Women's handmade cloth, India import, contemporary —
Fine, delicate woven cloth,
"the work of women, dowered in Wisdom —
to be expert in beautiful work —
to have good character." ~ Homer's Odyssey
Persephone as Peplos Kore (Κόρη),
Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE
The Goddess as Suppliant|
The scene of Demeter's encounter with Celeus' daughters by the well Parthenion is in many respects traditional. [... in Homer's Odyssey] Odysseus meets Athena in disguise and asks for information. This motif of meeting a deity in disguise recurs [...] where Odysseus addresses Nausicaa as if she were a goddess, and asks for help [... and] where Odysseus again supplicates Athena 'as a god': in this case he is double-bluffed because she is one. [...] In Dem. 98 ff., the normal roles are reversed, since the goddess is the suppliant. Again the girls notice her godlike appearance (L-159). They themselves are "like goddesses." (L-108).
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," p. 180, ed. by N. J. Richardson (1974)
___ ___ ___
Advantage of Women's
"Fabric of Support"
"The Homeric Hymn to Demeter provides us with a fitting example of women's willingness to share information and its corresponding power with one another. [...]
After leaving the company of the gods and disguising herself as a 'very old woman cut off from childbearing' (L-101), Demeter goes to Eleusis and sits by the Maiden's Well. There she meets the four daughters of Metaneira and Keleos, the queen and king of Eleusis. Although their interaction and dialogue with Demeter is brief, the daughters of Metaneira serve to remind Demeter that she does not have to operate in isolation. Instead, she can rely on a network of support from other women in the community. Before Demeter has even attempted to solicit their sympathy by sharing with them a fictitious tale of kidnapping and escape, the daughters of Metaneira invite her to take advantage of the fabric of female support."
Demeter and Persephone: Lessons from a Myth, p. 82,
by Tamara Agha-Jaffar (2002)
___ ___ ___
Stylized Lilies, middle Minoan Crete
___ ___ ___
"Gospel of Resignation"
"The reflection of Dem 147-148 is often linked to the motif of [mortal] inability to find a solution to their own problems, their helplessness and folly, and their incurable optimism. Here and at Dem 216 f., there is a special irony in the fact that the words are addressed by a mortal [Callidice] to a goddess [Demeter disguised as Doso], and that she is about to attempt to immortalize the son of Celeus.
By themselves they form a kind of 'gospel of resignation' which places the responsibility in the hands of the gods, or of some impersonal agency, Necessity, or Fate. But the 'answer' to this is given by Demeter herself (Dem 256 ff); it is mortals, by their folly and ignorance of their destiny, who bring disaster upon themselves, and prevent the gods from assisting them."
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter," p.193, edited by N. J. Richardson (1974)
___ ___ ___
In the Women's Quarters —
Demeter & Company
"From a wealth of recent research, it is apparent that the vast majority of women in classical Greece were isolated and insulated from sources of social control and power (which Mary Douglas calls low group) and under great pressure to conform (low grid). Free Greek women lived most of their lives physically segregated from men, in a part of the house called the gynaikônitis [γυναικωνίτης], or women's quarters. They rarely took their meals with their male relatives, who often dined outside the home in the company of other men. They also seldom appeared in public in those places that were the center of male activities such as markets, the courts, the schools and so forth. Women probably attended theatrical performances but this was the major occasion when Greek women assembled in public so this is not surprising."
from "Her Share of the Blessings: Women's Religions among Pagans, Jews, and Christians in the Greco-Roman World," p. 28, by Ross Shepard Kraemer (1994)
___ ___ ___
Callidice's Men of Honour
"Callidice now names the most powerful men among the Eleusinians. [...] The young girl's list of the four 'kings' of Eleusis [L-149-155] might well arrest our attention. Triptolemus, while mentioned first, is simply one of the four. The hymn offers no hint of his role as the culture hero who disseminates Demeter's gift of agriculture throughout the world. It is generally held that the particular prominence of Triptolemus and the story of the Mission develops only after the Athenian takeover of Eleusis and is later further explained as a vehicle of Athenian cultural propaganda."
from "The Politics of Olympus: Form and Meaning in the Major Homeric Hymns," p.230, by Jenny Strauss Clay (1989/2006)
___ ___ ___
Meander design, above, in shortened form,
from a Kamares Vase, Bronze age, Crete, from "Annual of the British School at Athens," Issue 8, 1902-1903. The amphora, illustrated right and below (750-725 BCE, from the Ancient Agora Museum in Athens) transforms the same zzz-shape meander design into a procession of water birds.
