KALLIMAKHOS HYMN TO ZEUS

ΚΑΛΛΙΜΑΧΟΥ ΥΜΝΟΙ

I.---ΕΙΣ ΔΙΑ


HellenicGods.org


HOME               GLOSSARY              RESOURCE              ART             LOGOS             CONTACT

Here follows the Hymn to Zeus  by the Alexandrian poet, Kallimakhos (Callimachus) of Kyrene (Cyrene).  This is the 1921 translation by A.W. Mair and G.R. Mair as found in the book entitled Callimachus: Hymns and Epigrams, Lycophron, Aratus, Loeb Classical Library Vol. 129, William Heinemann (London, England UK). The text has been thoroughly checked for errors. One alteration has been made to the text: every appearance of the word God and Gods has been capitalized.  

If you would like to download the hymn in an appealing presentation, click here: DOWNLOAD THE HYMN TO ZEUS BY KALLIMAKHOS


The Hymn to Zeus by Kallimakhos of Kyrene/Alexandria

At libations to Zeus what else should rather be sung than the God himself, mighty for ever, king for evermore, router of the Pelagonians, dealer of justice to the sons of Heaven?

How shall we sing of him – as lord of Dicte or of Lycaeum? My soul is all in doubt, since debated is his birth. O Zeus, some say that thou wert born on the hills of Ida; others, O Zeus, say in Arcadia; did these or those, O Father lie? “Cretans are ever liars.” Yea, a tomb, O Lord, for thee the Cretans builded; but thou didst not die, for thou art for ever.

In Parrhasia it was that Rheia bare thee, where was a hill sheltered with thickest brush. Thence is the place holy, and no fourfooted thing that hath need of Eileithyia nor any woman approacheth thereto, but the Apidanians call it the primeval childbed of Rheia. There when thy mother had laid thee down from her mighty lap, straightway she sought a stream of water, wherewith she might purge her of the soilure of birth and wash thy body therein.But mighty Ladon flowed not yet, nor Erymanthus, clearest of rivers; waterless was all Arcadia; yet was it anon to be called well-watered. For at that time when Rhea loosed her girdle, full many a hollow oak did watery Iaon bear aloft, and many a wain did Melas carry and many a serpent above Carnion, wet though it now be, cast its lair; and a man would fare on foot over Crathis and many-pebbled Metope, athirst: while that abundant water lay beneath his feet.

And holden in distress the lady Rheia said, "Dear Earth, give birth thou also! Thy birthpangs are light." So spake the Goddess, and lifting her great arm aloft she smote the mountain with her staff; and it was greatly rent in twain for her and poured forth a mighty flood. Therein, O Lord, she cleansed they body; and swaddled thee, and gave thee to Neda to carry within the Cretan covert, that thou mightst be reared secretly: Neda, eldest of the nymphs who then were about her bed, earliest birth after Styx and Philyra. And no idle favour did the Goddess repay her, but named that stream Neda; which, I ween, in great flood by the very city of the Cauconians, which is called Lepreion, mingles its stream with Nereus, and its primeval water do the son’s sons of the Bear, Lycaon’s daughter, drink.

When the nymph, carrying thee, O Father Zeus, towards Cnosus, was leaving Thenae – for Thenae was nigh to Cnosus – even then, O God, thy navel fell away: hence that plain the Cydonians call the Plain of the Navel. But thee, O Zeus, the companions of the Cyrbantes took to their arms, even the Dictaean Meliae, and Adrasteia laid thee to rest in a cradle of gold, and thou didst suck the rich teat of the she-goat Amaltheia, and thereto eat the sweet honey-comb. For suddenly on the hills of Ida, which men call Panacra, appeared the works of the Panacrian bee. And lustily round thee danced the Curetes a war-dance, beating their armour, that Cronus might hear with his ears the din of the shield, but not thine infant noise.

