Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Theogony & Works and Days

Firstly I think Hesiod needs bit of an introduction as he is not as well known as Homer. Hesiod was an oral poet who it is thought, wrote in 8th century BC. He said he was given his 'gift' of poetic inspiration from the muses themselves as he tended his sheep in Boeotia.

His style is like that of Homer -dactylic hexameter. It is not as polished as Homer and he tends to go off of on one every now and then. The works that have survived which I am reviewing here, are very short, but nonetheless a very entertaining read.

The translation I have, is by M.L West, which is a fairly modern translation (1988) and I found the introduction notes most interesting. He talks about the problems of interpolation (dirty filthy hippy writers take note!) and also most interestingly, he talks about common themes between this and ancient Babylonian, Egyptian mythology, and more surprising Oriental mythology and influences.

My one criticism of the translation is, that the line numbers do not appear next to the text, but are rather summarized a the top of the page - which personally, I find annoying.


Onto the poems themselves, Theogony has all your cool bits of mythology. Such as everything coming out of chaos, Gods being put inside other gods bellies - or swallowing each other. War between Titans, god and man, Thunder bolts and lighting and more.

Essentially its a chronicle of Zeus coming to power and defeating Kronos and the Titans and the creation of earth and man.  As mentioned, Hesiod does goes of on one every now and then and you do find yourself suddenly presented with a list of gods/goddesses/nymphs thrown in every now and then. In the one thousand and twenty two lines of the poems, he gets in no less than three hundred names of gods and their qualities.

Works and Days

Now, this is where Hesiod starts really  jumping all over the shop. Part of Works and Days is essentially a farmers almanac as we find out what months and seasons are best for doing certain agriculture tasks. We also get what days of a month are good for certain things such as the 11th and 12th are perfect for shearing sheep and gathering grain and the 4th is a good day to bring a wife into your house.

Now mixed into this, is a bit on sailing - though Hesiod admits he's not a sailor. Some astronomy, a feud with his brother who he thinks is lazy and got to much a share of his father's estate. The golden ages of man and, also of interest is the first ever reference to Pandora's box - or more correctly, Pandora's Jar.

Both works are an entertaining light read. Do not read the articles on wikipedia as they are dull stilted and make the works sounds tedious. They are far from that. 

Theogony and Works and Days (Amazon Link)
Online Versions

No comments:

Post a Comment


Related Posts with Thumbnails