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APÓLLOHN: A HYMN OF KALLÍMAKHOS OF ALEXANDRIA

The Text and Extensive Commentary


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The Hymn to Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων) by the Alexandrian poet Kallímakhos (Callimachus; Gr. Καλλίμαχος. Born 310/305, died 240 BCE) of Kyríni (Cyrene; Gr. Κυρήνη) as translated by A.W. Mair and G.R. Mair [21]. This translation is available elsewhere on the Internet, so why repeat it here? Upon examination of other online versions of the poem, editorial mistakes were found. The version below has been thoroughly proofread and is correct. Commentary follows the poem, beginning with the translator's remarks combined with considerable additional information from numerous sources. 

The translation is in the public domain. 

DOWNLOAD THE TEXT OF THE HYMN

NOTE: There has been one alteration to the text: at every occurrence of the words God or Gods, these words have, out of respect, been capitalized.


APÓLLOHN: A HYMN OF KALLÍMAKHOS OF ALEXANDRIA 

How the laurel branch of Apollo trembles! How trembles all the shrine! Away, away, he that is sinful! Now surely Phoebus knocketh at the door with his beautiful foot. See’st thou not? The Delian palm nods pleasantly of a sudden and the swan in the air sings sweetly. Of yourselves now ye bolts be pushed back, pushed back of yourselves, ye bars! The God is no longer far away. And ye, young men, prepare ye for song and for the dance.

Not unto everyone doth Apollo appear, but unto him that is good. Whoso hath seen Apollo, he is great; whoso hath not seen him, he is of low estate. We shall see thee, O Archer, and we shall never be lowly. Let not the youths keep silent lyre or noiseless step, when Apollo visits his shrine, if they think to accomplish marriage and to cut the locks of age, and if the wall is to stand upon its old foundations. Well done the youths, for that the shell is no longer idle.

Be hushed, ye that hear, at the song to Apollo; yea, hushed is even the sea when the minstrels celebrate the lyre or the bow, the weapons of Lycoreian Phoebus. Neither doth Thetis his mother wail her dirge for Achilles, when she hears Hië Paeëon, Hië Paeëon.

Yea, the tearful rock defers its pain, the wet stone that is set in Phrygia, a marble rock like a woman open-mouthed in some sorrowful utterance. Say ye Hië! Hië! an ill thing it is to strive with the Blessed Ones. He who fights with the Blessed Ones would fight with my King; he who fights with my King, would fight even with Apollo. 
Apollo will honor the choir, since it sings according to his heart; for Apollo hath power, for that he sitteth on the right hand of Zeus. Nor will the choir sing of Phoebus for one day only. He is a copious theme of song; who would not readily sing of Phoebus?

Golden is the tunic of Apollo and golden his mantle, his lyre and his Lyctian bow and his quiver: golden too are his sandals; for rich in gold is Apollo, rich also in possessions: by Pytho mightst thou guess. And ever beautiful is he and ever young: never on the girl cheeks of Apollo hath come so much as the down of manhood. His locks distill fragrant oils upon the ground; not oil of fat do the locks of Apollo distill but very Healing of All. And in whatsoever city those dews fall upon the ground, in that city all things are free from harm.

None is so abundant in skill as Apollo. To him belongs the archer, to him the minstrel; for unto Apollo is given in keeping alike archery and song. His are the lots of the diviner and his the seers; and from Phoebus do leeches know the deferring of death.

Phoebus and Nomius we call him, ever since the time when by Amphrysus he tended the yokemares, fired with love of young Admetus. Lightly would the herd of cattle wax larger, nor would the she-goats of the flock lack young, whereon as they feed Apollo casts his eye; nor without milk would the ewes be nor barren, but all would have lambs at foot; and she that bare one would soon be the mother of twins. 

And Phoebus it is that men follow when they map out cities. For Phoebus evermore delights in the founding of cities, and Phoebus himself doth weave their foundations. Four years of age was Phoebus when he framed his first foundations in fair Ortygia near the round lake. 