___ ___ ___
Eleusis — "the Place
"The name Eleusis... refers to the underworld in the favorable sense and may be translated as "the place of happy arrival." Grammatically, it is differentiated by accent and inflection from eleusis, "arrival," but, like it, is related, according to the rules of Greek vowel gradation, to Elysian, the realm of the blessed. [...] The name of Eleusis appealed to throngs of those who strove for a happy arrival and gave itself to be recognized as the goal of human life."
from "Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter," p.23,
by Carl Kerényi (1991)
___ ___ ___
Homeric Hymn to Demeter
edited & adapted from the 1914 prose translation
Hugh G. Evelyn-White
Art & Photo Illustrations
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Homeric Hymn to Demeter |
English Ancient Greek Transliteration
• Greek-English Glossary
HIRING A GODDESS : 145-170
So said the goddess. And straightway replied the
___ φῆ ῥα θεά: τὴν δ' αὐτίκ' ἀμείβετο παρθένος ἀδμής,
___ phê rha thea: tên d' autik' ameibeto parthenos admês,
Callidice, bravest* in form* of the daughters of Celeus,
___ Καλλιδίκη, Κελεοῖο θυγατρῶν εἶδος ἀρίστη:
___ Kallidikê, Keleoio thugatrôn eidos aristê:
Mother, what the gods send us, although we suffer perforce,*
___ μαῖα, θεῶν μὲν δῶρα καὶ ἀχνύμενοί περ ἀνάγκῃ
___ maia, theôn men dôra kai akhnumenoi per anankêi
we mortals bear for they are much stronger than we.
___ τέτλαμεν ἄνθρωποι: δὴ γὰρ πολὺ φέρτεροί εἰσι.
___ tetlamen anthrôpoi: dê gar polu pherteroi eisi.
But now I will clearly* inform you, telling you the names
___ ταῦτα δέ τοι σαφέως ὑποθήσομαι ἠδ' ὀνομήνω
___ tauta de toi sapheôs hupothêsomai êd' onomênô
of the men who have great power and honour here
___ ἀνέρας οἷσιν ἔπεστι μέγα κράτος ἐνθάδε τιμῆς
___ aneras hoisin epesti mega kratos enthade timês
and are chief among the people, our city's citadel
___ δήμου τε προὔχουσιν ἰδὲ κρήδεμνα πόληος
___ dêmou te proukhousin ide krêdemna polêos
guarding by their wisdom* and true judgements:
___ εἰρύαται βουλῇσι καὶ ἰθείῃσι δίκῃσιν:
___ eiruatai boulêisi kai itheiêisi dikêisin:
there is wise Triptolemus and Dioclus
___ ἠμὲν Τριπτολέμου πυκιμήδεος ἠδὲ Διόκλου
___ êmen Triptolemou pukimêdeos êde Dioklou
and Polyxenos, and blameless Eumolpus
___ ἠδὲ Πολυξείνου καὶ ἀμύμονος Εὐμόλποιο
___ êde Poluxeinou kai amumonos Eumolpoio
and Dolichus and our own brave father.
___ καὶ Δολίχου καὶ πατρὸς ἀγήνορος ἡμετέροιο,
___ kai Dolikhou kai patros agênoros hêmeteroio,
All these have wives who manage* [all things] in the house:
___ τῶν πάντων ἄλοχοι κατὰ δώματα πορσαίνουσι:
___ tôn pantôn alokhoi kata dômata porsainousi:
and not one of them, so soon as she had seen you,
___ τάων οὐκ ἄν τίς σε κατὰ πρώτιστον ὀπωπὴν
___ taôn ouk an tis se kata prôtiston opôpên
would dishonour you and turn you from the house,
___ εἶδος ἀτιμήσασα δόμων ἀπονοσφίσσειεν,.
___ eidos atimêsasa domôn aponosphisseien,
but they will welcome* you; for indeed you are godlike.
___ ἀλλά σε δέξονται: δὴ γὰρ θεοείκελός ἐσσι.
___ alla se dexontai: dê gar theoeikelos essi.
But if you will, stay here; and we will go to our father's house
___ εἰ δ' ἐθέλεις, ἐπίμεινον, ἵνα πρὸς δώματα πατρὸς
___ ei d' etheleis, epimeinon, hina pros dômata patros
and tell Metaneira, our deep-bosomed mother,
___ ἔλθωμεν καὶ μητρὶ βαθυζώνῳ Μετανείρῃ
___ elthômen kai mêtri bathuzônôi Metaneirêi
all this matter fully, that she may bid
___ εἴπωμεν τάδε πάντα διαμπερές, αἴ κέ σ' ἀνώγῃ
___ eipômen tade panta diamperes, ai ke s' anôgêi
you rather come to us and not search after houses of others.