Fairly didst thou wax, O heavenly Zeus, and fairly wert thou nurtured, and swiftly thou didst grow to manhood, and speedily came the down upon thy cheek. But, while yet a child, thou didst devise all the deeds of perfect stature. Wherefore thy kindred, though an earlier generation, grudged not that thou shouldst have heaven for thine appointed habitation. The ancient poets spake not altogether truly. For they said that the lot assigned to the sons of Cronus their three several abodes. But who would draw lots for Olympus and for Hades – save a very fool? for equal chances should one cast lots; but these are the wide world apart. When I speak fiction, be it such fiction as persuades the listener’s ear! Thou wert made sovereign of the Gods not by casting of lots but by the deeds of thy hands, thy might and that strength which thou hast set beside thy throne. And the most excellent of birds didst thou make the messenger of thy signs; favourable to my friends be the signs thou showest! And thou didst choose that which is most excellent among men – not thou the skilled in ships, nor the wielder of the shield, nor the minstrel: these didst thou straightway renounce to lesser Gods, other cares to others. But thou didst choose the rulers of cities themselves, beneath whose hand is the lord of the soil, the skilled in spearmanship, the oarsman, yea, all things that are: what is there that is not under the ruler’s sway? Thus, smiths, we say, belong to Hephaestus; to Ares, warriors; to Artemis of the Tunic, huntsmen; to Phoebus they that know well the strains of the lyre. But from Zeus come kings; for nothing is diviner than the kings of Zeus. Wherefore thou didst choose them for thine own lot, and gavest them cities to guard. And thou didst seat thyself in the high places of the cities, watching who rule their people with crooked judgements, and who rule otherwise. And thou hast bestowed upon them wealth and prosperity abundantly; unto all, but not in equal measure. One may well judge by our Ruler, for he hath clean outstripped all others. At evening he accomplisheth that whereon he thinketh in the morning; yea, at evening the greatest things, but the lesser soon as he thinketh on them. But the others accomplish some things in a year, and some things not in one; of others, again, thou thyself dost utterly frustrate the accomplishing and thwartest their desire.

Hail! greatly hail! most high Son of Cronus, giver of good things, giver of safety. Thy works who could sing? There hath not been, there shall not be, who shall sing the works of Zeus. Hail! Father, hail again! and grant us goodness and prosperity. Without goodness wealth cannot bless men, nor goodness without prosperity. Give us goodness and weal.

 

NOTES TO THE TEXT:  The following incorporates all of Mair's notes to the poem, as well as additional material.  Mair's citations are incorporated into the text of the notes, adjacent to quotes from the poem.  Additional citations for new material are listed numerically below.

At libations to Zeus what else should rather be sung than the God himself -"This briefly suggests a dramatic scene.  We are at a symposium, and libations to Zeus are being poured.  The poet breaks into song." [1]

router of the Pelagonians - The Pelagonians refers to the Giants, the sons of Ge.

dealer of justice to the sons of Heaven - the sons of Uranos

lord of Dicte - Dicte (Dhíti) is a mountain in Crete, where there is a cave that is said to be the place of the birth of Zeus.

...or of Lycaeum -  Mountain in Arcadia.  

born on the hills of Ida - Ida is a mountain in Crete. 

"Cretans are ever liars" - This proverbial saying, attributed to Epimenides, is quoted by St. Paul, Ep. Tit. i. 12, "One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, 'The Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies' ", and seems to be alluded to by Aratus, Phaen. 30.  The explanation given by Athenodorus of Eretria ap. Ptolem. Hephaest. In Photii Bibl. p. 150 Bekk. Is that Thetis and Medea, having a dispute as to which of them was the fairer, entrusted the decision to Idomeneus of Crete.  He decided in favour of Thetis, whereon Medea said, “Cretans are always liars” and cursed them that they should never speak the truth.  The schol. On the present passage says that Idomeneus divided the spoils of Troy unfairly.  

Yea, a tomb... - The Cretan legend was that Zeus was a prince who was slain by a wild boar and buried in Crete.  His tomb was variously localized and the tradition of “the tomb of Zeus” attaches to several places even in modern times, especially to Mount Iuktas.  See A. B. Cook, Zeus, vol. i. p. 157 ff.  

Mount Iuktas - (Mount Juktas) Mount Iuktas is a mountain in north-central Crete, near the Minoan palaces of Knossos and Phourni (Fourni).  At its peak is located an important sanctuary, Psili Korfi, said to be "the tomb of Zeus".  In reality, it is not certain what deities were honored there.  There is also evidence that it was thought to be the birthplace of Zeus.

In Parrhasia it was that Rhea bare thee -  Parrhasia (Greek: Παρρασία) was one of the six sub-divisions of Arkadia, in southern Arkadia.  It was named after Parrhasius (not the late 5th century BCE painter),  a son of Lycaon.  When used in its form as an adjective, Parrhasian, the ancient poets often meant generically Arcadian.

...and no four-footed thing... -  Cf. Apoll. Rh. iv. 1240.

...and no four-footed thing that hath need of Eileithyia - Eileithyia is the Goddess of childbirth and labor pains, so Kallimachus is referring to a pregnant animal.  ...nor any woman approacheth thereto... "Sexual intercourse, giving  birth, and dying were thought to entail pollution and so were banned from sacred enclosures." [2]

but the Apidanians call it the primeval childbed of Rheia - The Apidanians are the ancient Arcadians (schol.)  But why the Arcadians?  According to Dionysius Periegete (415):  'Apidaneans...Arcadians...because it (sc. Arcadia) has no (a-) springs (pidakes)...'  [3]

There when thy mother had laid thee down from her mighty lap, straightway she sought a stream of water, wherewith she might purge her of the soilure of birth and wash thy body therein. "The spot is isolated, and it can therefore hide the birth from Cronus.  But an effect of the isolation is that there is no running water to wash the baby." [4]

