Category: Greece & Rome

Apollo: God of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge


Apollo :God of music, poetry, art, oracles, archery, plague, medicine, sun, light and knowledge


Apollo, a deity of many functions and meanings, after Zeus perhaps is the most influential of all the Greek gods. He was the son of Zeus and Leto, twin brother of Artemis. Apollo, one of the great gods, is represented in some degree dependence on Zeus, who is the source of the powers. The powers of Apollo are of different kinds, but all are connected with one another.

Apollo is the god who punishes and destroys the wicked and overbearing when he wearing bow and arrows. All sudden deaths of men were believed to be the effect of the arrows of Apollo. Also, Hyginus relates, that “four days after his birth, Apollo killed the dragon Python at the mount Parnassus.”

The Python of Delphi was a creature with the body of a snake. This creature dwelled on Mountain Parnassus, in central Greece. Wherever it went, it diffused an obnoxious smell and spread mischief and death.
Python was once sent out by Hera, the wife of Zeus, in order to chase the pregnant Leto, a lover of Zeus so that she couldn’t settle anywhere to give birth.  By the time Apollo, the son of Leto, was only four days old, he was already a strong boy. A silver bow with golden arrows, given to him by the blacksmith Hephaestus, made the young god decide to kill Python and take revenge.

The death of the Python filled Apollo with joy, so he happily took his lyre and started playing a song of victory, giving joy to people all around. This was the moment where Apollo became the god of the Music. Right after he finished his song, Apollo took the creature and buried it under the slopes of Mount Parnassus. On its surface, he built the oracle of Delphi, which is also known as the “Pythia”.

However, because the blood of Python,  Apollo had committed a crime and, according to the laws of Mount Olympus, he needed to be purified. Therefore, Zeus ordered from Apollo to institute the Pythian Games at Delphi so that athletic and musical competitions could be hosted. Apollo followed the order and he even took part in the games himself. From then on, the Pythian Games were held every four years in Apollo’s honor.

Apollo is the god who delights in the foundation of towns and the establishment of civil constitutions. He helped the construction of Troy. A town or a colony was never founded by the Greeks without consulting an oracle of Apollo, so that in every case he become, as it were, their spiritual leader. In Egypt, he was made to form a part of their astronomical system, which was afterwards introduced into Greece, where it became the prevalent opinion of the learned.

Apollo also is the god of prophecy. He had the power of communicating the gift of prophecy both to gods and men. As the god of song and music, He delighted the immortal gods with his play on the phorminx during their repast. Apollo is ascribed as the invention of the flute and lyre.

“The first time we hear of the worship of Apollo at Rome is in the year B. C. 430, when, for the purpose of averting a plague, a temple was raised to him, and soon after dedicated by the consul, C. Julius. A second temple was built for him in the year B. C. 350. During the second Punic war, in B. C. 212, the Ludi Apollinares was instituted in honor of Apollo. ””The worship of this divinity, however, did not form a very prominent part in the religion of the Romans till the time of Augustus, who, after the battle of Actium, not only dedicated to him a portion of the spoils, but built or embellished his temple at Actium, and founded a new one at Rome on the Palatine, and instituted quinquennial games at Actium”.

Apollo, the national divinity of the Greeks, was of course represented in all the ways which  arts were capable of. As the ideas of the god became gradually and more and more fully developed, his representations in works of art rose from a rude wooden image to the perfect ideal of youthful manliness. The most beautiful and celebrated among the extant representations of Apollo are the colossal marble statue of Appollo in London, which was discovered broken into 121 pieces, laying near the large pedestal on which it had originally stood at Cyrene in modern Libya. This image of Apollo shows him holding a lyre, and so emphasizes his role as god of music. He is naked apart from the precariously draped himation or cloak around his hips, and has an almost feminine quality that reflects the influence of Hellenistic statuary of the second century BC The limbs are well proportioned and harmonious, the muscles are not worked out too strongly, and at the hips the figure is rather thin in proportion to the breast.

– Ma Lijun


“Colossal Marble Statue of Apollo.” British Museum -. Accessed March 21, 2015. ”

APOLLO : Greek God of Music, Healing & Prophecy | Mythology, Apollon, W/ Pictures. Accessed March 21, 2015. “Apollo.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 21, 2015.