Artemis hunted and brought continually the heads of Cynthian goats and Phoebus plaited an altar.  With horns builded he the foundations, and of horns framed he the altar, and of horns were the walls he built around.  Thus did Phoebus learn to raise his first foundations.  Phoebus, too, it was who told Battus of my own city of fertile soil, and in guise of a raven – auspicious to our founder – led his people as they entered Libya and sware that he would vouchsafe a walled city to our kings. And the oath of Apollo is ever sure. O Apollo! Many there be that call thee Boëdromius, and many there be that call thee Clarius: everywhere is thy name on the lips of many. But I call thee Karneius; for such is the manner of my fathers.  Sparta, O Karneius! was thy first foundation; and next Thera; but third the city of Cyrene. From Sparta the sixth generation of the sons of Oedipus brought thee to their colony of Thera; and from Thera lusty Aristoteles set thee by the Asbystian land, and builded thee a shrine exceeding beautiful, and in the city established a yearly festival wherein many a bull, O Lord, falls on his haunches for the last time. HiëHië, Karneius! Lord of many prayers, – thine altars wear flowers in spring, even all the pied flowers which the Hours lead forth when Zephyrus breathes dew, and in winter the sweet crocus. Undying evermore is thy fire, nor ever doth the ash feed about the coals of yester-even. Greatly, indeed, did Phoebus rejoice as the belted warriors of Enyo danced with the yellow-haired Libyan women, when the appointed season of the Karnean feast came round. But not yet could the Dorians approach the fountains of Cyre, but dwelt in Azilis thick with wooded dells. These did the Lord himself behold and showed them to his bride as he stood on horned Myrtussa where the daughter of Hypseus slew the lion that harried the kine of Eurypylus. No other dance more divine hath Apollo beheld, nor to any city hath he given so many blessings as he hath given to Cyrene, remembering his rape of old. Nor, again, is there any other God whom the sons of Battus have honored above Phoebus.


Hië, Hië, Paeëon, we hear – since this refrain did the Delphian folk first invent, what time thou didst display the archery of they golden bow. As thou wert going down to Pytho, there met thee a beast unearthly, a dread snake. And him thou didst slay, shooting swift arrows one upon the other; and the folk cried “Hië, Hië, Paeëon, shoot an arrow!” A helper from the first thy mother bare thee, and ever since that is thy praise.

Spake Envy privily in the ear of Apollo: “I admire not the poet who singeth not things for number as the sea.” Apollo spurned Envy with his foot and spake thus: “Great is the stream of the Assyrian river, but much filth of earth and much refuse it carries on its waters. And not of every water do the Melissae carry to Deo, but of the trickling stream that springs from a holy fountain, pure and undefiled, the very crown of waters.”

Hail, O Lord, but Blame – let him go where Envy dwells!


COMMENTARY ON THE POEM BY A. W. MAIR AND G. R. MAIR:  [22]

As to the destination of this Hymn, Couat, p. 235, Susemihl i. p. 361, Maass, Hermes XXV. (1890), agree that it was written for the Carnean festival of Apollo at Cyrene. Maass, it is true, is somewhat troubled by the "Delian" palm.  But he gravely conjectures that a scion of the Delian tree was grown in Cyrene and he appeals to Hehn, Kulturpflanzen, p. 224, to show that the palm is easily transplanted. Most readers will probably feel with Malten (Kyrene, p. 52, n. 1) that the conjecture is "zu gesucht!" We entirely agree with Malten --- though not quite on the same grounds --- that "obwohl er also von den kyrenäischen Karneen handelt, hat Kallimachos seinen Hymnus so wenig als ein sacrales Gedicht für Kyrene gedichtet wie Goethe die Walpurgisnacht für den Brocken."

The speaker throughout is the poet, and the occasion imagined is the epiphany of the God. To-day Apollo is to visit his temple. Ere yet the God veritably comes, we perceive the signs of his approach in the quivering of the holy laurel, in the trembling of the shrine. It is time for the profane to withdraw. Apollo is at the gate --- the Delian palm bows to do him homage, the cry of the swan, Apollo's sacred bird, is heard on high. Let the doors of themselves roll back! Let the young men declare his praise with voice and harp! To see Apollo is not given unto all : it is the proof and promise of the Elect. That proof and that promise shall be ours. Now Apollo is present in his temple --- let the youths sing his praise: so shall their days be long in the land which Apollo gave unto their fathers (1-15). Now the youths raise their song in honour of Apollo. Be silent, all ye faithful, and hearken to that Paean which wins Thetis from her mourning and stays the tears of Niobe --- whose monumental grief still proclaims the sorrow and the sin of envy, of war with Heaven.  Against Heaven, against my king: against Apollo! But they who sing the praise of Apollo shall have their reward (16-29). Rich in gold is Apollo, ever beautiful and ever young, his unshorn locks shed dews of healing wheresoever he goes. He is the pattern and patron of the Archer, the Poet, the Prophet, the Physician, nay he is the Pastoral God (Nomios) as well, ever since upon earth he did such service for Admetus. Lastly, he is the Founder of Cities, ever since as a child of four years he built the Altar of Horns in Delos (29-64). Under his guidance was Cyrene founded (65ff.). Lines 65-96 are occupied with the story of Cyrene, 97-104 with the origin of the cry Hië Paean. Finally 105-113 contain the remarkable parable of Envy.

