previous next
As we read Homer, we notice that in many different places he distinctively calls the good ‘godlike’ 1 and ‘peers of the gods’ 2 and “having prudence [p. 63] gained from the gods,’3 but that the epithet derived from the demigods (or daemons) he uses of the worthy and worthless alike4; for example :
Daemon-possessed, come on ! Why seek you to frighten the Argives
Thus ?5
and again
When for the fourth time onward he came with a rush, like a daemon6;
Daemon-possessed, in what do Priam and children of Priam
Work you such ill that your soul is ever relentlessly eager
Ilium, fair-built city, to bring to complete desolation ?7
The assumption, then, is that the demigods (or daemons) have a complex and inconsistent nature and purpose ; wherefore Plato8 assigns to the Olympian gods right-hand qualities and odd numbers, and to the demigods the opposite of these. Xenocrates also is of the opinion that such days as are days of ill omen, and such festivals as have associated with them either beatings or lamentations or fastings or scurrilous language or ribald jests have no relation to the honours paid to the gods or to worthy demigods, but he believes that there exist in the space about us certain great and powerful natures, obdurate, however, and morose, which take pleasure in such things as these, and, if they succeed in obtaining them, resort to nothing worse.

Then again, Hesiod calls the worthy and good [p. 65] demigods ‘holy deities’ and ‘guardians of mortals’ 9 and

Givers of wealth, and having therein a reward that is kingly.10
Plato11 calls this class of beings an interpretative and ministering class, midway between gods and men, in that they convey thither the prayers and petitions of men, and thence they bring hither the oracles and the gifts of good things.

Empedocles12 says also that the demigods must pay the penalty for the sins that they commit and the duties that they neglect :

Might of the Heavens chases them forth to the realm of the Ocean ;
Ocean spews them out on the soil of the Earth, and Earth drives them
Straight to the rays of the tireless Sun, who consigns them to Heaven's
Whirlings ; thus one from another receives them, but ever with loathing ;
until, when they have thus been chastened and purified, they recover the place and position to which they belong in accord with Nature.

1 The word is found forty-four times in Homer.

2 Homer employs this expression sixty-two times.

3 See Homer, Od. vi. 12.

4 Cf. 415 a, infra.

5 Iliad, xiii. 810.

6 Ibid. v. 438, xiv. 705, xx. 447.

7 Ibid. iv. 31.

8 Plato, Laws, 717 a, assigns the Even and the Left to the chthonic deities, and Plutarch quite correctly derives his statement from this.

9 Hesiod, Works and Days, 123 and 253. Cf. Moralia, 431 e, infra.

10 Works and Days, 126, repeated in 417 b, infra.

11 Symposium, 202 e. Cf. also Moralia, 415 a and 416 c-f, infra, and Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Roman Antiq. i. 77.

12 Part of a longer passage from Empedocles; cf. H. Diels, Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, i. p. 267, Empedocles, no. 115, 9-12. Cf. also Moralia, 830 f.

load focus English (Goodwin, 1874)
load focus Greek (Gregorius N. Bernardakis, 1889)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: