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The Homeric "Hymn to Demeter"

The Homeric "Hymn to Demeter": Translation, Commentary, and Interpretive Essays

Edited by Helene P. Foley
Copyright Date: 1994
Edition: STU - Student edition
Pages: 320
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt3fgxdk
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  • Book Info
    The Homeric "Hymn to Demeter"
    Book Description:

    The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, composed in the late seventh or early sixth century B.C.E., is a key to understanding the psychological and religious world of ancient Greek women. The poem tells how Hades, lord of the underworld, abducted the goddess Persephone and how her grieving mother, Demeter, the goddess of grain, forced the gods to allow Persephone to return to her for part of each year. Helene Foley presents the Greek text and an annotated translation of this poem, together with selected essays that give the reader a rich understanding of the Hymn's structure and artistry, its role in the religious life of the ancient world, and its meaning for the modern world.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4908-6
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. PREFACE AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. PART 1. THE TEXT AND TRANSLATION, COMMENTARY, AND BACKGROUND

    • TEXT AND TRANSLATION OF THE HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER
      (pp. 2-27)
    • COMMENTARY ON THE HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER
      (pp. 28-64)
      Helene P. Foley

      The homeric hymns were songs composed to honor and praise deities and apparently served as preludes (prooimia) to the recitation of other epic poetry.¹, ² Although we know nothing certain about their audience and the circumstances of their performance, they were probably composed for recitation at feasts, at poetic contests, and at seasonally recurring festivals (the last two would often occur in combination). In a tradition where oral recitation is the primary mode of poetic communication, the context of performance (here uncertain) is probably the determining feature of a poetic “genre”. Yet the Homeric hymns are a body of poems...

    • BACKGROUND: THE ELEUSINIAN MYSTERIES AND WOMEN’S RITES FOR DEMETER
      (pp. 65-76)
      Helene P. Foley

      The eleusinian mysteries were the most important of the widespread Greek mystery cults of antiquity. Our sources for the Mysteries include the archaeological evidence of the sanctuary buildings, inscriptions, representations on reliefs and vases, and references in literary sources. Eleusis was situated on a trade route where the roads from Attika, Boeotia, and the Peloponnesos meet and approximately fourteen miles west of Athens. Archaeological evidence for a possible cult at the site of the later Mysteries begins in the Mycenaean period (fifteenth century B.C.E.).¹ Substantial remains begin in the late Geometric Age (eighth century B.C.E.); the Goths probably destroyed the...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
  6. PART 2. INTERPRETIVE ESSAY ON THE HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER
    (pp. 77-178)
    HELENE P. FOLEY

    The homeric Hymn to Demeter brilliantly records “the mother-daughter passion and rapture” whose loss Adrienne Rich laments.¹ Probably composed between 650-550 B.C.E. by an unknown bard (or bards),² the Hymn honors the Greek goddess of grain Demeter and her daughter Korê (“maiden”), or Persephone. The poem tells the story of the abduction of Korê/Persephone by Hades, god of the underworld, and the struggle of her mother Demeter to win her daughter back along with the idyllic happiness they had enjoyed before their violent separation by the plan of the father Zeus for his daughter’s marriage. After a sojourn among mortals...

  7. PART 3. FURTHER INTERPRETATION:: CONTRIBUTED ARTICLES

    • WITHDRAWAL AND RETURN: AN EPIC STORY PATTERN IN THE HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER AND IN THE HOMERIC POEMS
      (pp. 181-189)
      Mary Louise Lord

      The purpose of this paper is to show that the story of Demeter’s withdrawal and return in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter shares an epic pattern that is discernible also in the Homeric poems.¹ The narrative of the Hymn, built upon recurrent epic and mythic themes, may be seen to reveal a structure found in other stories in verse that have long existed in tradition.

      It has been observed that certain story elements tend to belong together and to recur in essentially the same pattern or grouping of themes. A. B. Lord has shown in The Singer of Tales² that...

    • SOME FUNCTIONS OF THE DEMOPHOÖN EPISODE IN THE HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER
      (pp. 190-197)
      Nancy Felson-Rubin and Harriet M. Deal

      This study focuses on the functioning of the Demophoön narrative, enclosed in the Homeric Hymn to Demeter, within the larger narrative of Persephone’s abduction and partial restoration.¹ On a dramatic level, the Demophoön episode furthers the character development of Demeter, retards the resolution of the plot, and allows focus to fall first on Demeter, then on the reunion of Demeter with Persephone. The episode helps to develop and express certain values and beliefs pertaining to divinity and mortality, male and female experience, sexuality and virginity, fertility and infertility. Though much has been written about these values and beliefs as they...

    • CONCERNING THE HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER
      (pp. 198-211)
      Jean Rudhardt

      The act of distributing timai (honors) constitutes an essential expression of Greek mythical thought.¹

      In invoking the Muses, the author of the Hesiodic Theogony defines his project in the following manner:

      Hail, children of Zeus! Give me an alluring song and celebrate the holy race of immortals who live forever, those who were born from Earth and starry Sky or from dark Night and those whom salty Pontos nourished. Tell how, at the beginning there came to being in the world of the gods the earth, the rivers, the limitless sea with its restless billow, the shining stars and the...

    • POLITICS AND POMEGRANATES REVISITED: AN INTERPRETATION OF THE HOMERIC HYMN TO DEMETER
      (pp. 212-242)
      Marilyn Arthur Katz

      It has now been nearly twenty years since I wrote “Politics and Pomegranates,” and it is not the essay I would write today. It was composed originally for a 1975 conference on “New Approaches to the Study of Classical Antiquity,” and it was designed as an experiment in juxtaposing psychoanalytic theory with literary criticism. At the time, I wanted to see whether I could avoid the subordination of text to theory which had always been the hallmark of so-called “applied analysis.” As one critic later put it, “The relationship between ‘literature and psychoanalysis’ . . . is usually interpreted ....

    • FAMILY STRUCTURE AND FEMININE PERSONALITY
      (pp. 243-265)
      Nancy Chodorow

      I propose here¹,² a model to account for the reproduction within each generation of certain general and nearly universal differences that characterize masculine and feminine personality and roles. My perspective is largely psychoanalytic. Cross-cultural and social-psychological evidence suggests that an argument drawn solely from the universality of biological sex differences is unconvincing.³ At the same time, explanations based on patterns of deliberate socialization (the most prevalent kind of anthropological, sociological, and social-psychological explanation) are in themselves insufficient to account for the extent to which psychological and value commitments to sex differences are so emotionally laden and tenaciously maintained, for the...

  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 266-280)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ADDENDUM
    (pp. 281-282)
  10. INDEX LOCORUM
    (pp. 283-288)
  11. GENERAL INDEX
    (pp. 289-298)