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Lecture 2

Week 2 - Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days

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Timothy Perry

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Week Two - Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days Monday, January 11, 2010 5:53 PM Hesiod o Don't know very much about the life of Hesiod (typical of the early authors) o Probably DID exist o Portrait we have is based on speculation Serious, older man (same way Homer is depicted) o Dates of his poems are 750 BC o Ancient Biographies of Hesiod Unreliable and most are anonymous Written much later than the time Hesiod lived Most information about Hesiod comes from his poems themselves and then embellish and invent details Almost always stress a rivalry between Hesiod and Homer (later tradition) Usually Hesiod who wins in literary tradition Homer is the greatest poet BUT Hesiod is always depicted as having won Therefore he was very highly regarded by later ancient Greeks May also be based upon a short passage in Hesiod's Works and Days when he takes place in a contest and wins a tripod, although there is no mention of Homer there o Hesiod, in his poems, is not an unbiased source of himself Increasingly argued in the modern scholarship that the poet of Theogony and Works and days invents a "poet persona", came up with Hesiod as a character Difficult to tell how much is invented and how much is autobiographical o Reconstruction of Hesiod's life: What we KNOW according to Hesiod Father moved from Cyme (Eastern side of the Aegean, Asia Minor) to Asera to escape poverty Not a fan of Asera during ANY season Father was presumably successful as Hesiod and his brother Perses engage in a dispute over their inheritance (Works and Days) Perses wins the greater share apparently through bribing the local aristocracy but is later reduced to poverty Hesiod presents himself as a small-time farmer, however, in his youth turned to poetry (Theogony) Theogony o What is a "theogony"? Theos (god) - gonia (begetting) Account of the origin of the gods Is also a cosmology meaning it tells how the ordered world came into being HOW? Hesiod's gods make up the comos, particularly true of the earliest gods when he is telling of the genealogy Increasingly the gods become anthropomorphic in depiction Gaea IS the earth in addition to having anthropomorphic attributes Hesiod's is not the only theogony and/or cosmology in the ancient Greek world Homer, for example, never gives a unified account of how the gods came into being or how the universe came into the being (because that's not he point of his epics) BUT he does allude to a theogony/cosmology His account is different than Hesiod putting different gods in the beginning Some religious cults had different ideas of how the universe came into being o Hesiod's theogony/cosmology is the most influential -- WHY? Writes very early and therefore authoritatively Lot of interest in divine epic around this time (8th Century BC), especially writing divine epic Later poetry of the Archaic Age focuses on the Heroic Age as Hesiod was viewed as an authority on divine epico Treated as an epic poem in ancient times (meets ancient criteria for epic) Language is written in the epic dialect Written in the correct meter (dactylic hexameter) o Epic in context as well (meets modern criteria) Serious treatment of the mythical deeds of the gods o Non-epic aspects Not solely narrative in structure, doesn't tell a unified story (broken up) Largely an explanatory story, is to give information of the genealogy of the gods Particularly explains and justifies the rise of Zeus Similar to Greek hymns, hymnic in structure as well as epic o Originality of Hesiod's Account Very hard to gage how original Hesiod was as he was working within an oral tradition Using traditional characters and stories that had built up through centuries However, oral tradition developed through poet's innovation Unknown how much Hesiod innovated as we don't have any earlier versions before Hesiod's account Assumed that Hesiod's version contains substantial original contributions in both content and the arrangement of the material o The Prologue Three-part invocation of the Muses (three beginnings) First Innovation: Lines 1-35, Second Invocation: Lines 36-103, Third Invocation: Lines 104-115 WHY? Accretion of different prologues, have them being stuck together by Hesiod? This is unlikely Three arguments for the integrity of the prologue (that Hesiod MEANT to have three invocations) There is very little overlap between the function
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