From a classical Greek name, a derivative of damān ‘to tame, subdue’ (often a euphemism for ‘kill’). This was made famous in antiquity by the story of Damon and Pythias. In the early 4th century bc Pythias was condemned to death by Dionysius, ruler of Syracuse. His friend Damon offered to stand surety for him, and took his place in the condemned cell while Pythias put his affairs in order. When Pythias duly returned to be executed rather than absconding and leaving his friend to his fate, Dionysius was so impressed by the trust and friendship of the two young men that he pardoned both of them. The name was not used in the early centuries of the Christian era or during the Middle Ages. Its modern use dates from the 1930s and is due at least in part to the fame of the American short-story writer Damon Runyon (1884–1946). It is sometimes taken as a variant of Damian.