Measuring Authority, Authoritative Measures: Hesiod’s Works and Days 
Observe due measure: and best in all things is the right time and right amount. 
Hesiod, Works and Days 694
Ἥλιος οὐχ ὑπερβήσεται μέτρα· εἰ δὲ μή,
Ἐρινύες μιν Δίκης ἐπίκουροι ἐξευρήσουσιν…
Heraclitus fr. 94D-K
The sun will not transgress his measures. If he does, the Furies, ministers of Justice, will find him out. 
Ιf in Greek tragedy, the Furies pursue human beings who violate the laws of kinship—of family exchanges properly conducted, taboos properly observed—they pursue, in Heraclitus, the potentially transgressive sun. Fragment 94 of this pre-Socratic philosopher (c. 500 BCE) offers an apparent paradox, not so much in its use of mythological personae to formulate a theory of cosmic structure (a practice common to all surviving 6th century natural philosophy) as in its account of the relations among these figures. Throughout early Greek literature, the all-seeing and all-revealing sun bears witness to every action in both the human and the divine domains, functioning as the ultimate monitor of events that even the gods wish to conceal. Here, however, the sun’s own celestial operations are themselves subject to the scrutiny of the shadowy, chthonic Furies, irascible informants whose realm lies deep within the earth.
Why then, in Heraclitus’ book on the structure of the cosmos, are these dark and vengeful spirits imagined to oversee the movement of the sun? And equally puzzling, why is Justice concerned with the passage of the day? At the center of this conjunction of radiance and obscurity, of sky and land, of the ephemeral journey of the sun (who, as Heraclitus tells us in another passage, is new every day) and the eternal, inflexible reckoning of the Furies, allies of Justice, is the element on which everything is staked: measure (metra).
Heraclitus’s formulation posits terms, concepts, and problematic relations that I propose to consider in the following pages, in exploring the relationship of nature to morality within the context of the philosopher’s antecedents among the poets of early (pre-classical) Greece. I hope to show that in early Greek thought and poetics, both values and norms—whether proposed as “cultural” or “natural” or “divine”—are derived through and embedded in a rich discourse and figurative complex of what Hesiod invokes as “due measure,” which Heraclitus revisits here. For Greek thinkers of the archaic period, right order—in the cosmos, between gods and men, among humans, between men and the earth—is not, as it were, given
or transparently natural, but is rather in need of extensive poetic elaboration and explanation. For these writers, the processes and patterns of nature are read as a system ideally in equilibrium. Human beings are enjoined to model their behavior on, and to accord their actions with, the equilibrating logic of nature. That nature is seen to manifest such equilibrium, however violently its upheavals may appear at any time, is of course a feat of human cognition. 
The values encoded in the notion of measure thus involve a transference from the nature that is their imagined source, to the social and ethical order that is the explicit concern of such poets as Hesiod. To examine the reciprocity of nature and human values, I follow Heraclitus back to the tradition of didactic literature represented by the earliest extant Greek example of what is classified as a “wisdom” text: Hesiod’s Works and Days
, a poem from the Greek mainland in the 8th century BCE, which stands as the first Greek text we possess that is overtly and explicitly moralizing.
In contrast to the reticence of Homeric epic, which is free of narrative judgment about, for example, the origins and conduct of the Trojan War, the Works and Days
offers instruction on how to live an orderly and productive life. Hesiod’s poem imagines a personal dispute as the occasion for a meditation on ethical behavior and on the role of justice in the construction of social order. The Works and Days
, in some eight hundred verses, takes the form of a set of instructions delivered by the poet to his brother Perses, who, in the division of their joint inheritance (so the poet tells us), has unfairly seized an unequal share. In making his illegitimate grab, the poem complains, Perses has been supported by corrupt leaders (kings) who also function, as was customary, as arbiters and judges; both Perses and the judges constitute the poem’s purported addressees:
…let us settle our dispute here with true judgment which is of Zeus and is perfect. For we had already divided our inheritance, but you seized the greater share and carried it off, greatly swelling the glory of our bribe-swallowing lords who love to judge such a cause as this. 
Works and Days 35–39
In enjoining its audience(s), both within the poem and outside it, 
to eschew the fecklessness of a Perses and the greed of those in power, the poem invokes cosmic patterns of the natural world within the context of defining human nature and the human condition.
