Myths of the Greek and Roman Gods
The Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite
Translated by E. Bodner and R. Nickel
Aphrodite’s Great Speech
Then Aphrodite, daughter of Zeus, answered him:
“Anchises, most honoured of death-bound humans,
have courage and do not fear too much in your heart.
Have no fear you will suffer any evil from me
or the other carefree gods, since you are most dear to them.195
You will have a dear son who will rule among the Trojans,
and children will be born to children throughout time.
His name will be Aeneas because dreadful distress
held me since I fell upon the bed of a mortal man.
Of mortal men and women, your race200
has always been especially like the gods in beauty and form.
Zeus the counselor abducted golden-haired Ganymede,
on account of his beauty, to be among the immortals
and pour wine for the gods throughout the house of Zeus —
wondrous to behold and honoured by all the immortals —205
drawing the red nectar out of a golden bowl.
But unceasing sorrow took hold of Tros, his father; he did not know at all
where the divine whirlwind had carried off his dear son.
Without end, he cried aloud for his son for all his days.
Zeus pitied him and gave to him a ransom for his son,210
brisk-trotting horses, the kind that carry the immortals.
He gave them as a gift for him to keep. Hermes the messenger, Watch-dog Slayer,
told him everything at the command of Zeus,
that Ganymede would be immortal and ageless like the gods.
When Tros heard Zeus’s news,215
no longer did he lament, but rejoiced within his heart and
joyously rode his storm-footed steeds.
Likewise Eos, golden-throned goddess of the Dawn, abducted Tithonus,
a man like the gods, and also from your family.
Eos went on her way to ask the dark-clouded son of Kronos220
that he become immortal and live forever.
Zeus nodded assent and fulfilled her wish.
Fool that she was, queenly Eos did not think in her heart
to ask for youth, for the scraping away of destructive old-age.
As long as he possessed youth, which everyone desires,225
he remained pleasing to golden-throned, early-born Eos
and dwelt by the streams of Ocean at the edges of the Earth.
But when the first grey hair came forth
from his beautiful head and noble cheeks,
then queenly Eos kept away from his bed.230
She cared for him still, keeping him inside her palace,
with food and ambrosia and giving him beautiful clothes.
But once loathsome old age bore down hard upon him
and he could no longer move or even raise his limbs,
this plan seemed best to her in her heart:235
She set him down in a small room and closed its shining doors.
Still his voice continues to flow without end,
but no vigour remains in his once supple, strong limbs.
Immortal like this — I would not choose for you
to live forever among the immortals in this.240
But if, you could live remaining as you are now
in beauty and form and be called my husband,
grief would not then envelop my shrewd mind.
But quickly now old age, which does not discriminate, will envelop you.
Without pity, it soon stands besides all humans —245
destructive, debilitating, despised by the gods.
But for me, there will be much abuse among the immortal gods
for all my days, endlessly, because of you.
They used to tremble before my intimate whisperings and cunning strategies;
with these I once forced all the immortals to have sex with mortal women.250
My plans once overpowered them all.
But now my mouth will no longer dare to mention this
among the immortals, since I was completely blinded,
miserably, unspeakably deluded – I was driven out of my mind:
I slept with a mortal and conceived a child in my womb.255
The Mountain-dwelling Nymphs
When first the sun’s light shines upon this child,
deep-bosomed, mountain-dwelling nymphs will raise him.
They belong neither among mortals nor immortals.
They live for a long time and eat ambrosial food.260
Gracefully they move in lovely dances with the gods.
The Silens — half-horse, half-man — and clear-sighted Hermes
mingle in love with them in a charming corner of their caves.
When they are born, fir trees and tall-crowned oaks
start growing on the all-nourishing Earth;265
in beauty they flourish on lofty mountains.
Sky-high they stand, and mortals call them sanctuaries
of the immortals and never cut them down with iron.
But when the fate of death stands beside them,
first these beautiful trees wither upon the Earth;270
the bark begins to decay all around, branches fall away,
and joined together the soul [of nymph and tree] leaves the light of the sun.
These nymphs will keep my son with them and raise him.
When first much-desirable youth takes hold of him,
goddesses will bring him here and show you the child.275
But I, so that I might explain all that I have in mind,
will come again bringing my son in his fifth year
When first you set eyes on our son,
you will rejoice as you look at him. For he will most resemble the gods.
Straightaway you will lead him to windy Ilium.280
If any mortal man asks you
what mother conceived your dear son in her womb,
say this to him, remembering what I command you:
‘They say he’s the child of a nymph with eyes like flower buds,
one of those who inhabit this forest-clad mountain.’ 285
Zeus in anger will blast you with his smoldering thunderbolt.
Everything has been told to you.
Ponder it in your mind.
Keep it there and do not name me.
Respect the wrath of the gods.”290
Once she finished speaking,
Having made my start with you, I shall pass on to another song.293