Apollon and Hermes

I have noted before that in Asia Minor that the regional cults in which Leto was lauded with her twins (and Leto herself comparable to the great mother there, or Rhea in Hellenic terms) ran parallel to other regions in which Cybele was lauded with Hekate and Hermes. I have suggested in other posts that the relationship of Artemis and Hekate and the preference for one or the other often tended to be regional. I would suggest in some cases it may be true of Apollon and Hermes as well in some matters, where in other matters they are entirely complimentary and appear to be working in a cooperative constant flow.

Herding, Music and the Arts of Civilization:
In the matter of herding we have as per the hymns the situation where Apollon traded his herding staff and whip to Hermes in exchange for the pipes and lyre, both of which were inventions of Hermes. Nonetheless, despite this exchange of goods, we do not see the giving over the domain but rather a symbolic cross over in their sharing. Apollon did not magically cease being a god of the herds and divine shepherd. We see his role as divine shepherd highlighted by his son Aristaios who was likewise addressed as the shepherd Apollon for his herding specialty. In fact herding is one of part of the significant presence of civilization. Aristaios furthered this by providing further wealth and benefit of herding through cheese and honey (apiary…bee herding/raising is kind of awkwardly put in the classification).  Music is not apart from herding as we find that herders have often been among the most culturally established of musicians as they coax by song their charges to rest. From this humble area music becomes a highlight of civilization and civilized contest as an orderer of thought. Certainly the complexity of music, and even its mathematical attributions as we see in Pythagorean theorem would classify music alongside the arts that rise as the hallmark of civilization, whereas others such as Astronomy would have common classic roots on the herder/navigator/planter lifestyles of civilized existence in which observation of the heavens mapped out the seasons and appropriate times for activity. That Apollon was lord of the shepherd staff, god of the goad, is not detracted at all by Hermes as god of shepherds and caretaker of flocks anymore than it does the same against Pan.  Likewise Hermes too continues to be a musical god and benevolent gifter towards musicians. I do not even think it can be divided between “courtly/city music” and “country/peasant music” as these gods are not constrained to such environmental oppositions to each other. Apollon is as much a god of the wild lands as he has in his keeping cities. In fact it may be as a god of the wilderness who gifts the civilized arts that we can best understand him as a protector of civilization against the threats of the wilderness (such as slaying mice, wolves and locusts that prey and crops and livestock which are also his). And Hermes too is very much both a god of the rural life and the city merchant.

Divination and Logos:
Directly connected with their boons towards civilization through the arts and herding, both gods are intimately connected with divination (connected in one hand with the art of Astrology through observation of the heavens, and through observation of natural world) and with Logos (speech). In this case however there appears to be some slight variance of distinction between them.
In the case of divination, Apollon instructs Hermes in the Homeric Hymn where he may gain access to matters of diving through understand of the natural world by being taught by Apollon’s own bee nurses the Thryaie. However, the way of the oracle is utterly closed to Hermes as this was specifically allotted to Apollon’s charge. Only Apollon could reveal in perfection the absolute and divine hidden will of Zeus and the gods. This may very well be attached directly to their own placement in association with Logos. Apollon is Logos as truth, whereas Hermes is associated with Logos by way of persuasive speech. Hermes is far less concerned with truth and more towards  “selling his point.” It could be argued that the persuasive nature of music can be attached to it’s parentage by Hermes too. Apollon, as truth, is the oracular god because he dwells at the purest vantage point of seeing in all directions, whereas Hermes hints at possible futures with signs that may persuade (or be persuaded by) certain outcomes.

Of the Streets:
Apollon and Hermes are both , more or less, gods of the way. This is both applicable in the ceremonial initiate procession, and also in the most literal terms of the city roads. Generally speaking Apollon is a protector of the road, usually in so much as a protector of where the road meets with the threshold of a place. He protects the place (whether that be a business or household_ from the potential evil that can come up the roadways. He is a god of the roads more in connection with traveling from one destination to another without being afflicted by evil. This is conceptually similar to Apollon and his role in war in which he is invoked to protector warriors against evils that may come up in warfare (such as personal harm). This is also applicable towards Apollon as a god of exiles sent abroad to make a new home. Hermes is a protector, overseer and provider of the journeyer himself, unlike the broad sense of Apollon’s protection against befalling evil. He provides for the overall wellbeing of the traveler that they arrive where they are meant to arrive and in good state, as well as the concept of the adventurer and explorer who set out without specific destination aimed for but rather for education and experience, and the ultimate drive of the soul.

Death and Underworld:
This brings us to my last main point. Apollon is the destroyer god, and therefore his influence along the sacred road is limited. His way extends no further than the tomb where the ultimate division takes place. In the age of heroes if this tomb was met in a heroic death then one could escape the common fate of men in the next life. Among initiates it was upon death that they would be selected to go to dwell among the blessed. Apollon is the lord of the tomb in this purpose, as the slayer of men. It is from his care that Hermes escorts his charges to whatever destination is meant for them, even as he escorts Persephone and even as he receives the divine babe Dionysos. Apollon is king of the world, but Hermes is guide between all worlds. Apollon takes company with the ghosts of the tombs while Hermes escorts souls to the next world.


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