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Ancient literary sources (24)



Now to the Titans were born offspring: to Ocean and Tethys were born Oceanids, to wit, Asia, Styx, Electra, Doris, Eurynome, Amphitrite, and Metis; to Coeus and Phoebe were born Asteria and Latona; to Hyperion and Thia were born Dawn, Sun, and Moon; to Crius and Eurybia, daughter of Sea ( Pontus ), were born Astraeus, Pallas, and Perses;

Of the daughters of Coeus, Asteria in the likeness of a quail flung herself into the sea in order to escape the amorous advances of Zeus, and a city was formerly called after her Asteria, but afterwards it was named Delos. But Latona for her intrigue with Zeus was hunted by Hera over the whole earth, till she came to Delos and brought forth first Artemis, by the help of whose midwifery she afterwards gave birth to Apollo.Now Artemis devoted herself to the chase and remained a maid; but Apollo learned the art of prophecy from Pan, the son of Zeus and Hybris . . .(Apollod. 1.4.1)
  As to the birth of Apollo and Artemis. . . The usual tradition was that Latona gave birth both to Artemis and to Apollo in Delos, which formerly had been called Asteria or Ortygia. But the author of the Homeric Hymn to Apollo distinguishes Ortygia from Delos, and says that, while Apollo was born in Delos, Artemis was born in Ortygia. Thus distinguished from Delos, the island of Ortygia is probably to be identified, as Strabo thought, with Rhenia, an uninhabited island a little way from Delos, where were the graves of the Delians; for no dead body might be buried or burnt in Delos (Strab. 10.5.5 ). Not only so, but it was not even lawful either to be born or to die in Delos; expectant mothers and dying folk were ferried across to Rhenia, there to give birth or to die. However, Rhenia is so near the sacred isle that when Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, dedicated it to the Delian Apollo, he connected the two islands by a chain. See Thuc. 3.104; Diod. 12.58.1; Paus. 2.27.1. The notion that either a birth or a death would defile the holy island is illustrated by an inscription found on the acropolis of Athens, which declares it to be the custom that no one should be born or die within any sacred precinct. The desolate and ruinous remains of the ancient necropolis, overgrown by asphodel, may still be seen on the bare treeless slopes of Rhenia, which looks across the strait to Delos. The quaint legend, recorded by Apollodorus, that immediately after her birth Artemis helped her younger twin brother Apollo to be born into the world, is mentioned also by Serv. Verg. A. 3.73 and the Vatican Mythographers. The legend, these writers inform us, was told to explain why the maiden goddess Artemis was invoked by women in child-bed.

This extract is from: Apollodorus, Library and Epitome (ed. Sir James George Frazer, 1921). Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.

Diodorus Siculus

  As a result of heavy rains in the previous winter the ground had become (426 B.C.) soaked with water, and many low-lying regions, having received a vast amount of water, turned into shallow pools and held stagnant water, very much as marshy regions do; and when these waters became warm in the summer and grew putrid, thick foul vapours were formed, which, rising up in fumes, corrupted the surrounding air, the very thing which may be seen taking place in marshy grounds which are by nature pestilential. Contributing also to the disease was the bad character of the food available; for the crops which were raised that year were altogether watery and their natural quality was corrupted. And a third cause of the disease proved to be the failure of the etesian winds to blow, by which normally most of the heat in summer is cooled; and when the heat intensified and the air grew fiery, the bodies of the inhabitants, being without anything to cool them, wasted away. Consequently all the illnesses which prevailed at that time were found to be accompanied by fever, the cause of which was the excessive heat. And this was the reason why most of the sick threw themselves into the cisterns and springs in their craving to cool their bodies. The Athenians, however, because the disease was so severe, ascribed the causes of their misfortune to the deity. Consequently, acting upon the command of a certain oracle, they purified the island of Delos, which was sacred to Apollo and had been defiled, as men thought, by the burial there of the dead. Digging up, therefore, all the graves on Delos, they transferred the remains to the island of Rheneia, as it is called, which lies near Delos. They also passed a law that neither birth nor burial should be allowed on Delos. And they also celebrated the festival assembly, the Delia, which had been held in former days but had not been observed for a long time.

This extract is from: Diodorus Siculus, Library (ed. C. H. Oldfather, 1989). Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.

During this year (422 B.C.) the Athenians, accusing the Delians of secretly concluding an alliance with the Lacedaemonians, expelled them from the island and took their city for their own. To the Delians who had been expelled the satrap Pharniaces gave the city of Adramytium to dwell in.

This year (420 B.C.) the Athenians, in obedience to a certain oracle, returned their island to the Delians, and the Delians who were dwelling in Adramytium returned to their native land.