Notably, there is no abstract term “Nature” to designate the natural world in the literature of this period in Greece; the word phûsis
never appears in Hesiod, nor ever in this sense in Homer. 
What “nature” is and how it operates emerges from accounts of its specific, concrete individual elements, and from their presence in a range of tropes, including metaphor, personification, riddle, fable, and proverb. Nature is most often represented by the characteristics and seasonal processes of “the earth,” through which the poem figures questions of morality and social order. Thus the poem tells us that
Neither famine nor disaster ever haunt men who do true justice, but light-heartedly they tend the fields which are all their care. The earth bears them victual in plenty, and on the mountains the oak bears acorns upon the top and bees in the midst. Their woolly sheep are laden with fleeces; their women bear children who resemble their parents… 
Works and Days 230–235
Significantly, the man who is identified as practicing “true justice” is not a judge but a farmer. Because humankind must toil to earn a livelihood from the earth, farming serves, in the Works and Days
, as the governing trope for the human condition. The “Works” of the poem’s title translates the (plural) noun erga
, which in early Greek poetry specifically denotes agricultural work and also occurs with the meaning of “tilled fields.” The Works and Days
, however, does not aim to teach lessons about farming. 
In its concern with justice and ethical behavior, the poem uses the farmer to think with because it is through farming that humans are most immersed in natural processes, and the farmer is the human type who most obviously must accord his behavior with the exigencies and contingencies of nature’s patterns.
Although Hesiod refers to “true justice,” justice itself is never defined in the literature of this period; rather, justice emerges in the passage above as homologous with the order of nature, which it both generates and imitates. Nature cooperates with, as well as rewards, the man who does “true justice.” Here we see a crucial conceptual link: the order of justice and the order of nature reciprocally substantiate each other.
Hesiod’s account of the just farmer rewarded by plenty resembles the poem’s vision of life in the earliest phase of mortal existence, the Golden Age:
First of all the immortal gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Kronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: wretched age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they took pleasure in feasting beyond the reach of all evils…and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth of its own accord bore them fruit in abundance and unstinting. They lived at ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods. 
Works and Days 109–120
In what way can our collaboration with nature in that long-vanished past be reproduced through the efforts of the farmer, laboring in the here-and-now? What is the relationship between the world measured by days and structured by work, in which Hesiod’s poem plants us, and that golden era of spontaneously flourishing nature and proximity to the divine, in which aging—the passage of time—was not a burden?
From the very outset, the Works and Days establishes our relationship to nature by framing it temporally, locating it within a mythic history of the evolved human condition—or to put it another way, the poem represents the evolution of the human condition precisely as a function of our changed relationship to “the earth” and its productions. And indeed it is this change that creates the very notion and experience of temporality and the dependence of human circumstances upon it. The Works and Days presents both work and the day as governing conditions for our lives; yet both work and the day—our laboring condition and the temporality in and through which we live, work, sacrifice, reproduce, and die—require explanation. What is presented as given, then, must also be explained.
The Hesiodic tradition—encompassing both the Works and Days and the Theogony—is both cosmological and didactic: it accounts for the way things are (what is), how they came to be so, and what this cosmic arrangement requires of us. In the Works and Days, description and explanation shift almost imperceptibly into prescription; the “is” modulates into the “ought,” the given into the enjoined. Although Hesiod presents his narratives—the mythic content of the Works and Days—and his injunctions as equally authoritative, this modulation between mythic explanation and normative exhortation is not seamless: the coordination of explanation and prescription constitutes, in fact, the work of the poem’s measures.
For Hesiod, the discourse of measure mediates between the “is” and the “ought,” coordinating notions of timeliness and seasonality, as well as prescriptions for good conduct. The supreme ought of the Works and Days
is expressed in the poet’s exhortation to his brother Perses: “Work, foolish Perses! Work the work which the gods ordained for men…” 
This imperative marks not only the route Perses should take but also the condition human beings have had thrust upon them—for as Hesiod makes plain, human beings did not always have to work. The authority of the poem’s injunction to work thus requires an explanation, an accounting, not only of why Perses should work but indeed why we all must do so. It is not only that men should work; they must work, as human beings who are now subject to need. Hesiod’s Works and Days
thus conjoins a mode of explanation (why we must work) to a rhetoric of exhortation (work!).
