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
Preller's Griech. Myth.
&c. In fact it
follows the extended meaning of the personified Paean; under which name we
; Soph. O. T.
); The Sun
); 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
O. T. 5
, and also the paean
the battle (Thuc. 1.50
, &c.): of the second, the hymn
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.
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
5), or marched onwards in a body, as the Cretans,
after a happy voyage, at Delphi (Hom. Hymn. Apoll.
Hence the term among the Spartans παιὰν
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
In later times, paeans were sung in honour of mortals. Thus Aratus sang
paeans to the honour of the Macedonian Antigonus (Plat.
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 (
e, 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
Hist. of Greek Literature,
p. 27; Bode, Gesch. der
lyrisch. Dichtkunst der Hellen.
vol. i. pp. 9 ff.)