The hymns, which must be the remains of a once more strongly represented genre, vary widely in length, some being as brief as three or four lines, while others are in excess of five hundred lines. The long ones comprise an invocation, praise, and narrative, sometimes quite extended. In the briefest ones, the narrative element is lacking. The longer ones show signs of having been assembled from pre-existing disparate materials.

Most surviving Byzantine manuscripts begin with the third Hymn. A chance discovery in Moscow in 1777 recovered the two hymns that open the collection, the fragmentary To Dionysus and To Demeter (complete save some lacunose lines), in a single fifteenth-century manuscript. Some at least of the shorter ones may be excerpts that have omitted the narrative central section, preserving only the useful invocation and introduction, [3] which a rhapsode could employ in the manner of a prelude.

The thirty-three hymns praise most of the major gods of Greek mythology ; at least the shorter ones may have served as preludes to the recitation of epic verse at festivals by professional rhapsodes : often the singer concludes by saying that now he will pass to another song. A thirty-fourth, To Hosts is not a hymn, but a reminder that hospitality is a sacred duty enjoined by the gods, a pointed reminder when coming from a professional rhapsode.

Homeric Hymns - Wikipedia


Homeric Hymns - Google Books

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