For, as Hesiod tells us, it was not always so. From the description of life in the Golden Age, we learn that originally humankind feasted with the gods and lived as the gods do, without toil or sorrow or old age, sharing all good things that the earth shared with them. In the Golden Age, men lived in effortless harmony with the earth, in which the “ground” of their lives was spontaneous bounty. In that epoch, there was no need for work; scarcity was unknown, as were contention, “toil and grief,” and aging.
This glorious myth of origins is to be read as the negative image of the now
For the gods keep [the means of] life (bios
) hidden from men. Otherwise in a day you would easily accomplish enough to have a living for a full year even without working; immediately you could put away your rudder over the smoke, and the work of the ox and patient mule would be over. 
Works and Days 42–46
The circumstance that necessitates work also necessitates the explanation of both work and life: namely, that the gods have hidden from mortals their means of life—bios
is the term that designates both livelihood and life itself. The bios
of human beings—life, and the means of life—is concealed from them, such that they must discover both the means of life and the meaning
of it; they must learn where bios is located in the cosmic scheme—or, to put it more precisely, where it has been relocated. For at one time, the Works and Days
recounts, men and gods began on the same terms: 
…I will sum you up another story well and skillfully—and you lay it up in your heart—how the gods and mortal men sprang from one source. 
Works and Days 106–107
Now, however, the defining condition of human existence is not only that men must age, suffer, and die, but that first they must struggle to achieve their bios
. Men, moreover, must strive to understand the arrangement by which they and the gods now coexist; no longer is this arrangement self-evident.
Why have the gods hidden the bios
from men? The answer begins with a story of bad measuring, of distorted equilibrium, which provokes a quarrel between Zeus and Prometheus. Hesiodic tradition narrates the story twice. It has been demonstrated that the account of Zeus and Prometheus in Works and Days
presupposes and alludes to the version of the story as given in Hesiod’s Theogony
; it is from the combined accounts that we may assemble the entire narrative. 
From the two poems we learn that the unity of men and gods was disrupted by an unequal division of a feast that was held at a place called Mekone:
For when the gods and mortal men were making a division at Mekone, even then Prometheus eagerly cut up a great ox and set portions before them, trying to deceive the mind of Zeus. Before the rest he set flesh and innards rich with fat upon the hide, covering them with an ox paunch; but for Zeus he put the white bones dressed up with treacherous skill and covered with shining fat. Then the father of men and of gods said to him:
“Son of Iapetus, most glorious of all lords, my dear, how unevenly you have divided the portions!” 
Prometheus’ intervention on men’s behalf, whereby he misrepresents the shares to their benefit, prompts Zeus to retaliate by withholding the power of fire from men, reserving it for the gods’ use; whereupon Prometheus in turn steals it for men. As the Works and Days
But Zeus angered in his heart hid it, because scheming Prometheus deceived him; so Zeus devised calamitous sorrows against men. He hid fire; but the clever son of Iapetus stole it again for men from Zeus the contriver in a hollow narthex, so that Zeus who delights in thunder did not notice it. But afterwards cloud-gathering Zeus said to him in anger:
“Son of Iapetus, beyond all others in cunning, you rejoice that you have outsmarted me and stolen fire—a great bane for you yourself and for men who shall come after. But I will give men in exchange for fire [anti puros] an evil thing in which they may all take pleasure in their hearts while they embrace their own destruction.”
So said the father of men and gods, and laughed out loud. And he bade renowned Hephaestus as speedily as possible to mix earth with water and to put in it the voice and strength of a human being, likening her face to the immortal goddesses, a beautiful, desirable maiden…And he called this woman Pandora, because all those who live on Olympus gave her as a gift, a bane to men who eat bread….
…For before this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from troubles and hard toil and painful sicknesses which bring upon men their deaths… 
Works and Days 47–63, 80–82, 90–92
The autonomy of mortals as a group, their separateness, thus begins over an asymmetrical apportionment. Because of an unequal division, men must live divided from the gods; men must also begin their vexed relationship with Pandora and her kind. We may understand the Prometheus/Pandora story, in the Hesiodic version, as prompting Zeus to establish not only justice but a new mechanism for relations between gods and men, profoundly far-reaching both in itself and as an example for human relations.
