Book Club | August 2022: Hymns of Callimachus

Word cloud: Greek gods

At libations to Zeus what else should rather be sung than the god himself, mighty for ever, king for evermore, router of the Pelagonians, dealer of justice to the sons of Heaven?

For August we will be reading the Hymns of Callimachus.

There are six surviving hymns:
1. to Zeus
2. to Apollo
3. to Artemis
4. to Delos
5. The Bath of Pallas
6. to Demeter

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on Callimachus he was a “Greek poet and scholar, the most representative poet of the erudite and sophisticated Alexandrian school.” The article says that he was born c 305 BCE in Cyrene, North Africa, and died c 240 BCE. He worked in the Library of Alexandria and was a prolific author although only a few examples of his work survives; apart from these hymns, there are around 60 epigrams and a number of fragments.

In the introduction to his translation, Mair says that most scholars assume “Callimachus wrote his Hymns with a practical purpose, to be recited on real occasions of public or semi-public ceremony.” (p18). However, Britannica says “In the Hymns, Callimachus adapted the traditional religious form of the Homeric Hymns to an original and purely literary use.”

Here are links to some free online translations, but as always you can read any translation you wish:

  • Callimachus Hymns, translation by A.W. Mair, on to read online or download
    or to read online at
    Hymns 1–3
    Hymns 4–6
  • Callimachus Hymns. Translation by J. Banks, on to read online or download
  • Hymns and Epigrams, translation by H.W. Tytler, on to read online or download
  • Hymns, translation by W. Dodd, on to read online or download

Note that in some older translations the gods may be given their Latin equivalent names, for example Jupiter for Zeus.

We will start and continue discussion in the Forum, and meet via Zoom at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, August 30th.

Happy readings!