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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: May 2011
  • First published in: 1909

CHAPTER I - CULTS OF HERMES

Summary

This divinity, although probably recognized by every Greek community, plays only a subordinate role in Greek life in comparison with the higher divinities of the state, nor does his cult appear to have taken deep root anywhere except in Arcadia and, as numismatic evidence leads us to suspect, at Ainos in Thrace and Eresos in Lesbos. His figure is not prominent among the coin-types of Greece, save in the last-mentioned city, nor his name among the genealogies of clans or communities; only Arcadia claimed him as divine ancestor. Yet some of the details of his worship are of interest for the comparative study of religion and for the history of certain social usages.

In the Homeric and much of classical literature the god appears to us as a Hellene of the Hellenes, the embodiment of the leading characteristics of the race; yet we have reason to suspect that he may have been a surviving figure of a pre-Hellenic religion. The question could only be settled if we could interpret the name ʿρμῆς, which appears under the form ῝Ερμελος in Boeotia and ʿΕρμὠν in Laconia and Arcadia; but none of the etymological theories that have been put forward can be regarded as satisfactory; for though the name has the air of being Hellenic, we do not know to what stratum of language it belongs.

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