Hesiod: Famed Writer of Ancient Greece

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One of the most ancient known writers in the Greek tradition was Hesiod. He is most famous for two works, but he is thought to have produced many more.

Hesoid bust

Hesiod is thought to have lived about the same time or slightly later than Homer and to have been a shepherd for a time. He did include some references to himself in his surviving works. Historians think that he came from Boeotia, an area of central Greece, and that his father came from Asia Minor. Hesiod mentions a brother, Perses, in one of his famous poems.

Hesiod is also thought to have been a rhapsodist, a professional reciter of poetry. His famous works are the Theogony and Works and Days. In the latter, he mentions that he won a prize at a poetry contest. Some scholars attribute to him another ancient poem, Shield of Heracles, an epic adventure involving the famed laborer. Through the years, some historians have attributed other works to him. He is also mentioned by name in other ancient works.

The Theogony references the origins of the world and of the gods, including the fierce battles for supremacy that took place between Uranus and Cronus and Zeus; the story of Prometheus, the giver of fire to humanity; and the birth of the famed hero Heracles. This poem also includes a catalog of rivers.

Works and Days focuses on the role of people in society, in particular the role of agriculture and the different kinds of work that are appropriate for each part of a calendar year. Among the topics discussed are farming techniques, timekeeping, and astronomy. The poet also mentions certain days on which it was considered lucky (or unlucky) to do certain things: "few know that the twenty-seventh of the month is best for opening a wine-jar, and putting yokes on the necks of oxen and mules and swift-footed horses ..." Also covered in various parts are religious proverbs ("A bad neighbour is as great a plague as a good one is a great blessing.") and advice on sea trade: "Another time for men to go sailing is in spring when a man first sees leaves on the topmost shoot of a fig-tree as large as the foot-print that a cow makes; then the sea is passable, and this is the spring sailing time." In this way, he is regarded as the father or the creator of didactic poetry, which aims to teach through moral instruction.

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