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Works And Days By Hesiod Essay

1466 words - 6 pages

Sometime around 750-600 B.C.E., the Greek poet Hesiod produced what is generally thought to be the oldest surviving Greek poetic works. During this time, Greece was near the middle of its Archaic period, a period of technological, social, political, and cultural innovations. This was the period in which the first true alphabet system arose, the system which allowed Hesiod and other poets like him to record permanently the oral stories and lyrics so important to Greek culture. This was also the time in which the Greek polis emerged – what is today translated as “city-state” – as a result of increases in population size. Hand in hand with the increase in population and formation of political bodies like the polis comes the colonization of foreign land which marked this period. Colonies arose all around the Aegean Sea and onto the coast of North Africa, spreading the Greek culture well beyond its homeland (Earth 128-131).
It was during this time that Hesiod composed Works and Days, a didactic poem of about 800 lines addressed to Hesiod’s brother, Perses. Works and Days is Hesiod’s way of telling his brother how to live a good and prosperous life. It is full of Hesiod’s beliefs about right and wrong, justice and injustice, the importance of a solid work ethic, warnings about the deceitful and thievish nature of women, and detailed instructions on everything from when to harvest the crops and take a wife to how to build your plow and dress during winter; it is also heavy in mythology and emphasis on the necessity of obedience to the gods.
Several themes are readily apparent throughout Works and Days. One important theme that Hesiod comes back to time and again is the importance of work. Perses has squandered his inheritance and come to his brother for money; instead, Hesiod gives Perses advice. Hesiod tries to explain to his brother that work is what men must do, that if he does not work, he will have no food. He tells Perses not to be a pauper, “Crouching in the homes of others, doing no earthy good/as now you come to me once more,” (lines 395-396) and that instead Perses should “Go work, you fool! It’s what the gods have set mankind to do” (line 398). He says to his brother, you must work so that you will not go hungry, so that “revered Demeter (goddess of the harvest) fill/your granary with livelihood” (lines 299-301). And in explaining why men were made to work, Hesiod touches on another theme of Works and Days, the woe that women bring to men. As Hesiod tells it, the first woman was created by Zeus as revenge against Prometheus from deceiving Zeus and giving the gift of fire to men against his wishes. In retaliation, Zeus had Hephaistos, the god of the forge, create from clay a mortal woman resembling the immortal goddesses. He had Athena dress her, and Aphrodite make her wanted by men (lines 59-66). Finally, he had Hermes place inside her “a currish mind and thievish character” (line 67). And then Zeus sent herb down to Prometheus’...

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