Delians also left Delos and fled away to Tenos. As his expedition was sailing landwards, Datis went on ahead and bade his fleet anchor not off Delos, but across the water off Rhenaea. Learning where the Delians were, he sent a herald to them with this proclamation: "Holy men, why have you fled away, and so misjudged my intent? It is my own desire, and the king's command to me, to do no harm to the land where the two gods1 were born, neither to the land itself nor to its inhabitants. So return now to your homes and dwell on your island". He made this proclamation to the Delians, and then piled up three hundred talents of frankincense on the altar and burnt it
After doing this, Datis sailed with his army against Eretria first, taking with him Ionians and Aeolians; and after he had put out from there, Delos was shaken by an earthquake, the first and last, as the Delians say, before my time. This portent was sent by heaven, as I suppose, to be an omen of the ills that were coming on the world. For in three generations, that is, in the time of Darius son of Hystaspes and Xerxes son of Darius and Artaxerxes son of Xerxes, more ills happened to Hellas than in twenty generations before Darius; some coming from the Persians, some from the wars for preeminence among the chief of the nations themselves. Thus it was no marvel that there should be an earthquake in Delos when there had been none before. Also there was an oracle concerning Delos, where it was written: "I will shake Delos, though unshaken before". In the Greek language these names have the following meanings: Darius is the Doer, Xerxes the Warrior, Artaxerxes the Great Warrior. The Greeks would rightly call the kings thus in their language.

This extract is from: Herodotus. The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley, 1920), Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.


Datis in Myconos

Datis journeyed with his army to Asia, and when he arrived at Myconos he saw a vision in his sleep. What that vision was is not told, but as soon as day broke Datis made a search of his ships. He found in a Phoenician ship a gilded image of Apollo, and asked where this plunder had been taken. Learning from what temple it had come, he sailed in his own ship to Delos. The Delians had now returned to their island, and Datis set the image in the temple, instructing the Delians to carry it away to Theban Delium, on the coast opposite Chalcis. Datis gave this order and sailed away, but the Delians never carried that statue away; twenty years later the Thebans brought it to Delium by command of an oracle.

This extract is from: Herodotus. The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley, 1920), Cambridge. Harvard University Press. Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.

Homeric Hymns


Hymn to Delian Apollo

  I will remember and not be unmindful of Apollo who shoots afar. As he goes through the house of Zeus, the gods tremble before him and all spring up from their seats when he draws near, as he bends his bright bow. But Leto alone stays by the side of Zeus who delights in thunder; and then she unstrings his bow, and closes his quiver, and takes his archery from his strong shoulders in her hands and hangs them on a golden peg against a pillar of his father's house. Then she leads him to a seat and makes him sit: and the Father gives him nectar in a golden cup welcoming his dear son, while the other gods make him sit down there, and queenly Leto rejoices because she bare a mighty son and an archer. Rejoice, blessed Leto, for you bare glorious children, the lord Apollo and Artemis who delights in arrows; her in Ortygia, and him in rocky Delos, as you rested against the great mass of the Cynthian hill hard by a palm-tree by the streams of Inopus.
   How, then, shall I sing of you who in all ways are a worthy theme of song? For everywhere, O Phoebus, the whole range of song is fallen to you, both over the mainland that rears heifers and over the isles. All mountain-peaks and high headlands of lofty hills and rivers flowing out to the deep and beaches sloping seawards and havens of the sea are your delight. Shall I sing how at the first Leto bare you to be the joy of men, as she rested against Mount Cynthus in that rocky isle, in sea-girt Delos --while on either hand a dark wave rolled on landwards driven by shrill winds --whence arising you rule over all mortal men?
   Among those who are in Crete, and in the township of Athens, and in the isle of Aegina and Euboea, famous for ships, in Aegae and Eiresiae and Peparethus near the sea, in Thracian Athos and Pelion's towering heights and Thracian Samos and the shady hills of Ida, [35] in Scyros and Phocaea and the high hill of Autocane and fair-lying Imbros and smouldering Lemnos and rich Lesbos, home of Macar, the son of Aeolus, and Chios, brightest of all the isles that lie in the sea, and craggy Mimas and the heights of Corycus and gleaming Claros and the sheer hill of Aesagea and watered Samos and the steep heights of Mycale, in Miletus and Cos, the city of Meropian men, and steep Cnidos and windy Carpathos, in Naxos and Paros and rocky Rhenaea -- so far roamed Leto in travail with the god who shoots afar, to see if any land would be willing to make a dwelling for her son.

This text is from: Homeric Hymns (ed. Hugh G. Evelyn-White, 1914). Cited Feb 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.

