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The kerykes /ˈkɛrɪˌkz/ or ceryces /ˈsɛrɪˌsz/ (Ancient Greek: Κήρυκες, pl. of Κῆρυξ, Keryx)[1] of Bronze Age Pylos 1200 BC, home to the aged Homeric hero Nestor and the Neleides,[2] are listed in the Linear B tablets as 𐀏𐀬𐀐 ka-ru-ke serving the 𐀨𐀷𐀒𐀪 ra-wa-ko-ri, the commander of armed forces.[3] In Athens, this office became ceremonial, functioning from the Leokoreion, a building site at the Dipylon Gate.[4] Linear B tablets[5] that refer to the keryx mention the office in context with 𐀁𐀔𐁀𐀀𐀩𐀊 e-ma-a2 (e-ma-ha) a-re-ja,[6] Hermes Areias, meaning either the Warrior, or the Curser (aras).


In Iliad, the Homeric epic, heralds serve heroic nobility in humble tasks, as cooks, fire-kindlers, wine-pourers, and waiters during feasts and symposia, as scavengers of corpses on the battlefield for cremation or as umpires during funeral games, as messengers between enemies, allies, and warriors during battle, as announcers of public assembly and as language translators (hermeneus), and in other odd jobs that earned them the rank of demiourgoi, public workers.[7] Their ubiquitous yet invisible presence behind the scenes requires concentration, for to understand what they did demands a shift in focus, like watching the black and white striped referees in a football game, rather than the players competing and scoring. Accordingly, demiourgoi alone demonstrate declining status,[8] hence the heraldic office itself declined in sanctity and authority,[9] even though its exalted status survived in archaic Athens.[10] Two of the most prominent kerykes were the Spartan herald Talthybios, and the Trojan herald Idaios, both being spear-carriers;[11] they were known by the epithet pepnumenō.[12]

By the archaic period 700-650 BC, Hesiod[13] identifies Hermes with the herald of the Olympian gods that has special control over the daimonic winged Keres in-flight into and out of Demeter Pandora, personified wine-storage jars blamed for all of the ills of humans, where only Hope lingered at the rim. She was Demeter Anesidora, one aspect of the grain-goddess at Athens who preceded the revenge-filled Demeter Erinys 'at Eleusis.The Homeric Hymn to Demeter (147) names her Maia, also the mother of Hermes Kêryx. The burial spot of herald Anthemokritos[14] helps identify the larger grave-mound of the Athenian Kerykes with the massive Tomb 9 along the Eridanos River outside the Dipylon Gate.[15]

By the classical period, the Kerykes, sons of Hermes, were one of the sacred Eleusinian families of priests that ran the Eleusinian Mysteries. They popularized the cult and allowed many more to be initiated into the great secrets of Demeter and Persephone, including the concoction kukeion, or kykeon. Starting about 300 BC, the state took over control of the Mysteries, specifically controlled by two families: the Eumolpidae and the Kerykes. This led to a vast increase in the number of initiates. The only requirements for membership were a lack of "blood guilt" (meaning having never committed murder) and not a barbarian (i.e. Greek and able to speak Greek). Men, women and even slaves were allowed to be initiated.

Kerykes (which means "heralds" in Greek), were also part of the ritual and competitors at the Olympic Games (see Herald and Trumpet contest).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ κῆρυξ. Liddell, Henry George; Scott, Robert; A Greek–English Lexicon at the Perseus Project.
  2. ^ Herodotus Histories 5.65, 4.148, 146–7.
  3. ^ Py Fr187, un219. Colin Edmonson, "The Leokoreion in Athens," Mnemosyne 17 (1964) 375–8.
  4. ^ S. Brunnsaker, "Leokoreiou=ra-wo-ko-rija?" Op.Ath. 8 (1968) 82–3; G. L. Huxley GRBS 2 (1954) 91 ra-wa-ke-ta.
  5. ^ Py Un219, Tn316.
  6. ^ Gulizio, Joann (2000), "Hermes and e-ma-a2:The continuity of his cult from the Bronze age to the historical period" (PDF), ZA, 50: 105–116
  7. ^ Homer Odyssey 19.135.
  8. ^ Bjorn Qviller "Homeric Demiourgoi," Symbolae Osloenses 55 (1980): 5–21.
  9. ^ Robert Mondi The Function and Social Position of the Kerux in Early Greece, PhD Harvard University 1978: 1, 87, 116–117.
  10. ^ Wm. Vocke The Athenian Heralds, PhD University of Cincinnati 1970.
  11. ^ Homer Iliad 7.281.
  12. ^ "awesome". Homer Iliad 7.274.
  13. ^ Hesiod Theogony 938, Works and Days 80.
  14. ^ Pausanias Description of Greece 1.36.3
  15. ^ Ursula Knigge The Athenian Kerameikos (1991) pp. 94–98.