Theogony: And, Works and Days

Theogony: And, Works and Days

Theogony: And, Works and Days

Theogony: And, Works and Days

Synopsis

This new, fully-annotated translation by a leading expert on Hesiodic poems combines accuracy with readability and includes an introduction and explanatory notes on these two works by one of the oldest known Greek poets. The Theogony contains a systematic genealogy and account of the struggles of the gods, and the Works and Days offers a compendium of moral and practical advice for a life of honest husbandry.

Excerpt

Hesiod is a less familiar name to the general reader than Homer, Aeschylus, or Plato, and no one would claim that he is as great a writer as they. He was nevertheless one of the most famous poets of antiquity, often mentioned in the same breath as Homer as the other main representative of the early world-view. His distinctive qualities were admired by some of the most sophisticated poets of the Alexandrian age (one of the most sophisticated of ages), and in general his influence on Greek and Roman literature, while not comparable with Homer's, was considerable. From the modern point of view he is fascinating for his mythology, some of which can now be traced back to Babylonian origins; for his religious outlook, in which constructive abstract reasoning coexists with traditional doctrine, quaint superstition, and prophetic fervour; and above all for the unique light he throws on the life and society of the archaic Greece in which he lived.

We have no exact dates for him, but we shall not be far wrong if we place his poetic activity in the last third of the eighth century BC. The eighth century was for most of Greece a time of growing prosperity, expanding population, and increasing mobility. Some of the maritime cities were becoming active in trade and colonization, sending their ships far to the west, to Sicily and up the western coast of Italy, and to the east, to Syria and perhaps occasionally Egypt. Contacts with the civilizations of the orient had been growing slowly since about 900 BC, and after about 770 they grew more rapidly. It is becoming increasingly apparent, with the advance of archaeological discovery and of the study of oriental texts in . . .

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