In ancient times, a hymn was called a song of praise to the deities. Over time, hymns began to be used to praise public figures, rulers, as revolutionary songs and national symbols. This is one of the artistic forms that underlie the development of literature in general.
Regardless of the subject matter, all hymns have common characteristics. They are characterized by an appeal to the glorified object, comparison and description of its merits, often hyperbolic, metaphorical images, enumeration of feats or miracles.
Historically, this genre flourished at a time when religion assumed a dominant role in the life of society. Also, hymns were composed in an era of economic, and then moral decline, when interest in mysticism increased.
Hymns were widespread in the literature of the ancient East. The oldest literary monument is the Rig Veda (Veda of hymns) - a collection of more than a thousand hymns that originally existed only orally and were passed down from generation to generation.
In Greece and Rome, religious hymns are not so significant, but nevertheless they exist in poetry. Hymns were included in the content of tragedies, and they were dominated by the epic component. For this reason, sometimes such works became exclusively fictional. In addition, in Greece and Rome, hymns were composed on the occasion of major holidays and the merits of public figures.
The flourishing of the hymn form took place in the era of early Christianity. Hymns were especially actively used in Byzantium. Later, together with Christianity, the hymn penetrated into the Slavic culture.
New motives appeared in hymns during the Renaissance. Songs of praise were saturated with pantheistic imagery. Participating in the reformation movements, representatives of the urban bourgeoisie remade Catholic hymns, creating propaganda works on their basis.
Due to the fact that the hymns were used as a "battle song", national hymns appeared - solemn, but already freed from religious content. They could reflect revolutionary sentiments ("Marseillaise") or, on the contrary, serve as an example of official court poetry (God save the King). Along with such works, there were also parody forms of hymns, in a solemn pathos form presenting comic content.
Together with the flag and coat of arms, the anthem is a national symbol. The first widely known national anthem was God Save the King. However, it was not approved as an official one. Despite this, on the basis of his melody, the first anthems of many states were created (including the Russian "God Save the Tsar"). After the national anthems began to be approved by the government, most of them received their own, unique melody.