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Homeric Hymns
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message 1: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“for a third part of the seasons of the year,
but for the other two parts |400|
                            you will be with me and the other immortals.
But whenever in spring the earth blossoms
with sweet flowers of every kind, then you will rise
             again
from the realm of dusk and darkness
and be a source of great wonder for mortals and for
             gods.”


No wonder Eliot thinks April is the Cruellest Month.


message 2: by Lia (last edited May 16, 2018 08:35PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“We were all playing in a lovely meadow,
Leukippe and Phaino and Electra and Ianthe,
also Melite and lache with Rhodeia |420|
                            and Kallirhoe and Melobosis and Tyche
and Okyrhoe, the beautiful flower,
and Chryseis, Ianeira, Akaste and Admete
and Rhodope and Plouto and lovely Kalypso
and Styx and Ourania and lovable Galaxaura,
with Pallas who starts fights
and Artemis who loves arrows, |425|
                            we were playing and gathering
sweet flowers in our hands,”



IIRC, two out of this group of ladies got kidnapped. (Chryseis and Persephone).
Seems like a very high rate, and Artemis the militant-virgin did nothing to stop the kidnapping.
Nausicaa got lucky! Moral of the story: if you’re an attractive virgin, don’t get caught playing with a bunch of girls.


message 3: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
“He consented with a nod that for a third part
of the circling year your daughter
shall go down to the gloomy darkness, |465|                            
but for the other two parts she shall be
with you and the other immortals.
So he has said it would be, and he nodded his head.
But come, my child, obey him,
and do not be so excessively angry
with the Son of Kronos in his dark clouds.
Quickly, make the grain grow that gives the humans
             life.’ |470|                            
So she spoke. And rich-crowned Demeter
did not refuse. Immediately she let the crops
spring up from the rich fields
and the whole wide earth was laden with leaves and
             flowers.”


Hmm. The gods are fairly easy to negotiate with; neither Achilles nor Odysseus accepted offers of compensations, and bloodbath follows.

Godlike Achilles and godlike Odysseus, aren’t very godlike after all.


message 4: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Homer’s got a bad case of ankles-fetish:





“Demeter with her lovely hair,
revered goddess, I begin to sing of her
and her daughter with the slender ankles,”


“For I respect you greatly
and pity you in your sorrow
for your daughter with the slender ankles.”


“the white barley
buried by Demeter’s design,
she whose ankles are so beautiful.”


“He lives in a beautiful home
in snowy Olympos, enjoying himself.
He has Hebe with him as well
and she has such lovely ankles.”


“They sing of Leto
with her lovely ankles,
how she gave birth |20|                                                
to the best children
of all the gods,”


“Muses with your glancing eyes,
sing to us of the Sons of Zeus,
the Tyndaridai,
glorious children of Leda
whose ankles are so beautiful.”



message 5: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments I've mostly been using the 'Hymn to Demeter' as a point of departure for the Cretan stories Odysseus tells, but I've been re-reading the translations I have on hand. And I have found a convenient source for another one, which I used to own.

An updated version of Diane Rayor's fine translation for the University of California Press (2004, 2014) is available for on-line reading at https://issuu.com/bouvard6/docs/homer...


message 6: by Lia (last edited May 19, 2018 06:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Ian wrote: "I've mostly been using the 'Hymn to Demeter' as a point of departure for the Cretan stories Odysseus tells, but I've been re-reading the translations I have on hand. And I have found a convenient s..."

Nice! I’m speeding through the penguin one expecting to reread it with discussion at some point. I’ll definitely check out Rayor’s translation as well.

Oh, BTW, I found your review of the Penguin Hymn (oh praise the penguin!) on Amazon. I trust your judgment and assume it’s good enough. (But if you think Rayor’s is better, I’ll switch.)


message 7: by Lia (last edited May 19, 2018 06:54AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Ian wrote: "I've mostly been using the 'Hymn to Demeter' as a point of departure for the Cretan stories Odysseus tells..."

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on that, BTW.