The schol. on v. 106 says: "In these words he rebukes those who jeered at him as not being able to write a big poem: which taunt drove him to write the Hecale." It is generally assumed that Phthonos represents Apollonius Rhodius and Apollo perhaps Ptolemy. There is a striking parallel to v. 106 in Apoll. Rh. iii. 932f. ἀκλειὴς ὅδε μάντις, ὃς οὐδ' ὅσα παῖδες ἴσασιν οἶδε νόῳ ϕράσσασθαι. But into the thorny chronology of the quarrel of Callimachus and Apollonius we cannot here enter. We can only say dogmatically that there is no real difficulty in the syntax of οὐδ' ὅσα : that the construction intended is ὅσα πόντος ἀείδει, not ἐστί or the like : that πόντος is the sea, not the Euxine, as Mr. Smiley, Hermathena xxxix. (1913), following Voss, conjectures : and the "Assyrian river" is, as the schol. says, the Euphrates, not a river --- Halys or Iris --- in Leucosyria (Smiley, l.c.).


For the student who is interested in the relations of Callimachus and Apollonius we append a list of passages in which he may find, as he pleases, coincidence or "versteckte Kritik" : Call. H. i. 15=A. i 129 ; H. ii. 79=A. i 431 ; H. ii. 96=A. ii. 711f. ; H. ii. 106=A. iii. 932f. ; H. iii. 45=A. iii. 881 ; H. iii. 108=A. i. 997; H. iii. 176=A. iii. 1344 ; H. iii. 182=A. iv. 961; Call. Hec. i. 1. 12=A. iv. 217 ; Hec. i. 2. 11=A. i. 177 ; Hec. 4=A. i. 972 ; Hec. 5=A. i. 1116 ; Hec. 6=A. iii. 277; Hec. 19=A. iii. 1226 ; Call. fr. incert. 9 (a)=A. iv.1717 ; 9 (a)=A. ii. 1094 ; 21=A. iv. 1323 ; 64=A. i. 738 ; 65=A. i. 1309 ; 112=A. iv. 1614.


As to the date of the poem it is agreed that it must belong to a period when Egypt and Cyrene were friendly, say 258-247 B.C. In verses 26 and 27 Callimachus speaks of "my king" in the singular. Now we know from official documents that from 267/6 to 260/259 Ptolemy had as co-regent a son named Ptolemy. It is pretty generally agreed that this son was none other than the future Euergetes (Ptolemy III.), the reason for the disappearance of his name from 260/259 being that by his betrothal to Berenice, daughter of Magas, he became virtual king of Cyrene (see introd. and notes to the Lock of Berenice). If this is right, then the Hymn cannot be earlier than 258 B.C. Malten (Kyrene, p. 51) says that if the war between Ptolemy and Cyrene, of which Polyaen. viii. 70 speaks, is rightly placed by Niese in 250-247, the the poem cannot be later than 250. The words ἡμετέροις βασιλεῦσι v. 68 are much disputed. Who are "our kings"?  It seems natural to understand the Battiadae, to whom as a matter of fact the promise was made (oracles in Herod. iv 155, 157 and Diodor. viii. 29), and so the words are understood by Maass and Studniczka. On the other hand it is pointed out that the Battiad rule came to an (end?) and with the fall of Arcesilas IV. somewhat between 460 and 450 B.C. Hence it is more usually supposed that the reference is to the Ptolemies generally or more particularly to Philadelphus as king of Egypt and Euergetes as king in Cyrene.

The schol. on v. 26 has βασιλῆι] τῷ Πτολεμαίῳ τῷ Εὐεργέτῃ· διὰ δὲ τὸ ϕιλόλογον αὐτὸν εἶναι ὡς θεὸν τιμᾷ. This is accepted by Studniczka who, proceeding on the equation Apollo=Ptolemy, thinks the king referred to must be young, i.e. not Philadelphus but Euergetes. But Studniczka goes farther. He holds that the scene of Cyrene's lion-slaying was originally Thessaly and that tradition was accepted by Callimachus in the Hymn to Artemis 206-8 : between that Hymn and the Hymn to Apollo a new version arose which transferred the scene to Libya : this was an invention of Callimachus intended to represent Cyrene as Berenice, daughter of Magas : the lion is Demetrius ὁ καλός whom Berenice slew : and the date of the poem is 247 when Cyrene was united to Egypt by the marriage of Euergetes and Berenice.

 

NOTES:  

The Mair translation contains excellent notes to help the reader understand the meaning of this poem. The following incorporates most of this material, some of which has been expanded, incorporating information gathered from a variety of additional sources, with citations in numbered notations below these initial notes: 

The setting of the poem is the celebration of the Κάρνεια of Apóllohn at Kyríni (Cyrene; Gr. Κυρήνη). It is not possible to know if it was ever recited at the actual festival.

The Delian palm is the palm-tree by which Litóh (Leto; Gr. Λητώ), the mother of Apóllohn, supported herself when she gave birth to her son. It is believed that a scion (descendant) of this palm existed in Kyríni, the birthplace of Kallímakhos (Callimachus; Gr. Καλλίμαχος) of Alexandria, the author of this poem.

and the swan in the air sings sweetly - The association between the swan and Apóllohn can be found in the Phaidohn (Phaedo; Gr. Φαίδων) of Plátohn (Plato; Gr. Πλάτων):

 "...the swan, who, having sung the praises of Apóllohn all his life long, sings at his death more lustily than ever."

