Hesiod was a Greek poet who most likely lived between the years 800 and 650 B.C. However, the exact date is unknown since there is no official record of his birthdate. Alongside Homer, Hesiod, through his writing, had a major influence on Greek mythology and Greek lifestyles.
Though his poems are drastically shorter than Homer’s, they are still considered to be epics because of their content. Hesiod’s works are some of the earliest epic poems to have survived from ancient times. He is also very well known for being an economic philosopher whose literary works contained important economic themes.
Life of Hesiod
He grew up in Boeotia, a town centrally located in Greece. He found inspiration for his work from muses. The muses appeared to him in his dreams. They sang of demigods and heroes. Hesiod’s most influential works were “Theogony” and “Works and Days”. After completing his two epics, they gained popularity. Hesiod was invited to attend contests, funerals, and other events where his poetry would be recited or honored. Similar to most aspects of his life, Hesiod’s death is up to speculation. It was theorized that he might have been murdered in his home district, or alternatively, was buried in a temple.
About Hesiod’s Theogeny
The epic poem “Theogony” discussed the creation and history of the Greek gods. The poem begins with Gaia, Eros, and Chaos. Gaia gives birth to Uranus, the mountains, and Pontus. The next part of the story focuses on Uranus and his son Chronus. Chronus attempts to overthrow Uranus and successfully does so until Zeus takes power. The relationships between the deities is a main theme of the epic, alongside corruption and rebellion. Hesiod’s beliefs in Zeus’ strength is apparent in the poem.
Although Hesiod is deemed the official author of “Theogony”, there have been disputes in regards to if Hesiod truly wrote the poem. After much debate, it was decided that he was the main author. There are certain sections that some scholars believe were written by other poets.
Hesiod’s Works and Days
This epic poem is focused on the peasant life in Ancient Greece and contains many important economic themes. The poem is addressed to Hesiod’s brother, Perses, who is seeking to gain more wealth in a dishonest way. The theme of the epic is honesty and morals. The beginning of the poem tells of Pandora. Pandora opens up a box and unleashes evil onto humanity for all eternity.
The second part discusses how Perses and the authoritative figures of Greece should work hard instead of relying on bribery to obtain wealth. Hesiod goes into further detail in regards to the types of work that are best for Greece during each part of the calendar year. He also discusses an economic concept that suggests that healthy competition is good for a culture and for the economy.
Hesiod is considered one of the most influential poets ever to have lived and he is also considered to be an economic philosopher. Homer, another great Greek poet, glorified times in Greece whereas Hesiod presented a more realistic view. For more information about Hesiod, please watch Episode 9 of the Greek Guide to Greatness, which focuses on this poet and philosopher.