The Homeric Hymns: A Translation, with Introduction and Notes

The Homeric Hymns: A Translation, with Introduction and Notes

The Homeric Hymns: A Translation, with Introduction and Notes

The Homeric Hymns: A Translation, with Introduction and Notes


The Homeric Hymns have survived for two and a half millennia because of their captivating stories, beautiful language, and religious significance. Well before the advent of writing in Greece, they were performed by traveling bards at religious events, competitions, banquets, and festivals. These thirty-four poems invoking and celebrating the gods of ancient Greece raise questions that humanity still struggles with--questions about our place among others and in the world.

Known as "Homeric" because they were composed in the same meter, dialect, and style as Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, these hymns were created to be sung aloud. In this superb translation by Diane J. Rayor, which deftly combines accuracy and poetry, the ancient music of the hymns comes alive for the modern reader. Here is the birth of Apollo, god of prophecy, healing, and music and founder of Delphi, the most famous oracular shrine in ancient Greece. Here is Zeus, inflicting upon Aphrodite her own mighty power to cause gods to mate with humans, and here is Demeter rescuing her daughter Persephone from the underworld and initiating the rites of the Eleusinian Mysteries.

This updated edition incorporates twenty-eight new lines in the first Hymn to Dionysos, along with expanded notes, a new preface, and an enhanced bibliography. With her introduction and notes, Rayor places the hymns in their historical and aesthetic context, providing the information needed to read, interpret, and fully appreciate these literary windows on an ancient world. As introductions to the Greek gods, entrancing stories, exquisite poetry, and early literary records of key religious rituals and sites, the Homeric Hymns should be read by any student of mythology, classical literature, ancient religion, women in antiquity, or the Greek language.


In the ten years since the first edition of this book appeared, the Homeric Hymns have only increased in popularity among readers and scholars. In addition to some new reading recommendations and minor corrections, the second edition has revisions to the Hymn to Dionysos I, including twenty-eight new lines. The Hymn to Dionysos I once was one of the longer hymns, at 411 lines; the new fragments help to reveal the story of Hera’s acceptance of Dionysos on Mount Olympos.

The Hymn to Dionysos 7 begins with “I will remember,” and the Hymn to Apollo 3 adds, “I will remember and not forget.” Altogether or singly, the hymns are worth remembering, particularly along with Homer or Hesiod. The Homeric Hymns provide an excellent addition to mythology, religion, gender, literature, and civilization courses because of their short length, accessible narratives, general interest, and connections to other classical and modern works.

As quick introductions to Greek gods, the short hymns . . .

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