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Lecture 5

CLA204H1 Lecture Notes - Lecture 5: Homeric Hymns, Caduceus, Thesmophoria


Department
Classics
Course Code
CLA204H1
Professor
A Keith
Lecture
5

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Feb 8 2012
The Olympian Gods Cont’d
Hermes
- Divine trixter, seems like God with multiple personalities
- Name points to his beginning as a single phenomenon
- Herma- pile of stones. Marker of territorial demarcation. In this way territories were claimed
and demarcated. Represents the breaking of boundaries to a new social order, breaking of
taboos, initiating a new order.
- Herm in front of Altar (Nikon painter, 465 BCE) soon everyone in Athens had its own herm
(hermes) and festivals took place at these herms
- When poetry/epic got hold of the Hermes character, they transformed the herm into an
Olympian God. Responsible for founding civilization (Homeric Hymns). And epic role as
messenger of the Gods.
- Hymn to Hermes. Hermes steals Apollos cattle. As token of reconciliation, Hermes gives Apollo a
lyre. Lyre is important. Hermes also invents fire, fire sticks (to make fire) and sacrifice. Reminds
of Prometheus so Hermes is a rival to Prometheus.
- Hermes domain is thieving, trickery, inventor of musical instruments
- Also is the swift messenger of father Zeus
- Hermes messenger of Zeus (Attic red-figure lekythos) shows Hermes flying down to earth with
his staf and his epiphet is Argos-slayer.
- Hermes transgresses the boundaries between the living and the dead- Hermes the leader of
souls. They way to and back from underworld is known by Hermes alone.He also fetches
Demeter’s daughter from Hades.
- Hermes is the patron of herdsman, thieves, graves and heralds. He was born of the nymph Maia.
He exhibits his sexual prowess among the nymphs.
- Herdsman lead a marginal existence in mountainous border areas with rivals at border . Cattle
and sheep-wrestling takes on heroic category because you stole the sheep of your rival, you
outsmarted him
- Hermes attributes:
o Hermes the giver of every good (every lucky find is called a hermaion)
o Chthonic (underworld) Hermes, graves under his protection
o Because he moves across boundaries, he carries herald’s staff called the kerykeion. It is
the imitation of copulating snakes. Can be traced back to the near east.
o Caduceus
o Praxitiles’ Hermes- god of athletic youth (we get this artistic iconography from 500-
400bce)
- Roman counterpart of Hermes is Mercury
o Mercury was god of trade and we see statues of him with bag of money
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