Hesiod (Greek: Ἡσίοδος Hēsíodos) was a Greek oral poet and is often identified as the first economist. His date is uncertain but leading scholars, favor the the eighth century BC for when Hesiod lived. Since at least Herodotus's time (Histories, 2.53), Hesiod and Homer have generally been considered the earliest Greek poets whose work has survived, and they are often paired. Scholars disagree about who lived first, and the fourth-century BC sophist Alcidamas' Mouseion even brought them together in an imagined poetic agon, the Contest of Homer and Hesiod. Aristarchus first argued for Homer's priority, a claim that was generally accepted by later antiquity.
Some scholars have doubted whether Hesiod alone conceived and wrote the poems attributed to him. For example, Symonds writes that "the first ten verses of the Works and Days are spurious—borrowed probably from some Orphic hymn to Zeus and recognised as not the work of Hesiod by critics as ancient as Pausanias."
As with Homer, legendary traditions have accumulated around Hesiod. Unlike Homer's case, however, some biographical details have survived: a few details of Hesiod's life come from three references in Works and Days; some further inferences derive from his Theogony. His father came from Cyme in Aeolis, which lay between Ionia and the Troad in Northwestern Anatolia, but crossed the sea to settle at a hamlet near Thespiae in Boeotia named Ascra, "a cursed place, cruel in winter, hard in summer, never pleasant" (Works, l. 640). Hesiod's patrimony there, a small piece of ground at the foot of Mount Helicon, occasioned a pair of lawsuits with his brother Perses, who won both under the same judges.
Some scholars have seen Perses as a literary creation, a foil for the moralizing that Hesiod directed to him in Works and Days, but in the introduction to his translation of Hesiod's works, Hugh G. Evelyn-White provides several arguments against this theory. Gregory Nagy, on the other hand, sees both Persēs ("the destroyer": πέρθω / perthō) and Hēsiodos ("he who emits the voice:" ἵημι / hiēmi + αὐδή / audē) as fictitious names for poetical personae.
The Muses traditionally lived on Helicon, and, according to the account in Theogony (ll. 22-35), gave Hesiod the gift of poetic inspiration one day while he tended sheep (compare the legend of Cædmon). Hesiod later mentions a poetry contest at Chalcis in Euboea where the sons of one Amphidamas awarded him a tripod (ll.654-662). Plutarch first cited this passage as an interpolation into Hesiod's original work, based on his identification of Amphidamas with the hero of the Lelantine War between Chalcis and Eretria, which occurred around 705 BC. Plutarch assumed this date much too late for a contemporary of Homer, but most Homeric academics would now accept it. The account of this contest, followed by an allusion to the Trojan War, inspired the later tales of a competition between Hesiod and Homer.
Two different—yet early—traditions record the site of Hesiod's grave. One, as early as Thucydides, reported in Plutarch, the Suda and John Tzetzes, states that the Delphic oracle warned Hesiod that he would die in Nemea, and so he fled to Locris, where he was killed at the local temple to Nemean Zeus, and buried there. This tradition follows a familiar ironic convention: the oracle that predicts accurately after all.
The other tradition, first mentioned in an epigram of Chersios of Orchomenus written in the 7th century BC (within a century or so of Hesiod's death) claims that Hesiod lies buried at Orchomenus, a town in Boeotia. According to Aristotle's Constitution of Orchomenus, when the Thespians ravaged Ascra, the villagers sought refuge at Orchomenus, where, following the advice of an oracle, they collected the ashes of Hesiod and placed them in a place of honour in their agora, beside the tomb of Minyas, their eponymous founder, and in the end came to regard Hesiod too as their "hearth-founder" (οἰκιστής / oikistēs).
Later writers attempted to harmonize these two accounts.
The legends that accumulated about Hesiod are recorded in several sources: the story "The poetic contest (Ἀγών / Agōn) of Homer and Hesiod;" a vita of Hesiod by the Byzantine grammarian John Tzetzes; the entry for Hesiod in the Suda; two passages and some scattered remarks in Pausanias (IX, 31.3–6 and 38.3–4); a passage in Plutarch Moralia (162b).
Of the many works attributed to Hesiod, three survive complete and many more in fragmentary state. Our witnesses include Alexandrian papyri, some dating from as early as the 1st century BC, and manuscripts written from the eleventh century forward. Demetrius Chalcondyles issued the first printed edition (editio princeps) of Works and Days, possibly at Milan, probably in 1493. In 1495 Aldus Manutius published the complete works at Venice.
