(Gk. humenaios, humenaos; Lat. hymenaeus).
Greek wedding song praying for a prosperous life and a marriage of tender affection. Proclus (Useful Knowledge) classes the hymenaios and epithalamion in the general category of love songs (erotika) because they ‘sing of the circumstances of love of women, boys and maidens’. The hymenaios was sung at the wedding itself (cf Iliad, xviii.490–96; The Shield of Heracles, 272–85), while the epithalamion was sung to the newly-weds (arti thalameuomenoi) by a group of young unmarried men and maidens at the door of the wedding chamber. Proclus recalls two traditional explanations for the singing of the hymenaios: in commemoration of the yearning and searching for Hymenaios, the son of Terpsichore, who becomes invisible after marriage; or in honour of the Attic Hymenaios, who once pursued a group of pirates to rescue the Attic maidens they had abducted. Photius, however, prefers a more complex etymology: the term is derived from Aeolic dialect, where humenaiein is equivalent to homonoein, which means ‘to live together in harmony’ (Bekker, 321a15–28).
The hymenaios is characterized by the presence of a refrain and was certainly strophic. The exact form of the refrain varies; it is often ‘Hymen, Hymenaie’ but in any case always includes some form of the name. Hephaestion (On Poems, 7) provides an example from a hymenaios of Sappho as part of his description of refrains that occur within rather than at the ends of stanzas: ‘On high the roof – Hymenaeus! – raise up, you carpenters – Hymenaeus! The bridegroom is coming, the equal of Ares, much larger than a large man’ (Campbell, frag.111). Hymenaioi sometimes appear in drama for tragic or comic effect. In Euripides' Daughters of Troy, Cassandra incorporates the typical refrain of a hymenaios into her monody, but this may be intended to convey a sense of despair rather than the precise form and content of a hymenaios. The beginning of Cassandra's mad hymenaios (307–14) illustrates the use of a typical refrain: ‘Bring the light, uplift and show its flame! I am doing the god's service, see! see! making his shrine to glow with tapers bright. Hymen, O Hymenaios Lord! Blest is the bridegroom; blest am I also, the maiden soon to wed a princely lord in Argos. Hymen, O Hymenaios Lord!’ In Iphigenia in Aulis, the chorus (1036–97) refers to the hymenaios, but the absence of a refrain suggests that it is describing a hymenaios rather than singing one. Moreover, the dramatic effect is tragic because the audience knows there will be no wedding. Both of these are strophic, the latter with an epode. A fuller example appears in Aristophanes' Peace, which concludes (1329–57) with an elaborate antiphonal hymenaios for two semi-choruses and Trugaios in celebration of his wedding to Opora. While the innuendo and erotic word play of this example are perhaps exaggerated for purposes of comedy, the structure of the example, with its use of refrain and antiphonal choruses, accords with Proclus's description of the type. In addition to the wedding songs, an instrumental solo for the aulos, the gamelion aulema, was played at weddings, according to Pollux's Onomasticon (iv.75 and 80). Since the aulos was commonly used in processions and to accompany the chorus, a solo could well have been performed on the aulos as part of the wedding music, but it may have been a later addition to the traditional wedding songs. Unlike other instrumental compositions, the gamelion aulos music is attested only by Pollux.
See also Fescennini.
I. Bekker, ed.: Photii bibliotheca (Berlin, 1824–5)
P. Maas: ‘Hymenaios’, Paulys Real-Encyclopädie der classischen Altertumswissenschaft, ix (Stuttgart, 1914), 130–34
J. Quasten: Musik und Gesang in den Kulten der heidnischen Antike und christlichen Frühzeit (Münster, 1930, 2/1973; Eng. trans., 1983), 180–85
R. Muth: ‘Hymenaios und Epithalamion’, Wiener Studien, lxvii (1954), 5–45
A.J. Neubecker: Altgriechische Musik (Darmstadt, 1977), 55–6
R.A. Huddleston: The Wedding Songs of Ancient Greece (diss., Johns Hopkins U., Baltimore, MD, 1980)
D.A. Campbell, ed. and trans.: Greek Lyric, i (Cambridge, MA, and London, 1982), 136–7
A. Kauffmann-Samaras: ‘Hē mousikē sto gamo tēs archaias Hellados’ [Wedding music in ancient Greece], Archaiologia, xiv (1985), 15–28
T.J. Mathiesen: Apollo's Lyre: Greek Music and Music Theory in Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Lincoln, NE, 1999), 126–31
THOMAS J. MATHIESEN
(from Gk. humnos).
A term of unknown origin but first used in ancient Greece and Rome to designate a poem in honour of a god. In the early Christian period the word was often, though not always, used to refer to praises sung to God, as distinct from ‘psalm’. The Western and Eastern (Byzantine) Churches developed widely differing hymn traditions. This articles discusses the ancient Greek hymn, and the Western Christian repertory (Catholic and Protestant). For the Byzantine hymn and its various genres see Byzantine chant, §§9–11; Kanōn; Kontakion; Stichēron; and Troparion.
I. Ancient Greek
II. Monophonic Latin
III. Polyphonic Latin
WARREN ANDERSON/THOMAS J. MATHIESEN (I), SUSAN BOYNTON (II), TOM R. WARD (with JOHN CALDWELL) (III), NICHOLAS TEMPERLEY (IV, 1–3) HARRY ESKEW (IV, 4)