And from the Homeric Hymn to Apóllohn (translated by Evelyn-White):  

" Phoebus, of you even the swan sings with clear voice to the beating of his wings, as he alights upon the bank by the eddying river Peneus..."

"Let not the youths keep silent lyre or noiseless step, when Apollo visits his shrine" - It was believed that when the God was present, the oracles were true, but when the God is not present, they are false.

"We shall see thee, O Archer, and we shall never be lowly." - Mair translates Ἑκάεργος as "Archer" which is correct. But the literal meaning of Ἑκάεργος is "he who works from afar." It is an epithet of Apóllohn and refers to his use of archery.

"Cut the locks of age" - if they are to live to old age. To cut a lock of one's hair and offer it to a God was typically performed at important times in the life of a man. This was especially true as applied to Apóllohn. 

"When these dedications are made by boys or young men, it is normal for the wish to be expressed that they will live to dedicate clippings of their hair even when it is white with age." [1]

"For that the shell is no longer idle" - the original lyre was made by Ærmís (Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς) from a tortoise shell.

Lycoreian Phoebus - Φοίβος means "shining" and is an epithet given to the God because Φοίβη, the Titan daughter of Ouranós (Uranus; Gr. Οὐρανός) and Yi (Ge; Gr. Γῆ), gave the oracle of Dælphí (Delphi; Gr. Δελφοί) to Apóllohn as a birthday present and her name became his epithet. Lykóreia (Lycoreia; Gr. Λυκώρεια) is Dælphí, or the town on Parnassus above Dælphí, or it can also refer to the summit of Mt. Parnassus`.

Neither doth Thetis his mother wail her dirge for Achilles, when she hears Hië PaeëonHië PaeëonAccording to some of the versions of the myth, Achilles was killed by the arrow of Paris, guided by Apóllohn. 

"...the tearful rock defers its pain, the wet stone that is set in Phrygia..." This phrase refers to the rock figure on Mount Sípylos (Gr. Σίπυλος) near Smýrna (Gr. Σμύρνα); the rock which is Nióvi (Niobe; Gr. Νιόβη), who was turned to stone after her six sons and six daughters were slain by Apóllohn and Ártæmis respectively. Mair says six sons and six daughters; other sources say that there were seven sons and seven daughters. The water flowing over the rock are Nióvi's tears. And then the poem goes on to say "Say ye HiëHië!"  (addressed to the chorus) "an ill thing it is strive with the Blessed Ones." This being  a comment on Nióvi 's fate for having bragged that she had twelve children to Litóh's two. [2]

"He who fights with the Blessed Ones would fight with my King" The King that Kallímakhos is referring to is most likely Ptolemy III of Egypt. Nisetich suggests that it would more likely have been Mágas (Μάγας ὁ Κυρηναῖος), if the poem had been performed at Kyríni. [3]

"...for Apollo hath power, for that he sitteth on the right hand of Zeus." Apóllohn is συμπάρεδρος (from συμπαρεδρεύω, “sit beside.”) with Zefs, “he who holds the throne jointly.” Apóllohn sits at the right hand of Zefs, speaks his will, and is his representative on Earth.

Lyctian bow - from Lýktos (Lyctus; Gr. Λύκτος), the town in Kríti (Crete; Gr. Κρήτη), Cretans being well-known for archery.

"Golden is the tunic of Apollo...rich also in possessions: by Pytho mightst thou guess." - Gold is the metal of the Gods for gold never tarnishes as the Gods are immortal. By Pytho is meant Dælphí which had great stores of treasure, gifts from patrons and city-states such as Athens.

"And ever beautiful is he and ever young" - Why is Apóllohn beautiful and young? In Hellenic iconography Apóllohn is always depicted as a youth around eighteen years of age. Iamblichus suggests a reason why:  

"Pythagoras pointed out that boys were most dear to the divinities; and he pointed out that, in times of great drought, cities would send boys as ambassadors to implore rain from the Gods, in the persuasion that divinity is especially attentive to children.....That is also the reason why the most philanthropic of the Gods, Apollo and Love, are, in pictures, universally represented as having the ages of boys."  [20]

"not oil of fat do the locks of Apollo distil but very Healing of All" - "Healing of All" is Panákeia (Panaceia; Gr. Πανάκεια), the daughter of Asklipiós (Asclepius; Gr. Ἀσκληπιός), a son of Apóllohn.

Nomius - Nómios (Nomius; Gr. Νόμιος) is the pastoral God, of pastures and shepherds. It was as a shepherd that Apóllohn served King Ádmitos (Admetus; Gr. Ἄδμητος).

Amphrysus - Ámphryssos (Amphryssus; Gr. Ἄμφρυσσος) is a river of Thæssalía (Thessaly; Gr. Θεσσαλία) where Apóllohn tended the flocks of King Ádmitos, the King of Phæri (Pherae; Gr. Φεραί). It was here that Apóllohn served the king as punishment for having killed the Kýklohps (Cyclops; Gr. Κύκλωψ).

