Commentary on Hymn XIV: To Antinous-Hermes, Lover

You are not known for your loves, Antinous Hermes,
but you have not lacked them. Among the goddesses
you dallied with Aphrodite, Brimo, and Daeira,
sought Persephone, and called Peitho your wife.
Amongst the nymphs Penelopeia bore you
the great god Pan, and Carmentis went to Latium
with Evander, her son, the seed of a future empire.
Many were the mortal women whom you found desirable,
and there were men, too, especially Krokos, flower-lad.
You are he who woos with wit, who persuades with suasion,
who seduces with banter, who charms with speech,
lover of the mind and the mind’s lover, who shows us
how to join sense, sensibility, and sensuality, and
for this we praise you, Antinous Hermes.

The Antinoopolitan Lovers

Hermes, like his brother Apollon and others of the younger Olympians, is a deity who remained unmarried and dallied with a good many lovers, both males and females, deities and mortals. He was sometimes called the husband of Peitho, a goddess whose name means “persuasion” or even “seduction”, but who seems to have been worshiped in conjunction with Aphrodite or with the Charites (the Graces) more often than with the messenger god.

In writing this hymn I ran with the idea of the god as a lover of the mind, as someone who could find a way to one’s heart (and/or one’s loins) through the head. While there is not much hint of this in the myths, it is certainly a way of courting that works for me. I am not alone in being a fan of fictional couples who woo and wed with witty banter; it’s a trope that’s been popular at least since Shakespeare gave us Much Ado about Nothing and has fueled such diverse tv shows as Moonlighting, The X-Files, and (a personal favorite) Remington Steele. As it happens, my still-favorite musician, Hozier, included a song on his last album that perfectly embodies what I had in mind, and the lyrics are complete with mythological references.

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