It can sometimes be difficult to connect Proclus’ baroque metaphysics to what we moderns often dismissively call “traditonal” or “popular” polytheistic religion. But his hymns show that the ancient Greek literary form of the hymn (with its sequence of invocation, praise and prayer) is as applicable to the gods as he conceived of them as it was for the composers of the Homeric Hymns. At the same time, the contents are quite different, and fully embedded in the net of late Neoplatonic theology. I have done my best to explicate that theology, but readers may wish to consult Robbert Maarten van den Berg, Proclus’ Hymns (2001), which contains much more expansive commentary. (I have not used van den Berg’s explications, but may draw on them in a future revision.)
The Proclian hymns have an interesting history behind them. From Marinus, we know that there were once many more of them than exist now, including ones to Marnas of Gaza, Asclepius Leontuchos (‘lion-holder’) of Ashkalon, Theandrites (‘God-Man’) of the Arabs and Isis at Philae – in other words, all the major pagan gods whose centers of worship were still intact. Whoever selected the seven hymns we still have was more interested in what we may simplistically call Greek gods; but even among these, we know that only a portion survives, since a line from his hymn to Dionysus is quoted by a later Neoplatonist, yet it is not part of our extant corpus.
Said corpus was transmitted without individual titles for the hymns. It was only the late Byzantine philosopher and would-be reviver of polytheism, Plethon, who added the conventional titles, which therefore have no value independent of the text of the hymns themselves in guiding our interpretation.
2 Fragment of a hymn to Dionysus
ὅσσ‘ εἶδον τεκέεσσιν ἐφημίξαντο τοκεῦσιν.
(Quoted in Olympiodorus, On the Alcibiades 2 and On the Phaedo 1.5.)
I saw in the children what was prophesied to their parents.¹
1: In both quotations, Olympiodorus uses this to explain why wine is called Dionysus (after its cause or ‘parent’, i.e., the god).
3 Fragment of a hymn to the Twofold Transcendent (the Demiurge, Zeus)
μονάδα γάρ σε τριοῦχον ἰδὼν ἐσεβάσσατο κόσμος.
(Quoted in John Lydus, On the Months 2.6.)
For the cosmos has seen and worshipped you as a monad containing a triad.
4 Hymn I to Helios
Κλῦθι, πυρὸς νοεροῦ βασιλεῦ, χρυσήνιε Τιτάν,
κλῦθι, φάους ταμία, ζωαρκέος, ὦ ἄνα, πηγῆς
αὐτὸς ἔχων κληῖδα καὶ ὑλαίοις ἐνὶ κόσμοις
ὑψόθεν ἁρμονίης ῥύμα πλούσιον ἐξοχετεύων.
κέκλυθι· μεσσατίην γὰρ ἐὼν ὑπὲρ αἰθέρος ἕδρην
καὶ κόσμου κραδιαῖον ἔχων ἐριφεγγέα κύκλον
πάντα τεῆς ἔπλησας ἐγερσινόοιο προνοίης.
ζωσάμενοι δὲ πλάνητες ἀειθαλέας σέο πυρσοὺς
αἰὲν ὑπ‘ ἀλλήκτοισι καὶ ἀκαμάτοισι χορείαις
ζῳογόνους πέμπουσιν ἐπιχθονίοις ῥαθάμιγγας.
πᾶσα δ‘ ὑφ‘ ὑμετέρῃσι παλιννόστοισι διφρείαις
Ὡράων κατὰ θεσμὸν ἀνεβλάστησε γενέθλη.
στοιχείων δ‘ ὀρυμαγδὸς ἐπ‘ ἀλλήλοισιν ἰόντων
παύσατο σεῖο φανέντος ἀπ‘ ἀρρήτου γενετῆρος.
σοὶ δ‘ ὑπὸ Μοιράων χορὸς εἴκαθεν ἀστυφέλικτος·
ἂψ δὲ μεταστρωφῶσιν ἀναγκαίης λίνον αἴσης,
εὖτε θέλεις· περὶ γὰρ κρατέεις, περὶ δ‘ ἶφι ἀνάσσεις.
σειρῆς δ‘ ὑμετέρης βασιλεὺς θεοπειθέος οἴμης
ἐξέθορεν Φοῖβος· κιθάρῃ δ‘ ὑπὸ θέσκελα μέλπων
εὐνάζει μέγα κῦμα βαρυφλοίσβοιο γενέθλης.
σῆς δ‘ ἀπὸ μειλιχόδωρος ἀλεξικάκου θιασείης
Παιήων βλάστησεν, ἑὴν δ‘ ἐπέτασσεν ὑγείην,
πλήσας ἁρμονίης παναπήμονος εὐρέα κόσμον.
σὲ κλυτὸν ὑμνείουσι Διωνύσοιο τοκῆα·
ὕλης δ‘ αὖ νεάτοις ἐνὶ βένθεσιν εὔιον Ἄττην,
ἄλλοι δ‘ ἁβρὸν Ἄδωνιν ἐπευφήμησαν ἀοιδαῖς.