"Lightly would the herd of cattle wax larger, nor would the she-goats of the flock lack young, whereon as they feed Apollo casts his eye; nor without milk would the ewes be nor barren, but all would have lambs at foot; and she that bare one would soon be the mother of twins." Nisetich translate this: 

"Readily will a herd of cows grow great, and she-goats won't lack kids but guard the flocks they mother if Apollo glances on them as they graze, nor will ewes lack milk or offspring:  Lambs will tug at their udders and those who have borne but one will soon bear two." [16]

There is a very beautiful hymn sung by the chorus from the Álkistis (Alkestis; Gr. Ἄλκηστις) of Evripídis (Euripides; Gr. Εὐριπίδης) that talks of these same things concerning Apóllohn and his sojourn in the fields of Ádmitos.

"For Phoebus evermore delights in the founding of cities" The founding of cities is particularly associated with the God.

Ortygia – Ortiyía (Ortygia; Gr. Ὀρτυγία), here referring to Dílos (Delos; Gr. Δήλος), where could be found the "round lake."

Four years of age was Phoebus when he framed his first foundations in fair Ortygia near the round lake. Nisetich translates this:

"sinking his first foundations." 

This is his comment: 

"evidently, Apollo plants the goat horns brought to him by Artemis upright in the ground and uses these as the 'warp' of his altar, across which he weaves the horizontal 'woof', also of goat horns.  Since the vertical horns support the horizontal ones, they can be playfully referred to as 'foundations'." [4]

Cynthian goats - goats from Mt. Kýnthos (Cynthus; Gr. Κύνθος) of Dílos.

"With horns builded he the foundations" - As a child of four Apóllohn built the Altar of Horns at Dílos. According to Ploutarkhos (Plutarch; Gr. Πλούταρχος), at Delos, the birthplace of Apóllohn:

"I saw the horn altar, celebrated as one of the seven wonders, for it needs no glue or other bond, but is fixed and fitted together only by horns taken from the right side of the head."

Battus I - Váttos (Battus; Gr. Βάττος) of Thíra (Thera; Gr. Θήρα), son of Polýmnistos (Polymnestos; Gr. Πολύμνηστος), Váttos also known as Aristoteles (Gr. Ἀριστοτέλης), was the founder of the city of Kyríni (Kyrene; Gr. Κυρήνη), the birthplace of Kallímakhos (Callimachus; Gr. Καλλίμαχος) of Alexandria (the author of this hymn) and the birthplace of the Kyrineian dynasty. Kallímakhos was a direct descendant of Váttos. According to Herodotos, Aristotǽlis inquired of the Delphic Oracle as to how he could cure his stutter, but instead he received the command to lead a colony from Thíra to Kyríni and it was under the guidance of Apóllohn that the city of Kyríni was founded. It was the oracle who gave him the name Váttos, Libyan for “king,” in contrast to Thiran and Kyrineian beliefs that his name was derived from battarizein, “to stammer, stutter.” [5]

Phoebus, too, it was who told Battus of my own city of fertile soil, and in guise of a raven – auspicious to our founder – led his people as they entered Libya and sware that he would vouchsafe a walled city to our kings. Iródotos (Herodotos; Gr. Ἡρόδοτος) tells us that the Thirans were guided by a raven two years after mistakenly settling on Platea Isle, off the coast of Libya (North Africa). The 'raven' guided them to Azilis on the continent. Kallímakhos is poetically calling the Oracle of Delphi a raven, a bird sacred to Apóllohn.

"...and sware that he would vouchsafe a walled city to our kings" - This walled city is symbolic of the Vattiádai (Battiadae; Gr. Βαττιάδαι), the descendants of Váttos (Battus; Gr. Βάττος).

Boëdromius – Voidrómios (Boëdromius; Gr. Βοηδρόμιος) is an epithet of Apóllohn in Athens meaning "helper in distress," because he helped the Athenians defeat the Amazons on the seventh of the ancient Athenian month of Voidromión (Boëdromion; Gr. Βοηδρομιών). According to another story, the name derives from the war of Ærækhthéfs (Erechtheus; Gr. Ἐρεχθεύς) and Íohn (Ion; Gr. Ἴων) against Évmolpos (Eumolpus; Gr. Εὔμολπος). Apóllohn advised the Athenians to attack with a war-shout, “Voï! (Boe; Gr. Βοή).

Clarius – Klários (Clarius; Gr. Κλάριος) is a surname of Apóllohn from Kláros (Claros; Gr. Κλάρος), where was a temple and an oracle of the God, near Ǽphæsos (Ephesus; Gr. Ἔφεσος) and the Ionian city of Kolophón (Colophon; Gr. Κολοφών) in Asia Minor.

