Homeric Hymns

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The anonymous Homeric Hymns celebrating individual gods are a collection of ancient Greek hymns, "Homeric" in the sense that they employ the same dactylic hexameter as the Iliad and Odyssey and are couched in the same dialect. They were attributed to Homer himself in Antiquity—from the earliest written reference to them, Thucydides (iii.104)—and the label has stuck.

The oldest of them were written in the 7th century BCE, somewhat later than Hesiod and the usually accepted date for the writing down of the Homeric epics. This still places the older Homeric hymns among the oldest monuments of Greek literature; but although most of them were composed in the 7th and 6th centuries, a few may be Hellenistic, and the Hymn to Ares might be a late pagan work, inserted when it was observed that a hymn to Ares was lacking. It has been suggested that the Hymn to Apollo, attributed by an ancient source to Cynaethus of Chios (a member of the Homeridae), was composed in 522 BC for performance at the unusual double festival held by Polycrates of Samos to honour Apollo of Delos and of Delphi.<ref>Walter Burkert, 'Kynaithos, Polycrates and the Homeric Hymn to Apollo' in Arktouros: Hellenic studies presented to B. M. W. Knox ed. G. W. Bowersock, W. Burkert, M. C. J. Putnam (Berlin: De Gruyter, 1979) pp. 53-62.</ref>

The hymns vary widely in length, some being as brief as three or four lines, while others are in excess of five hundred lines. The long ones comprise an invocation, praise, and narrative, sometimes quite extended. In the briefest ones, the narrative element is lacking. Most surviving Byzantine manuscripts begin with the third Hymn. A chance discovery in Moscow, 1777, recovered the two hymns that open the collection, the fragmentary To Dionysus and To Demeter in a single 15th century manuscript.

The thirty-three hymns praise most of the major gods of Greek mythology; at least the shorter ones may have served as preludes to the recitation of epic verse at festivals by professional rhapsodes. A thirty-fourth, To Hosts is not a hymn, but a reminder that hospitality is a sacred duty enjoined by the gods.

Gods who have Homeric hymns dedicated to them include:

A recent translation joining several currently in print, with full introduction and notes, setting the hymns in their context of folklore, cult and geography, offering Near Eastern parallels, is Diane Rayor, The Homeric Hymns : A Translation, with Introduction and Notes (2004).

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[edit] External links

de:Homerische Hymnen el:Ομηρικοί Ύμνοι es:Himno homérico fr:Hymnes homériques it:Inni omerici zh:荷马史诗

Homeric Hymns

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