Commentary on the Homeric Hymn to Apollo, Thomas W. Allen, E. E. Sikes, ed.
Subject.--The poet sings of Apollo, at whose approach even the gods tremble; but Leto rejoices in her strong son. She visited many isles and cities before his birth, but all feared to receive her, except Delos, to whom Leto promised that Apollo should love the island beyond all others. Leto's delivery was stopped by the jealousy of Hera; but finally Eilithyia came, and the goddess brought forth her son, who forthwith burst his swaddling-clothes and claimed his prerogatives--the lyre, the bow, and the gift of prophecy. Many cities and lands are his, but chiefly he delights in Delos, where the Ionians are gathered together with song and dance in his honour. Most famous is the chorus of Delian women, whom the blind Chian poet begs to remember him; he will never cease to sing of Apollo, Leto's son.
  Apollo went to Pytho; and thence to Olympus, where he accompanies on his lyre the dance of the gods. His success in love could furnish many themes for song, but the singer chooses the story of the god's search for an oracular temple. He left Olympus and passed southward through many peoples until he reached the spring of Telphusa, near Haliartus. There he wished to found his oracle, but the nymph dissuaded him and suggested Crisa; he complied, and his temple was built beneath Parnassus. Hard by was a fountain, where he met a dragon which ravaged the place. This monster had reared Typhaon, whom Hera bare in wrath with Zeus. Apollo slew the dragon and gained his title of Pythius. Angry with Telphusa for her treachery in sending him to a place infested by the dragon, he returned to her and stopped her water with a shower of rocks from an overhanging cliff. Then he bethought him of a priesthood, and saw Cretans sailing from Cnossus. He met them in the form of a dolphin, and diverted the course of their ship to Crisa, where he revealed himself as a god. The Cretans built an altar on the shore and followed him to Pytho. Apollo promised that they should live on the offerings of pilgrims, but warned them that if they fell into evil ways they would be subjected to the dominion of others.
The composition of the hymn.--The hymn to Apollo, in its present form, may be read as a continuous poem. But the continuity lies only on the surface, and even the most casual reader cannot fail to be struck by the abrupt transition at v. 179, after a passage in which the Chian poet appears to take leave of his audience and to finish his theme. Accordingly, from the time of Ruhnken, the hymn has been divided into two parts, commonly known as the "Delian" and "Pythian" hymns. Gemoll very properly refuses to bisect the document, on the ground that it was considered a single poem at least as early as the second century A.D.; that many of the arguments against its original unity must be discounted; and that even if there has been a conflation, the division into two parts is unscientific, as the present hymn may well contain more than two fragments or complete poems. Gemoll indeed allows that the hymn does not convey the impression of unity; but, as his arguments are mainly directed against its disintegration by Ruhnken and subsequent editors, it is necessary to examine the evidence afresh, and to consider how far Ruhnken's position is sound.
External evidence.--Thucydides (iii. 104) cites lines 146-150 as ek tou prooimiou Apollonos, and adds eteleuta tou epainou es tade ta epe (quoting 165-172). Here the epainos may obviously mean, not the whole hymn, but that part of it which contains the eulogy on the Delian women. Aristides, however (ii. 558), quotes 169 f., using the words kataluon to prooimion; and, if he quoted at first-hand, it would be a clear proof that in the second century A.D. there was a hymn to Apollo, which ended with the invocation of the Delians by the blind Chian. Against this Hermann reasonably argues that Aristides was simply quoting from Thucydides (compare prooimion in both authors), and wrongly took tou epainou in Thucydides to mean tou prooimiou. The probability that Aristides did not know the hymn at first-hand is increased by the fact, observed in connexion with the Athenaion politeia, that all his quotations from Solon are found in that treatise; there is thus a strong presumption that he was generally unfamiliar with the less-known early poetry. Moreover, that the hymn was a single document by the time of Aristides is proved by the citations of his contemporaries, i.e. Pausanias (x. 37. Homeros en te Iliadi homoios kai humnoi eis Apollona) and Athenaeus (22 C, quoting v. 515, Homeros e ton Homeridon tis en toi eis Apollona humnoi). The testimony of later writers (Eustath. 1602. 25, and Byz. Steph.618en toi eis Apollona humnoi) confirms the earlier authorities.
  There is therefore nothing in the language of Thucydides to suggest that he knew of a "Delian" hymn ending at line 178, and on the other hand, as Gemoll observes, the historian would hardly have written tou prooimiou Apollonos, if he had been acquainted with more than one Homeric hymn to Apollo. As the so-called "Pythian" hymn is certainly much older than Thucydides, the inference is that the unity of the document extends back to the end of the fifth century B.C. at the latest. Gemoll further suggests that Aristophanes, as he seems to quote from both the first and last parts of the hymn, recognised a single hymn. This argument is of little value in itself, for Aristophanes might, of course, have cited from two hymns as much as from one; but it may be conceded that, if Thucydides was unaware of the existence of separate Delian and Pythian parts, his contemporary and fellow-countryman was equally ignorant.