“Apollo.” Apollo. Accessed March 21, 2015.

“Apollo.” Wikipedia. Accessed March 21, 2015.

Athena: Goddess of Wisdom

l_pl1_54766_fnt_tr_t91iiiAthena (Minerva to the Romans) was the goddess of reason, wisdom, handicrafts, and war. She was also the guardian of Athens, of which was named after her. She was seen as a fierce, brave warrior, but would only fight in conflicts that would threaten her state, and was said to value peace. She is the daughter of the Greek chief god Zeus, and was said to be his favorite child. In one interpretation of her origin, she sprung to life from Zeus’s forehead, full grown, and without a mother. She was known as the Parthenos (the virgin). She was associated with birds, specifically owls. She is most commonly depicted wearing armor, and carrying a spear and shield matching her roll as a goddess of war, and as a guardian. As Minerva, her roles don’t change much from her Greek incarnation other than taking over the victory aspects of the Greek goddess Nike.

Athena in mythology is noted for inventing many different items that would become essential to the people’s lives. In the fields of agriculture she invented the bridle ,  the rake, and the plow. In transportation, she invented the ship, and the chariot, and in entertainment, she invented the trumpet, and the flute.  Athena is also noted for having a turbulent history with Poseidon, the god of the sea. Both Athena and Poseidon competed to be the patron god of what would be Athens, and Athena won the contest by giving the humans the olive tree. In one story, a beautiful woman named Medusa fell in love with Poseidon, and the two mated in Athena’s temple. This Angered Athena and she placed a curse on Medusa which caused her to turn into a monster so vile that a single glance at her would turn a person to pure stone. In Homer’s The Odyssey, the titular character, Odysseus, angers Poseidon by not crediting him for the siege of Troy, and the end of the Trojan war, and dooms Odysseus to never be able to return to his home in Ithaca. Athena intervenes in Poseidon’s plans, and guides/protects Odysseus from Poseidon on his journey home.

In this statue, Athena is depicted wearing an armored helmet and holding an owl, the emblem of her wisdom, in her right hand. Originally this statue held a spear in her left hand, but has since been lost. The statue’s lack of body armor and shield seems to indicate that this statue may have been created during a time of peace.  Her helmet is adorned with a miniature sphinx, which in addition to fitting her guardian traits, it could possibly be a nod to the mental battle the sphinx engages Oedipus, and the “Riddle of the Sphinx” which would coincide with the wisdom aspects of Athena’s character.

– Connor Carraway

Works Cited

1. “Medusa With Snaky Hair.” Accessed March 11, 2015

2. “Myths about Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015.

3. Encyclopedia Britannica.”Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015.

4. Encyclopedia Britannica.“Minerva.” Accessed March11, 2015.

5. Encyclopedia Britannica.“Sphinx.”  Accessed March 11, 2015.

6. Greek “Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015.

7. Greek Myths & Greek Mythology. “Goddess Athena.” Accessed March 11, 2015.



According to Greek mythology, Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, king of Crete, and his wife Pasiphae. Minos was charged by Poseidon to care for a dangerous Minotaur in a labyrinth and offer it human, Athenian sacrifices every nine years. On the third cycle of sacrifices, Athenian prince Theseus volunteered to go with the sacrifices and slay the beast. Upon meeting the Athenian hero, Ariadne fell in love and devised a plan to help Theseus escape from the labyrinth and the hybrid creature. She secured a string between herself and Theseus so that he may kill the Minotaur and safely find his way out of the labyrinth. The plan was successful, and the two lovers escaped to the island of Náxos. Ariadne soon fell out of favor with Theseus, and the Athenian abandoned the Cretan princess on the island. She was eventually rescued by and married the god Dionysus. He raised her as an immortal, the goddess of vegetation, and placed her marital crown in the sky as a constellation (Encyclopedia Britannica Online, 1).


