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Essay/Term paper: Classics oral tradition

Essay, term paper, research paper:  College Papers

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In this midterm essay I will discuss why Gods Journey.
I believe that Gods
journey for two reasons. One reason is to seek out honor for themselves.
The other reason is to regain honors they have lost. To demonstrate this I
will first discuss the journeys of Hades in the Homeric hymn "To Demeter"
comparing it to the journey of Hermes in "To Hermes". I fell that both of
these companion journeys were attempts by these Gods to win honors they did
not already have. Next I will look at the companion journeys of Demeter and
Apollo. I think that both of these Gods journeyed to regain honors they'd
previously had, but lost. Lastly I will conclude by showing how all four
Gods had to compromise and divide up the honors amongst themselves.
"Earth with its wide roads gaped and then over the Nysian field the
lord and
All receiver, the many named son of Kronos, sprang out upon her with his
immortal horses...Not an unseemly bridegroom among the immortals is
Aidoneus, Lord on Many, your own brother from the same seed; to his share
fell honor when in the beginning a triple division was made, and he dwells
among those over whom his lot made him lord" (To Demeter 16-18, 83-87).
I think that these two sets of lines show that Hades viewed Persephone as a
prize. Honor was one of the things Hades won when he, Zeus, and Poseidon
divided up the world. Thus Hades felt justified in journeying up from the
underworld to earth to claim Persephone as his bride. I feel that he felt he
deserved to have her, according to his logic, because honor was something he
was entitled to as a God.
I feel that Hermes journey was similar to that of Hades in that he traveled
in order to win honor for himself and for his Mother Maia.
"A watcher by night and a gate keeper, soon destined to show forth glorious
deeds among the immortal gods. Born at dawn, by midday he played his lyre,
and at evening he stole the cattle of far shooting Apollon...But I shall be
master of whatever skill is best to provide for you and me forever; we
shall not suffer, as you bid me, to stay right here and be the only two
immortals not plied with gifts and prayers. It is better to be forever in
the gods' intimate circle, rich, affluent, and with an abundance of grain,
than to sit in this dark cave; and as for honor, I, too, shall claim the
rite of which Apollon is a master" (To Hermes 15-18, 166- 173).
Hermes much like Hades was destined to achieve glorious deeds and win honor.
He felt he was entitled to steal Apollo's cattle, just as Hades felt
entitled to steal Persephone, because neither he nor Maia were receiving
their just honors from the Gods. I think that honor is one of the most
important and significant things among the Gods. It is truly the one area in
which Gods are able to distinguish themselves from other gods. I think that
both of these Gods risked earning the wrath of other Gods because honor was
so important to them, and they felt they were lacking of such.
Both of these journeys represent one of the key reasons why I feel that Gods
travel. Both of these Gods were not receiving the honors that they felt they
deserved as Gods. Furthermore both of them lived in isolated places, Hades
in the underworld and Hermes in an isolated cave, away from the other gods
who lived on MT. Olympus. Thus these Gods could easily be forgotten and
dismissed by the people, and the other Gods. I think that Hermes wanted to
own something so people would honor him and his mother in the same fashion
they honored the other Gods on Mt. Olympus. I feel that Hades wanted someone
whom he could claim as a bride to keep him company in his rule of the
underworld isolated away from the other Gods.
While both of these Gods were able to temporarily steal away these honors
for themselves, they had to take them from other Gods. Once these other Gods
found out about their thievery they responded in kind with a journey of their
own to reclaim honors which had been there's before and which they felt
should still rightfully be theirs.
"For nine days then all over the earth mighty Deo roamed about with bright
torches in her hands, and in her sorrow never tasted ambrosia or nectar
sweet to drink,and never bathed her skin... Afterwards, angered with
Kronion, lord of black clouds, she withdrew from the assembly of the gods
and from lofty Olympos and went through the cities of men and the wealth
of their labors, tearing at her hair form for a long time" (To Demeter
47-50, 91-94);
Demeter was so distraught over the rape of Persephone that she roamed the