Internal evidence.:
1. The separatists assume that vv. 165 f. are obviously the end of one hymn, and 179 f. belong to another. This view is accepted in the present edition . . . but, as Gemoll points out, the arguments commonly brought forward are not in themselves conclusive. The "farewell" to the Delian women (chairete d' humeis ktl. 166) might mark the close of a digression in the hymn, not the end of the whole hymn; cf. Theog. 963 where a similar formula marks a transition to another subject. Again, vv. 177, 178 autar egon ou lexo ktl. are not necessarily a formula of conclusion, although, of course, they are quite appropriate to that position; the two lines might have served to introduce Apollo's later exploits, after the digression on the Delians.
2. Kiesel and Baumeister favour the theory of an early Delian and later Pythian hymn, on the ground of a similarity of structure and subject matter which they detect in the two parts. For example, Baumeister compares 1-13 with 182-206, 19 f. with 207 f., the wanderings of Leto with the journey of Apollo, the jealousy of Hera with that of Telphusa, the Delian with the Pythian festival. Of these "pairs", only the first (1-13 and 182-206) is at all striking; and, in any case, it need not follow that these parallel passages are by different authors; a poet may repeat himself, as well as copy another.
3. The unity of the hymn has been denied on artistic and literary grounds. One fact is certain, that the earlier part of the hymn was recited at a Delian festival to an Ionian audience. But at 182 the poem leaves Delos, which is not mentioned again, and passes to quite different episodes in Apollo's career, chief of which is the foundation of the Dorian oracle at Pytho. It may be argued that there is no reason why the Chian bard should not have dealt with these later achievements; he need not have been so parochial as to exclude from his Delian hymn all myths which do not bear on the god's connexion with the island. Again, if it be urged that some final reference to Delos might be expected at the end of the whole poem, an answer is ready that such criticism is purely subjective, and that we must not force ancient documents to comply with modern ideas of artistic propriety. Even if there is a natural break at 178, the same author (i.e. the Chian poet) may have composed the rest of the hymn as a separate rhapsody; in this he handled myths, foreign, it is true, to Delos, but not foreign to his subject, which is after all not Delos, but Apollo.
  But, when all these conservative arguments have been allowed their due weight, it is still practically impossible to reverse the judgment of Ruhnken and his followers. The fatal objection to the theory of unity rests on historical and mythological grounds. As has been conceded above, there is no prima facie impossibility in supposing that a bard at Delos handled the theme of Apollo's victory over the dragon at Pytho. But the circumstances of the Delian panegyris must be borne in mind: it was an assembly of Ionians (152); a certain non-Ionic element was indeed present, but these aliens came chiefly from the Aegean islands (see on 157), and the festival was, in fact, essentially insular. The character of the "Delian" part of the hymn is entirely in keeping with this insularity; Phoebus has many temples, and travels far and wide (141 f.); but his heart is in Delos (146), which he loves more than any other island, and more than the mainland (139). It is difficult to agree with Dr. Verrall's theory as to the meaning of the whole hymn; but he is undoubtedly right in laying stress on the fundamental difference between the Ionian religion of Apollo at Delos, and the Dorian religion at Pytho. In Dr. Verrall's words, the Delian hymnist's "range of view, and the government of his god are strictly limited, according to his own full and exact description (30-44, 142-145), to the Aegean archipelago. Even the coast of the surrounding land he treats merely as a framework enclosing the beloved islands; he mentions scarcely a point in the coast which is not peninsular, and within the sea-line knows nothing except what might be seen from the sea. His Ionians are mariners exclusively (155), and have a deity like themselves". Moreover, the Delian cult was not only Ionian and insular, but also in part oracular; and it is barely conceivable that a poet, who adopted the exclusive standpoint of the Delians, should have devoted the rest of his hymn (three times as large as the first part) to the praises of a rival Dorian oracle. At the present day we are apt to take a wrong perspective of early Apolline religion--a perspective natural enough, inasmuch as it rests on authority which, though not so old as the hymn, is still ancient. Callimachus composed a catholic and eclectic hymn to Apollo, in which local and racial distinctions are blurred; still earlier, in the age of faith, Pindar and Aeschylus honoured Delos and Delphi equally, and tried to harmonise the two rival cults,6 following, perhaps, the example of statesmen like Pisistratus and Polycrates, who respected both the shrines ( Suid. s.v. Puthia kai Delia, Puthion, and tauta soi). But we cannot look for a quixotic spirit in a poet who must have preceded the age of Pindar by several generations, and who sang to an Ionian audience assembled in honour of a local and tribal god.
