Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

CQQ-No.007: ORIGINAL CITY NAMES

The Winter Palace in Leningrad. No Petrograd. No, St. Petersburg. Whatever. © 1989, James A. Clapp

The Winter Palace in Leningrad. No Petrograd. No, St. Petersburg. Whatever. © 1989, James A. Clapp

A Russian joke revolved around the story of a man was born in St. Petersburg, got married in Petrograd, and died in Leningrad. Since the demise of the USSR they could add that the man’s body was returned to the place of his birth. Three different names for the same city in one lifetime is rather unusual; but many cities have different names in their biographies, particularly if they have been around long enough to have seen political and cultural changes sweep over them.

Political hegemony probably has changed the names of cities more than any other factor. In many cases their original names of cities were provided by their founders. The Romans founded the city of Aquincum by the geothermal spas beside the Danube, the site if present-day Budapest, just one case of a conquering nation putting its linguistic stamp on foreign soil. Many Roman towns in the outer reaches of their empire retain some vestige of their Latin names. Several started out as Roman military camps, or castra ; in England city names ending in
“-chester” (an Anglicization of castrum ) retain a linguistic clue to their past.

The Romans also founded Aquisgranum at the natural baths at what is today near the junction of the Netherlands-Belgium-German border. After them its name was changed to Aix-la-Chapelle by Charlemagne in honor of church he built there. Today, it is known as Aachen, Germany, though, on city signs and maps, the name Aix-la-Chapelle is often included in parentheses.

Another source of name changes derives from cities named after political figures. Only a couple of the sixteen or so Alexandrias remain so named. And, like the erstwhile Stalingrad (Volgograd), cities finding independence after long periods of colonial or ideological domination, are taking up old, indigenous appellations.

The following in a list of past, outmoded, or discarded names for contemporary cities. In the space provided write the city’s current name.

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Click to: Take the online quiz.

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©2004, ©2015, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 1.1.2004)

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