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The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite, which tells of the seduction of the shepherd Anchises by the love-goddess Aphrodite, has long been recognized as a masterpiece of early Western literature. This edition is designed as a reference tool to aid scholars and students in their study of the poem. The introduction and commentary deal with points of language appropriate to the specialist or student of Greek, but also with matters of literary interpretation of interest to the non-specialist reader.
Mindful, ever mindful, will I be of Apollo the Far-darter. Before him, as he fares through the hall of Zeus, the Gods tremble, yea, rise up all from their thrones as he draws near with his shining bended bow. But Leto alone abides by Zeus, the Lord of Lightning, till Apollo hath slackened his bow and closed his quiver. Then, taking with her hands from his mighty shoulders the bow and quiver, she hangs them against the pillar beside his father’s seat from a pin of gold, and leads him to his place and seats him there, while the father welcomes his dear son, giving him nectar in a golden cup; then do the other Gods welcome him; then they make him sit, and Lady Leto rejoices, in that she bore the Lord of the Bow, her mighty son.
[Hail! O blessed Leto; mother of glorious children, Prince Apollo and Artemis the Archer; her in Ortygia, him in rocky Delos didst thou bear, couching against the long sweep of the Cynthian Hill, beside a palm tree, by the streams of Inopus.]
How shall I hymn thee aright, howbeit thou art, in sooth, not hard to hymn? for to thee, Phoebus, everywhere have fallen all the ranges of song, both on the mainland, nurse of young kine, and among the isles; to thee all the cliffs are dear, and the steep mountain crests and rivers running onward to the salt sea, and beaches sloping to the foam, and havens of the deep? Shall I tell how Leto bore thee first, a delight of men, couched by the Cynthian Hill in the rocky island, in sea-girt Delos–on either hand the black wave drives landward at the word of the shrill winds–whence arising thou art Lord over all mortals?
Among them that dwell in Crete, and the people of Athens, and isle AEgina, and Euboea famed for fleets, and AEgae and Peiresiae, and Peparethus by the sea-strand, and Thracian Athos, and the tall crests of Pelion, and Thracian Samos, and the shadowy mountains of Ida, Scyros, and Phocaea, and the mountain wall of Aigocane, and stablished Imbros, and inhospitable Lemnos, and goodly Lesbos, the seat of Makar son of AEolus, and Chios, brightest of all islands of the deep, and craggy Mimas, and the steep crests of Mykale, and gleaming Claros, and the high hills of AEsagee, and watery Samos, and tall ridges of Mycale, and Miletus, and Cos, a city of Meropian men, and steep Cnidos, and windy Carpathus, Naxos and Paros, and rocky Rheneia–so far in travail with the Archer God went Leto, seeking if perchance any land would build a house for her son.
But the lands trembled sore, and were adread, and none, nay not the richest, dared to welcome Phoebus, not till Lady Leto set foot on Delos, and speaking winged words besought her:
“Delos, would that thou wert minded to be the seat of my Son, Phoebus Apollo, and to let build him therein a rich temple! No other God will touch thee, nor none will honour thee, for methinks thou art not to be well seen in cattle or in sheep, in fruit or grain, nor wilt thou grow plants unnumbered. But wert thou to possess a temple of Apollo the Far- darter; then would all men bring thee hecatombs, gathering to thee, and ever wilt thou have savour of sacrifice … from others’ hands, albeit thy soil is poor.”
Thus spoke she, and Delos was glad and answered her saying:
“Leto, daughter most renowned of mighty Coeus, right gladly would I welcome the birth of the Archer Prince, for verily of me there goes an evil report among men, and thus would I wax mightiest of renown. But at this Word, Leto, I tremble, nor will I hide it from thee, for the saying is that Apollo will be mighty of mood, and mightily will lord it over mortals and immortals far and wide over the earth, the grain-giver. Therefore, I deeply dread in heart and soul lest, when first he looks upon the sunlight, he disdain my island, for rocky of soil am I, and spurn me with his feet and drive me down in the gulfs of the salt sea. Then should a great sea-wave wash mightily above my head for ever, but he will fare to another land, which so pleases him, to fashion him a temple and groves of trees. But in me would many-footed sea-beasts and black seals make their chambers securely, no men dwelling by me. Nay, still, if thou hast the heart, Goddess, to swear a great oath that here first he will build a beautiful temple, to be the shrine oracular of men–thereafter among all men let him raise him shrines, since his renown shall be the widest.”
So spake she, but Leto swore the great oath of the Gods: