Personal names reflect the concerns and values of a society. This is particularly true of the ancient Greeks who, in forming their names, exploited the richness and inventiveness of their language, adapting, combining and re-combining nouns, adjectives and verbs to create new forms reflecting features of their landscape, and the values of their religious, cultural and political life. Throughout the ancient world, Greek-speaking communities retained their distinct local features and at the same time shared common pan-Greek values. Their personal names reflect, and play a vital part in measuring, these differences and similarities, and can therefore throw light on all aspects of their lives.
The following pages are an attempt to outline the main themes of what is a large and complex subject, but cannot do justice to the many regional variations and exceptions.