Mardonius

As explained earlier, the name Mordan is derived from a book by Dutch SF author Tais Teng. However, a proper etymology for this name is still lacking. Though I have proposed that “Mordan” might refer to the island of Saint-Martin, I have yet figured out a better and more satisfying etymology.

Those who are familiar with the oeuvre of Tais Teng, will notice that he has some interest in Persian history and culture as there are several references to Persia throughout his books (albeit it small ones). So it is not far-fetched to assume that Mordan is derived from Persian.

A casual study of ancient Persian history will bring us to a fellow known as Mardonius, a general in the army of Darius I and his son Xerxes I. Mardonius is the Latin form of the Persian Marduniya, which means “the mild one”.

According to this hypothesis, the etymology of Mordan is as follows:

Mardonius/Mardonios -> Mardon -> Mordan

This has some benefits to the “Saint Martin” hypothesis:

  1. There is little reason to assume that after 300 years Saint-Martin will become “Mordan” during the next century;
  2. There is also very little reason to assume that Mordan is on Saint-Martin in the first place.

However, there is still the question why anyone would name a country after a soldier who died about 25 centuries ago? One major reason could be that “mild one” neatly fits the description of the Mordans given by Teng. The residents of Mordan do not like to rule and more interested in their own personal development. Though this would better fit the person of Otanes rather than Mardonius.

But despite the meaning of his name, Mardonius was described by Herodotus as an “evil adviser”, whose ambition was to become Satrap of Greece, and was responsible for war with the Greeks. Of course, as a Greek Herodotus is a bit biased against the Persians, but nevertheless he was a soldier and killed a lot of people. But most of them, if not all, were killed in battle, and there are no surviving records of him killing people outside combat.

One thing to say in favor of Mardonius was that after the Ionian revolt, he replaced to Greek tyrants with a democratic government – albeit for pragmatic reasons. Also he was a major key figure in getting Darius I on the throne and his empire was relatively benign, if compared with its predecessors, as it allowed freedom of religion and let most conquered people to maintain their own laws.

In fact the Achaemenid empire was so successful in keeping the peace, that it’s population (at some point 44% of the world population) flourished and until Alexander the Great, it did not face a  major rebellion. Most internal turmoil was within the royal family with brothers fighting against each other to be king, rather than to uprising from subjugated people.

Though a historical assessment of Mardonius will give a mixed view, there are numerous countries and cities around the world named after people with an objectively worse legacy than this Persian general.

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