δειμαίνουσι δὲ σεῖο θοῆς μάστιγος ἀπειλὴν
δαίμονες ἀνθρώπων δηλήμονες, ἀγριόθυμοι,
ψυχαῖς ἡμετέραις δυεραῖς κακὰ πορσύνοντες,
ὄφρ‘ αἰεὶ κατὰ λαῖτμα βαρυσμαράγου βιότοιο
σώματος ὀτλεύωσιν ὑπὸ ζυγόδεσμα πεσοῦσαι,
ὑψιτενοῦς δὲ λάθοιντο πατρὸς πολυφεγγέος αὐλῆς.
ἀλλά, θεῶν ὤριστε, πυριστεφές, ὄλβιε δαῖμον,
εἰκὼν παγγενέταο θεοῦ, ψυχῶν ἀναγωγεῦ,
κέκλυθι καί με κάθηρον ἁμαρτάδος αἰὲν ἁπάσης·
δέχνυσο δ‘ ἱκεσίην πολυδάκρυον, ἐκ δέ με λυγρῶν
ῥύεο κηλίδων, Ποινῶν δ‘ ἀπάνευθε φυλάσσοις
πρηΰνων θοὸν ὄμμα Δίκης, ἣ πάντα δέδορκεν.
αἰεὶ δ‘ ὑμετέραισιν ἀλεξικάκοισιν ἀρωγαῖς
ψυχῇ μὲν φάος ἁγνὸν ἐμῇ πολύολβον ὀπάζοις
ἀχλὺν ἀποσκεδάσας ὀλεσίμβροτον, ἰολόχευτον,
σώματι δ‘ ἀρτεμίην τε καὶ ἀγλαόδωρον ὑγείην,
εὐκλείης τ‘ ἐπίβησον ἐμέ, προγόνων τ‘ ἐνὶ θεσμοῖς
Μουσάων ἐρασιπλοκάμων δώροισι μελοίμην.
ὄλβον δ‘ ἀστυφέλικτον ἀπ‘ εὐσεβίης ἐρατεινῆς,
εἴ κε θέλοις, δός, ἄναξ· δύνασαι δ‘ ἑὰ πάντα τελέσσαι
ῥηιδίως· κρατερὴν γὰρ ἔχεις καὶ ἀπείριτον ἀλκήν.
εἰ δέ τι μοιριδίοισιν, ἑλιξοπόροισιν ἀτράκτοις,
ἀστεροδινήτοις ὑπὸ νήμασιν οὐλοὸν ἄμμιν
ἔρχεται, αὐτὸς ἔρυκε τεῇ μεγάλῃ τόδε ῥιπῇ.
Hear, emperor¹ of the intellective fire,² gold-reined³ Titan,⁴
Hear, dispenser of the light, o king, who hold
The key of the life-supporting fount and who, within the material cosmoi,
Channel off the rich flux of harmony from above!⁵
Hear! For you are upon the middle seat of aether,⁶
And hold the heart of the cosmos, the brilliant orb,
you have filled all things with your intellect-stirring providence.
The planets, who have girded themselves your ever-flourishing torches,
Forever, through ceaseless and tireless dances,
Send life-originating (zoogonic) droplets to those upon the Earth.
Under the return of your chariot-race, all birth
Springs up by the law of the Seasons.
The din of the elements crashing into each other
Was ended when you appeared from your ineffable father.⁷
And the unshakeable dancing-troupe of the Fates (Moirai) yields to you,
Rewinding the thread of necessary fate,
When you wish; for all around you rule, all around you reign by might.
From your series sprang the emperor of god-persuasive⁸ song,
Phoebus;⁹ singing divine songs to the lyre,
He calms the great wave of loud-roaring birth.¹⁰
From your evil-averting company spouted Paiēōn who gives grace,¹¹
Filling the broad cosmos with all-harmless harmony.
They hymn you as the famed parent of Dionysus,¹²
And in the lowest depths of matter, as Euios Attēs,¹³
While others praise you as graceful Adonis in their songs.¹⁴
They fear the threats of your fast scourge,¹⁵
Those daemons noxious to humanity and wild of temper,
Who devise evils for our wretched souls,¹⁶
So that they would suffer forever in the depth of deep-sounding life
After falling under the yoke of the body,
And forget the bright-shining hall of the Father on high.¹⁷
Now, best of gods, wreathed with fire, blessed god,
Image of the god who is father of all,¹⁸ elevator of souls,
hear, and purify me of every fault forever!
Receive my tearful supplication, guard me from baneful
Defilements, and guard me, far from the Punishments,¹⁹
Calming the fast eye of Justice (Dikē), who can see all!
And may you always, by your evil-averting acts of help,
Bestow a holy light, rich in blessings, upon my soul,
After you have dispersed mortal-destroying, poisonous mist,
And soundness and health, which bestows splendid gifts, upon my body!
Bring me to good repute, and that in keeping with my forebears’ customs,
I may cultivate the gifts of the Muses of the lovely tresses!
Give me unshakeable happiness for my loving piety,
If you should wish, o king! You are able to perfect all gods
With ease, since you have power and unbounded might.
