This famous surname, one of the earliest ever recorded, is today regarded as being of Eastern European and Russian origins, but is more properly Ancient Greek. Although much associated with early Christian martyrs, it is in fact pagan, being a derivation of "Demetrios" and translating as "a follower of Demeter", the first goddess of fertility. Quite why the name should have been so popular in Eastern Europe, but to have made almost no penetration in the West in unclear. The usual source of biblical names everywhere were the early saints and martyrs, and this name is no exception. However it has to be said that the St Demetri responsible for this name was so obscure, it is understood that he was martyrd in the 4th century a.d., that he rarely appears in the records of saints at all. With most surnames their overwhelming popularity resulted from the famous "crusades" of the 11th and 12th century. These were lead by successive generations of Christian monarchs. All failed in their self appointed task of "freeing" the Holy Land, and specifically Jerusalem, from the Saracens. Nethertheless the returning soldiers and pilgrims made it a point of honour to name their children after early religious, Hebrew, and biblical figures. There are over seventy spellings of this surname ranging from Dmitriev and Mitrovic, to Domotor and Mityagin. The first known recording of the surname is probably that of Lyubava Dmitrievna, in the charters of the city of Novograd, Russia, in the year 1100.
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