  The "Pythian" part of the hymn, on the other hand, is Dorian and continental in its outlook. Without laying undue stress on the niceties of style, a critic cannot fail to notice its inferiority; and few will probably dissent from the judgment of Mr. Lang, who sees in the hymn to Apollo "the work of a good poet, in the earlier part; and in the latter part, or second hymn, the work of a bad poet, selecting unmanageable passages of myth, and handling them pedantically and ill". His theme--the foundation of the most famous oracle in the world--offered a splendid opportunity; but the hymn shows, by sins of omission and commission alike, that its writer could not rise to the level of his subject. Dr. Verrall remarks that he passes over in silence almost everything characteristic of Pytho--the chasm, the tripod, the omphalos, the crowds of worshippers, the priestess herself. To these omissions may be added the silence of the hymn on the purification of Apollo from blood-guiltiness, which was a primitive and important article of the Pythian religion.7 There is no explicit reference to the preApolline worship of Gaea or Themis, and no word of Poseidon, who, unlike Dionysus, was at Pytho at an early date. This neglect of opportunities is ascribed by Dr. Verrall to the insincerity of the "compiler" of the present document; but it may rather be due to the taste, or want of taste, of a writer who seems to have been chiefly interested in miracles and etymological speculation. Very different is the spirit of the blind Chian, who describes the birth of Apollo and the glories of the Delian festival with so much strength and vivacity.
  It therefore follows that the hymn is a compilation of at least two originally independent poems. Some scholars (as Baumeister) are content with this bisection; but they eliminate from the second hymn the episode of Typhaon (305-355), which is sometimes regarded as a later addition. The passage, however, bears no signs of late workmanship: it is a fragment of genuine antiquity, although it has been forced into its present context with some violence.8 The hymn has thus been pieced together from three different sources; and, this being its history, there is of course a possibility that its component parts may have been even more numerous. Various German critics, from the time of Groddeck, have argued for this disintegration. None of these speculations, however, are more than plausible at best; nor are they recommended by any historical or mythological difficulties. Groddeck, for example, considered 1-13 to be a separate poem or fragment. But there is absolutely no reason why the Chian poet should not have composed this passage as the exordium of his hymn at Delos. Again, Baumeister rightly rejects Hermann's view that the latter part of the hymn (from 207) is the product of two interwoven poems, in honour of Apollo Pythius and Telphusius respectively. Baumeister's criticism of Hermann is to the point: librarios castigat, ubi poeta erat castigandus. Other attempts to dismember the hymn will be noted in the commentary.
Date.--The hymn to Apollo (or at least the Delian part) is probably the oldest in the collection, but its age cannot be fixed with exactness. The date and authorship are, indeed, expressly mentioned by the scholiast on Pind. Nem.ii. 2, where the hymn is attributed to Cynaethus of Chios, who "first rhapsodized the poems of Homer at Syracuse, in the sixty-ninth Olympiad" (504 B.C.). The blind Chian may have been Cynaethus; we have, at all events, no reason to doubt the correctness of the scholiast's tradition in this respect; but the date is certainly far too low. The evidence of history in connexion with the Ionian assembly, is usually brought forward as an argument for an early period; and this argument is of some weight, though not in itself conclusive. The panegyris must have become famous by the beginning of the eighth century B.C., when the Messenians are said to have sent a secret embassy to Delos, and a hymn was composed for them by Eumelus of Corinth ( Paus.iv. 4. 1). The Delian hymn to Apollo might therefore belong to this century, in which case it would be contemporary with some of the rejected epics. At this time, the Ionians on the coast of Asia Minor and in the islands attained the height of their prosperity. Duncker thinks that the hymn must be earlier than 700 B.C., when the Ionians suffered a shock from the invasion of Cimmerians. But the invaders did not reach the islands, although they ravaged a great part of Asia Minor; the festival was not apparently interrupted, and its splendour was even increased in the time of Polycrates and Pisistratus. It was not before the defeat of the Ionians by Persia that it declined in prestige, until it was revived by the Athenians at the beginning of the Peloponnesian war. History, therefore, would allow any date to the Delian hymn between the eighth century (or even earlier) and the time of Pisistratus. But the lower limit is impossible on other grounds; for, as we have seen, "the hymn to Apollo" is attributed to Homer by Thucydides, and probably also by Aristophanes. The first part of the hymn must thus be considerably older than the fifth century. This conclusion is supported by archaeological evidence, which points to a date not subsequent to 600 B.C. The language, which has been exhaustively treated by various German scholars, has words and forms which do not occur in Homer; but on the whole it is "Homeric" in character, and seems to belong to a period when epic literature, if in its decline, was still a living force.
