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Hesiod

Hesiod was an early Greek poet, believed to have lived around the year 700 BC. From the 5th century BC there was debate about the priority of Hesiod or Homer. Most modern scholarship agrees that Homer lived before Hesiod.

Hesiod lived in Boeotia and regularly visited Mt Helicon, the mythological home of the Muses, who, he says, gave him the gift of poetic creation one day while he was out tending sheep.

The known details of his life are few, and almost all come from his own works. His poem Works and Days mentions that he lost a lawsuit with his brother Perses over their inheritance. However, some scholars have argued that Perses is a literary creation, a foil for the moralizing of the Works and Days. Another biographical detail Hesiod mentions is a poetry contest at Chalcis where he was awarded a tripod by the sons of one Amiphidamas[?] (ll.654-662). Plutarch was the first to state that this was an interpolation into Hesiod's original work, based on his identification of Amiphidamas with the hero of the Lelantine War[?] between Chalcis and Eretria[?], which occurred around 705 BC. This contest was the inspiration for the later tale of a competition between hesiod and Homer.

Two different, yet early, traditions record the site of his grave. One, as early as Thucydides, states that Hesiod had been warned by an oracle that he would die in Nemea, and so fled to Locris, where he was killed at the local temple to Nemean Zeus, and buried. The other tradition, first mentioned in an epigram of Chersios of Orchomenus[?] written in the seventh century BC, claims that he was buried at Orchomenus, a town in Boeotia. Later writers attempted to harmonize these two accounts.

The two surviving poems accepted as authentic are the Theogony and the Works and Days. The Theogony concerns the origins of the world and the gods. Works and Days is a poem of advice and wisdom, prescribing a life of honest work and attacking idleness and unjust judges (like those who decided in the favor of Perses). Hesiod is a major source both for knowledge of Greek mythology, farming techniques and for archaic Greek astronomy and time-keeping.



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