I’m reading Eve of the Festival: Making Myth in Odyssey 19 by Levaniouk, Olga, part of it deals with the Cretan lies and the older/younger brother roles in those lies as playing out the Hermes/ Apollo dynamics (i.e. Hermes’ Hymn.) But the Hymn to Demeter is also mentioned as relevant in the birth/ renewal (of Odysseus/ Ithaca), and also Crete as Zeus’ birth place etc. It’s an interesting read, and I’m not a very critical reader, but even I find some of that dubious (but still a very good read.)


message 8: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments Lia wrote: "But if you think Rayor’s is better, I’ll switch..."

I also reviewed Rayor's first edition -- see https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-re...

This offers my opinions as of 2004 -- they may differ as I re-read it. As you will see, I then found it very readable -- as in "read out loud." The notes also seemed useful, but I have yet to re-check them to see if they still hold up.

My suggestion would be to stick with the Penguin, but to keep the Rayor translation bookmarked, and check it (and its notes) when something about what you are reading seems confusing. No one translator is perfect, and they sometimes differ widely on what information they think is helpful to the reader, too.

For example, Crudden (Oxford World's Classics) seem to be the only one I've checked that actually *explains* the word Ikhnaian, a title of Themis which appears in the Hymn to Apollo (line 94) mentioning in the Glossary of Names that it may mean "tracker" ("appropriate for the personification of Law"), but might refer to a town of Ikhnaia in Macedonia, where she may have had a cult.

By the way, the revised text includes more recently published fragments from Hymn 1, the remnant of what was probably a long him to Dionysus, which by itself might bear checking if you are curious.


message 9: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments Lia wrote: "Ian wrote: "I've mostly been using the 'Hymn to Demeter' as a point of departure for the Cretan stories Odysseus tells..."

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on that, BTW..."


We've been going the rounds on the Books 13 & 14 thread, on the question of why Odysseus, like Demeter in the Hymn, spins a fairly elaborate story about coming from Crete. My conclusion is that it probably had little, if anything, to do with mother-goddess cults on Crete, or Cretans' (probably later) reputation as liars.

With others, I suspect instead that it is based on the fact that Crete, although Greek, was a large and distant, not-very-familiar, place. Checking up on a story about it would be harder than if one claimed to be from one of the tiny Greek city-states, even if you met someone familiar with part of the island.

What I haven't brought up there is why, in the third Hymn, Apollo effectively hijacks a Cretan ship to make its crew the original priests at Delphi. I tend to think that it is another touch of exoticism, while letting them still be Greek-speaking, but I'm not convinced. Of course, if a Cretan origin does mean something more, it would indicate that the idea that "all Cretans are liars" wasn't in wide circulation -- who wants a chronically untrustworthy Oracle?


message 10: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
I guess great minds really do think alike, the other book I'm reading also deals with the exact same issue, and like you, rejects "Crete because liar-reputation", though I think she assumes the deception/ disguise reputation of Cretan predates Homer.



In case if you are curious:

one may ask whether Cretan lies as such, that is, the fact that they are Cretan, trigger a particular set of expectations. In other words, is the stranger’s claim that he is Cretan itself a sign both to Penelope and the external audience of the lie? It is worth observing that parallel thematics of rebirth are present in another poem that features a Cretan lie, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter. Like Odysseus, Demeter appears in disguise and tells a tale in which she comes from Crete. The questions is: why Crete? Sometimes Crete is taken here to be simply an indication that Demeter is lying, since Cretan tales are also lies in the Odyssey.[28] Such an indirect way of hinting at the falsehood seems misplaced, however, since in each poem it is obvious in any case that the stories are not true. There is little doubt that Cretan tales go with disguise, and that a common tradition of “lies like the truth” unites the Odyssey and the Hymn, but this should not mean that references to Crete have no further significance.[29] Another explanation for Demeter’s choice of Crete rests on historical grounds, namely that the mysteries or the cult of Demeter came to Eleusis from Crete and that the lie reflects this development.[30] But even if it could be shown that Demeter arrived from Crete, this would not explain the Cretan lie in the Hymn, since it would still be unclear why the Hymn should be interested in the Cretan connection. It seems more likely that there are poetic and mythological reasons for evoking Crete, independent of the goddess’ actual origins. These poetic reasons are likely to be similar in the Hymn and in the Odyssey.
Like Odysseus, Demeter gives herself a name that points to her true nature and presages her epiphany: when the daughters of Keleus meet her by the well, she introduces herself as Δωσώ, the ‘Giver’ (Homeric Hymn to Demeter 122). Moreover, just as with Odysseus’ lies, Demeter’s tale contains hints at her actual situation and concerns. For example, she says that she was forcibly abducted, just as Persephone is, and she rejects food, just as she rejects it in the macro-narrative of the Hymn. It is as a Cretan woman that Demeter is then welcomed at Eleusis, and thus begins her return. Return and renewal are, of course, central themes of the Hymn and they find their expression in the vision at the end of the poem of the previously barren plain of Rarion turning into fertile earth and sprouting vegetation. Moreover, apart from natural transformation there are human institutions established by Demeter, and these include not only the Eleusinian mysteries, but the mock battle of the Eleusinian youths in honor of Demophoon

