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Gods Essay, Research Paper

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


“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


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.

Essay Data SectionTitle: Classics Oral Tradition Type: Student Submitted

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