Hesiod (750 – 600 b.C.), poet. He was born in Ascra, Boeotia, Greece. His family settled in Boeotia, after leaving behind Cumas, home of his father Dion. This transfer occurred due to the critical economic situation experienced by this family, his father had lost all his merchandise for a bad investment, so he had to go to the help of his parents in Boeotia. Actually, the situation was not much better there because they had to go through serious hardships.
Hesiod had a brother, Perses, with whom he never had good relations, this situation became more acute with the death of his father because of the distribution of the paternal inheritance. Apparently, Perses had squandered his part quickly and brought a judicial suit with Hesiod. The court of law agreed with Perses and Hesiod had to give him a fraction of his inheritance. This event was the inspiration to create the work entitled The works and the days, where it touches the theme of the just procedure among human beings so that the justice of Zeus triumphs.
Hesiod lived in a society dominated by a nobility that eventually acted and arbitrarily legislated, his family part of the small Boeotian peasants, who were struggling to acquire a piece of fertile soil. Due to this situation, Hesiod had to dedicate his childhood and part of his youth in agriculture and pastoralism in Naupacto. Once when he was in his hearing, they say that the muses, daughters of Zeus, appeared to him and from there he decided to dedicate himself to poetry. For Greek mythology muses play an inspirational role in the arts and music, each one handles a branch in both the arts and music.
Hesiod knew the Homeric poetry thanks to the wandering rhapsodies, his job was to proclaim or recite through the streets of several Greek cities Homeric poems or epic poems. His interest was such that he learned his trade, although he never managed to undertake a long journey. When he joined the circle of the rhapsodies, his poems were transmitted quickly. One of his most important moments in poetry was when he moved to Chalcis to attend funeral games in tribute to Anfidamante where he participated in a poetic contest that won. His prize was a tripod with two handles that he offered to the Helicón muses.
Hesiod and Homer were linked, although it is doubtful of the true existence of Homer, it is said that they lived at the same time, it is related that the two were rivals in a poetic competition, in this public vote in favor of Homer, proclaiming him champion with praises and joys, but the judges awarded the prize to Hesiod because his recital was dedicated to peace; while Homer’s had been dedicated to war. The poems of Hesiod have several differences with respect to those of Homer; those of the first reflect their own concerns, while Homer reflects his personality; Hesiod is inspired by his time and country, while Homer refers to the legendary past. Although not everything is divergence, they share the metric in hexameters, the epic language and the formal coincidences of the rhapsodic tradition.
His works began to be valued from the sixth-century BC. they were the object of study and veneration: the Greeks valued it as promoter and forger of its mythology, in the Middle Ages its two main works were copied abundantly, and in the Modern Age it was considered an important precedent of the first Greek philosophers. Hesiod is currently a good source to contrast the mythology of several eastern peoples. Another of his contributions is that he was the first compiler of the ancient Greek religion. He carried the entire mythological body transmitted orally and the most important thing is that it was interpreted from a moral and practical perspective.
His most representative poems are Theogony, in which he relates the genealogy of the gods of Greek mythology, and works and days mentioned above. Now, Heracles’ shield has covered a controversy because it has been considered a non-Hesiodic poem because of the great differences that this work presents with respect to the other two, although others claim that he was the author of at least fifty-four verses
In his famous work Theogony, Hesiod mixed several generations of gods, such as Uranus, Chronos, and Zeus, narrates a myth that has room in poems of the Near East, from the Hittite and Hurrian civilizations, these human groups are said to have possibly taken these myths of the Sumerian civilization. These myths are the Myth of the Celestial Kingdom and the Song of Ullikummi that present successions of gods in a violent way. This indicates that to read Hesiod is also to understand the mythology of the East. This influx can be related to your stay in Asia Minor.
Hesiod’s works are characterized by short, rigid and formal phrases, traits that help to give his poetry a character archaic. Together the development is more associative than logical, repeats and digressions proliferate without having a clear thread. In addition, it is characterized by making very intimate narrations as part of the poetic discourse and claiming his individuality as an author. His life as a farmer generates a vision of the world that is not idealized, seeing life as a sequence of effort and continuous work, for that reason he offers practical advice for the man in the field.
The works and the days, is a clearly didactic work that tells visions about agriculture, now this text contains great relevance because through it we can know the dynamics of the oldest society of the Greek mainland, because it talks about the peasants, craftsmen, sailors and small merchants who settled their economy in the system of production and barter. In short, in this work he gives advice on family administration, moral conduct, on fieldwork, etc.
Hesiod also shows in the work the dispute with his brother Perses due to the distribution of the inheritance, advising his brother to seek sustenance with the honest work of the cultivation of the fields, this is based on the myth of the two Eris. The poet questions the evil and concludes that the human being is the maximum responsible. In this text, he vindicates justice against the abuses and inequalities of the powerful. To refer to the misfortunes of the world speaks of the myth of the ages, and the myth of Prometheus and Pandora. It affirms that the justice of Zeus and the work will be the unique means that will solve the misery and the degradation of values that humanity suffers.
We see then that his works were and have been very important, after his death Hesiod was popularized even more. Unfortunately, he was in the shadow of Homer. Hesiod died in Ascra and his ashes were kept in Orchomenus, in this place he was honored as a great poet and scholar.