The Greek book of the week – Theogony, Works and Days by Hesiod
The civilization of Ancient Greece continue to fascinate the modern mind. It’s remote in time, and yet still close to us. This is partly because we owe to the classical world so many of the values and ideas which shape our society, literature and art, partly because many of the important moral and political issues which continue to exercise twenty-first century man were first addressed in the ancient world.
Theogony, Works and Days by Hesiod
Hesiod (c. 700 BC) is one of the early Greek Epic poets. Ancient authors credited him and Homer with establishing Greek religious customs while modern scholars refer to Hesiod as a major source on Greek mythology, farming techniques, early economic thought, archaic Greek astronomy and ancient time-keeping.
• Theogony is composed of around one thousand hexameter lines and is a unique account of the deities of Greece and their lineage. Hesiod claims, like many other epic poets, to have been inspired by the Muses and tells his audience that this happened «while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helicon».
• Works and Days. The Works refer to the happenings of the farming year, and the Days record the days of the month on which it is either lucky or unlucky to do certain things. The poem begins with an appeal to the Muses, but then goes on to address Hesiod’s brother, Perses, urging him to put aside their dispute: «Perses, lay these things in your heart, and do not let that Strife who delights in mischief hold your heart back from work…».
In exploring the ancients we learn something about ourselves as well because the emotions generated and the dilemmas of judgment forced upon the characters are timeless and integral parts of the human condition.