Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
Form: Hesiodos.
The earliest epic poet of Greece (next to Homer), whose writings have actually come down to us. Even the ancients themselves had no clear views of his date, some making him the contemporary of Homer and others even still older. He certainly lived after Homer, probably about the beginning of the Olympiads in 776 B.C. His poems contain incidentally a few allusions to the circumstances of his life. According to them he was born at Ascra in Boeotia, near He1icon, where his father Dius had settled as an emigrant from the Aeolic Cyme (Kume) in Asia. At his father's death he was involved in a dispute with his younger brother Perses about his patrimony. This was decided against him by the verdict of the judges, who had been bribed by the younger brother. Disgust at the injustice he had suffered, and a renewal of the dispute with his brother, appear to have determined him to forsake his native land and to settle at Naupactus. According to a tradition he was murdered at the Locrian town of (Eneon by the sons of his host, on a false suspicion; but, by command of the Delphic oracle, his bones were brought to Orchomenus, where a monument, with an inscription, was erected to him in the market-place. In ancient times a series of epic poems bore his name, and were attributed to him as the representative of the Boeotian and Locrian school of poetry, in contrast to the Ionian and Homeric school. Three poems of his have been preserved: (1) The Works and Days, which consists of myths, fables, and proverbs, interwoven with exhortations to his brother, who, having lost by extravagance his share of the patrimony, was now threatening him with a new law-suit, The poet here recommends him to abstain from his unrighteous proceedings, and by honourable toil to gain fresh wealth for himself. He therefore lays down for his guidance all manner of precepts, on agriculture, domestic economy, navigation, etc., and specifies the days appropriate for every undertaking. Although this poem is deficient in true artistic finish, it was highly valued by the ancients on account of its moral teaching. (2) The Theogony. An account of the origin of the world and of the birth of the gods, which, in its present shape, is composed of different recensions, together with many later additions. Next to the Homeric poems, it is the most important source of our knowledge of the views of the Greeks of the earliest times as to the world and the gods. (3) The Shield of Heracles. A description of the shield of Heracles, wrought by Hephaestus, to arm the hero in his conflict with Cycnus (q.v.), son of Ares. It is a weak imitation of the Homeric account of the shield of Achilles, and is certainly not the work of Hesiod. As an introduction, a number of verses are borrowed from a lost poem by Hesiod, of genealogical import,--a list of the women whom the gods had made the mothers of the heroic families of Greece. The poetry of Hesiod, although composed in the same form as that of Homer, never approaches it in grace and beauty. On the contrary, it is wanting in artistic form and finish, and rarely affords any real enjoyment. Nevertheless it betokens an important advance in the development of the Greek intellect, from the naive simplicity of its attitude in Homeric times, to the speculative observation of the world and of human life. It contains the germs of lyric, as also of elegiac, iambic, and aphoristic poetry.
Type: Standard
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