The long, oral tradition of the myth of Ariadne was written down in Ovid’s Metamorphoses in the first century CE. This epic poem documents the lives of gods and goddesses from Greek mythology, particularly in relation to change and love. In the book regarding Ariadne, Ovid charts the rapid peaks and plummets of love between Ariadne and her suitors (Ovid, 384-385). This consistent motion, further reflected in the cyclic movement of her constellation, is a concept important to ancient Grecians, particularly in relation to the seasons and associated vegetation. The ancient Greeks relied on the cyclic patterns of vegetation for their food source. This mythological tradition of Ariadne supported this idea and allowed for a physical representation that they could worship to ensure a successful harvest (Webster, 22).

Image used with permission and downloaded from a museum website: Marble Sarcophagus with Garlands and Myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of John L. Cadwalader, 1914.,b,
Image used with permission and downloaded from a museum website: Marble Sarcophagus with Garlands and Myth of Theseus and Ariadne. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of John L. Cadwalader, 1914.,b,

The Marble Sarcophagus with Garlands and the Myth of Theseus and Ariadne is an ancient example of an object containing imagery of Ariadne. This object, discovered in 1889 near Rome, is a marble sarcophagus intended to hold human remains. This Greek myth would have been popular among the Romans due to the popularity of Ovid’s epic poem and its subsequent influence on Roman culture. The imagery on this object depicts both the attributions of Ariadne as a goddess of vegetation as well as the myth surrounding her and Theseus. The concept of vegetation goddess is evident in the sarcophagus through the flora, erotes, and animals. Depicted in shallow relief on the lid, four winged erotes drive chariots pulled by a bear, lion, bull, and boars. These beasts are associated respectively with spring, summer, fall, and winter. On the front of the piece, swaths of garlands featuring wheat, flowers, and fruits further represent the idea of vegetation associated with the Greek goddess. This series of vegetation-related imagery bolsters the idea of the ancient Greek and Roman dependence on a deity for their seasonal harvests. Further adding to the relief imagery on the sarcophagus, three installments of the myth’s narrative are positioned between the draping garlands. They represent Ariadne assisting Theseus with the string, Theseus slaying the Minotaur, and Ariadne abandoned on Náxos awaiting Dionysus (“Marble sarcophagus,” 1). This representation of a Greek myth on a roman sarcophagus denotes the culture’s interest in the literature produced by Ovid.

Julia Stewart

Works Cited

Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Ariadne”, accessed March

05, 2015.


“Marble sarcophagus with garlands and the myth of Theseus and

        Ariadne [Roman, Hadrianic or early Antonine]” (90.12a,b) In

        Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan

        Museum of Art, 2000-.

        works-of-art/90.12a,b. (August 2009).

Ovid. The Metamorphoses. Translated by AS Kline. Luxembourg:

        Poetry in Translation, 2000.

 Webster, TBL. “The Myth of Ariadne from Homer to Catullus.”

Greece & Rome 13, no. 1 (1996): 22-31.






The Minotaur in Ancient Greece

The Minotaur was born from a mortal but he was not a man. The name stems from the Greek name “Minos” and the greek word for “bull.” The story of the Minotaur began with Minos. Minos claimed to have the support of the Gods on his side and believed he could ask them for anything. He prayed to Poseidon to send him a bull that he would sacrifice. Poseidon sent Minos a beautiful white bull and this proved that Minos was meant to be king. However, Minos sacrificed a different bull and kept the beautiful one to himself. This angered the god and as a punishment he caused the King’s wife, Pasiphae, to lust after the bull. Once Pasiphae was cursed, she recruited the help of Daedalus and Icarus to construct for her a wooden cow covered in cowhide to lure the bull to mate. The wooden cow was taken into the pasture with the bull and Pasiphae climbed inside. Pasiphae laid with the bull and became pregnant (Britanniae, 2013).

When the baby was born King Minos learned of his wife’s infidelity. King Minos did not punish Pasiphae but enslaved Daedalus and Icarus for assisting her. The baby had the head and tail of a bull and the body of a man. Pasiphae was able to care for him while he was young, but once the Minotaur grew he could not be sustained on normal food. He began to eat humans and they were his only source of sustenance. Because of the danger that the Minotaur presented, Minos had Daedalus and Icarus build a labyrinth to keep him contained (Britanniae, 2013).

