The Ancient Library
 

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POETICAL PERIOD. 51

CHAPTER IX. SECOND OR POETICAL PERIOD—continued.

HOMERIC HYMNS AND MINOR POEMS.1

I. As certain hymns, which were known and admired in a more ad­vanced literary period, were ascribed to the mythical bards, such as Olen, Orpheus, Linus, and Musaeus, so many minor poems, consisting of hymns and humorous effusions, have been attributed to the author of the Iliad and Odyssey. Besides these there are a few short addresses to cities or private persons, which have been entitled Epigrams.

II. The Hymns, including the hymn to Ceres and the fragment to Bacchus, which were discovered in the last century at Moscow, and edit­ed by Ruhnken, amount to thirty-three. There are six longer, and twenty-seven shorter ones. They were called by the ancients Trpooi/Ma, i. e., over­tures or preludes, and were sung by the rhapsodists as introductions to epic poems at the festivals of the respective gods, to whom they are addressed. To these rhapsodists the hymns most probably owe their origin. Accord­ing to Miiller,2 they exhibit such a diversity of language and poetical tone, that in all probability they contain fragments from every century, from the time of Homer to the Persian war.

III. Still, most of them were reckoned to be Homeric productions by those who lived in a time when Greek literature still flourished. This is easily accounted for. Being recited in connection with Homeric poems, they were gradually attributed to the same author, and continued to be so regarded more or less generally, till critics, and particularly those of Alex-andrea, discovered the differences between their style and that of Homer. At Alexandrea they were never reckoned genuine, which accounts for the circumstance that no one of the great critics of that school is known to have made a regular collection of them.3

IV. Of the hymns now extant five deserve particular attention, on ac­count of their greater length and mythological contents ; they are those addressed to the Delian and Pythian Apollo, to Mercury, Ceres, and Venus. The hymn to the Delian Apollo, formerly regarded as part of the one to the Pythian Apollo, is the work of a Homerid of Chios, and approaches so nearly to the true Homeric tone, that the author, who calls himself the blind poet, who lived in the rocky Chios, was held even by Thucydides to be Homer himself. It narrates the birth of Apollo in Delos, but a great part of it is lost.

V. The hymn to the Pythian Apollo contains the foundation of the Pythian sanctuary by the god himself, who slays the serpent, and, in the form of a dolphin, leads certain men to Crissa, whom he establishes as priests of his temple.

VI. The hymn to Mercury, which, on account of its mentioning the i Ihne, p. 508. 2 Hist, Gr. Lit,, p. 74. 3 Wolf, Proleg., p. 266.

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