Hesiod's works, especially Works and Days, are from the view of the small independent farmer, while Homer's view is from nobility or the rich. Even with these differences, they share some beliefs regarding work ethic, justice, and consideration of material items.
Hesiod wrote a poem of some 800 verses, the Works and Days, which revolves around two general truths: labour is the universal lot of Man, but he who is willing to work will get by. Scholars have interpreted this work against a background of agrarian crisis in mainland Greece, which inspired a wave of documented colonisations in search of new land. This poem is one of the earliest known musings on economic thought.
This work lays out the five Ages of Man, as well as containing advice and wisdom, prescribing a life of honest labour and attacking idleness and unjust judges (like those who decided in favour of Perses) as well as the practice of usury. It describes immortals who roam the earth watching over justice and injustice. The poem regards labor as the source of all good, in that both gods and men hate the idle, who resemble drones in a hive.
"Theogony," a poem which uses the same epic verse-form as the "Works and Days", is also attributed to Hesiod. Despite the different subject matter, most scholars, with some notable exceptions (like Evelyn-White), believe that the two works were written by the same man. As M.L. West writes, "Both bear the marks of a distinct personality: a surly, conservative countryman, given to reflection, no lover of women or life, who felt the gods' presence heavy about him."
The Theogony concerns the origins of the world (cosmogony) and of the gods (theogony), beginning with Gaia, Chaos and Eros, and shows a special interest in genealogy. Embedded in Greek myth, there remain fragments of quite variant tales, hinting at the rich variety of myth that once existed, city by city; but Hesiod's retelling of the old stories became, according to the fifth-century historian Herodotus, the accepted version that linked all Hellenes.
The creation myth in Hesiod has long been held to have Eastern influences, such as the Hittite Song of Kumarbi and the Babylonian Enuma Elis. This cultural crossover would have occurred in the eight and ninth century Greek trading colonies such as Al Mina in North Syria. (For more discussion, read Robin Lane Fox's Travelling Heroes and Walcot's Hesiod and the Near East.)
A short poem traditionally no longer attributed to Hesiod is The Shield of Heracles (Ἀσπὶς Ἡρακλέους / Aspis Hērakleous). This survives complete; the other works discussed in this section survive only in quotations or papyri copies which are often damaged.
Classical authors also attributed to Hesiod a lengthy genealogical poem known as Catalogue of Women or Ehoiae (because sections began with the Greek words ē hoiē, "Or like the one who ..."). It was a mythological catalogue of the mortal women who had mated with gods, and of the offspring and descendants of these unions.
Several additional poems were sometimes ascribed to Hesiod:
Scholars generally classify all these as later examples of the poetic tradition to which Hesiod belonged, not as the work of Hesiod himself. The Shield, in particular, appears to be an expansion of one of the genealogical poems, taking its cue from Homer's description of the Shield of Achilles.
The Roman bronze bust of the late first century BC found at Herculaneum, the so-called Pseudo-Seneca, was first reidentified as a fictitious portrait meant for Hesiod by Gisela Richter, though it had been recognized that the bust was not in fact Seneca since 1813, when an inscribed herm portrait with quite different features was discovered. Most scholars now follow her identification.
Mss. of Works and Days:
These MSS. are divided by Rzach into the following families, issuing from a common original: --
a = C
b = F,G,H
Mss. of Theogony:
These MSS. are divided into two families:
Mss. of Shield of Heracles:
These MSS. belong to two families:
To these must be added two MSS. of mixed family:
Mss. of the fragments of Catalogue of Women:
Hesiod (Hesiodos) was an early Greek poet and rhapsode, believed to have lived around the year 700 BC.
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Hesiod (Hesiodos, Ἡσίοδος), was an Ancient Greek poet. He is probably the second Greek poet whose work has survived; like Homer, his dates are not known for certain. As with Homer, there are numerous legends, none of which are supported by hard evidence. He may have lived around 700 BC in Askra in Boeotia, as a farmer. Today his writings are one of the main sources for Greek mythology, and everyday life in Ancient Greece, such as farming techniques, astronomy and ancient time-keeping. The complete surviving works were published in 1493, and by Aldus Manutius in 1495.
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