18. The Homeric Hymns (c. 520 BC)

Plot: A collection of 33 hymns, each praising a specific Greek god or demigod. Each hymn is sung to a god or goddess to praise them and request good fortune in return for the singer.
My thoughts : Not now believed to be penned by Homer, most are quite short and all were easy to read. My copy was a second edition translated by Apostolos Athanassakis (a nice genuine Greek name) and published by Johns Hopkins University Press (ISBN 0801879833). This translation was certainly more modern and approachable, and brought the gods to life with less of their overwhelming stature and more of their fun and humanity.
Favourite lines/passages: My own personal fondness for certain gods and goddesses influenced which hymns I favoured, particularly Pan, Artemis the huntress and Selene the moon goddess. But the best was hymn #3 to Hermes, as he steals Apollo’s cattle in the evening of the day he is first born, then pretends to be just an innocent babe when the angry god tracks him down (page 34)
“when Zeus and Maia’s son saw Apollon, the Far-Shooter, angered about his cattle,
He snuggled into his sweet-scented swaddling-clothes; ….
Into a small space he huddled head, hands and feet, like a freshly bathed babe courting sweet sleep,
But in truth still awake and holding the lyre under his arm,
The son of Zeus and Leto did not fail to recognise the beautiful mountain nymph and her dear son,
Though he was a tiny child steeped in crafty wiles, …..”


Personal rating : 7/10
Next : Studied by military men down through the ages, the sixth century BC Chinese classic The Art of War, by Sun Tzu is next.

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