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The Core Curriculum

Unknown

700 BCE –
Dates are approximate


Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, harvest, fertility and sacred law. Roman copy of 4th Century BCE Greek original. (Wikimedia Commons) Demeter, the goddess of agriculture, harvest, fertility and sacred law. Roman copy of 4th Century BCE Greek original. (Wikimedia Commons) The Hymn to Demeter
is just one of the 33 surviving hymns that were attributed to Homer in antiquity. That attribution was already questioned by some ancient critics, and today scholars do not believe that any of the "Homeric hymns" were composed by the composer or composers of the Iliad and the Odyssey. These Greek hexameter poems were written in epic style and addressed to gods and minor deities. It is not known when the collection was put together. The authors were evidently rhapsodes (professional performers of Homeric poetry). The author of the Hymn to Apollo describes himself as ‘a blind man living in rocky Chios,’ which is thought by some to account for the story handed down from antiquity that Homer was blind. Many of the Hymns are only a few lines long and are preludes to the epic recitations often given at festivals, invoking the gods whose festivals were being celebrated. Others narrate at length some episode relating to the god. The most notable are: the Hymn to Demeter, which relates the famous myth of the seizing of Persephone by Hades and Demeter's search for her, and ends with the founding of the Eleusinian mysteries; the Hymn to Apollo, attributed to Homer by Thucydides and Aristophanes, the first part of which describes the god's birth on Delos and the second the establishment of his oracle at Delphi; the Hymn to Hermes, a lively and amusing account of the god's achievements as a baby; the Hymn to Aphrodite, which depicts the goddess of love herself yielding to love and seducing the mortal Anchises; and the Hymn to Dionysus, which briefly tells the story of the god's capture by pirates and the subsequent miracles he performed.

 

Works Consulted:

Homeric Hymns,"  The Concise Oxford Companion to Classical Literature. Ed. M.C. Howatson and Ian Chilvers. Oxford University Press, 1996. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  Columbia University.  8 February 2011