Ancient Georgia Place Names
While the world watches what is going on the ancient country of Egypt, we have an Egypt of our own right here in Georgia – where things are considerably more calm. No violent protests, no threats against a president, just a lot of Southern hospitality. While Egypt, Georgia, does not have a Nile River, it does lie close to the Ogeechee River on Highway 17 in Effingham County.
Egypt is not the only ancient place name to make it across the Atlantic to Georgia. Not even the only Egyptian name – there is also a Cairo, Georgia, although we pronounce it Kay Row! And they are more interested in making syrup than in overthrowing a government. Cairo, Georgia, is the county seat of Grady County.
Ancient Greek names are also well represented here in Georgia, beginning with the seat of the University of Georgia – right here in Athens-Clarke County. Athens, Greece, was known as a center of learning, and we like to carry on that tradition here in Athens, Georgia – with a healthy dose of music, sports and other cultural features.
While the citizens of modern Athens, Georgia, face off against denizens of Yellow Jackets, Tigers, and Gators on the playing fields, the ancient Athenians had determined foes of their own – from Sparta. This name has also come to Georgia – in a small hamlet in Hancock County. Fortunately these Spartans are more genteel Southerners, not a warrior society constantly threatening us here in Athens. But rest assured, should a Persian king ever decide to invade Georgia, we will put in a call to Hancock County’s finest to head them off at the pass. Let’s hope any such Persian king is not named Sherman!
The ancient Greeks built the city of Ephesus across the Aegean Sea in Asia Minor; for Ephesus, Georgia, we need to cross the state to the west – along the Alabama border in Heard County. While the ancient Ephesus was a considerable metropolis, later second only to Rome in the ancient Mediterranean world, our Ephesus is a small town with less than 500 people.
Thebes was another major Greek city-state. While we do not have a Thebes in Georgia currently, we did at one time – between two railroad lines in Liberty County. Looks like the last train left the station around the turn of the 19th/20th centuries.
Corinth was yet another of the major Greek city-states, and again Corinth, Georgia, is no more. But it existed once, in Sumter County. Looks like this Corinth was gone with the wind soon after the Civil War.
Sardis is another name of Greek origin, and Sardis, Georgia, is still in existence today, at the junction of two roads in Burke County. The Sardis name is also used by many churches throughout the South.
Antioch was another Asia Minor city, founded by a general of Alexander the Great. The name became quite popular, as five different towns in Georgia have used it: one in Campbell County (now part of Fulton), one in Meriwether County, one in Oglethorpe County, one in Troup County, and one in Twiggs County.
Yet another Greek city established in Asia Minor (now Turkey) was Smyrna; it rose to prominence during the time of Alexander the Great. Our Smyrna doesn’t need any warrior figure to be prominent – it does fine on its own, sitting just south of Marietta in Cobb County.
Troy was made famous in the Iliad – being the target of some angry, jealous Greeks. Like the ancient city, Troy, Georgia, no longer exists, but there is no truth to the rumors it disappeared after a visit by a giant wooden horse! Actually, two different towns have called themsleves Troy – one each in Cherokee County and Colquitt County.
Biblical names have been popular in Georgia as well. Jerusalem was the center of ancient Judaism and Christianity. Two towns in Georgia have used the Jerusalem name, one in Pickens County and one in Camden County – which still exists today, near the Satilla River.
Bethlehem is of course the birthplace of Christianity, and we have one of these in Georgia too – along Highway 11 in Barrow County. People come from all around each December to have their Christmas cards postmarked from Bethlehem!
Damascus was another very important Biblical name, where Christianity began its spread from being an offshoot of Judaism into a worldwide movement. Two current towns share the Damascus name – one each in Early County and Gordon County – we feel confident you can visit either of these locales without fear of being struck blind!
Ebenezer is an Old Testament name that was also used by one of the earliest settlements in Georgia – where the Salzburger emigrants established themselves in 1734. The spot was not very fertile, so they soon moved on to New Ebenezer, but the name has also been used by at least five different towns, in Dooly County, Effingham County, McIntosh County, Monroe County, and Morgan County.
What could be more Biblical than Eden, where it all started? We don’t know how the gardens may look there, but there is an Eden, Georgia, in Effingham County, and there once was one in Bryan County.
Naturally, one cannot discuss ancient place names without mentioning perhaps the greatest of them all – Rome. This name resides in Georgia too – in Floyd County. No need to worry, however, our Georgia Romans have no ambition to conquer the world!
You can see many more interesting (or mundane) place names on the Georgia Place Names site, part of GeorgiaInfo. And see where they are (or once were) located by visiting the Historical Atlas of Georgia Counties.