While the Labyrinth was being constructed, King Minos found out that his only son, Androgeos, had been killed. He blamed the Athenians for the death of his son because it was believed that the King of Athens, Aegeus, devised his death. Minos harassed the Athenians until they agreed to sacrifice fourteen youth every nine years, half being men and half being women, to be fed to the Minotaur. Through harsh persuasion of the gods the Athenians were forced to submit to this sacrifice (Britanniae, 2013).

Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, claimed that he could kill the Minotaur and volunteered to be sent to Crete. When Theseus arrived in Crete, King Minos’ daughter Ariadne fell in love with him. She devised a plan to help him kill the Minotaur and escape death. She provided him with a sword and a ball of yarn to be able to find his way back out of the labyrinth. Theseus succeeded in killing the Minotaur and escaping Crete. On his journey back to Athens he absentmindedly forgot to sail the white flag that he had agreed to fly if he was still alive. His father, King Aegaeus, believed him to be dead and threw himself into the sea in despair. When Theseus made it back to Athens he was crowned King (Britanniae, 2013).

The mythological representation of the Minotaur provides us with a tale of monsters, traditional heroism, and kingship. While the Minotaur, King Minos, and Theseus only existed in mythology there has been belief that there is some historical representation in Knossos, an ancient town and site of the Palace of Minos (Vavouranakis, 213). The myth of the Minotaur is not solely about the myth of the beast. The ancient hero, Theseus, is most known for his destruction of the Minotaur. The Minoans were a real civilization and were named after the mythical King Minos. Today we recognize the Minoan civilization as having existed in Crete from around 3100 BC to 1450 BC (Browne, 109). The image presented is of a sculpture titled “Theseus Slaying the Minotaur.” Here Theseus is shown overpowering the Minotaur who is struggling. Many historical art pieces depicting Theseus and the Minotaur are pictured similarly with the Minotaur being defeated. Theseus was known as a traditional heroic figure in mythology. This can show us the cultural representation of a hero during the ancient times. Theseus used his strength to overpower the Minotaur but he also used his intelligence and wits. Representation of a King in this aspect shows that the greeks honored strength, wisdom, and sacrifice. Theseus volunteered to save the lives of those who would be eaten.

– Lauren Bowles

Works Cited

Britanniae, Brittany. “Minotaur,” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Last modified September 01, 2013. /Minotaur/.


Browne, Eric, Jamiee Canty, Jennifer Casey, Linda Goldman, Eleanor Gwen, Tabitha Judy, and Phyllis Barkas
Goldman, et al. 2001. “Minoans.” Monkeyshines On Ancient Cultures 108. MasterFILE Premier, EBSCOhost
(accessed March 12, 2015).


Vavouranakis, Giorgos. 2013. “Working on a Dream: The ‘Palace of Minos’ at Knossos in Archaeological
Research, Heritage Protection and Daily Life.” Cultural History 2, no. 2: 213-231.Historical Abstracts with Full
        Text, EBSCOhost (accessed March 11, 2015).



Myth as Propaganda-Roman Venus


Silver denarius of Julius Caesar. Reproduced with permission of Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Silver denarius of Julius Caesar. Reproduced with permission of Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The Goddess known to the Romans as Venus was originally a minor goddess of fertility in the Italian peninsula. Scholars believe that it was not until contact with the Greek world in the 4th century B.C that Aphrodite became coopted, and Venus then became associated with courtly and erotic love.

Consider the opening lines of Lucretius’ epic poem of atomic theory and epicurean philosophy :De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things):

Mother of the descendants of Aeneas, bringer of pleasure to gods and men, nurturing Venus, beneath the gliding constellations of heaven you fill the bearing sea and the fruitful lands. Through you all living things are conceived and at birth see the light of the sun. Before you, O goddess, the winds withdraw, and at your coming, the clouds in heaven retreat. For you the variegated earth puts forth her lovely flowers, for you the waters of the sea laugh and the sky at peace shines, overspread with light. For you the Zephyr the West Wind, creator of life, is unbarred. You first, O goddess, and your coming do the birds of the air salute, their hearts struck by your power.