And if, by the threads whirled around by the stars
In the revolving spindles of Fate, some harm comes to us,
Do you restrain it with your mightly force!²⁰
1: Or ‘king’, but ‘emperor’ seems more appropriate for basileús in Roman imperial times, especially since the god only begins to be called ‘Helios Basileus’ in this period.
2: Metaphorically referring to the incorporeal power of the intellective.
3: Referring to the reins of the solar chariot, which Proclus sees as symbolic. The primary reference point of this hymn seems to be the visible (zonic/encosmic) Sun, embodied in the perceptible universe as the midmost of the seven planets. But it seems that to some extent, the Sun beyond the cosmos, superordinated to the seven planets, is also addressed.
4: ‘Titan’ is a common poetic name for the Sun.
5: Harmony in these lower, material realm in which we live flows down from the divine realm, with the stars as mediators and distributors of the more particular streams and channels springing from the universal divine founts. The material cosmoi are the perceptible universe, i.e., the earthly realm, that of the planets, and the sphere of the fixed stars.
6: Apparently referring to the middle region of the perceptible cosmos, which is called aetherial by Proclus (while the uppermost, from the fixed stars down to Mars, is called celestial, and the lower is called material in a narrower sense).
7: The Demiurge. These two lines imply a moment of time when the Sun first appeared; but that is only a symbolic way of explicating the eternal order of the cosmos.
8: I am not certain whether this means ‘inspired/commanded by gods’ or ‘persuasive to gods’.
9: Phoebus is Apollon, and as Damascius says, the Apolloniac fount is within the Heliac fount (On First Principles, vol. 1, p. 237). Proclus is specifically referring to the harmonizing Music series, as Apollon, specifically the Music Apollon, is the Leader of Muses (Mousēgétēs; see Proclus, On the Cratylus 174, 176).
10: The disorderly realm of origination and destruction.
11: Paiēōn is a healing god, usually understood as a byname of Apollon. The late Neoplatonists connected the “paeanian”, “paeonian” or “paeonic” series with Asclepius the son of Apollon and, below him, Telesphorus, another, lesser healing god (Damascius, On the Parmenides, p. 117). In other words, the fount of Asclepius is within Apollon, as his fount is contained in that of the Sun (Damascius, On First Principles, vol. 1, p. 237), and it could probably said that the fount of Telesphorus in turn is within Asclepius’. In any case, the paeonian or healing (iatrikē) series is subordinated to the Sun (Proclus, On the Timaeus, vol. 3, p. 252).
12: The father of Dionysus is Zeus, but the point is unclear. There are both a Dionysus and a Zeus dwelling in the sphere of the Sun, as Proclus says (On the Timaeus, vol. 3, p. 131), and on the flipside, the Sun participates in Dionysiac power (Proclus, On the Timaeus, vol. 3, p. 311). Damascius says that Helios is Zeus insofar as he is emperor, Dionysus insofar as he is divided across the cosmos, and Apollon in the middle, standing besides Zeus and joined with Dionysus (Damascius, On the Phaedo A 14). But the series of Dionysus comes from Zeus (see e.g. Damascius, On the Parmenides, p. 117, and Zeus’ series from the Demiurge (Zeus himself), not from the Sun.
13: Euios is usually a byname of Apollon, fitting in this context. Attēs or Attis is an azonic god, set up beyond the perceptible cosmos, but presiding over the demiurgy of the sublunar allotment (i.e., our terrestrial realm, “the lowest depths of matter”); something similar is said about Adonis (Damascius, On the Parmenides, p. 214). See the interpretation of the myth of Attis in Sallustius IV, and in Julian’s prose hymn To the Mother-of-Gods (where he is called the emperor Attis). Proclus seems to mean that, while Adonis and Attis are different from each other and from the Sun, in their activity as demiurgic gods, they take on a solar or Heliac character. The philosophical reasoning behind this may now be obscure, but the idea was not a novelty in hymns to the Sun (cf. Martianus Capella, Philology 2.192).
14: Adonis is the lord of what grows and revives on the Earth (Hermias, On the Phaedrus, p. 260); in other words, a genesiurgic god. Proclus in one instance calls Adonis an (inferior) image of the encosmic Dionysus (Proclus, On the Cratylus 180), because the sublunar demiurgy (also assigned to Attis) belongs to him: the first is Diian (‘of Zeus’), the second Dionysiac, the third Adonaic or Adoniac (Proclus, On the Timaeus, vol. 1, p. 445 & vol. 2, p. 7).
15: Now referring to the evil-averting (alexikakos) series of the Sun.
16: Punitive daemons; see Psellus, Exegesis of Chaldaic Oracles 25.
17: The Father may be the Demiurge (the Twofold Transcendent) or else the Onefold Transcendent, Kronos.
18: Meaning the One, although it is strictly speaking above such relations as fatherhood.
19: The punitive daemons of note 16.
20: Proclus prayers for the Sun to overturn fated ills, since as he has said before, “the unshakeable dancing-troupe of the Fates (Moirai) yields to you, / rewinding the thread of necessary fate, / when you wish.”
