "nature deity". Pagus in Gr. (πάγος) means "rock" and indeed some rocks had a prominnent place in pagan mythology.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Interesting. I wonder if pagan is related to pagus via the meaning of "nature deity". Pagus in Gr. (πάγος) means "rock" and indeed some rocks had a prominnent place in pagan mythology.
    Hardly, -an- a is frequent Latin derivational suffix meaning pertaining to (adopted in English in derivations like Rome - Roman). The derivation pagus - pagan-us/-a (a man/woman from the pagus) is completely regular and not in need for any additional explanation.

    As fdb explained, the religious meaning evolved later, after the Christianization of the Roman Empire. The "peasants" usually clung to their old faiths longest.
     

    ancalimon

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    Is it possible that these different people called themselves as "pagan" or some similar word and they were associated with the later meaning afterwards?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I guess it wouldn't matter since those two meanings are not really related semantically.
    It does. Taking the meaning non-Christian, what would Gaulish, Germanic, Persian, Greek, Italian and Egyptians cults have in common that they would collectively themselves pagans?
     

    ancalimon

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    It does. Taking the meaning non-Christian, what would Gaulish, Germanic, Persian, Greek, Italian and Egyptians cults have in common that they would collectively themselves pagans?
    I mean being a non-Christian is not really related with being a peasant. What I had in mind was that the original form of pagan could have had a totally different meaning and not related with religion at all seeing that even to known meaning of the word itself is not related with religion.
     
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    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I mean being a non-Christian is not really related with being a peasant.
    So, you see, my question in #10 does matter.;)


    If you assume a Latin etymology, my answer is the same as in to sotos in #8.
    If you assumed a non-Latin etymology, you would have to explain how in all these areas of the Roman empire people with very different linguistic backgrounds should use words for peasant that all happen to sound like paganus.
     

    ancalimon

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    The "peasants" usually clung to their old faiths longest.
    I happen to think the opposite is true. I think the more established people would cling to their old "faiths" strongest since they would be more educated, sophisticated, cultured and more advanced. Let's take the recent example of Ottoman Empire. The people that converted first were the "peasants" from rural areas while the more sophisticated people from cities like Constantinople or Smyrna clung to their old religions.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    The OED has this to say on the subject:

    The semantic development of post-classical Latin paganus in the sense ‘non-Christian, heathen’ is unclear. The dating of this sense is controversial, but the 4th cent. seems most plausible. An earlier example has been suggested in Tertullian De Corona Militis xi, ‘Apud hunc [sc. Christum] tam miles est paganus fidelis quam paganus est miles infidelis,’ but here the word paganus may be interpreted in the sense ‘civilian’ rather than ‘heathen’.

    There are three main explanations of the development:

    (i) The older sense of classical Latin pāgānus is ‘of the country, rustic’ (also as noun). It has been argued that the transferred use reflects the fact that the ancient idolatry lingered on in the rural villages and hamlets after Christianity had been generally accepted in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire; compare Orosius Histories 1. Prol. ‘Ex locorum agrestium compitis et pagis pagani vocantur.’

    (ii) The more common meaning of classical Latin pāgānus is ‘civilian, non-militant’ (adjective and noun). Christians called themselves mīlitēs ‘enrolled soldiers’ of Christ, members of his militant church, and applied to non-Christians the term applied by soldiers to all who were ‘not enrolled in the army’.

    (iii) The sense ‘heathen’ arose from an interpretation of paganus as denoting a person who was outside a particular group or community, hence ‘not of the city’ or ‘rural’; compare Orosius Histories 1. Prol. ‘qui alieni a civitate dei..pagani vocantur.’ See C. Mohrmann Vigiliae Christianae 6 (1952) 9ff.

    (May I add that I still think that the first of these is the most likely.)
     

    ancalimon

    Senior Member
    Turkish
    If you assumed a non-Latin etymology, you would have to explain how in all these areas of the Roman empire people with very different linguistic backgrounds should use words for peasant that all happen to sound like paganus.
    I guess the pagans could have had a lingua franca. A trade language maybe. That was common among the people belonging to the federal structure of the nomadic and semi-nomadic people
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I guess the pagans could have had a lingua franca. A trade language maybe. That was common among the people belonging to the federal structure of the nomadic and semi-nomadic people
    Peasants? :confused: In regions where nomadic lifestyle has ceased to exist for many millennia? :confused:

    Peasant is the epitome of immobility in Europe. For the common people to move around became a necessity for a very short time during the migration period but that was an absolute exception and a relatively short period of time.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    I happen to think the opposite is true. I think the more established people would cling to their old "faiths" strongest since they would be more educated, sophisticated, cultured and more advanced. Let's take the recent example of Ottoman Empire. The people that converted first were the "peasants" from rural areas while the more sophisticated people from cities like Constantinople or Smyrna clung to their old religions.
    Smyrna came under Islamic rule already under the Seljuks not under the Ottomans.

