Two long works--"Theogony" and "Works and Days" anchor the collection. It provides nice insight into the classical Greek view of the cosmos, but it mostly seems like a reference material. I almost An interesting compilation of classic Greek poetry, readable mostly for historic interest. I almost preferred this for its ground-level look into Greek society of the period.
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No fragments which can be identified as belonging to the first period survive to give us even a general idea of the history of the earliest epic, and we are therefore thrown back upon the evidence of analogy from other forms of literature and of inference from the two great epics which have come down to us.
So reconstructed, the earliest period appears to us as a time of slow development in which the characteristic epic metre, diction, and structure grew up slowly from crude elements and were improved until the verge of maturity was reached.
The second period, which produced the Iliad and the Odyssey, needs no description here: but it is very important to observe the effect of these poems on the course of post-Homeric epic. As the supreme perfection and universality of the Iliad and the Odyssey cast into oblivion whatever pre-Homeric poets had essayed, so these same qualities exercised a paralysing influence over the successors of Homer.
If they continued to sing like their great predecessor of romantic themes, they were drawn as by a kind of magnetic attraction into the Homeric style and manner of treatment, and became mere echoes of the Homeric voice: in a word, Homer had so completely exhausted the epic genre, that after him further efforts were doomed to be merely conventional.
Only the rare and exceptional genius of Vergil and Milton could use the Homeric medium without loss of individuality: and this quality none of the later epic poets seem to have possessed.
Freedom from the domination of the great tradition could only be found by seeking new subjects, and such freedom was really only illusionary, since romantic subjects alone are suitable for epic treatment.
In its third period, therefore, epic poetry shows two divergent tendencies. In Ionia and the islands the epic poets followed the Homeric tradition, singing of romantic subjects in the now stereotyped heroic style, and showing originality only in their choice of legends hitherto neglected or summarily and imperfectly treated.
In continental Greece , on the other hand, but especially in Boeotia, a new form of epic sprang up, which for the romance and PATHOS of the Ionian School substituted the practical and matter-of-fact. It dealt in moral and practical maxims, in information on technical subjects which are of service in daily life—agriculture, astronomy, augury, and the calendar—in matters of religion and in tracing the genealogies of men.
Such a poetry could not be permanently successful, because the subjects of which it treats—if susceptible of poetic treatment at all—were certainly not suited for epic treatment, where unity of action which will sustain interest, and to which each part should contribute, is absolutely necessary. While, therefore, an epic like the Odyssey is an organism and dramatic in structure, a work such as the Theogony is a merely artificial collocation of facts, and, at best, a pageant.
It is not surprising, therefore, to find that from the first the Boeotian school is forced to season its matter with romantic episodes, and that later it tends more and more to revert as in the Shield of Heracles to the Homeric tradition. The Boeotian School How did the continental school of epic poetry arise? There is little definite material for an answer to this question, but the probability is that there were at least three contributory causes.
First, it is likely that before the rise of the Ionian epos there existed in Boeotia a purely popular and indigenous poetry of a crude form: it comprised, we may suppose, versified proverbs and precepts relating to life in general, agricultural maxims, weather-lore, and the like. The Boeotians, people of the class of which Hesiod represents himself to be the type, were essentially unromantic; their daily needs marked the general limit of their ideals, and, as a class, they cared little for works of fancy, for pathos, or for fine thought as such.
To a people of this nature the Homeric epos would be inacceptable, and the post-Homeric epic, with its conventional atmosphere, its trite and hackneyed diction, and its insincere sentiment, would be anathema. We can imagine, therefore, that among such folk a settler, of Aeolic origin like Hesiod, who clearly was well acquainted with the Ionian epos, would naturally see that the only outlet for his gifts lay in applying epic poetry to new themes acceptable to his hearers.
Though the poems of the Boeotian school were unanimously assigned to Hesiod down to the age of Alexandrian criticism, they were clearly neither the work of one man nor even of one period: some, doubtless, were fraudulently fathered on him in order to gain currency; but it is probable that most came to be regarded as his partly because of their general character, and partly because the names of their real authors were lost. One fact in this attribution is remarkable—the veneration paid to Hesiod.
Life of Hesiod Our information respecting Hesiod is derived in the main from notices and allusions in the works attributed to him, and to these must be added traditions concerning his death and burial gathered from later writers. He was forced by poverty to leave his native place, and returned to continental Greece, where he settled at Ascra near Thespiae in Boeotia Works and Days, ff. Either in Cyme or Ascra, two sons, Hesiod and Perses, were born to the settler, and these, after his death, divided the farm between them.
While his brother wasted his patrimony and ultimately came to want Works and Days, 34 ff. The only other personal reference is to his victory in a poetical contest at the funeral games of Amphidamas at Chalcis in Euboea, where he won the prize, a tripod, which he dedicated to the Muses of Helicon Works and Days, Secondly, Hesiod claims that his father—if not he himself—came from Aeolis and settled in Boeotia. There is fairly definite evidence to warrant our acceptance of this: the dialect of the Works and Days is shown by Rzach to contain distinct Aeolisms apart from those which formed part of the general stock of epic poetry.