5 Hymn II to Aphrodite
Ὑμνέομεν σειρὴν πολυώνυμον Ἀφρογενείης
καὶ πηγὴν μεγάλην βασιλήιον, ἧς ἄπο πάντες
ἀθάνατοι πτερόεντες ἀνεβλάστησαν Ἔρωτες.
Ὦν οἱ μὲν νοεροῖσιν ὀιστεύουσι βελέμνοις
ψυχάς, ὄφρα πόθων ἀναγώγια κέντρα λαβοῦσαι
μητέρος ἰσχανόωσιν ἰδεῖν πυριφεγγέας αὐλάς.
Οἱ δὲ πατρὸς βουλῇσιν ἀλεξικάκοις τε προνοίαις
ἱέμενοι γενεῇσιν ἀπείρονα κόσμον ἀέξειν
ψυχαῖς ἵμερον ὦρσαν ἐπιχθονίου βιότοιο.
Ἄλλοι δὲ γαμίων ὀάρων πολυειδέας οἴμους
αἰὲν ἐποπτεύουσιν, ὅπως θνητῆς ἀπὸ φύτλης
ἀθάνατον τεύξωσι δυηπαθέων γένος ἀνδρῶν·
πᾶσιν δ‘ ἔργα μέμηλεν ἐρωτοτόκου Κυθερείης.
ἀλλά, θεά, πάντῃ γὰρ ἔχεις ἀριήκοον οὖας,
εἴτε περισφίγγεις μέγαν οὐρανόν, ἔνθα σέ φασι
ψυχὴν ἀενάοιο πέλειν κόσμοιο θεείην,
εἴτε καὶ ἑπτὰ κύκλων ὑπὲρ ἄντυγας αἰθέρι ναίεις
σειραῖς ὑμετέραις δυνάμεις προχέουσ‘ ἀδαμάστους,
κέκλυθι, καὶ πολύμοχθον ἐμὴν βιότοιο πορείην
ἰθύνοις σέο, πότνα, δικαιοτάτοισι βελέμνοις
οὐχ ὁσίων παύουσα πόθων κρυόεσσαν ἐρωήν.
We hymn the many-named series¹ of Aphrogeneia,²
And the great, imperial fount,³ from which all
The immortal, winged Loves⁴ sprang up.
Some of these (Loves) shoot at souls with intellective darts,⁵
So that they may receive the elevatory spurs of longing
And yearn to see the fire-blazing halls of their mother.⁶
Others, by the evil-averting will and providence of the Father,⁷
Shoot to increase the boundless cosmos with births,
And stir a desire for life on the earth in souls.⁸
Others again always oversee manifold paths of wedding songs,
So that, from mortal procreation,
They create an immortal genus of long-suffering men.⁹
Now, goddess, since you have ears that hear everywhere,¹⁰
Whether you are wound around great heaven, in which they say
You are the divine Soul of the ever-flowing Cosmos,¹¹
Or whether you dwell in aether too, above the boundaries of the seven spheres,¹²
Pouring forth the unconquerable powers to your series,
Hear, and may you guide the toilsome path of my life,
Lady, with your most righteous arrows,
But put an end to the icy impulse of unholy desires.
1: The hymn does not address a single divinity, but the whole chain of Greater Beings suspended from the fontal intellect of Aphrodite, including gods, angels, daemons and heroes. Proclus almost gives a mini-essay on the different Loves under Aphrodite in the course of the text.
2: Aphrogeneia (‘born from foam’) is an alternative name of Aphrodite.
3: The fontal intellect of Aphrodite.
5: In mythology, the arrows of Eros usually cause people to fall in love with a certain other person; here, Proclus generalizes the image to describe the influence of the Loves, which connects souls to Intellect.
6: In short, there are elevatory Loves (perhaps angels) who promote the kind of love that leads souls to the gods, and to the divine order of Aphrodite (described in the same terms as the fiery halls of the Father in the Chaldaic Oracles).
7: Strictly, ‘wills’ and ‘providences’. That the Father wills the descent of the soul for providential reasons is a Chaldaic doctrine.
8: That is, they induce souls to descend into human bodies.
9: The notion that humanity and other such species are mortal in the individual, immortal in the genus, is Aristotelian. Proclus seems to be connecting this idea with the common practice of singing songs to Hymenaeus and other Eros-like entities at weddings, although to some extent, the reference to wedding songs is a euphemism for sexuality. This is clearly the lowest of the three orders mentioned.
10: Proclus of course does not mean literal ears, but he did believe that the gods (insofar as they are embodied in the cosmos) have a sense of hearing as well as sight.
11: The World Soul.
12: Azonic (or ‘hyper-and-encosmic’) Aphrodite, to use the technical late Neoplatonic term. Proclus seems to be presenting two possibilities of what the next higher instantiation of Aphrodite above the planet Venus is.
