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These shrines might just be somewhat later than the Hymn. Even on Delus, however, the birth takes time. Jealous Hera prevented Eileithyia, the Figure 1 Apollo and Artemis among the Olympian gods, with Poseidon to the left of Apollo. Part of the Parthenon Frieze, ca. 440 BCE. Acropolis Museum, Athens. Copyright Photo Verdeau/Art Resource, NY. birth goddess, from tending to her rival; only after nine days of painful labor, Eileithyia finally arrived at Leto’s side. Firmly embracing a palm tree, Leto gives birth, and “the Apollo 24 goddesses around her are shouting loudly,” as do the human companions of a human mother.
Festivals are not just occasions for merriment, as the suitors assume: they give order and meaning to the world. The festival in Ithaca takes place in a grove, presumably outside the city. When Homer mentions a sanctuary, it usually has a correspondence in reality, provided, of course, it lies inside the geography of the Greek world. In the world to where Odysseus was blown by the storms, there are sanctuaries as well, such as the Posideion at the harbor of the island Scherie (Od. 266) or the sacred grove of Athena on the same island where Odysseus awaits the return of Nausicaa (Od.
But the need for an explanation must have arisen early, especially with an author such as Homer whose text was so important for the education and selfdefinition of the Greeks: already the rhapsodes who, in Archaic and Classical Greece, recited their Homer from memory, were asked questions about the meaning of strange words in their text. They had to have answers; they were, after all, public personalities. The epithet Smintheus, as the learned commentators tell us, would derive from the word for mouse in the local dialect.