Ancient Hymns and Poetry for Athene

Homeric Hymn 11. To Athena

Of Pallas Athena, guardian of the city, I begin to sing. Dread is she, and with Ares she loves the deeds of war, the sack of cities and the shouting and the battle. It is she who saves the people as they go to war and come back. Hail, goddess, and give us good fortune and happiness!

Homeric Hymn 39. To Athena

I begin to sing of Pallas Athena, the glorious goddess, bright-eyed, inventive, unbending of heart, pure virgin, saviour of cities, courageous, Tritogeneia. From his awful head wise Zeus himself bare her arrayed in warlike arms of flashing gold, and awe seized all the gods as they gazed. But Athena sprang quickly from the immortal head and stood before Zeus who holds the aegis, shaking a sharp spear: great Olympos began to reel horribly at the might of the grey-eyed goddess, and earth round about cried fearfully, and the sea was moved and tossed with dark waves, while foam burst forth suddenly: the bright Son of Hyperion stopped his swift-footed horses a long while, until the maiden Pallas Athena had stripped the heavenly armour from her immortal shoulders. And wise Zeus was glad. Hail to you, daughter of Zeus who holds the aegis!

Orphic Hymn 32. To Athena
Incense: Aromatic Herbs

Revered Pallas, you alone great Zeus bore by himself,
Noble and blessed goddess, brave in the din of war.
Renowned and cave-haunting, you may and may not be spoken of.
Your domain is the wind-swept hilltops and shaded mountains, and dells charm your heart.
Arms please you, and you strike men’s souls with frenzy,
O maiden vigorous and horrid-tempered.
Slayer of Gorgo, blessed mother of the arts, you shun the bed of love,
And, O impetuous one, you bring madness to the wicked and prudence to the virtuous.
Male and female, begetter of war, counselor, she-dragon of many shapes,
Frenzy-loving, illustrious, destroyer of the Phlegraian Giants, driver of horses,
Tritogeneia, you free us from suffering, O victorious goddess.
Day and night, ever into the small hours, hear my prayer,
And give a full measure of peace, of riches, and health accompanied by happy seasons,
O gray-eyed and inventive queen to whom many pray.

Orphic Hymn 33. To Nike
Incense: Powdered Frankincense

I call upon mighty Nike, beloved of mortals,
For she alone frees men from the eagerness of contest,
And from dissent when men face each other in battle.
In war you are the judge of deeds deserving prizes,
And sweet is the boast you grant after the onslaught.
Nike, mistress of all, on you and your good name depends noble glory,
Glory that comes from strife and teams with festivities.
But, O blessed and beloved one, come with joy in your eyes,
Come for works of renown and bring me a noble end.

Hymns of Proclus 5. To Athene

Daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, divine,
Propitious to thy vot’ries prayer incline;
From thy great father’s fount supremely bright,
Like fire resounding, leaping into light.
Shield-bearing goddess, hear, to whom belong
A manly mind, and power to tame the strong!
Oh, sprung from matchless might, with joyful mind
Accept this hymn; benevolent and kind!
The holy gates of wisdom by thy hand
Are wide unfolded; and the daring band
Of earth-born giants, that in impious fight
Strove with thy fire, were vanquished by thy might.
Once by thy care, as sacred poets sing,
The heart of Bacchus, swiftly-slaughtered king,
Was saved in aether, when, with fury fired,
The Titans fell against his life conspired;
And with relentless rage and thirst for gore,
Their hands his members into fragments tore:
But ever watchful of thy father’s will,
Thy pow’r preserved him from succeeding ill,
Till from the secret counsels of his sire,
And born from Semele through heav’nly fire,
Great Dionysos to the world at length
Again appeared with renovated strength.
Once, too, thy warlike axe, with matchless sway,
Lopped from their savage neck the heads away
Of furious beasts, and thus the pests destroyed
Which long all-seeing Hekate annoyed.
By thee benevolent great Hera’s might
Was roused, to furnish mortals with delight:
And through life’s wide and various range ’tis thine
Each part to beautify with arts divine:
Invigorated hence by thee, we find
A demiurgic impulse in the mind.
Towers proudly raised, and for protection strong,
To thee, dread guardian, deity belong,
As proper symbols of th’exalted height
Thy series claims amidst the courts of light.
Lands are beloved by thee to learning prone,
And Athens, O Athena, is thy own!
Great goddess, hear! and on my dark’ned mind
Pour thy pure light in measure unconfined;—
That sacred light, O all-protecting queen,
Which beams eternal from thy face serene:
My soul, while wand’ring on the earth, inspire
With thy own blessed and impulsive fire;
And from thy fables, mystic and divine,
Give all her powers with holy light to shine.
Give love, give wisdom, and a power to love,
Incessant tending to the realms above;
Such as, unconscious of base earth’s control,
Gently attracts the vice-subduing soul;
From night’s dark region aids her to retire,
And once more gain the palace of her sire:
And if on me some just misfortune press,
Remove th’ affliction, and thy suppliant bless.
All-saving goddess, to my prayer incline!
Nor let those horrid punishments be mine
Which guilty souls in Tartaros confine,
With fetters fast’ned to its brazen floors,
And locked by hell’s tremendous iron doors.
Hear me, and save (for power is all thy own)
A soul desirous to be thine alone.