Manual The Homeric hymns : interpretative essays

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A thirty-fourth, To Hosts is not a hymn, but a reminder that hospitality is a sacred duty enjoined by the gods, a pointed reminder when coming from a professional rhapsode. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. The Journal of Hellenic Studies 14 —29 p. Knox ed. Bowersock , W. Burkert, M.


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Putnam Berlin: De Gruyter, pp. Parker notes that, for instance, Hymn 18 preserves a version of the beginning and end of the Hymn to Hermes. Works related to Homer in antiquity. And it is not at all clear whether the Athenians restored this practice in BCE. What they did restore, however, is a set of practices that match the practices then current at their own great festival, the quadrennial Panathenaia, as we see from the reference made by Thucydides to a new quadrennial format and the inclusion of such new events as chariot racing.

In terms of the Hymn , as quoted and interpreted by Thucydides, the speaker in this setting is the speaker of the Hymn. And Thucydides recognizes the speaker of the Hymn as Homer 3. The ancient historian thinks he is quoting the words of Homer himself as he quotes from the Hymn the verses we recognize from the medieval manuscript transmission of Homer Thucydides 3.

The Homeric hymns : interpretative essays

This thinking of Thucydides is a most valuable piece of evidence about ancient ideas of Homer. It goes to the root of the conventional Athenian idea of Homer. When Thucydides refers to the festival of the Delia in the passages I quoted above, he uses this noun not once but several times once at 3. In another one of the Homeric Hymns we see an explicit reference to such a festival that served as a setting for the competitive performance of a Hymn. It seems to me unjustifiable to assume that a performer could win such a victory by performing a Homeric Hymn in competition with other performers performing other such Hymns.

The competition, I will now argue, is not between Hymns. And the competition includes not only each Hymn but also that additional something that is part of each Hymn. The essential characteristic of a prooimion is that it starts a performance. To back up this formulation, I return to an ancient paraphrase that I have already quoted in a larger context but have not yet highlighted. I will sing Zeus as my subject, best of the gods, and most great, whose sound reaches far and wide, the ruler, the one who brings things to their outcome [ telos ], the one who has Themis attentively seated at his side, and he keeps her company with regular frequency.

Homeric Hymn 23 to Zeus. As I argue at length in Homer the Preclassic , Zeus is figured as a transcendent hymnic subject : he can preside over a humnos even if that humnos is being performed at a festival sacred to another god. Here I will shift gears in order to give a working definition of the technical terms 1 hymnic subject and 2 hymnic consequent.

The Homeric Hymns

And, in the process of defining these two terms, I will address the basic meanings of the Greek words humnos and prooimion. Up to now, I have avoided using the word hymn with a lower-case h as a translation of humnos. Only with reference to the Homeric Hymns , which do qualify as humnoi in the Greek language, have I equated humnos with hymn. From here on, however, I will use the English word hymn as the equivalent of Greek humnos in general, since we are about to see convergences between the ordinary uses of English hymn and the programmatic uses of Greek humnos in choral as well as rhapsodic forms of performance.

That said, I am ready to explain further what I mean by the term hymnic subject.

The Homeric Hymns - The Second Hymn To Aphrodite - #23

In a hymn, the invoked divinity who presides over a given festival is the subject of the hymn. In the grammar of the Homeric Hymns , for example, the divinity who figures as the subject of any hymn is normally the grammatical object of the verb of singing the hymn as at the beginnings of Homeric Hymns 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, In the logic of the Homeric Hymns , the divinity that presides over the occasion of performance becomes continuous with the occasion and thus becomes the occasion.

And this occasion of the humnos is notionally perfect because the god who is the occasion is perfect.

Faced with the absoluteness of the god, the performer experiences a rhetorical hesitation: how can I make the subject of my humnos something that is perfect, absolute? This Homeric Hymn is saying about itself that it is the perfect and absolute humnos. And the source of the perfection is the god as the subject of the humnos.

The naming of the divinity as the subject of the humnos , together with the initial describing of the divinity, is the notionally perfect beginning of the humnos , and this beginning is the prooimion. Whereas the word prooimion refers only to the start of the continuum, the word humnos refers to both the start of the continuum and the continuum itself.