6 Hymn III to the Muses
Ὑμνέομεν, μερόπων ἀναγώγιον ὑμνέομεν φῶς,
ἐννέα θυγατέρας μεγάλου Διὸς ἀγλαοφώνους,
αἳ ψυχὰς κατὰ βένθος ἀλωομένας βιότοιο
ἀχράντοις τελετῇσιν ἐγερσινόων ἀπὸ βίβλων
γηγενέων ῥύσαντο δυσαντήτων ὀδυνάων
καὶ σπεύδειν ἐδίδαξαν ὑπὲρ βαθυχεύμονα λήθην
ἴχνος ἔχειν, καθαρὰς δὲ μολεῖν ποτὶ σύννομον ἄστρον,
ἔνθεν ἀπεπλάγχθησαν, ὅτ‘ ἐς γενεθλήιον ἀκτὴν
κάππεσον, ὑλοτραφέσσι περὶ κλήροισι μανεῖσαι.
ἀλλά, θεαί, καὶ ἐμεῖο πολυπτοίητον ἐρωὴν
παύσατε καὶ νοεροῖς με σοφῶν βακχεύσατε μύθοις·
μηδέ μ‘ ἀποπλάγξειεν ἀδεισιθέων γένος ἀνδρῶν
ἀτραπιτοῦ ζαθέης, ἐριφεγγέος, ἀγλαοκάρπου,
αἰεὶ δ‘ ἐξ ὁμάδοιο πολυπλάγκτοιο γενέθλης
ἕλκετ‘ ἐμὴν ψυχὴν παναλήμονα πρὸς φάος ἁγνόν,
ὑμετέρων βρίθουσαν ἀεξινόων ἀπὸ σίμβλων
καὶ κλέος εὐεπίης φρενοθελγέος αἰὲν ἔχουσαν.
We hymn, we hymn the light elevatory of humans,¹
The nine daughters of great Zeus with their beautiful voices,
Who have guarded the wandering souls in the depth of life²
By immaculate rites from intellect-stirring books
Against earthborn, odious pains,
And taught them to attempt to follow the steps above Lethe of deep waves,
And return pure to their kindred star,³
From which they had fallen when they plunged
Into the land of birth, raging around the lots sustained by matter.
Now, goddesses, also put an end to my much-agitated impulses
And drive me to Bacchic frenzy with the intellective words of the wise,
And do not let impious humanity lead me away
From the sacred, brilliant path of beauteous fruit,
And always draw my all-roving soul from the uncertain din of birth⁴
Towards the holy light,
Laden with your intellect-strengthening beehives⁵
And possessing glory of heart-charming eloquence forever!
1: Leading people upward, towards the gods.
2: Embodied life on the Earth.
3: Each soul is ‘sown’ into a star or god to which it properly belongs, its “leader of the herd”.
4: ‘Birth’ is this realm of constant origination and destruction.
5: Bees and their honey are a frequent symbol of poetic talent.
7 Hymn IV to the gods (called “Common Hymn to the Gods” by Plethon)
Κλῦτε, θεοί, σοφίης ἱερῆς οἴηκας ἔχοντες,
οἳ ψυχὰς μερόπων ἀναγώγιον ἁψάμενοι πῦρ
ἕλκετ‘ ἐς ἀθανάτους, σκότιον κευθμῶνα λιπούσας
ὕμνων ἀρρήτοισι καθηραμένας τελετῇσι.
κλῦτε, σαωτῆρες μεγάλοι, ζαθέων δ‘ ἀπὸ βίβλων
νεύσατ‘ ἐμοὶ φάος ἁγνὸν ἀποσκεδάσαντες ὁμίχλην,
ὄφρα κεν εὖ γνοίην θεὸν ἄμβροτον ἠδὲ καὶ ἄνδρα·
μηδέ με ληθαίοις ὑπὸ χεύμασιν οὐλοὰ ῥέζων
δαίμων αἰὲν ἔχοι μακάρων ἀπάνευθεν ἐόντα,
μὴ κρυερῆς γενέθλης ἐνὶ κύμασι πεπτωκυῖαν
ψυχὴν οὐκ ἐθέλουσαν ἐμὴν ἐπὶ δηρὸν ἀλᾶσθαι
Ποινή τις κρυόεσσα βίου δεσμοῖσι πεδήσῃ.
ἀλλά, θεοί, σοφίης ἐριλαμπέος ἡγεμονῆες,
κέκλυτ‘, ἐπειγομένῳ δὲ πρὸς ὑψιφόρητον ἀταρπὸν
ὄργια καὶ τελετὰς ἱερῶν ἀναφαίνετε μύθων.
Hear, gods,¹ who possess the rudders of sacred wisdom,
Who have kindled the fire that elevates the souls of humankind,²
Draw them towards the immortals, so they may leap from the shadowy pit,
Being purified by the ineffable rites of hymns!³
Hear, great saviors, and vouchsafe to me
A holy light from the most sacred books, after you disperse the mist,
So that I may know well immortal god and man,⁴
And that no daemon may hold me under the streams of Lethe,⁵
Forever enacting destruction, far off from the blessed (gods)!
