Charis and Charites

Classical Quarterly 18 (3-4):158- (1924)

On inquiring into the nature of the Charites one may be astonished at the disagreement of their compounding elements. On the one hand, they appear as the very representatives and even personification of gracefulness and charm, brightness, and joy; their name itself seems to testify this, closely allied as it is with the verb χαρειν besides the particular names of the most renowned Hesiodic trinity—Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia—that is to say, brilliancy, mirth, and florescence. Hence arose the Roman conception of the Gratiae decentes; hence also the widespread neo-humanistic idea, clothed by Goethe in the well-known verse of the Classical Walpurgis Night: ‘Grace we are bringing into life ….’ But, on the other hand, we discover the incontestable kinship of Charis with Charon, the ugly and sullen ferryman of the lower world, the still more amazing relation between Eurynome, the mother of the Hesiodic trinity, and Eurynomos, the horrid demon of decay, the vulture-skinned devourer of putrefying corpses in the Delphic Nekyia of Polygnotos
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DOI 10.1017/s0009838800007023
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