"...and many there be that call thee Clarius: everywhere is thy name on the lips of many..."  The Greek word translated here as "many" draws on the similarity of Apóllohn and πολλοί (“many”). [6]

Karneius - Kárneios (Carneius; Gr. Κάρνειος) is a name of Apóllohn in many Dorian states such as Sparta, Thíra (Thera; Gr. Θήρα), and Kyríni (Kyrene; Gr. Κυρήνη). Apóllohn is the God of the Kárneia (Carneia; Gr. Κάρνεια), a famous and important festival of these areas. It was celebrated in late August/early September; the ideal day is the full moon. During the festival, a sacred truce was observed called Iærominía (Hieromenia; Gr. Ίερομηνία), the Sacred Month. [17]

Many scholars believe that the origin of the Karneian Festival derives from the story of the murder of the Kárnos (Carnus; Gr. Κάρνος) of Akarnanía (Acarnania; Gr. Ακαρνανία) by Ippótis (Hippotes; Gr. Ἱππότης), the celebration having evolved from a propitiatory sacrifice to appease Apóllohn for the crime.  According to our tradition, this is not the origin of the festival.  

Scholars are uncertain as to how the festival came about and some, questioning the origin being the Kárnos story, point to evidence that the etymology of the name Kárneia may be traced to the word meaning “ram.” J.M. Hall says,

"It has, however, been suggested that karnos may in fact be a synonym for the word krios, which means 'ram'..." [18]   

Burkert says,  

"On an early votive inscription to Karneios from Lakonia, a pair of ram's horns are shown above the inscription;  and it is even asserted that karnos simply means 'ram'." [19]

A feature of the festival is the race of the Staphylodromi (Staphylodromoi; Gr. Σταφυλοδρομοι), the grape-runners, who conduct a hunt of a willing victim adorned with woolen fillets or garlands. The victim has made prayers for the welfare of the city, is hunted, and, if captured, this is viewed as a beneficial omen, but if he is not caught, the city or region will not fare well. The supposition of the scholars, because of the grapes, is that the primary symbolism of the Kárneia is agricultural. This explanation, in a like manner to the agrarian interpretation of the myth of Persephone, is superficial, while the real meaning of both of these is mystical.

"From Sparta the sixth generation of the sons of Oedipus..." - the genealogy is:

Oidípous (Oedipus; Gr. Οἰδίπους)

Plyneikis (Polyneices; Gr. Πολυνείκης)

Thǽrsandros (Thersander; Gr. Θέρσανδρος)

Tisamænós (Tisamenus; Gr. Τισαμενός)

Aftæsíohnos (Autesion; Gr. Αὐτεσίωνος)

Thíras (Theras; Gr. Θήρας)

Thíras led the colony to Calliste, renamed it Thíra (Thera; Gr. Θήρα), and is sixth descendant of Oidípous (according to the Greek way of reckoning inclusively, i.e. the great-great grandson of Plyneikis, son of Oidípous).

"...and from Thera lusty Aristoteles set thee by the Asbystian land, and builded thee a shrine exceeding beautiful,..." Nisetich translates what is here "lusty Aristoteles" as "sound Aristoteles." He explains it thus: 

"emphatic: there was nothing wrong with the founder of Cyrene. By calling him, in his capacity of city-founder, 'Aristoteles' instead of 'Battos' and by insisting that he was 'sound' when he left Thera, Callimachus is implicitly denying that he went to Apóllohn to obtain a cure for his stammer, that his stammer was cured on arrival in Africa by a frightening encounter with a lion, or that he had any such problem at all. The ancients felt more strongly about stammering than we do.  It had 'extremely' disreputable connotations." [7] 

So, Kallímakhos does not quite agree with Iródotos.

"...set thee by the Asbystian land,..." - The Asvýstai (Asbystae; Gr. Ἀσβύσται) were a Libyan people in the area surrounding Kyríni (Cyrenaïca; Gr. Κυρηναϊκά).

"HiëHiëKarneius! Lord of many prayers, - thine altars wear flowers in spring, even all the pied flowers which the Hours lead forth when Zephyrus breathes dew, and in winter the sweet crocus." The Hours are the Óhrai (Horae; Gr. Ὧραι), three Goddesses known as the Seasons: Justice (Dike; Gr. Δίκη), Good Order (Eunomia; Gr. Εὐνομία), and Peace (Eirene; Gr. Εἰρήνη) They are the daughters of Zefs and Thǽmis (Themis; Gr. Θέμις). Zǽphyros (Zephyrus; Gr. Ζέφυρος) is the God of the gentle West Wind and spring.  

There is an important myth connecting Apóllohn with Zǽphyros. They both loved the boy Yákinthos (Hyacinth; Gr. Ὑάκινθος). When the boy preferred Apóllohn, and Zǽphyros found the two playing discus, he caused the discus to veer off and kill Yákinthos. Apóllohn then turned the boy into a flower which returns every spring.