[…]

Here, as in the Odyssey, the renewal of nature and society goes hand and hand with the maturation of a new generation. Nilsson speculated that the hymn was probably sung at a spring festival that celebrated the “graduation” of youths from the agela, which, according to Willetts, “coincided with a time of general birth and rebirth, a time to celebrate the city’s birthday and the continuity of life and its functions.” A more recent analysis of the hymn focuses on its Hellenistic historical context (the inscription is dated to the second or third century CE and will have been a replacement of an earlier original, perhaps of the fourth or third century BCE). But whatever its political and territorial aims, the hymn still taps into very old themes, and still assimilates the real youth, who are pictured performing it (strophe 1) to the mythic Kouretes. If indeed the seasonal setting for the hymn was spring, then that too is paralleled in the Odyssey, where spring begins to be mentioned and the weather seems to turn just as Odysseus arrives in his house.



message 11: by Lia (last edited May 19, 2018 08:16AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Ian wrote: "who wants a chronically untrustworthy Oracle? "

IIRC (I did speed through Hymn to Hermes), Apollo's Oracles are only trustworthy (or decipherable) sometimes, to some people, but he's happy to accept gifts from everybody, including people he duped?


message 12: by Ian (last edited May 20, 2018 08:28AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments Lia wrote: "Ian wrote: "who wants a chronically untrustworthy Oracle? "

IIRC (I did speed through Hymn to Hermes), Apollo's Oracles are only trustworthy (or decipherable) sometimes, to some people, but he's h..."


In the long Hymn to Apollo (which may contain two hymns, one to Delian Apollo, the other to Delphic Apollo), any emphasis would most likely be on the trustworthiness of the oracle whose establishment it celebrates.

The Hymn to Hermes, not being addressed to Apollo, seems to take some more liberties with his oracular functions.

The Hymn to Hermes also includes Apollo discovering things from the flight of birds, just like a human diviner -- which calls into question whether such "natural" omens are somehow an automatic part of the universe, instead of, as one might think, a specific exercise of a some god's power.... Perhaps such questions did not occur to most ancient Greeks, although we do know of skeptics of both oracles and divination.

Despite the frequent stories about ambiguous oracles found in histories and myths, the day-to-day functions of Apollo's oracles (there were several scattered around the Aegean) seem to have been yes-or-no answers to questions about ritual propriety, or what god should be sacrificed to before starting some project. (This is established in part by archeological discoveries, from official announcements of an answer engraved in stone, to lead tablets containing questions to be asked. I'm not sure if any of the latter were found at Delphi, where the oracle doesn't seem to have played guessing games about what the inquirer wanted to know.)

Of course, ambiguities might be built into the question, not the answer. The story goes that the young Xenophon consulted Apollo (I think at Delphi) about what sacrifice he should make before joining the army of Prince Cyrus, and was told by Socrates that he should have asked whether it was a good idea in the first place!