This cosmic reorganization simultaneously moves men farther from the gods but, as it were, closer to each other; they become each others’ neighbors. Separated from the gods, they become (relative to life in the Golden Age) more dependent on the gods, but also on each other. All-encompassing consequences, needless to say, result from this situation, prominent among which is the development that, separated from the gods, men will now not only labor by themselves among themselves, but will, among themselves, attempt to rectify or overcome unequal apportionment, all the while perpetually recapitulating that original imbalance. Only through and over time—rather than within any given exchange—is equilibrium achieved.
Hesiod thus represents our mortal, laboring human condition not simply as a fall—an ontological change—but rather as a qualitative change in relations between gods, men, and the bounty of the earth. In the new mortal condition of separation from the gods, the previous model of commensality and sharing equally is replaced by a mode of transaction that will be the distinctive paradigm for relations at every level and in every arena of our existence: not collectivity and common property and sharing, Golden Age-style, nor theft, as practiced by Prometheus, but exchange. Zeus’ gift of Pandora “in exchange for fire” (anti puros
) or, as the Theogony
says, “in exchange for good,” 
is nothing less than the first, originary gift-exchange.
Because Zeus will now withhold natural fire—the thunderbolt—Pandora is given in exchange for fire. The emphasis on Pandora as a gift is reiterated a number of times throughout this passage; the Works and Days
names her and etymologizes her name in a line that means not that the gods gave her a gift, but that they gave her as a gift. 
In this exchange the gods get their unique and undivided status as immortals who receive sacrifices and live at ease without suffering or cares, and men get Pandora—and all the contents of her jar:
For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sicknesses which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds. But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils, and the sea is full. Of themselves diseases come upon men continually by day and by night, bringing mischief to mortals silently… 
Works and Days 90–104
Pandora is given to men “in exchange for fire”; now she and her kind will sear and scorch and consume men. As Zeus puts it, men will embrace their own ruin. In the Theogony
, Pandora is called a “sheer deception”: 
woman is an insidious subterfuge; a Trojan horse. But Pandora is also given “in exchange for fire” in another sense: in exchange for the pyre. Although men must die and be given to the funeral flames, through Pandora they will generate offspring and be provided with a means of overcoming that burning finality, that ultimate oblivion. 
In this way the Works and Days
explains that the quarrel between Zeus and Prometheus alters the terms on which the prerogatives of immortality will be accessible to men. Immortality for mortals will henceforth consist of fame through celebration in epic—of poetic immortalization—and of the capacity to reproduce their own kind, a capacity the immortal gods no longer possess.
Interestingly, how men were produced in the Golden Age in the first place is not clear, but that does not mean that it was a mystery; in Hesiod’s account their existence simply doesn’t require explanation. On the contrary, it is through the introduction of woman that one’s progeny (or the relation of progeny to paternity) can become a mystery, once the bios
is hidden from men. What has also required explanation, the poem attests, is the appearance of the race of women and of human progeny—that is, our contemporary situation as sexually dimorphic, reproductive, mortal beings. 
As inaugurated by the gods’ gift of Pandora, the dynamic of reciprocal exchange becomes fundamental to the condition of a redefined human existence, and is tied to the struggle for survival. Human existence, now for the first time, involves need
—as well as the need for explanation. Precariously dependent on cosmic forces and natural phenomena, men are obliged both to extrapolate patterns from nature and to impose them in turn, in the task of cultivation. No longer does the earth spontaneously bear for mortals what they need in order to keep themselves alive. As a sign of their difference from the gods rather than as a punishment, 
human beings are compelled to work—they must cultivate their food. In their changed relationship with nature, they now must contend with cooking and culture. The anthropologist Lévi-Strauss says of myths that sometimes “[they]…do not seek to depict what is real, but to justify the shortcomings of reality, since the extreme positions are only imagined
in order to show that they are untenable
From an anthropological perspective, the Mekone story is perhaps a prototypical example of such a mythic thought-experiment: why must we sacrifice? Must we sacrifice? “The mythic narrative founds sacrifice, whereby we transform our relation with nature (meat-eaters, but cooked meat) into our relation with the gods, which turns out to be founded on our failure to take advantage of Zeus (our because Prometheus is our agent, and ancestor as well). We commemorate this failure every time we eat meat, and suffer for it every time we labor, die, and have children.” 