And that this Aeolic speaking poet was a Boeotian of Ascra seems even more certain, since the tradition is never once disputed, insignificant though the place was, even before its destruction by the Thespians. Literature, pp. On such a matter precise evidence is naturally not forthcoming; but all probability is against the sceptical view. For 1 if the quarrel between the brothers were a fiction, we should expect it to be detailed at length and not noticed allusively and rather obscurely—as we find it; 2 as MM.
Croiset remark, if the poet needed a lay-figure the ordinary practice was to introduce some mythological person—as, in fact, is done in the Precepts of Chiron. In a word, there is no more solid ground for treating Perses and his quarrel with Hesiod as fictitious than there would be for treating Cyrnus, the friend of Theognis, as mythical. Thirdly, there is the passage in the Theogony relating to Hesiod and the Muses. It is surely an error to suppose that lines all refer to Hesiod: rather, the author of the Theogony tells the story of his own inspiration by the same Muses who once taught Hesiod glorious song.
The lines are therefore a very early piece of tradition about Hesiod, and though the appearance of Muses must be treated as a graceful fiction, we find that a writer, later than the Works and Days by perhaps no more than three-quarters of a century, believed in the actuality of Hesiod and in his life as a farmer or shepherd. Lastly, there is the famous story of the contest in song at Chalcis. In later times the modest version in the Works and Days was elaborated, first by making Homer the opponent whom Hesiod conquered, while a later period exercised its ingenuity in working up the story of the contest into the elaborate form in which it still survives.
Finally the contest, in which the two poets contended with hymns to Apollo , was transferred to Delos. These developments certainly need no consideration: are we to say the same of the passage in the Works and Days? Nevertheless, there is much to be said in defence of the passage. The story of the end of Hesiod may be told in outline. This place, however, was also sacred to Nemean Zeus, and the poet, suspected by his hosts of having seduced their sister , was murdered there. His body, cast into the sea, was brought to shore by dolphins and buried at Oenoe or, according to Plutarch, at Ascra : at a later time his bones were removed to Orchomenus.
The whole story is full of miraculous elements, and the various authorities disagree on numerous points of detail. The tradition seems, however, to be constant in declaring that Hesiod was murdered and buried at Oenoe, and in this respect it is at least as old as the time of Thucydides.
In conclusion it may be worth while to add the graceful epigram of Alcaeus of Messene Palatine Anthology, vii Helicon, comes a general exhortation to industry. It begins with the allegory of the two Strifes, who stand for wholesome Emulation and Quarrelsomeness respectively.
Then by means of the Myth of Pandora the poet shows how evil and the need for work first arose, and goes on to describe the Five Ages of the World, tracing the gradual increase in evil, and emphasizing the present miserable condition of the world, a condition in which struggle is inevitable. Next, after the Fable of the Hawk and Nightingale, which serves as a condemnation of violence and injustice, the poet passes on to contrast the blessing which Righteousness brings to a nation, and the punishment which Heaven sends down upon the violent, and the section concludes with a series of precepts on industry and prudent conduct generally.
Neither subject, it should be carefully noted, is treated in any way comprehensively. It is from the second and fourth sections that the poem takes its name. At first sight such a work seems to be a miscellany of myths, technical advice, moral precepts, and folklore maxims without any unifying principle; and critics have readily taken the view that the whole is a canto of fragments or short poems worked up by a redactor.
Very probably Hesiod used much material of a far older date, just as Shakespeare used the Gesta Romanorum, old chronicles, and old plays; but close inspection will show that the Works and Days has a real unity and that the picturesque title is somewhat misleading. The poem has properly no technical object at all, but is moral: its real aim is to show men how best to live in a difficult world. So viewed the four seemingly independent sections will be found to be linked together in a real bond of unity.
Such a connection between the first and second sections is easily seen, but the links between these and the third and fourth are no less real: to make life go tolerably smoothly it is most important to be just and to know how to win a livelihood; but happiness also largely depends on prudence and care both in social and home life as well, and not least on avoidance of actions which offend supernatural powers and bring ill-luck. And finally, if your industry is to be fruitful, you must know what days are suitable for various kinds of work.
This moral aim—as opposed to the currently accepted technical aim of the poem—explains the otherwise puzzling incompleteness of the instructions on farming and seafaring. Of the Hesiodic poems similar in character to the Works and Days, only the scantiest fragments survive. One at least of these, the Divination by Birds, was, as we know from Proclus, attached to the end of the Works until it was rejected by Apollonius Rhodius: doubtless it continued the same theme of how to live, showing how man can avoid disasters by attending to the omens to be drawn from birds.
It is possible that the Astronomy or Astrology as Plutarch calls it was in turn appended to the Divination. It certainly gave some account of the principal constellations, their dates of rising and setting, and the legends connected with them, and probably showed how these influenced human affairs or might be used as guides.
The Precepts of Chiron was a didactic poem made up of moral and practical precepts, resembling the gnomic sections of the Works and Days, addressed by the Centaur Chiron to his pupil Achilles. Even less is known of the poem called the Great Works: the title implies that it was similar in subject to the second section of the Works and Days, but longer. Possible references in Roman writers indicate that among the subjects dealt with were the cultivation of the vine and olive and various herbs.