Lest, after falling into the icy wave of birth,
My soul should wish to roam too long
Bound in the chains of life by some cold Punishment.⁶
Now, gods, rulers of bright-shining wisdom,
Hear, and reveal to me, who hastens to path leading to the height,
The revels and the rites of sacred myths.
1: Probably meaning the gods as a whole.
2: Elevation or anagogy is the lifting of souls up towards the gods, and fire a metaphor characterizing the incorporeal power of the gods.
3: The singing of hymns is a teletḗ of purification, readying the soul to be elevated by the influence of the gods.
4: Van den Berg translates “so that I know well an immortal god from a man”; but I think Proclus is asking for knowledge of things human and divine, which is supposed to be the scope of all philosophy.
5: A river of the underworld, named ‘Oblivion’; here, the state of ignorance of the embodied soul, especially the soul ignorant of philosophy.
6: Here meaning something like a harmful daemon.
8 Hymn V to Lycian Aphrodite
Ὑμνέομεν Λυκίων βασιληίδα, Κουραφροδίτην,
ἧς ποτ‘ ἀλεξικάκοιο περιπλήθοντες ἀρωγῆς
πατρίδος ἡμετέρης θεοφράδμονες ἡγεμονῆες
ἱερὸν ἱδρύσαντο κατὰ πτολίεθρον ἄγαλμα,
σύμβολ‘ ἔχον νοεροῖο γάμου, νοερῶν ὑμεναίων
Ἡφαίστου πυρόεντος ἰδ‘ οὐρανίης Ἀφροδίτης·
καί ἑ θεὴν ὀνόμηναν Ὀλύμπιον, ἧς διὰ κάρτος
πολλάκι μὲν θανάτοιο βροτοφθόρον ἔκφυγον ἰόν,
ἐς δ‘ ἀρετὴν ἔχον ὄμμα· τελεσσιγόνων δ‘ ἀπὸ λέκτρων
ἔμπεδος ἀγλαόμητις ἀνασταχύεσκε γενέθλη,
πάντῃ δ‘ ἠπιόδωρος ἔην βιότοιο γαλήνη.
ἀλλὰ καὶ ἡμετέρην ὑποδέχνυσο, πότνα, θυηλὴν
εὐεπίης· Λυκίων γὰρ ἀφ‘ αἵματός εἰμι καὶ αὐτός.
ψυχὴν δ‘ ἂψ ἀνάειρον ἀπ‘ αἴσχεος ἐς πολὺ κάλλος,
γηγενέος προφυγοῦσαν ὀλοίιον οἶστρον ἐρωῆς.
We hymn the empress of the Lycians, Kouraphrodite!¹
Once,² filled with her evil-averting help,
The leaders of our home country, instructed (or ‘inspired’) by a god,
Set up a sacred cult statue in the city,³
Which had symbols of her intellective coupling,⁴ the intellective wedding songs
Of fiery Hephaestus and celestial Aphrodite,⁵
Which goddess they also called Olympian, and through whose strength
They often escaped the mortal-destroying arrow of death;
They also had an eye on virtue; and from their fertile beds,
Firm offspring of beauteous mind sprung up;
And in all respects, their life possessed a pleasant calm.
Now, also accept our sacrifice, lady,
Of eloquence!⁶ For I am of Lycian blood myself.
And lift my soul back up from foulness to great beauty,
Fleeing the destructive sting of earthborn desire!
1: A combination of the name of Aphrodite with kour-, ‘a youth’. Apparently not attested elsewhere.
2: At one specific occasion, perhaps to fulfil an oracle after Aphrodite had healed a plague or some such thing. But Proclus’ point is broader: he wishes to wish a picture of a city happy through its piety towards the goddess, prior to Christian hegemony.
3: Probably Xanthos, but this is unclear.
4: What these symbols consisted in is unclear; perhaps some attributed of Hephaestus carried by Aphrodite.
5: Or Aphrodite Ourania.
6: Proclus is paralleling his offering of a hymn to the dedication of the statue.
9 Hymn VI to Mother-of-Gods Hekate Janus Zeus
Χαῖρε, θεῶν μῆτερ, πολυώνυμε, καλλιγένεθλε·
χαῖρ‘, Ἑκάτη προθύραιε, μεγασθενές. ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὸς
χαῖρ‘, Ἴανε προπάτορ, Ζεῦ ἄφθιτε· χαῖρ‘, ὕπατε Ζεῦ.
τεύχετε δ‘ αἰγλήεσσαν ἐμοῦ βιότοιο πορείην
βριθομένην ἀγαθοῖσι, κακὰς δ‘ ἀπελαύνετε νούσους
ἐκ ῥεθέων, ψυχὴν δὲ περὶ χθονὶ μαργαίνουσαν
ἕλκετ‘ ἐγερσινόοισι καθηραμένην τελετῇσι.
ναί, λίτομαι, δότε χεῖρα, θεοφραδέας τε κελεύθους
δείξατέ μοι χατέοντι. φάος δ‘ ἐρίτιμον ἀθρήσω,
κυανέης ὅθεν ἔστι φυγεῖν κακότητα γενέθλης.
