Wednesday, February 23, 2022


The Hearth

Pierre Hadot, "The Genius of Place in Ancient Greece," The Selected Writings of Pierre Hadot, tr. Matthew Sharpe and Federico Testa (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020), 177–182 (at 177, with n. on 181; translators' notes omitted):
The first sacred place in Antiquity is the 'home', that is to say, the hearth of the house; not the fire of the kitchen, but the sacred altar where the fire consecrated to the gods smoulders continuously. This is where the goddess Hestia is present, 'seated at the centre of the house', as the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite says. The hearth is thus in some way rootedness in the Earth, which is itself Hestia, the immobile centre of the Universe. But the hearth is also the point of contact with the higher gods, the point from whence the smoke of the incense or the sacrifices rises. Hestia is, nevertheless, not solely the figure of the Earth, but the figure of the woman who remains by the hearth, whereas the man will work outside.1 Our civilization has perhaps been profoundly marked by the poem, The Odyssey, which describes the pilgrimage of the exiled man who strives to come back to the hearth where the woman whom he loves awaits him: return to the native land, which is at base a return to oneself.

1 Cf. Jean-Pierre Vernant, Mythe et pensée chez les Grecs, tome 1 (Paris: F. Maspero, 1971), 124-170.
In the English translation of Vernant, Myth and Thought among the Greeks (New York: Zone Books, 2006), the page numbers are 157-196.

On "the woman who remains by the hearth, whereas the man will work outside," see e.g. Euripides, Electra 73-76 (Electra to her peasant consort; tr. M.J. Cropp):
You have enough in the outdoor tasks; my job is to keep things in the house in order. A worker coming in from outside likes to find things properly set up within.

                                                 ἅλις δ' ἔχεις
τἄξωθεν ἔργα· τἀν δόμοις δ' ἡμᾶς χρεὼν
ἐξευτρεπίζειν. εἰσιόντι δ' ἐργάτῃ 
θύραθεν ἡδὺ τἄνδον εὑρίσκειν καλῶς.

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?