  The age of the non-Delian part is equally uncertain. The episode of Typhaon has been thought later than Stesichorus, as he, and not the author of the hymn, is mentioned in the E. M. 772, in connexion with the genealogy of Typhaon. This argument, however, is quite worthless. The fragment is in the style of the Theogony, and, as far as can be judged from style, may belong to the early Hesiodean school. The "Pythian" part may be later than the Delian, but here again the evidence is inconclusive. On the other hand Fick holds that Cynaethus, the author of the Delian hymn, probably took the Pythian hymn as his model. An early date is required by the absence of the place-name Delphi, and by the fact that chariot-races seem to have been still unknown at Pytho. The terminus ante quem must therefore be placed at 586 B.C., when these races were instituted. The temple built by Trophonius and Agamedes was standing in the poet's time (cf. 299); it was burned in 548 B.C. ( Paus.x. 5. 5). The Pythian hymn cannot therefore be later than the beginning of the sixth century, and may be much older.
Place of composition.--The locality is settled for the Delian hymn by the statement of the poet himself, who was an Ionian from Chios, and recited at Delos. This, of course, proves nothing for the rest of the hymn, since its unity cannot be accepted. According to the common view, the first hymn is the work of a Homerid, the second belongs to the Hesiodean school. Gemoll, on the other hand, very properly remarks that there are reminiscences of Hesiod in the Delian part, and that the whole document shows the influence of Homer. All that can be inferred from internal evidence is, that the author of the Pythian part was familiar with Delphi, whose situation is accurately described; further, the episode of Telphusa and the reference to the curious custom at Onchestus are distinctly local, and seem to prove that the poem was composed on the mainland, and probably in central Greece. Its nearest analogy is the Shield of Heracles, which, if not genuinely "Hesiodean", is certainly Boeotian. The tone of this poem is thoroughly Apolline; the contest takes place in the precinct of the Pagasaean Apollo; the god favours Heracles, and finally causes the bones of the vanquished Cycnus to be washed away, because he plundered pilgrims on their way to Pytho. As the Pythian hymn is so much concerned with Apollo's progress along the sacred way from Euboea to Delphi, the local and religious interest of the two poems seems parallel. No stress can be laid (as against this view) on the misplacement of Boeotian localities, whether this is due to ignorance or carelessness.
Present state of the hymn.--As has been shown above, the hymn in its present composite form was known to the Greeks in the time of Pausanias and probably even of Thucydides. It would be interesting to know the date and nationality of the "editor"; and in this connexion Dr. Verrall has suggested an ingenious theory. In his view the hymn is a cento, divisible into at least four distinct parts, of which the oldest was a Delian hymn; an Athenian, under the dynasty of Pisistratus, collected from other sources, or added from his own pen, materials to form the present document. The compiler was influenced by religious and political motives, his object being to diminish the dignity of the Pythian oracle, and magnify the Delian cult of Apollo. The whole hymn, as there arranged, was an anti-Delphian "religious pasquinade". This hypothesis cannot here be fully criticised; but most readers of Dr. Verrall's article will probably fail to be convinced that the hymn is not a genuine attempt to honour the Pythian, as well as the Delian, Apollo. At the same time, it is quite possible that the compiler was an Athenian in the age of Pisistratus. If we could unhesitatingly accept the tradition that the tyrant ordered a recension of "Homer", the hymn to Apollo might have been edited, as well as the genuine Homeric poems, being itself classed as Homeric by common opinion. But the tendency of modern scholarship is to reject the tradition as unfounded. It is perhaps more natural to look for the editor in a place where the two great myths of Apollo--the birth at Delos and the fight with the Pythian dragon--were first united. This place was possibly Tegyra; and Hiller von Gartringen suggests that not only was the Pythian hymn of Boeotian origin, but that the whole composition was put together in Tegyra or elsewhere in Boeotia.
The hymn in relation to later literature.--While the other hymns in the collection were very generally neglected by ancient authors, the hymn to Apollo must have been widely known and appreciated from early times. It seems to have served as a model for more than one of the shorter Homeric hymns. In the sixth century B.C., Theognis shows the influence of at least the Delian part (see on 117 and 118). Pindar has possible reminiscences of both parts, but this is more doubtful. The hymn had become a classic by the end of the fifth century, when Thucydides treats it as historical evidence of value, and Aristophanes' quotations imply that it was familiar to an Attic audience. The Alexandrian poets made free use of it in their revival of hymn-writing: the chief debtor was perhaps Callimachus, in his own hymns to Apollo and Delos (see on 19, 119, 135, 383, 396), but Apollonius and Theocritus also laid it under contribution (see on 119, 487). The seventeenth idyll of Theocritus is clearly inspired by the Delian hymn.

