Hesiod's Cosmos

Hesiod's Cosmos

Hesiod's Cosmos

Hesiod's Cosmos

Synopsis

This study reveals the unity of Hesiod's vision of the Cosmos by reading both his poems as two complementary halves of a whole embracing the human and divine cosmos. In the Theogony and Works and Days, Hesiod, roughly contemporary with Homer, does not describe the deeds of the heroes. He provides instead the earliest comprehensive account of the genesis of the Greek gods and the nature of human life that became the foundation for later Greek literature and philosophy.

Excerpt

The present study constitutes a complement to my earlier work on Homer and the Homeric Hymns. My approach and focus here is similar: an examination of what I call early Greek theology. I mean by that term the speculation inherent in those works concerning relations between gods and men and, since those relations have changed in the course of time, their evolution to the world's present state. Unlike other ancient societies, the theology of the ancient Greeks was developed neither by priests nor holy men, but by the poets. These, in turn, did not expound dogma or religious doctrine, but recounted myths about the gods as well as stories of the famous deeds of the heroes of old. Heroic epic describes the actions of those semi-divine mortals who belong to an era prior to ours when a greater intimacy with the gods obtained. the narratives of the Homeric Hymns trace the evolution of the Olympian pantheon after Zeus becomes king of the gods. By recounting the origins of the cosmos up to the acces sion of Zeus in the Theogony and by explaining the age of iron in which we live in the Work and Days, the Hesiodic poems both frame and fill out the mythic history of both gods and mortals. Thus, they form part of a larger whole constituted by early Greek hexameter epos. Despite significant differences in style, especially between narrative and non-narrative genres, archaic epos presents a coherent picture of the way men view their gods and their relationship to them, which, in turn, constitutes a fundamental component of their understanding of the cosmos and their place within it.

The two Hesiodic compositions, both only about a thousand lines long, thus embrace both the beginning and end of the process of cosmic evolution. the Theogony offers an account of the genesis of the cosmos and the gods and culminates in Zeus's final and permanent ordering of that cosmos; in the Works and Days, Hesiod advises his wayward brother Perses how best to live in the world as it is constituted under Zeus's rule. These two compositions are clearly interrelated and in a sense complementary, the . . .

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