Hymn to Hekate

Hymn to Hekate March 24, 2017

Hesiod’s “Hymn to Hekate” seems to interrupt the Theogony to no good purpose. Hekate isn’t a major goddess, and the hymn doesn’t seem to be integrated into the rest of the poem.

In her forthcoming bilingual edition of Hesiod’s poems, Kimberly Johnson argues that “Hekate is integral to the poem’s concerns, central not only to its structure but also to its arguments.”

She is, for starters, the one Titan who remains after Zeus’s triumph, honored even by Zeus himself. Thus, “Hekate stands thus as a single figure who bridges the elder gods and the Olympian generation, providing continuity across the usurpations and overthrowings of the major divinities.” She is a unifying figure on a cosmic level too: “maintaining her rights over a share of ‘land and sky and sea,’ her single figure spans the phenomenal spheres addressed in the Theogony, participating with Gaia, Ouranos, and Pontos and Okeanos, respectively.”

For Johnson, Hesiod’s hymn is “a celebration of unity—a gesture perhaps unexpected in a poem that so gleefully narrates conflict.” As a “symbol of divergent principles uniting in one entity, Hekate might well be seen as a figure for the poem itself. The Theogony is, in both content and form, a text deeply interested in the coming together of opposites. Narratively, this interest is expressed in the war between Titans and Olympians, in the conflicting interests of mortals and gods, in the sometimes violent intercourse between divinities.” Hekate provides a glimpse of harmony amidst the chaos of the gods’ coming-to-be.


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