If Apollo had given a clear answer in that case -- that Cyrus intended to revolt against his brother, and that the whole thing would be a near-disaster for his Greek mercenaries -- we wouldn't have Xenophon's account of the expedition. And many generations of modern students of Greek would have been spared translating how many parasangs the Ten Thousand marched in a given period of time.

(A parasang being a Persian measure of distance used by Xenophon throughout his account: generally estimated to be about four miles.)


message 13: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
Ian wrote: "Despite the frequent stories about ambiguous oracles found in histories and myths, the day-to-day functions of Apollo's oracles (there were several scattered around the Aegean) seem to have been yes-or-no answers to questions about ritual propriety, or what god should be sacrificed to before starting some project...."

I don’t know why I’m so shocked by this, I should know that poets (and dramatists) lie and nothing they say should be taken as the historical truth.

It seems SO many tragedies started out with ambiguous oracles that inevitably get misinterpreted; I’ve decided long ago that Apollo is simply a sadist through and through (Ovid’s subversive depictions didn’t help either.)

Thanks for correcting that misconception!


message 14: by Ian (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ian Slater (yohanan) | 103 comments The histories tend to focus on the unusual, and I suspect that some Delphic revelations at critical moments were indeed ambiguous, allowing the oracle to maintain its reputation no matter how it turned out.

And, after all, Apollo claims to reveal the Will of Zeus, or sometimes Fate, not his own preferences. In some stories, Zeus *wants* people to do something, and uses an oracle to nudge them, and Apollo has to play along.

A major theme in Greek drama, and probably already in their folktales, is how trying to escape Fate only serves to bring about what was feared. Exposing a child which an omen or oracle says has a dangerous destiny is perhaps the most common motif, but there are others. (I've certainly never bothered to count them in, say the "Library" of Apollodorus, our most comprehensive ancient handbook -- there is probably a learned paper on that topic, or, if not, one should be written.)

This basic plot actually appears in Genesis and Exodus, although some readers seem to miss it -- or at least those I know are surprised or confused when I bring it up.

In Gen. 37:5-11, Joseph has two dreams which can be interpreted as his brothers, Jacob, and Leah, all bowing down to him. This precipitates the brothers' attempt to get rid of him, ultimately by selling him into slavery. This brings him to Egypt, where he becomes the effective ruler (under Pharaoh) and, guess what, his family *does* wind up bowing down before him.

Likewise, in Exodus, with some additional complications, the attempt of Pharaoh to eliminate all newborn Hebrew boys only produces the adoption and court upbringing of Moses, with everything that follows.

Getting back to Greece, there is an interesting story in Herodotus, Book One, chapters 157 and following. In brief, the Persian king, Cyrus the Great, threatened one of the Greek colonies in Asia Minor, demanding that they turn over a Persian who has come to them as a suppliant, and is actually at an altar, and so sacrosanct.

The city consulted the oracle of Apollo at Clazomenae on what to do, and the delegation was told to hand him over -- which was against all Greek ideas of proper behavior and respect for the gods.

Puzzled at this instruction, an official delegate began throwing stones at the birds nesting in the temple, and a mysterious voice warned him to spare the suppliants of the god. "Then why did you tell us to betray a suppliant?" he responded. The answer was, roughly, "So that my father Zeus will punish you, and stop you from bothering me with foolish questions in the future."


message 15: by Lia (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lia | 522 comments Mod
"So that my father Zeus will punish you, and stop you from bothering me with foolish questions in the future.


... so I was right. Apollo IS a sadist... even if he’s only doing so as the sidekick of a bigger sadist.

Benardete wrote something somewhat similar in interpreting Zeus/ Poseidon’s punishment of the Phaeacians. Essentially Zeus wanted them to be punished to teach Posidon a lesson. Instead of smiting arbitrarily, he set things into motion so that Odysseus suspects they stole his loots, and prays for Zeus to punish them. Meanwhile Poseidon is also mad that they helped his punchbag get home comfortably, so he too wants to punish them.

I thought the whole idea was ridiculous — what’s the point of being the mightiest Olympian if you have to jump through all these hoops to justify punishing puny mortals? I’m starting to see it’s actually a well established pattern.


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