In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Homeric Hymns

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Bibliographies
  • Editions
  • English Translations
  • Language and Style
  • Structure
  • Genre and Motifs
  • The Collection

Classics Homeric Hymns
Andrew Faulkner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 29 August 2012
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 August 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195389661-0098


The Homeric Hymns are a collection of thirty-three hexameter hymns to Greek deities, so named because they were often in Antiquity attributed to Homer, the supposed composer of the Iliad and Odyssey. The poems are, in fact, of varied date and provenance, although the majority are most probably products of the archaic period (7th to 6th centuries BCE). Four of the Homeric Hymns (two to Demeter, three to Apollo, four to Hermes, and five to Aphrodite) contain developed narratives of episodes in the lives of the deities celebrated and stretch from 293 to 580 lines. The first Hymn to Dionysus also contained an extended narrative of over 400 lines, but now survives only in fragments. There are two mid-length Hymns with narratives, seven to Dionysus (fifty-nine lines), and nineteen to Pan (forty-nine lines), but the rest of the poems in the corpus are short celebrations of divine powers consisting of between three and twenty-two lines. Critical attention has understandably focused most on the longer Homeric Hymns with extended narratives.

General Overviews

Concise general overviews of the Homeric Hymns are provided by Faulkner 2011 and Clay 1997. Excellent general comments may also be found in Parker 1991. Others can be found in the introductions to editions and translations, with notable contributions by Richardson 2010, West 2003, Cashford 2003, and Càssola 1975. The introduction to Allen, et al. 1936 is still extremely useful, but somewhat dated. Nünlist 2004 gives a brief overview of the Hymns and narratology.

  • Allen, Thomas W., William R. Halliday, and Edward E. Sikes, eds. 1936. The Homeric hymns. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon.

    Introduction to the nature, language, and transmission of the Homeric Hymns, as well as early scholarship on the poems, pp. xi–cxv. The section on the relationship of manuscripts is superseded by Càssola 1975.

  • Cashford, Jules, trans. 2003. The Homeric hymns. Introduction and notes by Nicholas Richardson. London: Penguin.

    Introduction to the nature, performance context, authorship and date, structure, style, and reception of the Homeric Hymns, pp. vii–xxxv.

  • Càssola, Filippo, ed. 1975. Inni omerici. Milan: Mondadori.

    Overview of the Homeric Hymns’ transmission and their place within the tradition of epic poetry, pp. ix–lxx.

  • Clay, Jenny Strauss. 1997. The Homeric Hymns. In A new companion to Homer. Edited by Ian Morris and Barry Powell, 489–507. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    Overview of the language, structure, and performance context of the Homeric Hymns, with individual sections dedicated to the long narrative poems to Demeter, Apollo, Hermes, and Aphrodite.

  • Faulkner, Andrew. 2011. Modern Scholarship on the Homeric Hymns: Foundational Issues. In The Homeric Hymns: Interpretative Essays. Edited by Andrew Faulkner. 1–25. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.

    An overview of central questions pertaining to the Homeric Hymns in modern scholarship.

  • Nünlist, René. 2004. The Homeric hymns. In Narrators, narratees and narratives in ancient Greek literature. Edited by Irene de Jong, René Nünlist, and Angus Bowie, 35–42. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill.

    Brief overview of narratology and the Homeric Hymns.

  • Parker, Robert. 1991. The Hymn to Demeter and the Homeric hymns. Greece and Rome 38:1–17.

    DOI: 10.1017/S0017383500022932

    A study of the Hymn to Demeter’s relationship to cult, but with excellent general comments about the nature of the Homeric Hymns, pp. 1–4.

  • Richardson, Nicholas, ed. 2010. Three Homeric hymns: To Apollo, Hermes, and Aphrodite. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    Introduction treats the nature, structure, themes, origins, and reception of the collection, with detailed attention given to the long Homeric Hymns to Apollo, Hermes, and Aphrodite, pp. 1–33.

  • West, Martin L., trans. and ed. 2003. The Homeric hymns, Homeric apocrypha, Lives of Homer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

    Concise overview of the nature of the Homeric Hymns and the origins of the collection, with separate discussion of the date and character of individual hymns.

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