ναί, λίτομαι, δότε χεῖρα, καὶ ὑμετέροισιν ἀήταις
ὅρμον ἐς εὐσεβίης με πελάσσατε κεκμηῶτα.
χαῖρε, θεῶν μῆτερ, πολυώνυμε, καλλιγένεθλε·
χαῖρ‘, Ἑκάτη προθύραιε, μεγασθενές. ἀλλὰ καὶ αὐτὸς
χαῖρ‘, Ἴανε προπάτορ, Ζεῦ ἄφθιτε· χαῖρ‘, ὕπατε Ζεῦ.
Greetings, Mother-of-Gods,¹ many-named, of fair offspring!
Greetings, Hekate Prothyraia,² of great power! And to you,
Greetings, forefather Janus,³ imperishable Zeus! Greetings, highest Zeus!
Make the course of my life dazzling bright
And weighed down with god things, but drive away evil diseases
From my limbs, and my soul, which rages about the Earth,
Draw it up, since it is purified with intellect-stirring rites!⁴
Yes I pray, give a hand, and show me the god-revealed paths,
Since I have need of them! I will observe the light so august,
From which comes the ability to fly the evil of dark birth.
Yes I pray, give me a hand, and with your winds,
Bring me to the habor wrought of piety.
Greetings, Mother-of-Gods, many-named, of fair offspring!
Greetings, Hekate Prothyraia, of great power! And to you,
Greetings, forefather Janus, imperishable Zeus! Greetings, highest Zeus!
1: In certain respects, the Mother-of-Gods is the same as Hekate in Neoplatonic metaphysics, but in other ways (and apparently here) they are distinct.
2: Prothyraia is ‘She before the door’, a theonym also used in the Orphic Hymns.
3: Probably representing Latin Ianus pater. It appears that Proclus is interpreting Janus as Zeus himself.
4: This word, ‘rites’ (teletaí) is the term used for the rituals of the Chaldaean theurgists, and for mystery initiations, but here should be taken in a generic sense.
10 Hymn VII to Athena
Κλῦθί μευ, αἰγιόχοιο Διὸς τέκος, ἡ γενετῆρος
πηγῆς ἐκπροθοροῦσα καὶ ἀκροτάτης ἀπὸ σειρῆς·
ἀρσενόθυμε, φέρασπι, μεγασθενές, ὀβριμοπάτρη,
Παλλάς, Τριτογένεια, δορυσσόε, χρυσεοπήληξ,
κέκλυθι· δέχνυσο δ‘ ὕμνον ἐύφρονι, πότνια, θυμῷ,
μηδ‘ αὔτως ἀνέμοισιν ἐμόν ποτε μῦθον ἐάσῃς,
ἡ σοφίης πετάσασα θεοστιβέας πυλεῶνας
καὶ χθονίων δαμάσασα θεημάχα φῦλα Γιγάντων·
ἣ πόθον Ἡφαίστοιο λιλαιομένοιο φυγοῦσα
παρθενίης ἐφύλαξας ἑῆς ἀδάμαντα χαλινόν·
ἣ κραδίην ἐσάωσας ἀμιστύλλευτον ἄνακτος
αἰθέρος ἐν γυάλοισι μεριζομένου ποτὲ Βάκχου
Τιτήνων ὑπὸ χερσί, πόρες δέ ἑ πατρὶ φέρουσα,
ὄφρα νέος βουλῇσιν ὑπ‘ ἀρρήτοισι τοκῆος
ἐκ Σεμέλης περὶ κόσμον ἀνηβήσῃ Διόνυσος·
ἧς πέλεκυς, θήρεια ταμὼν προθέλυμνα κάρηνα,
πανδερκοῦς Ἑκάτης παθέων ηὔνησε γενέθλην·
ἣ κράτος ἤραο σεμνὸν ἐγερσιβρότων ἀρετάων·
ἣ βίοτον κόσμησας ὅλον πολυειδέσι τέχναις
δημιοεργείην νοερὴν ψυχαῖσι βαλοῦσα·
ἣ λάχες ἀκροπόληα καθ‘ ὑψιλόφοιο κολώνης,
σύμβολον ἀκροτάτης μεγάλης σέο, πότνια, σειρῆς·
ἣ χθόνα βωτιάνειραν ἐφίλαο, μητέρα βίβλων,
πατροκασιγνήτοιο βιησαμένη πόθον ἱρόν,
οὔνομα δ‘ ἄστεϊ δῶκας ἔχειν σέο καὶ φρένας ἐσθλάς·
ἔνθα μάχης ἀρίδηλον ὑπὸ σφυρὸν οὔρεος ἄκρον
σῆμα καὶ ὀψιγόνοισιν ἀνεβλάστησας ἐλαίην,
εὖτ‘ ἐπὶ Κεκροπίδῃσι Ποσειδάωνος ἀρωγῇ
μυρίον ἐκ πόντοιο κυκώμενον ἤλυθε κῦμα,
πάντα πολυφλοίσβοισιν ἑοῖς ῥεέθροισιν ἱμάσσον.