But mighty Ladon flowed not yet - Ladon is a river in Arcadia  

nor Erymanthus clearest of rivers - Erymanthus is a river in Arcadia

full many a hollow oak did watery Iaon bear aloft - Iaon is a river in Arcadia

and many a wain did Melas carry - Melas: Dion. Per. 415 ff. Arkades Apidanêes hupo skopiên Erumanthou, entha Melas, othi Krathis, ina rheei hugros Idaôn, êchi kai ôgugios mêkunetai udasi Ladôn. Herodot. i. 145 has Ôlenos en tô Peiros potamos megas estia. Strabo 386 has Ôlenos, par’ on potramos megas Melas where it has been proposed to read par’ on <Peiros> and to omit Melas. M. T. Smiley, in Classical Qu. v. (1911) p. 89 f., suggests that the Styx is meant, which supplies the waterfall near Nonacris in North Arcadia and later becomes a tributary of the Crathis (Paus. viii. 18. 4). When Leake discovered the waterfall in 1806 the natives did not know the name Styx for it but called it the Black Water (Mavro nero) or the Dragon Water. The name Peiros in any case suggests a connexion with the underworld.

and many a serpent above Carnion, - Carnion, or Carion, is a river in Arcadia, Paus. viii. 34.  

and a man would fare on foot over Crathis  - Crathis is a river in Arcadia (and Achaea), Paus. vii. 25. 11, viii. 15. 5, viii. 18. 4.  

and many-pebbled Metope - Metope is a river in Arcadia. 

and gave thee to Neda to carry within the Cretan covert -  Cf. Paus. iv. 33. 1, “The Messenians say that Zeus was reared among them and that his nurses were Ithome and Neda, after whom the river got its name.” Cf. viii. 38 ff

earliest birth after Styx -  Styx, daughter of Oceanus and Tethys, Hesiod, Th. 361.

earliest birth after Styx and Philyra -  Philyra, daughter of Oceanus, mother of Kheiron by Kronus.

but named that stream Neda -  Paus. iv. 20. 2. The river Neda rises in Mount Lycaeon, flows into Messenia and forms the boundary between Messenia and Elis. Cf. Strabo 348 who says it rises in Lycaeon from a spring which Rheia caused to flow in order to wash the infant Zeus.

which, I ween, in great flood by the very city of the Cauconians -  The Cauconians were a people of Triphylia, Hom. Od. iii. 366.

which is called Lepreion -  Herod. iv. 148 says that Lepreion in Triphylia was founded by the Minyae after driving out the Cauconians.

mingles its stream with Nereus -  i.e. the sea.

sons sons of the Bear -  Arcas, the ancestor of the Arcadians, was the son of Zeus and Lycaon’s daughter Callisto who was changed into a bear.

Cnosus - Cnosus (known variously as Gnosus, Cnossus, and Knossos) was the royal city of Crete. It was originally called Caeratus after a river that flowed beneath its walls.  Knossos was the home of Minos and the Minotaur.

hence that plain the Cydonians call the Plain of the Navel -  Cydonia was a town in Crete.

the Plain of the Navel -   Schol. Nicand. Alex. 7 Omphalos gar topos en Krêtê, hôs kai Kallimachos pege . . . Kudônes. Diodor. v. 70 tells the story (he says that Zeus was carried by the Curetes) and gives the name of the place as Omphalos and of the plain around as Omphaleion.

the companions of the Cyrbantes - (ancient Greek:  Κορύβαντες) The Cyrbantes are also called the Corybantes or Korybantes.  It is unclear which Korybantes Kallimachus is referring to.  It is likely that he may be equating them with the Curetes. 

Strabo (64 BCE - 24 CE), the Greek historian, geographer, and philosopher, states that the Cyrbantes (Korybantes) are thought to be the same as the Curetes (Kuretes). [5] 

even the Dictaean Meliae - The ash-tree nymphs, cf. Hesiod. Th. 187.

and Adrasteia laid thee to rest in a cradle of gold -  Cf. Apoll. Rh. iii. 132 ff. Dios perikalles athurma | keino, to oi poise philê trophos Adrêsteia | antrô en Idaiô eti nêpia kourixonti | sphairan eutrochaloni.q. Nemesis, sister of the Curetes (schol.).

and thou didst suck the rich teat of the she-goat Amaltheia -  The nymph or she-goat who suckled Zeus; Diodor. v. 70, Apollod. 1. 5, schol. Arat. 161. Ovid, Fast. i. 115 ff.

and thereto eat the sweet honey-comb.  For suddenly on the hills of Ida, which men call Panacra, appeared the works of the Panacrian bee -  Mountains in Crete (Steph. Byz. s.v. Panakra). Zeus rewarded the bees by making them of a golden bronze colour and rendering them insensible to the rigours of the mountain climate (Diodor. v. 70).