The Hesiodic tradition thus authorizes agricultural work as the right relation of men to the earth, sacrifice as the proper exchange relation between men and the gods, sexual reproduction as the constitutive relation between male and female, and economic transactions as the relations required among men. All these relations require men to take the measure of their actions.
The definition of the human condition as a laboring condition is installed, as we have seen, after a crisis of bad apportioning, mis-taking, and mis-measure. The primordial conflict between Zeus, the greatest of the gods, and men’s agent Prometheus—the quarrel to begin all quarrels, which is responsible for the irrevocable change from the Golden Age—is the prototype of which the quarrel between Hesiod and Perses is a distant, but direct, descendant. The Works and Days
begins with strife (eris
), in a passage that serves as a programmatic introduction to the poem as a whole. The poet’s grievance with his brother purports to be the occasion for the poem, but the address to his brother, enjoining him to work
, is also, more broadly, an order that he desist from destructive conflict. What the poem introduces at the outset is not a particular strife; it provides instead a reflection on the nature of strife:
So there was not only one kind of Strife [eris
], after all—but in fact on earth there are two. The one Strife, a man would praise once he knew her; but the other is blameworthy: and they are different at heart. For one fosters evil war and conflict, cruel as she is: no mortal cares for her; but of necessity, through the will of the immortals, mortals give honor to harsh Strife. But the other Strife dark Night bore first, and the son of Kronos who sits on high, dwelling in the aether, placed her in the roots of the earth: and she is much better for men; she rouses even the feckless man. For a person grows eager to work when he looks at his neighbor… 
Works and Days 11–21
Hesiod tells us that there is not one strife, one eris
, but two—namely, the one that produces wars and violence and the one that produces work. He makes it clear that in a kind of mise en abîme
, the two strifes (or erides
) are in contention with each other, bespeaking their primal character: strife was always already there.
herself needs to outdo the other; so, for example, Hesiod insists that it is the bad eris
that is keeping Perses from activating her good counterpart. The personification of destructive Strife with a capital S (or Eris
with a capital epsilon) appears in the Iliad
, stirring up the contending armies on either side to a greater pitch of violence. But the realm of the beneficent strife (eris
) is adversarial as well: she does not exist to promote (so to speak) self-motivation or auto-competition; there is no notion of bettering one’s own record. There is, in fact, no “one” in this realm (any more than in that of her counterpart)—only two. Thus each participant in an eris
, reciprocally, keeps the other one productive:
For a man is eager to work when he looks at his neighbor, a rich man who hurries to plough and plant and put his house in good order; and neighbor vies with his neighbor as he hastens after wealth. This Strife is good for men. 
Works and Days 21–24
In a sense, strife
defines both the problem and the solution for the human condition.
Through its story of the two strifes, the Works and Days
divides strife and theorizes its various actions; the division of strife also provides the opportunity for the poem to valorize one kind of conflict and to authorize some human activities (e.g., work) and not others. 
juxtaposes them and renders the parallelism between them in a passage that describes a particularly grueling phase of the fighting between Greek and Trojan warriors, where an impasse in the battle is compared to a scene of agricultural activity, a dispute between neighbors over the common boundary of a field: 
For neither were the powerful Lycians able to break through the wall of the Danaans and make a path to the ships, nor could the Danaan spearmen push the Lycians back from the wall, once they had reached it. But as two men holding measuring ropes in their hands quarrel over boundaries in a shared field, and in a narrow space contend [erizeto
= have an eris
] each for his equal share… 
Although a consideration of the competition between poetic genres, to which Hesiodic poetry alludes, 
leads beyond the scope of this discussion, we may note that both the Works and Days
and the Iliad
generate their measures out of what they take to be a given, primordial crux: strife. And if strife is a generative matrix for early Greek poetry—its competing valorizations of warfare and work, its reflections on exchanges between gods, men, and the earth, its theory of the origin of two sexes and reproduction—it is not surprising that we see, accompanying the endless work of strife, the endless work of measure, since what is struggled over, what is labored for, what is contended, is always, literally or metaphorically, a “share” or “portion.” 
