In Josephus' Against Apion (1:18) he writes in the name of Menander the Ephesian that Matgenus was one of the Tyrian kings, but I have seen other sources (like Wikipedia, et al.) refer to this king as Mattan. Why is he sometimes called Matgenus and sometimes called Mattan? Who decided that Matgenus means Mattan?

  • There can be different names for different people given to them by different people. For example, Persian King Xerxes might be known as Xerxes to Greeks but his real persian name was Khashayarsha.
    – NSNoob
    May 4 '16 at 14:14
  • So where do we see any ancient source who refers to the king as Mattan? May 4 '16 at 14:16
  • 1
    It should be obvious from the lingual characters. Matgenus is Greek/Latin in origin. Being Romano-Jew, Josephus calls him Matgenus. Mattan bears characteristics of Assyrian/Syriac languages so I suppose that's what his own people called him. It would depend on background and affinity of writer, the way how he refers to the said king.
    – NSNoob
    May 4 '16 at 14:29

The main source for confusion is that different sources use different names for that certain person Matgenus (Μάτγηνος) / Mattan. He's said to be the father of Dido who founded Carthage. There are a lot of historians (greek, roman) who wrote about Dido, herself being a quite "popular" person, using different names for her father (Timaeus has "Mutto" (cf. Josephus, C.A. I:157: Μύττυνος); Justin: "Mutgo"; Servius: "Methres"; Virgil: "Belus"). Furthermore, there are problems regarding the tradition of Josephus' texts - there are medieval manuscripts in greek and armenian, with a wide range of variants.

So, everyone speaking about "Matgenus / Mattan" has to decide which source to follow and which tradition to prefer. Part of this decision is to think about possible mistakes by scribes who copied a manuscript. The difference between matgenos and mattenos in greek is just the difference between γ and τ (which may look quite similar in handwritings).

Someone believing that mutgo is the correct name for "Matgenus / Mattan" would prefer the latinised version "Matgenus" when editing Contra Apionem. Someone else may stick to a certain manuscript, keeping Mettenos / Mattenos (cf. Thackeray in the Loeb edition, p. 212/213; also Niese in the Weidmann edition).


According to Siegert, "Flavius Josephus - Über die Ursprünglichkeit des Judentums (Contra Apionem)", only Codex S (Codex Schleusingensis, a greek codex dating before 1544) has Μάτγηνος instead of Μέττηνος. Since the greek editio princeps (Arlenius, Basel 1544) is based on Codex S, it's very likely to be the source for that version. Interestingly, it's again Codex S at I:157 with Μύτγονος instead of Μύττυνος!

  • Are you saying that difference manuscripts/editions of Josephus refer to him in different ways or that there are sources besides Josephus who refer to him as Mattan while Josephus calls him Matgenus? May 4 '16 at 15:58
  • For my (preliminary) answer, i've just checked some sources that are available online. My main point is that "the father of Dido" is referred to by ancient writers using different names - Josephus' version(s) among them. I can't tell anything precise about Josephus at the moment - i'll have to wait for a quite new edition (2008) to be available at a public library...
    – tohuwawohu
    May 4 '16 at 16:08
  • who are the other sources that refer to the father of Dido? May 4 '16 at 16:21
  • 1
    @RebChaimHaQoton: I've integretad some of my comments into the answer and also added some details regarding the codices and early prints of C.A. which may be useful for this question...
    – tohuwawohu
    May 4 '16 at 21:33

The usual form of the name in English is Mattan, which is found both in the Bible and in Herodotus where the name is spelled Ματτην. This transliteration is, in my opinion, misleading, but it is very common. In my opinion eta should be tranliterated in most cases into English as "ai", thus it should be Mattain. Unfortunately, many scholars translate both alpha and eta as "a", or sometimes tranliterate eta as "e", which I find to be very misleading. Many other Greek words suffer from similar misleading transliterations, which are in my view more or less incorrect. For example the letter upsilon which sounds like "oo" is usually transliterated in English as "y", which is completely misleading.

In Assyrian inscriptions the name is spelled Mittena. The "e" in this transliteration should be sounded as a long "a" ("ay" or "ai"), thus, it is essentially the same as the Greek version of Herodotus.

In Against Apion, Josephus writes the name as Μεττηνος, which is essentially exactly the same as Herodotus spells it. The Anglicization to "Matgenus" was possibly due to the translation of the 18th-century theological fanatic William Whiston who is not known for his linguistic accuracy.

  • Transliterate eta as ai? That would be even more confusing than using ai for alpha-iota. English speakers are inclined to pronounce "ai" as a diphthong /eɪ/ or /aɪ/, neither of which is particularly close to the reconstructed Greek monophthong /ɛː/. Eta often corresponds to /aː/ in other dialects of Greek. Upsilon is written with "y" because that's how the Romans wrote it, and we've inherited their pronunciation, which is like the letter "i." I don't see the point of constantly updating transliterations to keep pace with sound changes in English.
    – sumelic
    May 4 '16 at 18:54
  • @sumelic I pronounce eta in old Greek (not Attic) as a long A as in "they" or "late", not as Smyth and Allen's E in "air". In this I follow the convention of Machen, Hewett, Paine and Mounce. Most people who pronounce eta as in air (or as a long E as in "tree") are following late biblical pronunciations. For ancient (pre-250 BC) pronounciations, like Herodotus, long A as in "they" or in "late" I think should be preferred and there are many scholars who agree with me. This pronounciation corresponds to Mittain (rhymes with "train") for the word in question. May 4 '16 at 19:28

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.