Zeus much-honored — The Orphic Hymn to Zeus

O Jove much-honor’d, Jove [Zeus] supremely great,
 to thee our holy rites we consecrate,

Our pray’rs and expiations, king divine,
 for all things round thy head exalted shine.

The earth is thine, and mountains swelling high
, the sea profound, and all within the sky.

Saturnian [Kronion] king, descending from above,
 magnanimous, commanding, sceptred Jove [Zeus];

All-parent, principle and end of all,
 whose pow’r almighty, shakes this earthly ball;

Ev’n Nature trembles at thy mighty nod,
 loud-sounding, arm’d with light’ning, thund’ring God.

Source of abundance, purifying king,
 O various-form’d from whom all natures spring;

Propitious hear my pray’r, give blameless health,
 with peace divine, and necessary wealth.

This is actually only one of the three Orphic Hymns to Zeus. The other two focus on specific aspects of him as Zeus of the Thunder (keraunos) and Zeus of the Lightning (astrapaios). As this is the only one of the hymns to look at Zeus in a broad fashion, I chose this one for my commentary.

One of the things that I noticed about this hymn is that Zeus is credited with rulership of the seas as well as the land and sky where in the general mythology he is lord of the sky alone and King of the Gods. He is spoken of as if he were being equated with the First Principle of creation with the title of “All-parent” being used for him. He is also called the “source of abundance” which hearkens back to the gifts that kings were supposed to bestow on loyal subjects in ancient times.

Because this hymn specifically states “to thee our holy rites we consecrate”, it would seem to be saying that Zeus is integral to worship at all times. It is also interesting that the translator refers to Zeus as “God” while he refers to both Poseidon and Hades as “daemons”. I’m not sure if this is because of a difference in the original texts or because the translator did that to indicate Zeus’ supremacy because I have not had the opportunity to look at these hymns in the original Greek.

The text does nod to the myths by calling him “Armed with lightning” and “thundering” as well as calling him “various formed” (a nod to him changing shape to woo his suitors both mortal and divine) but then goes into the ending of the hymn where he is asked for “blameless health, with peace divine, and necessary wealth”. This is an ending that is also seen in the Orphic hymn to Hestia, which implies a very strong connection between the two in the Orphic view (at least to me.)


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