κλῦθί μευ, ἡ φάος ἁγνὸν ἀπαστράπτουσα προσώπου·
δὸς δέ μοι ὄλβιον ὅρμον ἀλωομένῳ περὶ γαῖαν,
δὸς ψυχῇ φάος ἁγνὸν ἀπ‘ εὐιέρων σέο μύθων
καὶ σοφίην καὶ ἔρωτα· μένος δ‘ ἔμπνευσον ἔρωτι
τοσσάτιον καὶ τοῖον, ὅσον χθονίων ἀπὸ κόλπων
αὖ ἐρύσῃ πρὸς Ὄλυμπον ἐς ἤθεα πατρὸς ἐῆος.
εἰ δέ τις ἀμπλακίη με κακὴ βιότοιο δαμάζει –
οἶδα γάρ, ὡς πολλοῖσιν ἐρίχθομαι ἄλλοθεν ἄλλαις
πρήξεσιν οὐχ ὁσίαις, τὰς ἤλιτον ἄφρονι θυμῷ – ,
ἵλαθι, μειλιχόβουλε, σαόμβροτε, μηδέ μ‘ ἐάσῃς
ῥιγεδαναῖς Ποιναῖσιν ἕλωρ καὶ κύρμα γενέσθαι
κείμενον ἐν δαπέδοισιν, ὅτι τεὸς εὔχομαι εἶναι.
δὸς γυίοις μελέων σταθερὴν καὶ ἀπήμον‘ ὑγείην,
σαρκοτακῶν δ‘ ἀπέλαυνε πικρῶν ἀγελάσματα νούσων,
ναί, λίτομαι, βασίλεια, καὶ ἀμβροσίῃ σέο χειρὶ
παῦσον ὅλην κακότητα μελαινάων ὀδυνάων.
δὸς βιότῳ πλώοντι γαληνιόωντας ἀήτας,
τέκνα, λέχος, κλέος, ὄλβον, ἐυφροσύνην ἐρατεινήν,
πειθώ, στωμυλίην φιλίης, νόον ἀγκυλομήτην,
κάρτος ἐπ‘ ἀντιβίοισι, προεδρίην ἐνὶ λαοῖς.
κέκλυθι, κέκλυθ‘, ἄνασσα· πολύλλιστος δέ σ‘ ἱκάνω
χρειοῖ ἀναγκαίῃ· σὺ δὲ μείλιχον οὖας ὑπόσχες.
Hear me, child of aegis-bearing Zeus, who have sprung forth
From the fount of the Father and the uppermost series!¹
You of masculine temper, shield-bearer of great strength and a mighty father,
Pallas, Tritogeneia, lance-brandishing, golden-helmeted one,
Hear! Accept this hymn, lady, with cheerful temper,
And may you not hand my speech over to the winds!
You, who have thrown open the gates of wisdom
And vanquished the tribe of chthonic Giants that battled the gods;²
Who fled the desire of lustful Hephaestus
And guarded the unconquerable girdle of your virginity;³
Who protected the unmutilated heart of the king⁴
In the vaults of Aether when Bacchus was torn into pieces
By the hands of the Titans, then brought and gave it to his father,⁵
So that, by the ineffable will of the Father,⁶ a new
Dionysus may grow up again around the cosmos from Semele;⁷
Whose axe, which cut off at the roots the animal heads
Of all-seeing Hekate, and so calmed the birth of passions;⁸
Hear me, …
Give me …
And if …
For I know
Yes, I pray, empress,
Hear, hear, o queen,
[Work in progress]
1: I.e., from Zeus; a metaphysical interpretation of the myth that she was born from his head.
2: Athena plays an important role in the myth of the Gigantomachy; I will not go into the details of how the Giants or Titans were understood by the late Neoplatonists here.
3: In the myth, Hephaestus attempts to rape Athena, but she fights him off and he spills his semen onto the Earth; Proclus interprets this as meaning that Hephaestus “desires Athena and imitates her noetic (character) in his perceptible productions” (On the Timaeus, vol. 1, p. 144), while Athena still maintains the noetic character pristinely.
4: Dionysus, who was to succeed Zeus in kingship, but was torn apart by the treacherous Titans. In the Neoplatonists, this is of course not taken in a literal sense.
6: The will or wishes (boulaí) of the Father play an important role in Chaldaic doctrine.
7: I.e., not the Koric Dionysus (or, more conventionally put, the son of Persephone; Hermias, On the Phaedrus, p. 55), but the Semeleian (Damascius, On the Phaedo B 8). As far as I understand, these are the Dionysus beyond the cosmos and within the cosmos, respectively.
8: Van den Berg, oddly, understands the text as speaking of the heads of animals belonging to Hekate, but there is no reason to avoid the literal sense, i.e., that Athena cut off animal heads of that goddess, which are well attested in art and literature. Presumably the reference is to some lost Orphic myth, in a now obscure Neoplatonic interpretation. The positive interpretation of such a violent act may be compared to the favorable metaphysical exegesis of the castration of Attis in Sallustius IV.