    The situation in the Roman empire was different. It wasn't a new culture imposed by an invading people but a change of state religion within a still fairly stable culture. The cities were the culturally most strongly Romanized parts of the empire.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    gōyīm is translated into Greek as ethnē (plural of ethnos) in the Septuagint, and as gentes (not pagani) in the Latin Bible. But in later Christian literature pagani is commonly used to designate those who are neither Christians nor Jews.
     

    Cossue

    Senior Member
    Galician & Spanish
    The OED has this to say on the subject:

    The semantic development of post-classical Latin paganus in the sense ‘non-Christian, heathen’ is unclear. The dating of this sense is controversial, but the 4th cent. seems most plausible. An earlier example has been suggested in Tertullian De Corona Militis xi, ‘Apud hunc [sc. Christum] tam miles est paganus fidelis quam paganus est miles infidelis,’ but here the word paganus may be interpreted in the sense ‘civilian’ rather than ‘heathen’.

    There are three main explanations of the development:

    (i) The older sense of classical Latin pāgānus is ‘of the country, rustic’ (also as noun). It has been argued that the transferred use reflects the fact that the ancient idolatry lingered on in the rural villages and hamlets after Christianity had been generally accepted in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire; compare OrosiusHistories 1. Prol. ‘Ex locorum agrestium compitis et pagis pagani vocantur.’

    (ii) The more common meaning of classical Latin pāgānus is ‘civilian, non-militant’ (adjective and noun). Christians called themselves mīlitēs ‘enrolled soldiers’ of Christ, members of his militant church, and applied to non-Christians the term applied by soldiers to all who were ‘not enrolled in the army’.

    (iii) The sense ‘heathen’ arose from an interpretation of paganus as denoting a person who was outside a particular group or community, hence ‘not of the city’ or ‘rural’; compare Orosius Histories 1. Prol. ‘qui alieni a civitate dei..pagani vocantur.’ See C. Mohrmann Vigiliae Christianae 6 (1952) 9ff.

    (May I add that I still think that the first of these is the most likely.)
    Totally agree. Here is almost in extenso the paragraph by Orosius, who wrote it c. 417 CE, I've been told:
    "Praeceperas mihi, uti aduersus uaniloquam prauitatem eorum, qui alieni a ciuitate Dei ex locorum agrestium conpitis et pagis pagani uocantur siue gentiles quia terrena sapiunt, qui cum futura non quaerant, praeterita autem aut obliuiscantur aut nesciant, praesentia tamen tempora ueluti malis extra solitum infestatissima ob hoc solum quod creditur Christus et colitur Deus, idola autem minus coluntur, infamant (...)"​

    I can add a work by the Pannonian churchman Martin of Braga, who settled in Galicia (then kingdom of the Suebi) c. 550 and wrote a brief treaty/letter to a colleague on the correction of the peasants (De correctione rusticorum):
    "Epistolam tuae sanctae caritatis accepi, in qua scribis ad me ut pro castigatione rusticorum, qui adhuc pristina paganorum superstitione detenti cultum venerationis plus daemoniis quam deo persolvunt, aliqua de origine idolorum et sceleribus ipsorum vel pauca de multis ad te scripta dirigerem. Sed quia oportet ab initio mundi vel modicam illis rationis notitiam quasi pro gustu porrigere, necesse me fuit ingentem praeteritorum temporum gestorumque silvam breviato tenuis compendii sermone contingere et cibum rusticis rustico sermone condire. Ita ergo, opitulante tibi deo, erit tuae praedicationis exordium:"​

    And a fragment of a minor work by Valery of Bierzo (a churchman writting from the mountains of the NW of the Iberian peninsula in the last years of the 7th century) were he narrates the destruction of a pagan altar in a mountain:
    "Cumque in exelsi montis cacumine stulta populi sacrilega caecitatis dementia profana daemonum delubra impie atque insipienter paganorum ritu excoleret, fidelium Christianorum ope tadem probosa obscenitas destruitur (...)"

