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date: 23 January 2020

Hymn (from Gk. humnos)locked

  • Warren Anderson,
  • Thomas J. Mathiesen,
  • Susan Boynton,
  • Tom R. Ward,
  • John Caldwell,
  • Nicholas Temperley
  •  and Harry Eskew


(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 ; Kanōn; Kontakion; Stichēron; and Troparion.

Warren Anderson, revised by Thomas J. Mathiesen

Pindar and Bacchylides connected the term humnos with huphainein, meaning ‘to weave’ or ‘to combine words artfully’ (as in the Iliad, iii.212). In the Homeric poems, however, the term itself refers to a bard’s narrative of the fall of Troy (Odyssey, viii.429, the only occurrence of the noun); in the Eumenides of Aeschylus (306, 331), it is a terrifying incantation; in Sophocles’ ...

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