Tag: Hesiod

10. Works and days, by Hesiod c.700 BC

farm

Plot: Mostly a string of advice from the Poet to his wastrel brother Perses, on the ethical and practical benefits of hard work and honesty, in various spheres of life, including city life, farming, seamanship, marriage and social behaviour.

My thoughts : Apart from some mythological examples near the beginning, the bulk of the poem is a list of advice which became as tedious to me as it must have to Perses, who probably ignored the lot.

Like Homer, there is some doubt over whether Hesiod was the author of both The Theogony and Works and Days. While they are different in style and content, they do share some similarities, notably the poor opinion of women, sent as a curse by Zeus to punish Prometheus. This doesn’t stop the Poet from recommending marriage towards the end of the poem. Actually, if I was to have an opinion on authorship, I would be tempted to say that the first half of Works and Days could have been written by Hesiod, but the latter half is not as engaging and could have been tacked on from another author.

Favourite lines/passages

“By day, men work and grieve unceasingly; by night, they waste away and die”

but more cheeringly,

“Exhausting summertime has come, The goats are very fat, and wine is very good.

Women are full of lust, but men are weak, …. But at this time I love a shady rock, and Bibline wine,

a cake of cheese and goat’s milk, and some meat of heifers pastured in the wood …

Then may I sit in shade and drink the shining wine, and eat my fill, and turn my face to meet the fresh West Wind… “

Diversions/digressions : The brief mythological stories at the beginning mention Pandora as the woman who curses mankind by releasing all the troubles, worries and diseases. My children and I were very fond of the Japanese anime Cardcaptor Sakura which was a magical girl story loosely based on the Pandora myth. Mmmm, maybe I should have done an animation blog instead! 🙂

sakura

Personal rating : 2/10

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9. Theogony, by Hesiod c. 700 BC

hesiod

Plot : essentially a family history of the Greek pantheon of Gods and Goddesses, Muses and Nymphs, Rivers and Oceans, all manner of mythological creatures and personifications of good and evil, with the central event being the battle between Zeus versus the Titans. My copy was the Penguin edition (again!) which also includes Hesiod’s Works and Days, and the Elegies by Theognis.

My thoughts : If you love Greek mythology, this will be the bread and meat of your study. As a piece of literature, it is poorly organised, repetitive and oddly paced – long lists of names and histories, with detailed praise of only one or two beings (Hecate in particular)

Certain themes are repeated, notably the son rising against the father as foretold (Kronos castrates Ouranous, Zeus defeats Kronos), and the idea of swallowing the source of potential doom (Kronos swallowing his children, Zeus swallowing Metis). There were some stories that I wasn’t familiar with : Zeus’ battle with Typhoeus, and Zeus cursing mankind with Woman (!!!!) in revenge for Prometheus trying to trick him.

Given the weird and monstrous variety of children borne to some of the Goddesses (Medusa and her Gorgon sisters, the Harpies, giant serpents, the three-headed Geryon, Cebrerus, etc.), it is small wonder that Hecate gets such fulsome praise – one of her jobs was midwife!

Favourite lines/passages : see below

Diversions/digressions : okay, so I watch too much Disney, but I kept thinking of the animated movie Hercules with the battle of the Titans.

Titans-Hercules

Personal rating : 7/10 for content, 3/10 for style

Kimmy the Lit-Terrier’s rating : One big paws-up for Cerberus!

…... A monstrous dog
Stands pitiless guard in front, with evil ways;
He wags his tail and both his ears for all
Who enter, but he will not let them go,
Lying in wait he eats up anyone
He catches leaving by the gates of strong
Hades and greatly feared Persephone 

Next : the other sizable poem attributed by some to Hesiod, Works and Days