Thanks to Amelia for suggesting Mars as our Baby Name of the Day.
Mars: God of War
Mars was the god of war in Roman mythology, and the Romans? They were big on all things military, which made Mars a major figure. The month of March – originally the first month of the year – is named in his honor.
There’s more to Mars than a sword. The Romans viewed their military might as a means to secure peace. In some tellings, Mars was the father of Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome. In early days, he was also a god of agriculture, and was sometimes called Mars Silvanus – of the woods.
Mars: The Red Planet
The red planet, fourth from the sun, and our near neighbor, is another association.
The Ancient Egyptians recorded its movements as far back as 1500 BC. By the nineteenth century, we could view the planet’s surface with telescopes, and that fueled speculation about the planet’s habitability.
NASA’s Mariner 4 did a flyby in 1965, and we’ve been gathering data ever since.
Mars: Life On …
By the turn of the twentieth century, scientists like Lord Kelvin and Nikolai Tesla speculated about intelligent life on Mars.
H.G. Wells published War of the Worlds in 1898. When Orson Welles adapted the story as a fictionalized radio broadcast in 1938, at least some Americans believed that we were under attack by Martians.
Plenty of science fiction writers explored the planet, whether it meant sending Earthlings to colonize it – think of Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles – or Edgar Rice Burroughs’ exploration of a Mars populated by an entirely different kind of martian.
We haven’t let go of the idea, though perhaps Martians have become less ominous. In the 1960s, My Favorite Martian was about an anthropologist from Mars who crash-landed in Los Angeles. Animated series Futurama took us to a version of the planet that included Mars Vegas and a major intergalactic university. And Looney Tunes’ Marvin Martian is a bad guy, but he’s still a Toon.
Mars: Baby Name?
Singer Erykah Badu made headlines when she welcomed daughter Mars Merkaba – but she’d named her older children Seven Sirius and Puma Sabti, so an unconventional name was expected.
Comedian Blake Anderson also has a daughter called Mars.
The numbers give this one to the boys. There were a handful of babies named Mars as early as the 1920s, and the name has risen steadily in the twenty-first century to a new high of 34 boys born in 2014.
A few things make Mars even more wearable:
- We love celestial names, like Orion.
- With Apollo and Atlas on the rise, why not Mars?
- Short names are having a moment, as are ends-in-s names, from Miles to Brooks to Maximus.
- And, of course, it brings to mind the creative force of chart-topping singer Bruno Mars.
It’s also a place name in France. This had me baffled for a while, because there are several places called Saint Mars – but there is no Saint Mars! It turns out it is a form of Saint Medard, the name of a sixth century French bishop.
Overall, Mars is a bold choice. But it’s not an outrageous one, not if your shortlist also includes Loki, Orion, and Jupiter.
What do you think of Mars? Is it too bold, or a name that’s been unfairly overlooked?