What's in a name?

by Tony Marcinies

Well, wouldn't you feel different if you were named Caligula, Ebenezer or Grevase?
Calpurnia instead of Kim, or Hecuba rather than Helen?

And if during the course of your life, you would go through a gamut of eight, nine or ten names, wouldn't you become rattled and a little undecided about your persona? Is it then not possible that Bodrum today seems to be searching for an identity because it did undergo numerous changes, not only of names but also of cultures?
An interesting question to amuse you during your days in the sun. During its recorded history, human settlement has existed here under various names and guises. The first known inhabitants were Carians and Lelegians, the former on the islet called Zephyria, where the Castle now stands, and the latter on the promontory across on the western side of the bay, still crowned by a ruined tower.

The next and most renowned name for this place was Halicarnassus, a proud city inhabited jointly by Carians and Dorians. Later, under Lydian, Persian, Roman and early Byzantine rule, the city kept its name of Halicarnassus, but its identity must have undergone significant changes.

There probably was a Turkish name given to the fort that the Mentese clan of the Seljuk Turks built on ancient Zephyria when Turkish tribes conquered the land, but this name is unknown, perhaps awaiting discovery in some ancient records.The next known designation, however, is that of Castri Sancti Petri, given to the fortress built by the Knights Hospitaller of St. John of Jerusalem on the site of the Turkish fortification. Some authors have suggested that the formal name was abbreviated to Petrum, thus opening the way for the derivation of Bodrum as a Turkish "corruption" of Petrum. It seems just as likely that the simplified Latin form Petronium (like ?Londinium? for London) may also have been used, because we see the late-Byzantine historian Ducas referring to it as Petronion. Near the end of the Hospitaller period we come across an odd appellation, Mesy. Writing in 1581, Guichard quotes a Lyonnese knight?s account of the strengthening of the Castle in 1522 with stones taken from the Mausoleum and calling the place Mesy.

This encourages speculation whether Mesy could have been a corruption of the Turkish "Mese" (oak), a shortening of Mentese. But we also know that a broad main thoroughfare in ancient Byzantium was called Mese, so we are faced with the possibility that at the time when the Knights of St. John did this work of reinforcement the original broad avenue (Mese) leading to the Mausoleum could still be seen and perhaps some local folk referred to it by that old name. Petrum or Petronium, nobody really knows how the name evolved into Bodrum. In 19th century French sources, the name Boudroun is used, while English publications of the same period use Budrum. In Ottoman records from the 1800s we see the name in Arabic script which can be transliterated into either Budrum or Bodrum, but where it came from nobody knows.

There is an interesting possibility that Peter was translated into the Turkish Bedros and the Latin suffix given to conform to previous, Frankish use, in which case the first version of the contemporary name of the town may have been Bedrum. Upon hearing this name, did some prim, proper and prudish Victorian visitor point out its impropriety for polite company?

Having undergone so many changes of names and experienced the cultural influences of so many different civilizations, Bodrum has evolved into a complicated entity, perhaps even a multiple personality. Today, especially during the tourist season, the fast-paced, Western commercial life-style covers and smothers the softer, gentler Eastern traits. But scratch the surface, or wait until Bodrum is left to the Bodrumians in November, and you will feel the pulse slow down and the good life prevail.