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daimōn


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Etymologically daimōn means ‘divider’ or ‘allotter’; from Homer onwards it is used mainly in the sense of performer of more or less unexpected, and intrusive, events in human life. In early authors, gods, even Olympians, could be referred to as daimŏnĕs. Rather than referring to personal anthropomorphic aspects, however, daimōn appears to correspond to supernatural power in its unpredictable, anonymous, and often frightful manifestations. So, the adjective daimonios means ‘strange’, ‘incomprehensible’, ‘uncanny’. Hence daimōn soon acquired connotations of Fate. Hesiod introduced a new meaning: the deceased of the golden age were to him ‘wealth‐giving daimones’ functioning as guardians or protectors. This resulted in the meaning ‘personal protecting spirits’, who accompany each human's life and bring either luck or harm. A lucky, fortunate person was eudaimōn (‘with a good daimon’: already in Hesiod), an unlucky one was kakodaimōn (‘with a bad daimon’: from the 5th cent. bc). Centuries later, Christian theologians, concentrating on their negative aspects, saw in daimones the true nature of the pagan gods: they were the embodiment and source of evil and sin.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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