___ ἡμέτερόνδ' ἰέναι μηδ' ἄλλων δώματ' ἐρευνᾶν.
___ hêmeterond' ienai mêd' allôn dômat' ereunan.
She has an only son, being nursed in our well-built house,
___ τηλύγετος δέ οἱ υἱὸς ἐνὶ μεγάρῳ εὐπήκτῳ
___ têlugetos de hoi huios eni megarôi eupêktôi
late-born, a child of many prayers and welcome:
___ ὀψίγονος τρέφεται, πολυεύχετος ἀσπάσιός τε.
___ opsigonos trephetai, polueukhetos aspasios te.
if you could bring him up until he reached his prime in youth,
___ εἰ τόν γ' ἐκθρέψαιο καὶ ἥβης μέτρον ἵκοιτο,
___ ei ton g' ekthrepsaio kai hêbês metron hikoito,
easily any one of womankind who should see you
___ ῥεῖά κέ τίς σε ἰδοῦσα γυναικῶν θηλυτεράων
___ rheia ke tis se idousa gunaikôn thêluteraôn
would envy* you, such gifts would she give for his upbringing.
___ ζηλώσαι: τόσα κέν τοι ἀπὸ θρεπτήρια δοίη
___ zêlôsai: tosa ken toi apo threptêria doiê.
Thus they spoke: and [Demeter] nodded* in assent. And they
___ ὣς ἔφαθ': ἣ δ' ἐπένευσε καρήατι: ταὶ δὲ φαεινὰ
___ hôs ephath': hê d' epeneuse karêati: tai de phaeina
filled their shining vessels with water, carrying them off exultant.*
___ πλησάμεναι ὕδατος φέρον ἄγγεα κυδιάουσαι.
___ plêsamenai hudatos pheron angea kudiaousai.
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145 παρθένος (παρθένιος) / parthenos|
maiden - virgin - maidenhood - pure, undefiled
(also the name of the well, where Demeter is sitting. see L-099
and as if, personified, the well itself had come to life)
145 ἀδμής / admês
unwed, unbroken (of animals), unsubdued
146 ἀρίστη / aristê
best - bravest - noblest - excelling in valor - readiest to give ear -
146 εἶδος / eidos
outward appearance - form - figure - physique - shape
147 ἀνάγκῃ / anankêi
perforce - of necessity - by force - by constraint - by fate
149 σαφέως / sapheôs
plainly, surely, unerringly, the clear truth
152 βουλῇσι / boulêisi
counsel - wisdom - design - deliberation - decree
156 πορσαίνουσι / porsainousi
manage - arrange - treat with care - tend - provide
159 δέξονται / dexontai
accept graciously - welcome - give ear to - admit as an ally
168 ζηλώσαι / zêlôsai
envy - be jealous - vie with - esteem - admire - strive after
169 ἐπένευσε / epeneuse
nod in assent - nod in token (of command or approval) -
make a sign (to another to do a thing)
170 κυδιάουσαι / kudiaousai
bear oneself proudly - exult - rejoice
Every individual its own unique mythic journey to the center.
Cycladic pot sherd, ca. 2000-1500 BCE. British Museum.
Gender Issues in Greek Literature,
Demeter and Sappho
"Classical literature, far more explicitly than much later Western literature until the 19th century, virtually begs us to ask questions about gender. Plato and Aristotle confronted such issues directly. Most Greek comedies and tragedies commonly taught put gender at the heart of the plot and allow their female characters to challenge male authority and assumptions. [...] What is largely missing, however, is a female perspective that could provide a glimpse of what ancient women meant to each other and the concerns that were of the greatest significance to them. Although we have very little to go on in this respect, the fragments of the poet Sappho have of late been successfully taught in translation to a broad general audience. In my view the text that can best supplement Sappho in putting the experience of ancient women and its symbolic importance into some perspective is the Homeric Hymn to Demeter."
from "The Homeric Hymn to Demeter, Translation, Commentary and Interpretive Essays," p. xi, by Helene P. Foley (1994)
Previous | Sappho's Word | Next
Illustrations: (Left Panel) Peplos Kore (Κόρη), Acropolis Museum, Athens, 6th c. BCE. Minoan stylized lily illustration, from "Decorative Patterns of the Ancient World for Craftsmen," by Flinders Petrie (1930/1974); "Water Birds Amphora, 750-725 BCE, Ancient Agora Museum, Athens" | Photo Top (Symbolic landscape, women's handmade cloth, India): earlywomenmasters.net
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