Friday, July 19, 2013


Together with Homer, Hesiod is one of the two fathers of Greek poetry. Although he is the putative author of numerous works, there are two that are considered to be authentically his: Works and Days and the Theogony. Whether a single person composed these two works remains a debated issue, just as the single authorship of the Iliad and the Odyssey is still an unsettled issue. Only a little is known about Hesiod beyond what can be gleaned from internal evidence. We do know that he bemoaned the hardness and unfairness of life. Humans were at the mercy of the gods, of the physical world, and of one another.

Hesiod had inherited from his father a small patch of land at the foot of Mount Helicon, the home of the Muses. His sheep pastured on the lower slopes, and drank from one of the sacred springs—the Hippocrene.
The Theogony is the main source of Greek cosmogony, covering the creation, evolution, and descent of the gods and the eventual hegemony of Zeus. Works and Days is addressed to Hesiod's brother, Perses, with whom he had a falling out over the division of their father's estate. Where Hesiod was prudent, Perses was profligate, and asked his brother for a loan. In reply, Hesiod composed Works and Days, which laments the injustice of society and the hardness of life—too many mouths to feed—but which also defends the dignity of labor. Works and Days also describes farming techniques as well as the key myths of Prometheus and of Pandora and the Ages— the alternative myths of the loss of the equivalent of Paradise.

In contrast to Homer, who addresses kings rather than ordinary persons, Hesiod addresses fellow farmers and other commoners. Homer and Hesiod, writing independently of each other, nevertheless agree largely on the constituents of the Pantheon, though they differ on emphases and details. Together, Homer and Hesiod constitute the equivalent of the Greek Bible. Hesiod provides the myths of creation and of the fall; Homer provides subsequent human history.
by Barry Powell, 30-Second Myths

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