1995-07-02: Works & Days and Theogony

Works & Days and Theogony (~800 BCE)

by Hesiod (ca 800 BC), tr. Stanley Lombardo (1943-)

The translation of Works & Days is appropriately colloquial to its rustic theme, even amusing. The introduction and notes (by Robert Lamberton) set the context and provide background of the poems, enhancing their understandability for this layman.

Works & Days was less interesting to me than Theogony. Clearly both would repay deeper study. In particular, I’m sure a careful analysis of Theogony’s succession of the immortals would help to support a comparative analysis of the nature of the conceptions of the forces of nature.

I initially sought out these works to compare Hesiod to Homer, upon learning that they were near contemporary. By far the most interesting aspect of this comparison is the degree to which (at least in the translations I read) Homer hangs together, and Hesiod is clearly an accretion of different works. It is far easier to believe in a single Homer than in a single Hesiod, or rather to believe that ‘Hesiod’ is the name of a body of poets, whereas Iliad and Odyssey are the works of a single poet (albeit a poet at the end of a long tradition). For this reason, I think it is less interesting than I had supposed to compare the world-views of the two works.

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