The phrase "...when Zephyrus breathes dew" can also refer to rain. "Pied flowers" are variegated colored flowers. Therefore, this section could be read thus: 

"…your altars are adorned with flowers, all the multi-colored flowers which the Seasons bring forth when the spring rains arrive..." 

The "sweet crocus" is the winter-flower of the saffron plant.

 

"Undying evermore is thy fire,"  - the sacrificing was continual - "…nor ever doth the ash feed about the coals of yester-even."  

"The ash which spreads over the surface of the charcoal as it burns is likened to a grazing herd;  there is fresh charcoal daily." [8]

"Greatly, indeed, did Phoebus rejoice as the belted warriors of Enyo danced with the yellow-haired Libyan women,..." The "belted warriors" means that they were in battle armor. At certain times the soldiers would perform the Paián (Paean; Gr. Παιάν) in armor.

"But not yet could the Dorians approach the fountains of Cyre,..." - a stream at Kyríni which, after running some distance underground, reappears at the Temple of Apóllohn as the fountain of Apóllohn.

"...but dwelt in Azilis thick and wooded dells" – Ázilis (Gr. Ἄζιλις), in Libya, where the Theraeans with Váttos dwelt for six years before they went to Kyríni.

Myrtussa (Myrtoussa) 'Myrtle Hill', the hill in Libya west of Kyríni.

"These did the Lord himself behold and showed them to his bride..."  - "his bride" is Kyríni.

"...but dwelt in Azilis thick with wooded dells" - i.e. the "Myrtle-hill" in Kyríni.

Eurypylus - the prehistoric king of Libya, who offered his kingdom to anyone who should slay the lion which was ravaging his land. Kyríni slew the lion and so won the kingdom.

"...nor to any city hath he given so many blessings as he hath given to Cyrene, remembering his rape of old." Cyrene (Kyrene) was the huntress daughter of King Hypseus of the Lapiths, by some accounts a nymph.  While she was wrestling a lion that had been killing the cattle of Eurypylos, Apóllohn became enamored of Kyrene and abducted her to Myrtoessa, the Hill of Myrtles in Libyan North Africa. A son was born to Apóllohn, Aristaios, who was the rustic Demi-God who invented bee-keeping. And a colony was founded there named Kyrene. Nisetich translates this line a bit more gently:  "remembering how he'd ravished her away." [9]

sons of Battus - the Vattiádai, descendants of Váttos including Kallímakhos.

"...there met thee a beast unearthly, a dread snake" - In Strávohn (Strabo; Gr. Στράβων) 422, Python is a man, surnamed Drákohn (Draco; Gr. Δράκων). Πυθώ was popularly derived from the fact that the slain snake rotted, πύθω, there.

 HiëHiëPaeëon (Ἱὴ, ἱὴ παιῆον), shoot an arrow! (ἵει βέλος)” - Ἱὴ is the ecstatic shout of joy of the worshippers of Apóllohn. Παιῆον (voc. of Παιάν) has come to refer to a song or hymn, but it originally was an epithet of Apóllohn meaning "healer." Ἵει means “throw” or “hurl” and βέλος means “arrow.”

Nisetich gives another explanation: 

"there were several etymologies of Apollo's ritual cry in circulation in antiquity. The one Callimachus presents here is that hië hië paiëon derives from the shout of encouragement given by the Delphians to the child (in some versions infant) Apollo as, bow and arrows in hand, he faced the enormous serpent:  hiei, hiei, pai, ion ('Shoot, shoot, child, your arrow')." [10]  

Robert Schmiel suggests,

"shoot an arrow, boy." [11]

"A helper from the first thy mother bare thee, and ever since that is thy praise."  - being that the slaying of the Pýthohn (Python; Gr. Πύθων) was an act of Apóllohn's infancy or youth. 

"Spake Envy privily in the ear of ApolloΦθόνος is jealousy and envy. These final sentences of the poem, which Mair refers to as containing the "remarkable parable of Envy," is thought to refer to critics of Kallímakhos: 

"In these words he rebukes those who jeered at him as not being able to write a big poem..."

and he places the rebuke in the mouth of Apóllohn.  

Lombardo and Rayor explain it thus:  

"Envy suggests that "the sea" is the model of excellence in poetry. Apollo does not deny this but contrasts the muddiness of the great Euphrates with the purity of droplets from a mountain spring. The literary equivalents are: The sea is Homer, whose poems are expansive, pure (the Greeks thought of the sea as essentially pure), and the source of all later poetry (as the sea was thought to be the source of all other waters). The Euphrates represents later traditional epic poetry, which in its long course has become murky and stale. Droplets from a spring represent Callimachean poetry - fresh, pure, and delicate." [12]

Spake Envy privily in the ear of Apollo: “I admire not the poet who singeth not things for number as the sea.”   

Nisetich translates this in plain English: 

"Envy whispered into Apollo's ear: 'I don't like a poet who doesn't sing like the sea.' " [13] 

Robert Schmiel comments [14] that

"the poem is concerned primarily not with politics or religion, but with literature."  

