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When I was in high school, Homer's Iliad, Homer's Odyssey, and Virgil's Aeneid were taught as a trilogy of sorts.

Was Virgil the first Roman to refer to Odysseus as 'Ulysses' or was there another (recorded) author before him who did so?

  • I swear these aren't homework questions. Just random thoughts that I had while riding the subway. – miltonaut Jan 20 '17 at 1:00
  • Nothing bad about homework questions as long as they're interesting and you're not asking them to make other people do all the work ;) – Gallifreyan Aug 22 '17 at 11:28
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Ulysses is the Latin form of the Greek Odysseus, stemming from the Sicilian or alternate Latin form Ulixes. The first instance of these forms in literature that I can find is in the Odusia by Livius Andronicus. This is an early translation of the Odyssey (third century BC). The only parts of it that survive are 46 lines from 17 books of the Odyssey, but this is one of those lines:

Inferus an superus tibi fert deus funera, Ulixes? (Od. 10, 64)

I found the surviving text of the Odusia here.

Marcus Pacuvius was an early Latin dramatist who probably used Ulysses. Though I'm not sure, he wrote many of his plays on Greek topics, and the translations of his works I found use the name Ulysses.

So to answer your question: Livius Andronicus was the first writer I can find who used a form of the Latin name of Odysseus, and Virgil was not the first.

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I am not a linguist, but I think it's worth mentioning that the Odysseus→Ulysses transformation is a special case of something called the "Sabine L": some words that had "d" sounds in Old Latin (or in Greek) became "l" in later (classical) Latin. Examples include:

  • lacrima in Latin from Old Latin dacrima, from Greek dakry from PIE *dakru- from which both English tear and Sanskrit aśru.

  • olere "smell," from the same root as odor

  • lingua from dingua (cognate tongue, Sanskrit jihvā)

  • Latin lēvir "husband's brother" (cf. "levirate") from *daivēr > Sanskrit देवृ still present in Hindi as devar

So just to avoid any ambiguity here at this question, Ulixes being the Latin form of Greek Odysseus is not an arbitrary choice made up by some author.

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