Although placed last in the collection, this hymn is no doubt older than xvii, which seems merely an abstract of it. The poem is a vigorous piece of writing, and may well belong to a period at least as early as the fourth or third century B.C. The reference to the Dioscuri as winged (13) seems a mark of lateness; on the other hand the hymn appears to be pre-Alexandrine, for there is little doubt that it was imitated by Theocritus,1 whose description of the storm lulled by the Dioscuri is more elaborate than the simple language of the hymn (idyl. xxii, see on 6, 15).

In this hymn, as often, the Twin Brethren are identified with the lights (of an electric nature) which appear on the masts or sails of a ship during a storm; cf. Eur. Or. 1636 f.; Plin. N. H. ii. 101, Diod. iv. 43, Plut. de def. or. 30; Lucian dial. deor. xxvi. 2: Seneca Q. N. 1. 1. 13; Ov. Fast. v. 720. Two lights were a sign of safety; a single light (identified with Helen = “ἑλέναυς”) betokened the worst. From the middle ages the lights have been called the fire of Elmo St.(Telmo). Frazer on Paus. ii. 1. 9 gives references for the mediaeval and modern belief.

The editors do not notice the similarities of language between this hymn and vii (to Dionysus); cf. 1 (“ἀμφί”) = vii. 1; 8ἀπὸ νηῶν” = vii. 6ἀπὸ νηός” (a rare use); 12ἐφάνησαν” = vii. 2ἐφάνη”; 14ἀργαλέων ἀνέμων” = vii. 24ἀργαλέους ἀνέμους”; 16σήματα” = vii. 46; 16οἱ δὲ ἰδόντες” = vii. 42; see also on 10. These resemblances, taken singly, are slight; but their number suggests the possibility that this hymn was influenced by that to Dionysus, which is probably much older.

ἀμφί: see on vii. 1.

[2] Τυνδαρίδας: according to Od. 11.299 they were sons of Leda and Tyndareus; here and in xvii they are called sons of Zeus, but also Tyndarids from their putative father; so Castor is “Τυνδαρίδης” (Theocr. xxii. 136), but in the next line both are called “Διὸς υἱώ”. Some poets reconciled the apparent discrepancy by making Castor the son of Tyndareus, and Polydeuces the son of Zeus, Cypria fr. 4, Pind. Nem. x. 80 (who, however, calls them Tyndarids, 38).

[3] Cf. Il. 3.237, Od. 11.300, Cypria fr. 6. 6.

[4] ΤαϋΓέτου: the MSS. have the form in a here and in xvii. 3, for the Ionic in “η” (Od. 6.103, Cypria fr. 6. 2).

[6] σωτῆρας: in Theocr. xxii. 6 f. the Dioscuri are saviours of horses, as well as of men and ships. They bear the title “ΣωΤηΡεΣ” on coins of the city Tyndaris (Head Hist. Num. p. 166 f.); cf.

βροτῶν ἐν ἁλὸς ῥοθίοις
τιμὰς σωτῆρας ἔχοντες


[8] ἀΠὸ Νηῶν: cf. vii. 6.

[10] ἀκρωτ́ηρια: in Herod. viii. 121ἀκρωτήρια νηός” is a ship's beak, and Kämmerer would read “πρῴρης” for “πρύμνης”, on the ground that the images of the ship's patron-deities were placed in the bows. But “ἀκρωτήρια” means any “upper part” or “end,” and is here clearly equivalent to “deck,” “ἴκρια”. As there were decks fore and aft (see M. and R. I.App. , Torr Ancient Ships p. 57) “πρύμνης” is added to limit the word. Gemoll wrongly takes “πρύμνη” = “νηύς”. The sailors crowd to the stern for safety from the waves, as in vii. 48 (for a different reason).

[12] θῆκαν ὑΠοβρυχίηΝ: cf. Od. 5.319

[15] λευκῆς, “calm,” as in “λευκὴ γαλήνηOd. 10.94. Cf. Theocr. xxii. 19αἷψα δ᾽ ἀπολήγουσ᾽ ἄνεμοι, λιπαρὰ δὲ γαλάνα ἂμ πέλαγος”.

[16] Πόνου σφισιν: one of these words is necessarily corrupt; Matthiae's “πλόου σφισιν” fails to account for “σφισιν” satisfactorily, so that the latter word seems to require emendation. The substitution of “κρίσιν, λύσιν, σχέσιν”, or “σβέσιν” (Oxford Text) has been suggested; of these only the last two are graphically probable. Bury's “πόνου ἀπονόσφισιν” (C. R. 1899, p. 183) is also formally good (omitting “ναύταις”, which might have been inserted metrically when “ἀπονο-” had been dropped after “πόνου”).

1 Of recent editors, Baumeister, Gemoll, and Abel agree on this point; see also Crusius in Philolog. xlviii. (1889) p. 202.

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hide References (23 total)
  • Commentary references from this page (23):
    • Euripides, Electra, 992
    • Euripides, Orestes, 1636
    • Herodotus, Histories, 8.121
    • Homer, Iliad, 3.237
    • Homer, Odyssey, 10.94
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.299
    • Homer, Odyssey, 11.300
    • Homer, Odyssey, 5.319
    • Homer, Odyssey, 6.103
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 17 to the Dioscuri
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 33 to the Dioscuri
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 7 to Dionysus, 1
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 7 to Dionysus, 2
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 7 to Dionysus, 24
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 7 to Dionysus, 42
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 7 to Dionysus, 46
    • Homeric Hymns, Hymn 7 to Dionysus, 6
    • Pausanias, Description of Greece, 2.1.9
    • Pindar, Nemean, 10
    • Theocritus, Idylls, 22
    • Pliny the Elder, Naturalis Historia, 2.101
    • Diodorus, Historical Library, 4.43
    • Ovid, Fasti, 5
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