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Dearest to be Man's Companion: Hermes, Divine Aid and Agency

Abstract

This paper compares passages from Book 24 of the Iliad, the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and the Odyssey and argues that Hermes's portrayal in archaic Greek literature is characterized by a high degree of sympathy for those under his guidance and a hands-on approach to divine intervention. In particular, parallels are drawn between Hermes's escorting of Priam to and from Achilles's camp, and his guidance of both Persephone and Herakles out of the underworld. These examples are contrasted with Hermes's role as a psychopomp and are used to argue that these texts display an understanding of divine aid that is not limited to mere function but which takes into account the personality and autonomous agency of individual deities.

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