I’ve been thinking about Xanthias, the slave of Dionysos in The Frogs.
Here he is on a 4th century BCE red figure vase from Campania.
He shares his name with a number of slave characters in the plays of Aristophanes, a name that I’ve always taken to come from ξανθός “yellow,” indicative of his flaxen hair and barbarian origin. However, something I read in the journal Classical Philology (Volume 31, Number 1 Jan., 1936) has me reconsidering that, despite the Starry Bear implications.
Namely, G. W. Elderkin’s suggestion that it is derived from ξανθεις, the aorist passive of ξαινειν “to card,” since slaves – like Herakles under Omphale – often carded wool. You can read more about it here.
Either way, I’m intrigued. I wonder where this yellow thread will lead…