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PAEAN strictly a hymn relating to relief from plagues and sickness, but extended also so as to refer to safety from danger of any kind. No doubt it was originally connected with the ancient god of healing; in epic poetry Παιήων, but transferred to Apollo, who, as the god of light, among other attributes, took to himself the especial function of healing--it would be out of place here to discuss that point further: reference may be made to the Dictionary of Mythology; Preller's Griech. Myth. 1.212; A. Mommsen, Delphica, &c. In fact it follows the extended meaning of the personified Paean; under which name we find Apollo (Aesch. Ag. 146; Soph. O. T. 154); The Sun (Orph. 8.12); Dionysus, and even Death as the deliverer from pain and disease (Eur. Hipp. 1373). It then became associated with victory, traditionally because it was the song of triumph for the victory of Apollo over the Python, which after all came to the same thing, if the Python symbolised deadly maladies: and hence, lastly, was sung before or after victories in general. With this agrees the statement of Proclus cited by Phot. p. 321, 11, εἷδος ᾠδῆς εἰς πάντας νῦν γραφόμενον θεούς, τὸ δὲ παλαιὸν ἰδίως ἀπενέμετο τῷ Ἀπόλλοωνι καὶ τῇ Ἀρτέμιδι ἐπὶ καταπαύσει λοίμων καὶ νόσων ἀδόμενος. It should be noticed that the paean is a hymn (1) of supplication or propitiation during the pain or danger; (2) a thanksgiving after it is past. Of the first kind is the hymn in Il. 1.472, Soph. O. T. 5, and also the paean before the battle (Thuc. 1.50, 4.96, &c.): of the second, the hymn after victory or deliverance (Il. 22.391). Though, however, it might be essentially a prayer, yet words and tune expressed, as Müller says, courage and confidence, even if the cure or the victory was still in anticipation. “All sounds of woe (αἴλινα) cease when Ie Paean is heard” (Callim. Apoll. 20). It was sung by several persons, one of whom probably led (ἐξῆρχε) the others, and the singers either sat at table (Plat. Symp. p. 176; Xen. Symp. 2.1; Plut. Conv. 5), or marched onwards in a body, as the Cretans, after a happy voyage, at Delphi (Hom. Hymn. Apoll. 514). Hence the term among the Spartans παιὰν ἐμβατήριος, of the paean sung by those marching to battle (Plut. Lyc. 22). It was sung at festivals of Apollo, especially at the Hyacinthia (εἰς τὰ Γ̔ακίνθια ἐπὶ τὸν παιᾶνα, Xen. Hell. 4.5, § 11; Ages. 2.17), and was also sung from very early times in the temples of the god (Hom. Hymn. ad Apoll. 514; Eur. Ion 125, &c.).

In later times, paeans were sung in honour of mortals. Thus Aratus sang paeans to the honour of the Macedonian Antigonus (Plat. Cleom. 16); a paean composed by Alexinus was sung at Delphi in honour of the Macedonian Craterus; and the Rhodians celebrated Ptolemaeus I., king of Egypt, in the same manner ( Athen. 15.696e, f). The Chalcidians, in Plutarch's time, still continued to celebrate in a paean the praises of their benefactor, Titus Flaminius (Plut. Flam. 16).

The practice of singing the paean at banquets, and especially at the end of the feast, when libations were poured out to the gods, was very ancient. It is mentioned by Alcman, who lived in the 7th century B.C. (Strabo x. p.482). (Müller, Hist. of Greek Literature, p. 27; Bode, Gesch. der lyrisch. Dichtkunst der Hellen. vol. i. pp. 9 ff.)

[L.S] [G.E.M]

hide References (13 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (13):
    • Euripides, Hippolytus, 1373
    • Euripides, Ion, 125
    • Homer, Iliad, 1.472
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 154
    • Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 5
    • Thucydides, Histories, 1.50
    • Xenophon, Hellenica, 4.5
    • Xenophon, Symposium, 2.1
    • Homer, Iliad, 22.391
    • Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 146
    • Thucydides, Histories, 4.96
    • Plutarch, Titus Flamininus, 16
    • Plutarch, Lycurgus, 22
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