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  • The Homeric Hymn to Apollo is a perfect example: it refers to itself in terms of a humnos verses , , , while Thucydides refers to it explicitly as a prooimion 3. As for the etymology of the simplex noun humnos , it has in common with the compound noun prooimion a metaphorical reference to fabric work, but in this case the fabric work is not specified as pattern weaving. By hymnic consequent , I mean a performance, epic or otherwise, that follows the performance of a humnos. In Homer the Classic , I explore at length the formal relationship between the concept of humnos and the concept of epic as a hymnic consequent.

    Hail and take pleasure [ khaire ], goddess, queen of well-founded Cyprus. But, having started off from you, I will move ahead and shift forward [ metabainein ] to the rest of the humnos. Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite — As for me, I sing you first of all and from you do I start off [ arkhesthai ] to sing. And, having started off from you, I will move ahead and shift forward [ metabainein ] to the rest of the humnos. Hail and take pleasure [ khaire ], Hermes, giver of pleasurable beauty [ kharis ], you who are conductor [of psukhai ] and giver of good things.

    Homeric Hymn 18 to Hermes 10— As for me, I will keep you in mind along with the rest of the song.

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    Homeric Hymn 2 to Demeter — Here is the way I summarize my findings about these transitions, which I describe in terms of metabasis : [ ] Metabasis is a device that signals a shift from the subject of the god with whom the song started—what I have been calling the hymnic subject—and then proceeds to a different subject—in what must remain notionally the same song. Ideally, the shift from subject to different subject will be smooth.

    Ideally, the different subject will be consequential, so that the consequent of what was started in the humnos may remain part of the humnos. In other words, the concept of humnos is the concept of maintaining the song as the notionally same song by way of successfully executing a metabasis from the initial subject to the next subject.

    The initial subject of the god and the next subject are linked as one song by the humnos in general and by the device of hymnic metabasis in particular. What comes before the metabasis is the prooimion , the beginning of the humnos. What comes after the metabasis is no longer the prooimion —but it can still be considered the humnos. The ongoing performance, as I argue in Homer the Preclassic , is signaled by the word humnos at verse of Rhapsody viii.

    And what makes the performance of Demodokos so different from the later performance of Odysseus?

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    Andrew Faulkner | Classical Studies | University of Waterloo

    As I argue still further in Homer the Preclassic , Demodokos is represented as performing forms of song that resemble 1 the epic form of the epic Cycle, in the case of his first and third songs, which are about the Trojan War, and 2 the hymnic form of the Homeric Hymns , in the case of his second song, which is about the love affair of Ares and Aphrodite.

    There is no time and no space for me here to elaborate fully on my relevant arguments as I develop them in Homer the Preclassic , since they extend over twenty-five paragraphs of sustained argumentation. Instead, I have to content myself here with an outline divided into ten points. What now follows is that outline:. In the case of the second song, the hymnic consequent is a choral song and dance that makes a mimesis of the love affair of Ares and Aphrodite —; supplemented by — ; in the overall narration, the performance of choral song and dance is preceded by an embedded narration of this love affair, performed by Demodokos and quoted by the rhapsodic medium of the Homeric Odyssey — In effect, the rhapsodic medium is making a mimesis of the mimesis made by the choral medium.

    Such a shifting form of epic narration, as embedded in Rhapsody viii of the Odyssey , is analogous to the forms of epic that could have been introduced by the Homeric Hymns. And such a form of epic is typical of the epic Cycle. And so, unlike the Homeric Hymns and unlike the third song of Demodokos, the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey allow for no metabasis—except for the metabasis performed by Demodokos himself as a rival of Odysseus. Such a prooimion is missing at the start of both the Iliad and the Odyssey.

    To be contrasted with this regulated rhapsodic performance of Odysseus, starting with Rhapsody ix and extending all the way to the end of Rhapsody xii, are the three unregulated performances of Demodokos in Rhapsody viii, each of which is preceded by a distinctly hymnic prooimion.

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    In the Odyssey , the feasting and the competition that start in Rhapsody viii continue all the way through the narrative performed by Odysseus in Rhapsodies ix through xii, lasting all night. Then, when dawn finally arrives in Rhapsody xiii 23 , there is another animal sacrifice 24 , and this time the divine recipient of the sacrifice is mentioned by name: he is Zeus himself In that age, the old poetic form of the prooimion as represented by the Homeric Hymns was rethought as a new genre, separable from the old poetic form of the epic consequent.

    I argue that the answer to this question is no. At best we can apply to the hymn the larger concept of a supergenre, just as Richard Martin applies this larger concept to epic.