Ovidius Naso

. . . If you are not inclined to mitigate the Goddess, this is being forgetful of me; if you cannot, she has then abandoned you. Oh! I could wish that Delos, surrounded by the Aegean sea, had remained ever unknown to me, or at least had not been visited by me at that time. The ship that carried me, sailed through an inauspicious sea; and in an unhappy hour I entered upon the intended voyage. With what foot did I first set out? With what step did I leave the gate of my father's house, or touch the painted texture of the nimble bark? Twice our sails drove us back, swelled by adverse winds. Adverse did I say? far from it: that indeed was the favorable gale. That, I say, was the favorable gale, which retarded my unhappy steps, and struggled to prevent an ill fated voyage. How I wish that it had continued obstinately to oppose the spreading sails! But it is ridiculous to complain of the inconstancy of the wind. Attracted by the fame of the place, I was eager to come within sight of Delos, and seemed to traverse the deep with languid pace. How often did I chide the oars, as slow in bearing us along? How often complain that our sails were not stretched by the stinted blasts? And now I had passed Mycone, Tenos, and Andros, and bright Delos was within view; which I no sooner saw, that I cried out, Why does the island seem to fly me? Do you, as in time past, fluctuate in the vast ocean? Nor reached I land till towards the close of day, when Ph?bus was preparing to unharness his purple horses. When these had been recalled to their accustomed way, my mother gave orders to dress my flowing locks. She adorned my fingers with gems, and my tresses with braids of gold, and threw over my shoulders the embroidered robe. We then walked towards the temple, and offered frankincense and wine to the guardian deities of the island. While my mother was engaged in sprinkling the altars with votive blood, and throwing the sacred entrails upon the smoking fuel, my officious nurse led me through the several courts of the temple, and we traversed the sacred place with wandering steps. Sometimes I walked under magnificent porticoes, sometimes admired the rich gifts of kings, and the finished statues that adorned every part. I admired too the famous altar made of innumerable horns wonderfully derfully joined together, and the tree that supported the pregnant Goddess; with whatever other curiosities (for I cannot now recollect them, nor am I inclined to mention all I then saw) Delos boasts.

R. Ehwald, ed.
This text is from: P. Ovidius Naso, The Epistles of Ovid, Cydippe to Acontius. Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below.


The reason why at Olympia the victor receives a crown of wild-olive I have already explained in my account of Elis; why at Delphi the crown is of bay I shall make plain later. At the Isthmus the pine, and at Nemea celery became the prize to commemorate the sufferings of Palaemon and Archemorus. At most games, however, is given a crown of palm, and at all a palm is placed in the right hand of the victor. The origin of the custom is said to be that Theseus, on his return from Crete, held games in Delos in honor of Apollo, and crowned the victors with palm. Such, it is said, was the origin of the custom. The palm in Delos is mentioned by Homer in the passage where Odysseus supplicates the daughter of Alcinous.

This extract is from: Pausanias. Description of Greece (ed. W.H.S. Jones, Litt.D., & H.A. Ormerod, 1918). Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.

Of the opulent places in the ancient world, Egyptian Thebes and Minyan Orchomenus are now less prosperous than a private individual of moderate means, while Delos, once the common market of Greece, has no Delian inhabitant, but only the men sent by the Athenians to guard the sanctuary.(Paus. 8.33.2)
Delians driven from their homes by the Athenians for the sake of purifying Delos (Thuc.8.108.1)

The olive tree in Delos

If I am to base my calculations on the accounts of the Greeks in fixing the relative ages of such trees as are still preserved and flourish, the oldest of them is the withy growing in the Samian sanctuary of Hera, after which come the oak in Dodona, the olive on the Acropolis and the olive in Delos.

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Formerly called Asteria, birth of Apollo and Artemis in, Orion in, Ilithyia comes to D. from land of Hyperboreans, image of Ilithyia brought from D. to Athens, Artemis comes from D. to Athens, Theseus holds games in D. in honour of Apollo, sacred embassy to, first-fruits of Hyperboreans brought to, visit of the Hyperborean virgins, Achaeia, Opis, and Hecaerge come to D. from land of Hyperboreans, sacrifice and chorus sent by Messenians to Apollo at, no birth or death allowed in, processional hymns for use in, its purification by Pisistratus, sanctity of Delos respected by Persians, station of Greek fleet before Mycale, D. the mart of Greece, sacked by Menophanes, general of Mithridates, its decline, uninhabited except by guards of sanctuary, great ship at, ancient image of Aphrodite at, palm-tree at, lake in Delos, island off.


