The personified necessity of death (Κήρ, Kēr, or Κῆρες Δανάτοιο, Kēres Danatoio). The passages in the Homeric poems in which the Cer (Κήρ) or Ceres (Κῆρες) appear as real personifications, are not very numerous,1 and in most cases the word may be taken as a common noun. The plural form seems to allude to the various modes of dying which Homer2 pronounces to be μυρίαι, and may be a natural, sudden, or violent death.3 The Κῆρες are described as formidable, dark, and hateful, because they carry off men to the joyless house of Hades.4
The Κῆρες, although no living being can escape them, have yet no absolute power over the life of men: they are under Zeus and the gods, who can stop them in their course or hurry them on.5 Even mortals themselves may for a time prevent their attaining their object, or delay it by flight and the like.6 During a battle the Κῆρες wander about with Eris and Cydoemus in bloody garments, quarreling about the wounded and the dead, and dragging them away by the feet.7
According to Hesiod, with whom the Κῆρες assume a more definite form, they are the daughters of Nyx and sisters of the Moirae, and punish men for their crimes.8 Their fearful appearance in battle is described by Hesiod.9 They are mentioned by later writers together with the Erinyes as the goddesses who avenge the crimes of men.10 Epidemic diseases are sometimes personified as Κῆρες.11
The Keres were depicted a women with fangs and talons, and clothed in garments stained by human blood. They drag the dead and wounded about on the battlefield.
- Iliad ii, 302; iii, 454; xviii, 535.
- 2.ibid. xii, 326.
- 3 Odyssey xii, 171 ff., 398 ff.
- Iliad ii, 859; iii, 454; Odyssey iii, 410; xiv, 207.
- Iliad xii, 402, xviii; 115, iv, 11; Odyssey xii, 397.
- Iliad iii, 32; xvi, 47.
- ibid. xviii, 535 ff.
- Theogony, 211, 217; Pausanias. Description of Greece v, 19.1.
- Shield of Heracles, 249 ff.
- Aeschylus. Seven Against Thebes, 1055; comp. Apollonius Rhodius. Argonautica iv, 1665 ff.
- Orphic Hymn 13, 12; 66, 4; Lith., vii, 6; Eustathius on Homer, p. 847.
- Smith, William. (1870). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. London: Taylor, Walton, and Maberly.
This article incorporates text from Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (1870) by William Smith, which is in the public domain.