Why “Roxanne”? (by my parents)

We just liked the name. It’s not a family name or anything. Shortly after Redford was born, we thought the name “Roxanne” would be perfect for a sister. It complements Redford well, starting with the same letter and having the same number of syllables and letters. We felt the name was reasonably rare and sounds active, fun, exotic, and has an "x" which is pretty cool. We wanted a name that could be easily shortened, say to Roxy or Rox. Also "Roxanne" incorporates the middle name (“Ann”) of both our mothers - Judy Ann for Jennie and Christine Ann for Andrew.

We spent many days researching and reviewing other names, coming up with a list of about 40 names. We waited until after our girl was born before making the final decision, over a cup of coffee in the hospital lobby. Other names on the “A”-list were: Scarlett (used as her middle name), Finley, Harlowe, Rafferty and Indigo.

The Meaning of "Roxanne"

After choosing the name, we decided to see what it meant, and here’s the result.

Roxanne appears to mean “little star” coming from Roshanak in Bactrian (a Persian language). Another translation is “light” or “dawn” from RoshanAi in Persian (Farsi). Other spellings of the name include Roxana (Latin) and Roxane (French).

"Roxanne" in History

In history, Roxana was the wife of Alexander the Great, bearing him his only son and heir. Born around 343 B.C., Roxana was a Persian princess, the daughter of Oxyartes of Balkh in Bactria (then eastern Persia, now northern Afghanistan). In Roxana’s home city of Balkh, dogs were considered sacred and to injure a dog was more offensive than manslaughter (the things one learns on the Internet). One of the world’s oldest cities, Balkh was the birthplace of the prophet Zoroaster and was the last of the Persian Empire’s provinces to fall to Alexander.

Alexander the Great (356 BC to 323 BC) was a Greek prince tutored by Aristotle. Before the age of 32, Alexander united the restive cities of Greece and fought east to India, creating the largest empire the world had ever seen. He never lost a battle and had arguably a greater impact on Western civilization than any other man of the ancient world.

In 329 B.C., in the battle of Sogdian Rock (good name), Alexander laid seige to Balkh and captured Roxana. To unite the great and rival empires of Greece and Persia, Alexander married Roxana in 327 B.C. Some reports say he actually loved her (even though he preferred men), and certainly she rose above other female choices. Roxana journeyed with Alexander on future campaigns and bore him his only son and heir, Alexander Aegus IV. However, just before the birth, Alexander died at age 33, possibly from malaria. Despite being harbored by Alexander’s powerful mother Olympias, Roxana and her infant her son fell victim to the political squabbles that carved up the empire.

Enough of the history lesson, now on to popular culture.

“Roxanne” in Culture

In literature, Roxana (1724) was the title character of the last novel by Robinson Crusoe author, Daniel Defoe (1660-1731). Roxana: The Fortunate Mistress purports to be the autobiography of Mlle Beleau, the beautiful daughter of French Protestant refugees. She leads a life of prosperous wickedness and receives the name Roxana by accident, in consequence of an alluring dance that she performs. (Info courtesy of Great Uncle Ken Sadler).

Roxane, the Sultana of Turkey, appears in Bajazet (1672), a play by French dramatist Jean Racine (1639-99). The Turkish Ottoman Emperor, Bajazet, is imprisoned in Constantinople and pretends to fall in love with Sultana Roxane who plots to put him on her husband’s throne. Her husband, the Sultan, discovers the plot and has them both executed! The same Roxane also appears in Christopher Marlowe’s play "Tamburlaine" (1587) in which Bajazet is conquered by Tamburlaine who carries him around in an iron cage. (Info also courtesy of Great Uncle Ken Sadler).

In theatre, Roxane (the French spelling) was the object of desire in Cyrano de Bergerac, an 1897 French play by Edmond Rostand (1868-1918). In this famous romantic tale, Cyrano is a guardsman with an unfortunately bulbous nose who falls in love with the sought-after Roxane. Selflessly, Cyrano helps his colleague Christian marry Roxane by writing poems. But it is only much later, as Cyrano is dying (of course), that Roxane realizes who the poet was and that, through all the years, it was Cyrano that she loved.

In film, Roxanne was the title figure of Steve Martin’s 1987 romantic comedy movie. Based on Cyrano de Bergerac, Martin played C.D. Bales and Daryl Hannah played Roxanne. Incidentally, Jennie and Andrew’s first date was to see another Steve Martin film, L.A. Story.

In musicals, Roxie Hart was the lead character in the 1975 Bob Fosse (Kander and Ebb) musical Chicago. Roxie is a chorus girl who turns murder into fame, and was based on a real-life person, Beulah Annan. The musical was based on the 1926 Broadway drama of the same title, by Chicago Tribune reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins, and became Rob Marshall’s Chicago (2002), winner of the Academy Award for Best Picture. Unfortunately, Roxie was played by Andrew’s least favorite actress, Renee Zellweger.

In music, Roxanne (1978) was the first major release by Andrew’s favorite band, The Police. We won’t go into the details of Sting’s Roxanne character here, but at least she doesn’t have to wear that dress tonight.

Well, that’s more than you wanted to know about the name Roxanne. How about some photos?

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