Old name of Delos (Apollod. 1.3.6).


(= carriers) officials at Delos, their connection with the story of communication between Delos and the Hyperboreans



Island, the Locrian Ajax buried in, an island in the Aegean, near Delos.

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Now the city which belongs to Delos, as also the temple of Apollo, and the Letoum, are situated in a plain; and above the city lies Cynthus, a bare and rugged mountain; and a river named Inopus flows through the island--not a large river, for the island itself is small. From olden times, beginning with the times of the heroes, Delos has been revered because of its gods, for the myth is told that there Leto was delivered of her travail by the birth of Apollo and Artemis

Troezen is sacred to Poseidon, after whom it was once called Poseidonia. It is situated fifteen stadia above the sea, and it too is an important city. Off its harbor, Pogon by name, lies Calauria, an isle with a circuit of about one hundred and thirty stadia. Here was an asylum sacred to Poseidon; and they say that this god made an exchange with Leto, giving her Delos for Calauria,

The exportation of slaves induced them most of all to engage in their evil business, since it proved most profitable; for not only were they easily captured, but the market, which was large and rich in property, was not extremely far away, I mean Delos, which could both admit and send away ten thousand slaves on the same day; whence arose the proverb, "Merchant, sail in, unload your ship, everything has been sold. The cause of this was the fact that the Romans, having become rich after the destruction of Carthage and Corinth, used many slaves; and the pirates, seeing the easy profit therein, bloomed forth in great numbers, themselves not only going in quest of booty but also trafficking in slaves.


And there is Myconos, beneath which, according to the myth, lie the last of the giants that were destroyed by Heracles. Whence the proverb, "all beneath Myconos alone," applied to those who bring under one title even those things which are by nature separate. And further, some call bald men Myconians, from the fact that baldness is prevalent in the island.



Rheneia is a desert isle within four stadia from Delos, and there the Delians bury their dead; for it is unlawful to bury, or even burn, a corpse in Delos itself, and it is unlawful even to keep a dog there. In earlier times it was called Ortygia (Strab. 10.5.5).



  The same winter the Athenians purified Delos, in compliance, it appears, with a certain oracle. It had been purified before by Pisistratus the tyrant; not indeed the whole island, but as much of it as could be seen from the temple. All of it was, however, now purified in the following way. All the sepulchres of those that had died in Delos were taken up, and for the future it was commanded that no one should be allowed either to die or to give birth to a child in the island; but that they should be carried over to Rhenea, which is so near to Delos that Polycrates, tyrant of Samos, having added Rhenea to his other island conquests during his period of naval ascendancy, dedicated it to the Delian Apollo by binding it to Delos with a chain.
  The Athenians, after the purification, celebrated, for the first time, the quinquennial festival of the Delian games. Once upon a time, indeed, there was a great assemblage of the Ionians and the neighboring islanders at Delos, who used to come to the festival, as the Ionians now do to that of Ephesus, and athletic and poetical contests took place there, and the cities brought choirs of dancers. Nothing can be clearer on this point than the following verses of Homer, taken from a hymn to Apollo:
"Phoebus, where'er thou strayest, far or near, / Delos was still of all thy haunts most dear. / Thither the robed Ionians take their way / With wife and child to keep thy holiday,-- / Invoke thy favour on each manly game, / And dance and sing in honor of thy name."
  That there was also a poetical contest in which the Ionians went to contend, again is shown by the following, taken from the same hymn. After celebrating the Delian dance of the women, he ends his song of praise with these verses, in which he also alludes to himself:
"Well, may Apollo keep you all! and so, / Sweethearts, good-bye--yet tell me not I go / Out from your hearts; and if in after hours / Some other wanderer in this world of ours / Touch at your shores, and ask your maidens here / Who sings the songs the sweetest to your ear, / Think of me then, and answer with a smile, / ‘A blind old man of Chios' rocky isle."
  Homer thus attests that there was anciently a great assembly and festival at Delos. In later times, although the islanders and the Athenians continued to send the choirs of dancers with sacrifices, the contests and most of the ceremonies were abolished, probably through adversity, until the Athenians celebrated the games upon this occasion with the novelty of horse-races.

This extract is from: Thucydides. The Peloponnesian War (ed. Richard Crawley, 1910). Cited Mar 2003 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains comments & interesting hyperlinks.

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