In this, he agrees with Frederick Williams. If this is so, then why is the entire poem concerned with Apóllohn, but a mere three sentences are used by Kallímakhos to defend his poetry? While I do not quite agree with these authors, they are well informed.

Williams says on p. 4 (Hymn to Apollo, 1978): 

 "The basis of Callimachus' style is the constant interplay between imitation and variation of Homer, and in the Hymn he attempts to answer both in practical and theoretical terms the question of how a learned and modern poet could appropriately draw on the riches of Homeric poetry in order to create a new idiom."  

And on p. 5:

"Often Callimachus will combine in  a single line or phrase allusions to several passages of Homer....Frequently he recalls readings in the Homeric text which were in some way controversial, either in their form or their meaning, or because their authenticity has been challenged.

“There is one way in which Callimachus exploits his readers' learning that should give us modern scholars, handicapped by the loss of so much Greek literature, some degree of comfort:  sometimes he deliberately leads them astray by giving them to believe he is using a Homeric expression in the correct manner, and then surprising them with a new and unexpected turn.  If we sometimes fall into traps, it is likely enough that Callimachus set them."

The Hymn to Apóllohn is a sacred piece, but it is also a magnificent work of literature created by a learned and skilled scholar, so it does not surprise me that there would be these layers to the hymn.  Apóllohn is known to love great poetry, therefore Kallímakhos ' playfulness enhances its beauty and does not detract from the fact that the hymn is a great gift to the God nor does it indicate that the poem is a mere exercise in virtuosity. The dramatic power of the poem and its content attest to its integrity as a sacred work.

"Great is the stream of the Assyrian river,..." - the Evphrátis (Euphrates; Gr. Ευφράτης).

"And not of every water do the Melissae carry to Deo,..." Dióh (Deo; Gr. Δηώ) is Dimítir (Demeter; Gr. Δημήτηρ), whose priestesses were called Mǽlissai (Melissae, i.e. bees; Gr. Μέλισσαι).  Lombardo and Rayor suggest that Kallímakhos was invoking two meanings, both of the priestesses and insect-bees as well: 

"whose fastidiousness in collecting only sweet and pure liquids was reported by Aristotle, and whose activity was often compared with the activity of poets." [15]

 

ADDITIONAL NOTES:

[1] Callimachus Hymn to Apollo by Frederick Williams, Oxford, 1978, p. 26.

[2] according to Frank Nisetich in The Poems of Callimachus, 2001, Oxford Univ. Press, p. 204. 

[3] Nisetich, p. 204.

[4] Nisetich, p. 204.

[5] Nisetich, p. 205. 

[6] Nisetich, p. 206.

[7] Nisetich , p. 206.

[8] Callimachus' Hymns I, II, V, VI,  by Robert Schmiel, Bryn Mawr College, 1984, p. 15.

[9] Nisetich, p. 26.

[10] Nisetich, p. 207.

[11] Schmiel, p. 16 in note 103.

[12]Callimachus: Hymns, Epigrams, Select Fragments by Stanley Lombardo and Diane Rayor, Johns Hopkins University Press,1988, p. 96.

[13] Nisetich, p. 27. 

[14] Schmiel, p. 9.

[15] Lombardo and Rayor, p. 96.

[16] Nisetich, p. 25. 

[17] Pausanias 3.13.3.

[18] Ethnic Identity In Greek Antiquity by Jonathan M. Hall, Cambridge University Press, 2000, p. 39. 

[19] Greek Religion by Walter Burkert, Harvard Univ. Press, 1985, p. 235.

[20] Iamblichus from The Life of Pythagoras, translated in 1818 by Thomas Taylor, edited for readability by Kenneth Sylvan Guthrie in The Pythagorean Sourcebook and Library, Phanis Press, 1988 edition, p. 68.

[21] Callimachus Hymns and Epigrams trans. A. W. Mair and G. R. Mair, 1921; 1989 Loeb Classical Library 129, pp. 49-59.

[22] Mair, pp. 21-24.


The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.


The logo to the left is the principal symbol of this website. It is called the CESS logo, i.e. the Children of the Earth and the Starry Sky. The 
Pætilía (Petelia; Gr. Πετηλία) and other golden tablets having this phrase are the inspiration for the symbol. The image represents this idea: Earth (divisible substance) and the Sky (continuous substance) are the two kozmogonic substances. The twelve stars represent the Natural Laws, the dominions of the Olympian Gods. In front of these symbols is the seven-stringed kithára (cithara; Gr. κιθάρα), the lyre of Apóllohn (Apollo; Gr. Ἀπόλλων). It (here) represents the bond between Gods and mortals and is representative that we are the children of Orphéfs (Orpheus; Gr. Ὀρφεύς). 



PLEASE NOTE: Throughout the pages of this website, you will find fascinating stories about our Gods. These narratives are known as 

  
  

, 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.


The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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