Earth for nine days seeking out her daughter. While the loss of Persephone
was perhaps not a loss of honor to her in the same way the stealing
Persephone was an 'honor' to Hades, Demeter still felt dishonored and
offended that her daughter was taken away from her. When she found out what
had happened she walked among the people from village to village until she
finally came upon the home of Keleos. There Demeter agreed to serve as the
birth mother of Demephoon. I feel that Demeter's journey that brought her to
Demephoon was her way of attempting to win back the honor that was taken from
her in the form of Persephone. Demeter used Demephoon as a substitute and
cared for him in place of Persephone.
Apollo goes on a similar journey once he finds out that his cattle have been
"And then he saw a long winged bird and knew forthwith that the robber was
the son of Zeus Kronion. And Apollon, son of Zeus, speedily rushed to holy
Pylos in search of his shambling cows, his broad shoulders enveloped in a
purple cloud... Son of Leto, are not these harsh words you have spoken?
And here you are in search of roving cattle? I have neither seen, nor
found out, nor heard another man's word; and I will neither tell, nor get
the reward for telling (To Hermes 213-217, 261-264).
Apollo is initially thwarted in his efforts to recover what has been taken
from him just as Demeter was. He listens to and old man and finally finds
Hermes, yet Hermes lies to him and refuses to tell him where his cattle are
hidden because he knows that he will receive no prize if he does so.
In these situations both Apollo and Demeter are thwarted in their initial
efforts to recover their lost honors. Demeter does find a temporary
replacement in Demephoon, but that ends when Meteneira catches her placing
Demephoon in the fire and Demeter's secret is revealed. This leaves two
Gods, Demeter and Apollo, unsatisfied with their stolen honors and two Gods,
Hades and Hermes, thoroughly satisfied that they have been able to pull off
their great thievery. I feel that since Gods journey to earn or win back
honors and to divide them up amongst themselves clearly this unequal
situation cannot exist in perpetuity. In both cases Zeus the Ruler of all is
called upon to rectify the situation and help work out some type of balance
of power between the warring Gods.
"So then again the father sent forth all the blessed immortal gods. They
ran to her, and each in his turn summoned her and gave her many beautiful
gifts and whatever honors she might want to choose among the immortals.
But no one could persuade the mind and thought of the angry goddess who
stubbornly spurned their offers. She said she would never set foot on
fragrant Olympos and never allow the grain in the earth to sprout forth so
when loud thundering, far seeing Zeus heard this he sent Argeiphontes of
the golden want to Erebos. His mission was to win Hades over with gentle
words, and bring Persephone out of the misty darkness" (To Demeter
In this case Zeus was forced to recall Persephone from Hades in order to
placate Demeter. However since Persephone had eaten a pomengrate seed she
was sentenced to live two thirds of the year with Demeter and one third of
the year with Hades. This division of the honor of having Persephone between
Hades and Demeter was a result of the journeys that both of them took.
The journeys of Apollo and Hermes resulted in a similar arrangement and
division of honors.
"For, noble and mighty as you are, O son of Zeus, your seat is first among
the immortals, and wise Zeus loves you, by every sacred right, and has
granted you splendid gifts. And they say, O Far Shooter, that from Zeus and
his divine voice you learn the honors, the prophet's skills, and all god
given relevations. I myself have learned that you have all these in
abundance. You may choose to learn whatever you desire, but since you
heart is so eager to play the lyre, sing and play the lyre and minister to
gay festivities, receiving this skill from me and, friend, grant me glory"
(To Hermes 468-477).
Thus both Apollo and Hermes wind up with something to gain from their
journeys. Hermes gains the fame and glory that he sought both among the Gods
and among the men on Earth while Apollo was given back his cattle and the
ability to play the lyre as well.
These hymns I feel both have the same truths within them. Gods travel as a
way to gain honor, either new or lost. Honor however is a fungible thing,
there can only be so much of it to go around. Thus Gods ultimately journey
as a way of dividing up that honor so that every God has some, but no one God
has it all.


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