Homeric Hymns

Delahoyde & Hughes


Most of the Greek poems in the collection known as the Homeric Hymns were composed around the 7th century b.c.e. These anonymous works celebrate individual gods in dactylic hexameter (like the epics) and in some cases provide narratives about episodes in the gods’ lives. They were attributed to Homer, as Thucydides records, and a reference near the end of the Hymn to Delian Apollo to a blind singer cinched it for some. Many of the hymns function as introductions, but it is not known to what.

1 – To Dionysos — fragments concerned with his controversial place of birth and giving various aliases.
2 – To Demeter — a long narrative offering the stories of the abduction of Persephone and the rearing of Demopho├Ân.
3a – To Delian Apollo — probably one of the two earliest hymns, possibly as early as the eighth century b.c.e.
3b – To Pythian Apollo — concerned with where Apollo would establish his first shrine, with references to Zeus slaying Typhon and Hephaistos being born a cripple.
4 – To Hermes — in this long narrative, Hermes uses a tortoise shell to make a new musical instrument and bugs Apollo regarding cattle.
5 – To Aphrodite — probably one of the two earliest hymns, possibly as early as the eighth century b.c.e.; she cannot affect every goddess, but can suffer love herself, as her relationship with Anchises, father of Aeneas, shows.
6 – To Aphrodite — a short tribute, asking that the poet be the victor in the contest.
7 – To Dionysos — the god’s adventure with the sailors who turn into dolphins, as Ovid recounts.
8 – Ares — very late, possibly even the fifth century c.e.; oddly, praying for “the courage to live in the safe ways of peace, / Shunning strife and ill will and the violent fiends of destruction” (57).
9 – To Artemis — “Virgin delighting in arrows” (58).
10 – To Aphrodite — “Hail, goddess, guardian of strongly built Salamis” (59).
11 – To Athene — “the city’s protectress” and goddess of war (60).
12 – To Hera — supposedly honored equally with Zeus.
13 – To Demeter — just three lines.
14 – To the Mother of the Gods
15 – To Heracles — with mention of his post-deification marriage to Hebe.
16 – To Asclepios — physician son of Apollo.
17 – To the Dioscuri — the twins, Castor and Polydeuces, sons of Zeus and Leda.
18 – To Hermes — messenger of the gods, son of Zeus and Maia.
19 – To Pan — later, probably fifth century b.c.e.; describing the birth of this goatish freak.
20 – To Hephaistos — “Who … taught to men upon earth / Arts of great splendor, men who in former days lived / Like wild beasts in caves in the mountains” (70).
21 – To Apollo — even the swan sings in praise of Apollo.
22 – To Poseidon — “tamer of horses and preserver of ships” (72).
23 – To Zeus — “who brings all things to fulfillment / And holds wise discourse with Themis” (73).
24 – To Hestia — “you from whose hair / Drips forever moist scented oil” (74).
25 – To the Muses and Apollo — because of them there are bards “who play on the lyre” (74).
26 – To Dionysos — raised by nymphs.
27 – To Artemis — who “Sends forth her arrows of anguish” to wildlife (76).
28 – To Athene — “ever ready with counsel” (77).
29 – To Hestia — “without you / No feasts would there be for mortals” (78).
30 – To Gaia — “oldest of gods, / Firm of foundation” (79).
31 – To Helios — “who shines upon men and undying gods / As he drives his swift chariot” (80).
32 – To Selene — the moon goddess.
33 – To the Dioscuri — “Castor the tamer of horses and Polydeuces the blameless” (82).

Works Consulted

Sargent, Thelma, trans. The Homeric Hymns. NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1973.

Wilkie, Brian, and James Hurt, eds. Literature of the Western World, Volume 1. 5th edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001.