Hesiod's 'Theogony'

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13 Feb 2011
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CLA232 Men, Gods, BeastsMonday January 17th 2011
Hesiod Theogony
Gods as othersdifferent than the other kinds of others (foreigners, slaves,
women), because to the others they are superior, but to the Gods they’re inferior
Comparing ones self to the Gods is dangerous, because Gods are always superior to
mortals, and mortals must never forget that
So why compare yourself to the Gods if youre always going to come out inferior?
This is a useful form of alterity too, because it helps human beings think about their
limitations
Thinking about the Gods helped the Greeks come to terms with those limitations
and the hardships of human existence
Greek gods were uniquely good for thinking about humanity because they were both
similar to and different than men
The differences:
Gods have infinite power (over the land, over mortals (the hierarchy of god
over mortal trumps man over woman)
Gods live forever
Myth of Eos and Tithonus, Eos goddess of Dawn falls in love with mortal Tithonus
Eos asks Zeus to make Tithonus immortal, but she forgets to ask for him to have
eternal youth, so he ends up aging and shrivelling up
Gods and Mortals
Anthropomorphism
Imagining the gods in the shape of humans
Not only their physical bodies but also having human emotions, motives, and
psychology
Story of Sarpedon, a human son of Zeus, one of the great warriors of the Trojans,
struck by an arrow, Zeus looks down and sees his son on the battlefield perishing,
cant take watching it and wants to make him immortal, but Hera is wife says of
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CLA232 Men, Gods, BeastsMonday January 17
th 2011
Hesiod Theogony
course you can do what you want, but they’re human and thats what they have to
do, Zeus agrees and allows his beloved son to die
So, Gods and Mortals can be similar, but there is always that ultimate difference of
morality
Strange paradox: on the one hand the gods are very humanlike (flawed), but on the
other hand they are an immortal force for justice and order
The gods enforce morality but are not themselves necessarily moral
The gods arent moral role models for mankind
The Greeks thought that morality was up to human beings (if you were only being
moral because you were afraid Zeus was going to punish you, you really werent
being all that moral at all)
Nonetheless, there were some people in antiquity that questioned
anthropomorphism
Xenophanes : critic of anthropomorphism, says that gods were created in our own
image, a way to examine ourselves
Protagoras : man is the measure of all things
Hesiod, Theogony
Theo: divine, gony: birth
Celebrates the Gods with their genealogy
At the beginning, there was Chaos (a disorderly nothingness)
The poem tells a genealogy that moves us from this Chaos and nothing, to
everything
Why is this poem so exhaustingly exhaustive? Why does he need all of this detail?
Detail was what made a good poem in the time that Hesiod was writing (Late 8
th
century)
So, at the very end of the Dark Age, no literature, so oral poetry
Hesiod, we think, was an oral poet (so being able to give a lot of detail shows your
skill as a poet)
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