Feb 8 2012
The Olympian Gods Cont’d
- 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
- 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 Praxitiles’ Hermes- god of athletic youth (we get this artistic iconography from 500-
- Roman counterpart of Hermes is Mercury
o Mercury was god of trade and we see statues of him with bag of money Demeter
- Name suggests that she is a mother and so does the Homeric hymn to Demeter
- Clear that her role revolves around being a mother
- Corn and grain is at the centre of her power (staple food stuff)
- She invents and shows man agricultural arts
- Demeter who fills the barn
- Appears in art with a wreath and ears of corn
- Described as the blonde goddess who assumes colour of ripened corn. So she stands
allegorically for corn and wheat. Same with her daughter Kore (‘girl’) aka Persephone
- Daughter and mother very closely associated with eachother. In fact, sometimes referred to as
- Corn goddess and Mistress of the Underworld
- Epiphets: venerable and awesome. Sense of dread in these epiphets.
- Earliest mention of mother and daughter is in Homeric Hymns but Hesiod mentions it in the
Theogony as well. Hymn introduces Persephone as a maiden playing in a field with Artemis and
Athena (playmates) (Note: ‘playmates’ of Artemis always get raped in myth). Describes them as
playing near the edge of the world (closer to underworld?). Virgin initiation and maiden sacrifice
– links sex and death which is common theme in myth.
- When Persephone kidnapped, Demeter is dangerous in her grief. She stops all agriculture
- Myth was Kore is corn (grain that descends into earth so that from death, new seeds may
germinate) She comes back in spring (representing when vegetation grows in spring).
- To be carried off by Hades became common metaphors for death, especially for girls. To be the
bride of Hades is to die before marriage.
- Myth establishes double existence between upper and underworld
o ‘Descent to the underworld’
o Inanna-Ishtar (Sumerian/Babylonian)
o Telepinu (Hittite)
o Death vs Marriage
o Chthonic (underworld) deities. Demeter also had chthonic aspects. Athenian called the
dead “Demetreoi” and sold corn on graves. So Demeter has some share of honour
associated with graves.
o Thesmophoria, Katagoge (advent)
o Mysteria (‘mysteries’)
o Demetreoi ‘the dead’
- Art: Bernini statue of rape of Persephone.
- Wine, ecstasy, intoxication
- Madness, mania