It had been my original plan to publish in each entry to this series on the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite (hereafter, HHA) the text and translation followed by a brief commentary. The latter, it turned out, tended to be not so brief: hence I decided from time to time to add a separate entry for comments and discussion of both linguistic and narrative points that interest me in the given translation. Since those entries may in part speak little (although I hope not!) to readers without Greek, some may wish to skip them entirely.
My plan is to publish one section at a time until the entire poem (293 lines) is done. This magnificent piece of archaic Greek literature is generally understood to be from the latter part of the seventh century BCE.
Given that I am not a poet, I translate for accuracy and not for immortal diction!
The Greek text is printed by permission of
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Μοῦσά μοι ἔννεπε ἔργα πολυχρύσου Ἀφροδίτης 1
Κύπριδος, ἥ τε θεοῖσιν ἐπὶ γλυκὺν ἵμερον ὦρσε
καί τ’ ἐδαμάσσατο φῦλα καταθνητῶν ἀνθρώπων,
οἰωνούς τε διιπετέας καὶ θηρία πάντα,
ἠμὲν ὅσ’ ἤπειρος πολλὰ τρέφει ἠδ’ ὅσα πόντος· 5
πᾶσιν δ’ ἔργα μέμηλεν ἐϋστεφάνου Κυθερείης.
τρισσὰς δ’ οὐ δύναται πεπιθεῖν φρένας οὐδ’ ἀπατῆσαι·
κούρην τ’ αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς γλαυκῶπιν Ἀθήνην·
οὐ γάρ οἱ εὔαδεν ἔργα πολυχρύσου Ἀφροδίτης,
ἀλλ’ ἄρα οἱ πόλεμοί τε ἅδον καὶ ἔργον Ἄρηος, 10
ὑσμῖναί τε μάχαι τε καὶ ἀγλαὰ ἔργ’ ἀλεγύνειν.
πρώτη τέκτονας ἄνδρας ἐπιχθονίους ἐδίδαξε
ποιῆσαι σατίνας καὶ ἅρματα ποικίλα χαλκῷ·
ἡ δέ τε παρθενικὰς ἁπαλόχροας ἐν μεγάροισιν
ἀγλαὰ ἔργ’ ἐδίδαξεν ἐπὶ φρεσὶ θεῖσα ἑκάστῃ. 15
οὐδέ ποτ’ Ἀρτέμιδα χρυσηλάκατον κελαδεινὴν
δάμναται ἐν φιλότητι φιλομμειδὴς Ἀφροδίτη·
καὶ γὰρ τῇ ἅδε τόξα καὶ οὔρεσι θῆρας ἐναίρειν,
φόρμιγγές τε χοροί τε διαπρύσιοί τ’ ὀλολυγαὶ
ἄλσεά τε σκιόεντα δικαίων τε πτόλις ἀνδρῶν. 20
οὐδὲ μὲν αἰδοίῃ κούρῃ ἅδεν ἔργ’ Ἀφροδίτης
Ἱστίῃ, ἣν πρώτην τέκετο Κρόνος ἀγκυλομήτης,
αὖτις δ’ ὁπλοτάτην, βουλῇ Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο,
πότνιαν, ἣν ἐμνῶντο Ποσειδάων καὶ Ἀπόλλων·
ἡ δὲ μάλ’ οὐκ ἔθελεν ἀλλὰ στερεῶς ἀπέειπεν, 25
ὤμοσε δὲ μέγαν ὅρκον, ὃ δὴ τετελεσμένος ἐστίν,
ἁψαμένη κεφαλῆς πατρὸς Διὸς αἰγιόχοιο
παρθένος ἔσσεσθαι πάντ’ ἤματα, δῖα θεάων.
τῇ δὲ πατὴρ Ζεὺς δῶκε καλὸν γέρας ἀντὶ γάμοιο,
καί τε μέσῳ οἴκῳ κατ’ ἄρ’ ἕζετο πῖαρ ἑλοῦσα. 30
πᾶσιν δ’ ἐν νηοῖσι θεῶν τιμάοχός ἐστι
καὶ παρὰ πᾶσι βροτοῖσι θεῶν πρέσβειρα τέτυκται.
τάων οὐ δύναται πεπιθεῖν φρένας οὐδ’ ἀπατῆσαι· 33
Muse, tell me of the actions of Aphrodite rich in gold,
From Cyprus, who stirs sweet desire in the gods
and overwhelms the tribes of mortal men,
and the birds aloft in the sky and all the beasts –
as many as the land, as many as the sea nourishes. 5
To all of them the actions of Aphrodite of Kythera
who wears the beautiful garland are of interest.
Yet, the hearts of three goddesses
Aphrodite could neither convince nor deceive.
Athena the gray-eyed daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus
was one. For her the actions of Aphrodite rich in gold
hold no appeal – rather, wars and the work of Ares 10
appeal to her, and the thronging thrusts of battle
and the taking part in glorious action.
And she was the first one to teach craftsmen on earth
how to make wagons and chariots with fancy bronze.
And in the great halls she taught soft-skinned maidens
splendid works by putting skills in the mind of each. 15
And never does laughter-loving Aphrodite overwhelm
Artemis in love, famous and holding a golden spindle.
For it is bows that appeal to her, and slaying
beasts in the mountains, and lyres and dances and
piercing shouts, and shady groves and cities of just men. 20
And, again, the actions of Aphrodite don’t appeal
to the venerable daughter of Kronos of the crooked counsel,
Hestia, whom he sired as first of his children and again,
by the will of aegis-bearing Zeus, as youngest,1
a queen, whom Poseidon and Apollo tried to woo.
But Hestia was quite unwilling and resolute in refusal. 25
She touched the head of aegis-bearing father Zeus
and swore a great oath – which has come to fulfillment –
that she, radiant among goddesses, would remain
a virgin all her days. In place of marriage father Zeus
granted her a fine and privileged place and set her in the
middle of the household,2 getting the choicest offerings. 30
She holds high honor in all the temples of the gods,
and among all mortals she is rendered reverence.
The hearts of these three goddesses
Aphrodite could neither convince nor deceive. 33
- Kronos swallowed all his children except for Zeus, who was instrumental in forcing the ‘rebirth’ of his siblings; and as Hestia, the oldest, was devoured first, she was regurgitated last – thus both first-born and youngest-born.
- That is to say, eponymous Hestia (cf. Roman Vesta) becomes the hearth (which is what ἱστίη/ἑστία means in Greek).