My husband and I found ourselves in New Orleans again recently, but only for a matter of hours, so we weren’t able to have as many adventures as last time. While taking a Lyft through an uptown area of the city, though, I did spot an intriguing street name: Prytania.
Had any NOLA residents ever been named Prytania? I did some research, but couldn’t find any. In fact, the only Prytania I managed to track down was a 12-year-old Texas girl named Prytania Chambers on the 1880 U.S. Census:
The street itself has an interesting name-story, though.
Not long after the sale of New Orleans to the United States in 1803 — part of the massive Louisiana Purchase* — some residents of the city devised an ambitious plan to construct a Roman-style collesée (colisseum) that would host public games and assemblies. It was never built, but the name lives in “Coliseum Street” and ” Coliseum Square.”
Similarly, these residents also wanted to establish a prytanée — a sort of people’s university — based on like-named schools in France. The French schools had been named after the ancient Greek prytaneum, or town hall. The university was going to be located on what was originally called the Rue des Prytanées. But, like the coliseum, the school was never built, and the street name eventually evoled to become “Prytania.”
The first syllable of prytaneum is based on the ancient Greek word pur, meaning “fire.” Ancient Greek prytaneums were dedicated to Hestia, goddess of the hearth, and within each one a perpetual fire was kept burning.
Coliseum and Prytania Streets run parallel to one another, and, in the area where the collesée and the prytanée were going to be built, the cross streets are named after the nine Greek muses: Urania, Thalia, Euterpe, Calliope, Clio, Erato, Melpomene, Terpsichore, and Polyhymnia. (Here’s a WGNO video about the pronunciations of several of these muse/road names.)
What are your thoughts on “Prytania” as a potential baby name? Usable?
- Kendall’s History of New Orleans – Chapter 42
- Coliseum Square – The Cultural Landscape Foundation
- Prytaneum – Encyclopedia Britannica
*Also a baby name! Here’s more about Louisiana Purchase O’Leary.