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Hesiod(hē`sēəd, hĕs`–), fl. 8th cent.? B.C., Greek poet. He is thought to have lived later than Homer, but there is no absolute certainty about the dates of his life. Hesiod portrays himself as a Boeotian farmer. Little is known of his life, however, except for the few scant references he makes to his family's origin and to a quarrel over property with his brother. His most famous poem, the didactic Works and Days, is an epic of Greek rural life, filled with caustic advice for his brother and maxims for farmers to pursue. The "days" are days lucky or unlucky for particular tasks. Works and Days discourses on the mythic "five races" (i.e., the five ages) of humans; the Golden Age, ruled by Kronos, a period of serenity, peace, and eternal spring; the Silver Age, ruled by Zeus, less happy, but with luxury prevailing; the Bronze Age, a period of strife; the Heroic Age of the Trojan War; and the Iron Age, the present, when justice and piety had vanished. Hesiod's systemization, especially the idealized Golden Age, became deeply entrenched in the Western imagination and was expanded upon by Ovid. Also ascribed to him are the Theogony, a genealogy of the gods, and the first 56 lines of The Shield of Heracles. He gave his name to the Hesiodic school of poets, rivals of the Homeric school. Homer and Hesiod codified and preserved the myths of many of the Greek gods of the classical pantheon.
See translations by Lattimore (1959, 1991), and R. Lamberton, Hesiod (1988).
Dates of birth and death unknown. Ancient Greek poet of the eighth and seventh centuries B.C.
Hesiod’s didactic narrative poems Works and Days and Theogony (Genealogy of the Gods) have been preserved intact. They reflect the view of life held by the Greeks at the time when class society was taking form. In Works and Days, the social attitudes of working farmers, oppressed by the clan aristocracy, are voiced. This is the source of the poem’s denunciation of social inequality, its elevation of justice to the status of highest ethical principle, and the celebration of labor as the basis of life. Along with practical advice on agricultural matters, expressing the life experience and superstitions of rural people, the work contains vivid descriptions of nature, apt proverbs, and parables. The Theogony is a forerunner of ancient Greek philosophy, the first attempt by the Greeks at a systematization not only of the genealogy of the gods but of the origin of the world. The poem concludes with a genealogy of Greek heroines, setting the pattern for the genealogical trend in ancient Greek literature.
WORKSHesiodi carmina. Edited by A. Rzach. Leipzig, 1913.
Théogonia. Text verified and translated by P. Mason. Paris, 1951.
Theogony. Edited by M. L. West. Oxford, 1966.
Fragmenta Hesiodea. Edited by R. Merkelbach and M. L. West. Oxford, 1967.
In Russian translation:
In Ellinskie poety v perevodakh V. V. Veresaeva. Moscow, 1963.
REFERENCESTrencsényi-Waldapfel, I. Gomer i Gesiod. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from Hungarian.)
Radtsig, S. I. Istoriia drevnegrecheskoi literatury, 2nd ed. [Moscow] 1959.
Burn, A. R. The World of Hesiod. London, 1936.
Solmsen, F. Hesiod and Aeschylus. [New York] 1949.
Hésiode et son influence. Geneva-Paris, 1960.
T. V. POPOVA