The inclusion of the judgment of Rhadamanthys frag. It is therefore possible that another lost poem, the Idaean Dactyls, which dealt with the discovery of metals and their working, was appended to, or even was a part of the Great Works, just as the Divination by Birds was appended to the Works and Days.
The Genealogical Poems The only complete poem of the genealogical group is the Theogony, which traces from the beginning of things the descent and vicissitudes of the families of the gods. Like the Works and Days this poem has no dramatic plot; but its unifying principle is clear and simple. The gods are classified chronologically: as soon as one generation is catalogued, the poet goes on to detail the offspring of each member of that generation. Exceptions are only made in special cases, as the Sons of Iapetus ll.
The chief landmarks in the poem are as follows: after the first lines, which contain at least three distinct preludes, three primeval beings are introduced, Chaos, Earth, and Eros—here an indefinite reproductive influence. Of these three, Earth produces Heaven to whom she bears the Titans, the Cyclopes and the hundred-handed giants. The Titans, oppressed by their father, revolt at the instigation of Earth, under the leadership of Cronos, and as a result Heaven and Earth are separated, and Cronos reigns over the universe.
Cronos knowing that he is destined to be overcome by one of his children, swallows each one of them as they are born, until Zeus, saved by Rhea, grows up and overcomes Cronos in some struggle which is not described. Cronos is forced to vomit up the children he had swallowed, and these with Zeus divide the universe between them, like a human estate.
Two events mark the early reign of Zeus, the war with the Titans and the overthrow of Typhoeus, and as Zeus is still reigning the poet can only go on to give a list of gods born to Zeus by various goddesses.
After this he formally bids farewell to the cosmic and Olympian deities and enumerates the sons born of goddess to mortals. This conclusion served to link the Theogony to what must have been a distinct poem, the Catalogues of Women.
This work was divided into four Suidas says five books, the last one or two of which was known as the Eoiae and may have been again a distinct poem: the curious title will be explained presently. The Catalogues proper were a series of genealogies which traced the Hellenic race or its more important peoples and families from a common ancestor. The reason why women are so prominent is obvious: since most families and tribes claimed to be descended from a god, the only safe clue to their origin was through a mortal woman beloved by that god; and it has also been pointed out that mutterrecht still left its traces in northern Greece in historical times.
The following analysis after Marckscheffel will show the principle of its composition. From Prometheus and Pronoia sprang Deucalion and Pyrrha, the only survivors of the deluge, who had a son Hellen frag.
From the daughters of Deucalion sprang Magnes and Macedon, ancestors of the Magnesians and Macedonians, who are thus represented as cousins to the true Hellenic stock. Hellen had three sons, Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus, parents of the Dorian, Ionic and Aeolian races, and the offspring of these was then detailed. In one instance a considerable and characteristic section can be traced from extant fragments and notices: Salmoneus, son of Aeolus, had a daughter Tyro who bore to Poseidon two sons, Pelias and Neleus; the latter of these, king of Pylos, refused Heracles purification for the murder of Iphitus, whereupon Heracles attacked and sacked Pylos, killing amongst the other sons of Neleus Periclymenus, who had the power of changing himself into all manner of shapes.
From this slaughter Neleus alone escaped frags. This summary shows the general principle of arrangement of the Catalogues: each line seems to have been dealt with in turn, and the monotony was relieved as far as possible by a brief relation of famous adventures connected with any of the personages—as in the case of Atalanta and Hippomenes frag. Similarly the story of the Argonauts appears from the fragments to have been told in some detail.
This tendency to introduce romantic episodes led to an important development. Several poems are ascribed to Hesiod, such as the Epithalamium of Peleus and Thetis, the Descent of Theseus into Hades, or the Circuit of the Earth which must have been connected with the story of Phineus and the Harpies, and so with the Argonaut-legend , which yet seem to have belonged to the Catalogues.
It is highly probable that these poems were interpolations into the Catalogues expanded by later poets from more summary notices in the genuine Hesiodic work and subsequently detached from their contexts and treated as independent. The title seems to have arisen in the following way : the Catalogues probably ended ep. Theogony ff.
Hesiod / Homeric Hymns / Epic Cycle / Homerica
No fragments which can be identified as belonging to the first period survive to give us even a general idea of the history of the earliest epic, and we are therefore thrown back upon the evidence of analogy from other forms of literature and of inference from the two great epics which have come down to us. So reconstructed, the earliest period appears to us as a time of slow development in which the characteristic epic metre, diction, and structure grew up slowly from crude elements and were improved until the verge of maturity was reached. The second period, which produced the Iliad and the Odyssey, needs no description here: but it is very important to observe the effect of these poems on the course of post-Homeric epic. As the supreme perfection and universality of the Iliad and the Odyssey cast into oblivion whatever pre-Homeric poets had essayed, so these same qualities exercised a paralysing influence over the successors of Homer.
Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns and Homerica
Papyri No. O Oxyrhynchus Papyri 3rd cent. A Paris, Bibl. B London, British Museam clix 4th cent. R Vienna, Rainer Papyri L. C Paris, Bibl.