Venus plays a larger role in Roman society than her Greek counterpart. According to legend, Venus had lain with a Trojan shepherd by the name of Anchises, and the results of their passions was the Trojan prince Aeneas. Aeneas is the epic hero and the subject of Publius Vergilius Naso (Vergil)’s tale of the Trojan War and its aftermath from a Trojan perspective. According to the Homeric tradition and confirmed in Vergil’s account, the Olympians took sides in the Trojan War. Juno aided the Greeks and Venus the Trojans. According to the Aeneid, Aeneas finally makes his way to Italy and his son Iulus (Ascanius) settles in the area known as Latium. This becomes important to the establishment of the hierarchy of Roman deities and Venus becomes more elevated in power to the Romans. Sometime in the 4th century she is paired off as the prime consort of Mars, the deity who had lain with the Vestal Virgin Rhea Silvia to produce the twins Romulus and Remus. The deities of Love and War- they are held in high regard as the progenitors of the Roman people. The Romans then take this as a sign that they are divinely governed to be a great civilization of people. Venus becomes a highly worshipped deity with several temples being erected to her. She has several epithets attached to her and each of these versions of the deity have slightly different realms of power. She is referred to as Venus Obsequens, Venus Erycina, Venus Victris, Venus Cloacina, Venus Felix, and Venus Genetrix.

Venus Genetrix (Venus the ancestral mother) is incredibly important source of power and imperium for Julius Caesar and his adopted nephew Octavian (Augustus) Caesar. Shortly after military victory and shortly before his death in 44 BC, Julius Caesar begins a building project to create a Forum Iulium and contained within it a temple dedicated to Venus Genetrix since the Julio-Claudian family traces their lineage to Iulus. However to according to the historian Suetonius in his Lives of the Caesars: The Deified Julius Caesar, the temple of Venus Genetrix is what causes the final reason for the conspirators to assassinate Julius Caesar:

However, the extreme and fatal envy he inspired was particularly provoked by the following: when the entire senate came to him, bringing many decrees conferring the highest honours, he received them in front of the temple of Venus Genetrix, without getting up. Some think that he was held back when he tried to rise by Cornelius Balbus. Others believe that he made no attempt to get up and that when Gaius Trebatius actually advised him to rise, he gave him a very hostile look.

What Caesar did to offend the senate was essentially regard himself as a God therefore he was putting himself above the gods and the security and benefit of the Roman Republic. This violates Roman morals particularly pietas. It is ironic that Julius Caesar is seen to violate this moral when he alleged ancestors Aeneas and Iulus are described with the epithet pious on numerous occasions by Vergil in the Aeneid. This silver denarius was minted by Julius Caesar to display his name alongside Aeneas and Anchises on the reverse. On the obverse side of this coin is an Image of Venus but stylistically she is depicted as a high status Roman woman wearing an elaborate braided hairstyle and crown. ( I recommend for an expansive image gallery and more information on Roman coinage).

Furthermore Augustus and other Julio-Claudian emperors would use this connection to assert their power.


Jennifer Lantrip


Works Cited

Accessed March 12, 2015.
Morford, Mark P. O., and Robert J. Lenardon. Classical Mythology. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.
Suetonius, and Catharine Edwards. “The Deified Julius Caesar.” In Lives of the Caesars. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.


Ares, son of Zeus and Hera, is god of warfare. In the Roman pantheon, he is known as Mars. He personifies the brutal, animalistic violence of war. Ares was not a very well liked or widely worshipped god, unlike his Roman counter-part, who was only slightly more liked. He is often portrayed with Fear, Terror, and Discord, represented by his sons, Phobos and Deimos, and his sister, Enyo, respectively. Ares often makes rash and intuitive decisions that often lead him to defeat and humiliation. Unlike Athena, the goddess of strategic warfare, Ares is known for not thinking things through and rushing into battle head-on. He is mostly depicted bearded, young, and dressed for battle. His lack of distinctive features can make him difficult to identify.

Ares has many great adventures in Greek mythology. Some – most notably the Trojan War – end in failure and humiliation, as depicted in Homer’s Iliad. Initially siding his mother and sister, Hera and Athena, to fight with the Greeks, Ares was convinced by his lover, Aphrodite, to back the Trojans instead. This, of course, incurred the fury of Athena and Hera. During the battle, Ares lost his son, Askalaphos, to Deiphobos of Troy. Once Zeus allows the gods to join the battle on whichever side they pleased, Ares finally enters the battlefield and is joined by his Amazon daughter, Penthesileia. However, she is quickly slain by Achilles. When Ares and Athena finally met on the field, Ares is defeated and led away by Aphrodite.