"The infant Zeus was then concealed in a cave on Mount Dicte, which was full of sacred bees, who fed him on honey, and the goat Amaltheia gave him her milk."  This cave where Zeus was hidden was forbidden entry by God or man, but four men donned armor and somehow entered the cave, intending to steal the honey, but at the sight of the cradle and swaddling cloths of the God, the armor fell off and the bees and Zeus himself attacked them.  But Themis and the Fates prevented blood from being spilled and defiling the cave, and Zeus, instead, turned the men into birds.  The bees, in later mythology, were said to be nymphs or priestesses, but they retained the nameMelissae, the bee-maidens. [6]

And lustily round thee danced the Curetes -  Apollodor. i. 4, “The Curetes in full armour, guarding the infant in the cave, beat their shields with their spears that Cronus might not hear the child’s voice.”

a war dance, beating their armor -  prulis, the Cyprian name for the purrhichê (Aristotle fr. 476, schol. Pind. P.ii. 127) or dance in armour (Pollux iv. 96 and 99); see Classical Qu. xxxii. p. 131.

Wherefore thy kindred, though an earlier generation, grudged not that thou shouldst have heaven for thine appointed habitation -  This has been supposed to refer to the fact that Ptolemy Philadelphus was the youngest of the sons of Ptolemy Soter.

For they said that the lot assigned to the sons of Cronus their three several abodes -  Homer, Il. xv. 187 ff.; cf. Apollodor. i. 7, Pind O. vii. 54 ff.

Thou wert made sovereign of the gods not by casting of lots by the deeds of thy hands, thy might and that strength -  Bia and Cratos appear as personification of the might and majesty of Zeus in Aeschylus, P.V., Hesiod,Th. 385, etc.

And the most excellent of birds didst thou make the messenger of thy signs -  The eagle.

to Artemis of the Tunic -  Artemis Chitone (Chitonea, Athen. 629 c), so called from the tunic (chiton) in which as huntress she was represented; not, as the schol. says, from the Attic deme Chitone.

One may well judge by our Ruler -  Ptolemy II. Philadelphus, 285-247 B.C.

Hail!  greatly hail!  most high Son of Cronus, giver of good things, giver of safety.  Thy works who could sing?  There hath not been, there shall not be, who shall sing the works of Zeus.  Hail!  Father, hail again!  and grant us goodness and prosperity.  Without goodness wealth cannot bless men, nor goodness without prosperity.  Give us goodness and weal.  Frank Nisetich translates this impressive stanza thus:   "Farewell, Son of Kronos, high above all, Giver of good, Giver of security.  Who could sing of your achievements?  He hasn't been born, he won't be:  sing of Zeus' achievements.  Farewell, Father, again farewell.  Give us virtue and wealth.  Prosperity knows not how to lift men high without virtue, nor virtue without wealth:  give us virtue and prosperity together!" [7]

NOTES:

[1]  CALLIMACHUS: Hymns, Epigrams, Select Fragments by Stanley Lombardo and Diane Rayor, 1988, p. 93

[2]  The Poems of Kallimachus by Frank Nisetich, 2001, p. 201

[3]  Nisetich, p.201

[4]  Greek Literature in the Hellenistic Period by Gregory Nagy 2001, p.125 

[5]  Strabo, III, 3. 

[6]  THE SACRED BEE in Ancient Times and Folklore by Hilda M. Ransome, Dover 2004 (originally 1937), p.92

[7]  Nisetich, p.23 


PLEASE NOTE:  Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods.  These narratives are known as mythology, the traditional stories of the Gods and Heroes.  While these tales are great mystical vehicles containing transcendent truth, they are symbolic and should not be taken literally.  A literal reading will frequently yield an erroneous result.  The meaning of the myths is concealed in code.  To understand them requires a key.  For instance, when a God kills someone, this usually means a transformation of the soul to a higher level.  Similarly, sexual union with a God is a transformation.

PHOTO COPYRIGHT INFORMATION:  The many pages of this website incorporate images, some created by the author, but many obtained from outside sources.  To find out more information about these images and why this website can use them, visit this link:  Photo Copyright Information

DISCLAIMER:  The inclusion of images, quotations, and links from outside sources does not in any way imply agreement (or disagreement), approval (or disapproval) with the views of HellenicGods.org by the external sources from which they were obtained.

Further, the inclusion of images, quotations, and links from outside sources does not in any way imply agreement (or disagreement), approval (or disapproval) by HellenicGods.org of the contents or views of any external sources from which they were obtained.



For more information: Inquire.hellenicgods@gmail.com



© 2010 by HellenicGods.org.  All Rights Reserved.