The Division of Honors and Journeying Among the Gods
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 stolen.
"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 325-337).
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.