    "Paganorum superstition" = 'superstition of the peasants', but 'paganarum ritu' = 'uses of the peasants' or 'pagan rituals'?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    If pagus is related to farmer, then the ghs or gh of Greek "earth" described pagans as earth dwellers or tillers!
    Pagus is Latin not Greek. The connection of pagianus and farmer is a semantic one on word level and not on sound level. Sounds play no role.
     

    mataripis

    Senior Member
    Ok. I viewed the meaning of pagan and it said : those people who do not belong to Jew or Christians.now I want to know what is the relationship of this term Pagan to the word proPAGANda?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Paropagandum is the gerundive of propagare (to spread, to extend) meaning that what has be be spread, extended. Paropaganda is the feminine singular form originating from the expression de paropaganda fide = of/about the fath that has to be spread, extended.
     

    fdb

    Senior Member
    French (France)
    Strange though it might seem, paganus and pro-pago both come from the same root, as in pango (see bernd’s comment, no. 5)
     

    mataripis

    Senior Member
    Paropagandum is the gerundive of propagare (to spread, to extend) meaning that what has be be spread, extended. Paropaganda is the feminine singular form originating from the expression de paropaganda fide = of/about the fath that has to be spread, extended.
    Do propagare of latin and pagar of spanish share the same root?sounds payment is involved in exchange of labor?I saw the word peasant in post#5.
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Spanish pagar, Italian pagare, French payer and from the latter English paymend are derived from Latin pacare, itself being a derivation from pax (peace).
     
    The OED has this to say on the subject:

    The semantic development of post-classical Latin paganus in the sense ‘non-Christian, heathen’ is unclear. The dating of this sense is controversial, but the 4th cent. seems most plausible. An earlier example has been suggested in Tertullian De Corona Militis xi, ‘Apud hunc [sc. Christum] tam miles est paganus fidelis quam paganus est miles infidelis,’ but here the word paganus may be interpreted in the sense ‘civilian’ rather than ‘heathen’.

    There are three main explanations of the development:

    (i) The older sense of classical Latin pāgānus is ‘of the country, rustic’ (also as noun). It has been argued that the transferred use reflects the fact that the ancient idolatry lingered on in the rural villages and hamlets after Christianity had been generally accepted in the towns and cities of the Roman Empire; compare Orosius Histories 1. Prol. ‘Ex locorum agrestium compitis et pagis pagani vocantur.’

    (ii) The more common meaning of classical Latin pāgānus is ‘civilian, non-militant’ (adjective and noun). Christians called themselves mīlitēs ‘enrolled soldiers’ of Christ, members of his militant church, and applied to non-Christians the term applied by soldiers to all who were ‘not enrolled in the army’.

    (iii) The sense ‘heathen’ arose from an interpretation of paganus as denoting a person who was outside a particular group or community, hence ‘not of the city’ or ‘rural’; compare Orosius Histories 1. Prol. ‘qui alieni a civitate dei..pagani vocantur.’ See C. Mohrmann Vigiliae Christianae 6 (1952) 9ff.

    (May I add that I still think that the first of these is the most likely.)
    And in Byzantine/Modern Greek folklore, «παγανό» [paɣaˈno] (neut.) < Lat. paganus = ghost, elf, kallikantzaros
     

    john welch

    Senior Member
    English-Australian creole
    Apart from "piety" and "worship" how did Greeks and Romans name their faiths? Why would not Roman Christians refer to *" Jupiterites" or "Minervians"? Was there a * "Mithrian"? Was propaganda about pagans a pejorative avoidance of naming the prior, hallowed gods?
     

    berndf

    Moderator
    German (Germany)
    Apart from "piety" and "worship" how did Greeks and Romans name their faiths? Why would not Roman Christians refer to *" Jupiterites" or "Minervians"? Was there a * "Mithrian"? Was propaganda about pagans a pejorative avoidance of naming the prior, hallowed gods?
    Pejorative names like pagan or heathen obviously expresses complete disregard for other religions. It only matters that their religious beliefs were too primitive and not sufficiently advanced to believe in the God of Abraham. What else they believed in was completely irrelevant.
     

    john welch

    Senior Member
    English-Australian creole
    .' What else they believed in was completely irrelevant.'
    Italian pagans would mostly have the same gods that Roman Christians' ancestors were devoted to. That had formed the family morality underpinning the early Empire. "Pagan" is as strange as using "Tyrant" instead of " Kaiser Emperor" or "Roi" for feudal monarchs as if the titles had disappeared. It's almost Soviet or Maoist word-bending for the party line.
     
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