For all his rash violence, nobody can question Ares’ love for his children and his demand for justice. When Poseidon’s son, Halirrhothius, raped Ares’ daughter, Aclippe, Ares sought revenge and killed Halirrhothius. Ares was taken to trial held on the hill Acropolis in Athens. In the end, Ares was acquitted.

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Paolo Alessandro Maffei’s drawing of the Ludovisi Ares sculpture shows a seated Ares holding his sword and resting his foot on his helmet. In the original sculpture, it is the figure of Cupid at Ares’ feet, not his helmet. Cupid’s presence indicates that the sculpture could be a romantic gift or some symbolism of softness contrasted with Ares’ harshness. The replacement of Cupid with a helmet completely eradicates the idea of any romance and instead places Ares in his natural combative habitat. Perhaps this is the moment before or after battle, where Ares sits in contemplation.


– Bridget O’Hara

Works Cited


Encyclopedia Brittanica. “Ares.” August 6, 2013. Accessed March 11, 2015.


“Collection Object Details.” British Museum. Accessed March 12, 2015.

Artemis and Diana: The Goddess of the Hunt

Artemis (Diana in Roman mythology) was the virgin goddess of the hunt, wild animals, chastity, the moon, and childbirth (to a lesser extent). She was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, a titan, as well as the twin sister of Apollo. She was an Olympian goddess, and was extremely important in several parts of the ancient Greek religion. She is described in Homeric Hymn 27 as “Artemis of the gold shafts […] the modest virgin, the deer-shooter profuse of arrows, own sister to Apollo of the golden sword,” (Homer 209).

She was a popular patron goddess of agrarian areas, due to her association with the wilderness. Artemis was worshipped in many places, but her sanctuary at Brauron was one of the paramount sites. Many young Athenian girls were sent there to participate in a ritual called the arkteia. The arkteia prepared these girls, between 7 to 10 years of age, for puberty and marriage and the transition into being a woman. Because of this, Artemis was also considered a goddess of rites of passage. In Greek myth, Artemis defended her chastity so thoroughly, that when Actaeon came upon her bathing, she turned him into a stag so that his hunting dogs would tear him to pieces. “Tell, if thou can’st, the wond’rous sight disclos’d, a Goddess naked to thy view expos’d” (Ovid 3.192) she announced, before allowing his former companions to devour him.

Digital image courtesy of the Getty's Open Content Program.
Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

In the vase pictured here Artemis can be seen on the middle right, identifiable due to the attributes of the sacred deer and the bow in her hand. To her left is her twin brother, Apollo, and to her right is her mother, Leto. The god, Hermes, is standing on the far left next to Apollo. In Artemis’ right hand, we see her holding a crown of laurels, which is an important symbol of her brother. The vase is mostly depicting the family, who played a large role in the Greek religion. Both Apollo and Athena were seen as gods of puberty, though each for their own sexes, due to their association with rites of passage.

They are each represented in numerous myths across the years. Artemis was a friend of Orion, the hunter, the killer of Adonis and of Niobe’s female children, and the protector of both Iphigenia and Atalanta among others. She was heavily involved in the Trojan war, supporting her brother in his efforts to protect Troy. In the Greco-Roman mythos Artemis, Apollo, and Leto are credited for saving Aeneas: The man of legend who later founded Rome (Depicted in Virgil’s The Aenid)

It’s not hard to see why Artemis was an important figure in the Greco-Roman pantheon, after all the accomplishments she had, as well as all of the deaths that she was responsible for.

– Carly Gagstetter

Works Cited

“Brauron.” In Stoa. Last modified February 13, 2015.

Publius Ovid Naso, Metamorphoses, trans. Garth, S.; Dryden, J.; et al. London. 1717.

“Artemis” Encyclopedia Britannica Online, last modified April 17, 2013

Homer, Homeric Hymns, trans. West, M. April, 2003.