Because the earth no longer of its own accord unstintingly provides human beings their bios
in all seasons, the ultimately pressing question for them becomes, how much will it provide, and when? Thus their existence also comes to be bound up with calculation and measurement, and with the exigencies of the calendar. If human existence were still as it had been in the Golden Age (pre-mortal, as it were) there would be no calendar and no measuring. There would be, in a sense, no difference between a day and a year. 
For the gods keep [the means of] life (bios
) hidden from men. Otherwise in a day you would easily accomplish enough to have a living for a full year even without working… 
Works and Days 45–47
As it is, time and timing must be measured—and the seasons and days take on a distinctive character and significance. The farmer performs a precarious balancing act, adjusting to the forces of nature and the rhythm of the year. These adjustments are mirrored by the ceaseless imperative of reciprocal exchanges with his neighbors on the land.
If resources are no longer unlimited, they must be carefully weighed and protected; thus relations with others who have a claim on them become fraught. Skill in conducting social and economic transactions thus becomes as crucial to survival as work itself:
Invite your friend to a meal; but leave your enemy alone; and especially invite the one who lives near you: for if any trouble happens in the place, your neighbors come ungirt, but your kin stay to gird themselves. A bad neighbor is as great a disaster as a good one is a great blessing; whoever enjoys a good neighbor has a precious possession. Not even an ox would die if your neighbor weren’t a bad one. 
Works and Days 342–348
Hesiod’s advice is to make sure that your neighbor needs you more than you need him:
And so you will have plenty till you come to silvery springtime, and will not look wistfully to others, but another man will need your help. 
Works and Days 477–478
Need becomes its own measurable resource, a measurable share: debt. This logic of measurable shares, the ground of Hesiodic economics, presumes finite resources, as Paul Millett has observed:
Certainly Hesiod sees it as being in every man’s interest to get for himself as much wealth as possible; but he also assumes that the stock of wealth—effectively the quantity of land—is finite and fixed. So what one man gains, another must necessarily lose, and there is no scope for an overall growth in prosperity…And that is presumably why it is so important to work harder than your neighbor; it is a guarantee that his and not your oikos 
will be the one to decline…This negative view of wealth and prosperity as being feasible only at the expense of other people is apparently typical of peasant societies. 
The line between cooperation and competition is thus constantly blurred and redrawn throughout the account of agricultural work:
Give to one who gives, but do not give to one who does not give. A man gives to the giver, but no one gives to the non-giver. 
Works and Days 354–355
If the destructive strife—the war-producing kind—generates negative reciprocity, whereby social relations are frustrated and inhibited, the good strife promotes those sequences of exchanges through which in balanced reciprocity social relations are extended and made continuous; gift and counter-gift returns each party to the other’s position: each is by turns giver and receiver. As described in detail by Marcel Mauss and other students of primitive exchange, 
in a system of reciprocity, maintaining the system involves the paradox of equilibrium built on imbalance in that each strives to give more than he has received. It is not simply that giving is better than receiving—it is a better way to receive
, that is, a guarantee of future receiving. This dialectic of giving and receiving, the transmutation of giving into good receiving, presents a problem for Perses, who does not understand the relation between giving
in an exchange system. Thus his options have become, according to Hesiod, either to seize illegitimately or to beg; neither furthers the desired economy.
But I will give you no more nor give you further measure. Work, foolish Perses! Work the work that the gods ordained for men, so that in the grief of your heart, you with your children and wife do not seek your livelihood among your neighbors, who do not care. 
Works and Days 396–400
The daily, and perennial, effort undertaken by the farmer—an effort that informs all his activities—to achieve a balance between too early and too late, too hot and too cold, too dry and too wet, between too little and too much, is replicated in the necessary effort to equalize exchanges between himself and his neighboring farmers over time. The task of proper calculation and the perception of temporality are what together enable a productive economy of strife:
to the best of your ability, sacrifice to the immortal gods purely and cleanly, and in addition burn glorious thigh-pieces…that they may be propitious to you in heart and spirit, and so you may buy another’s holding and not another yours. 
Works and Days 336–337, 340–341
In his prescriptions, Hesiod repeatedly articulates the essential character of reciprocal exchange, of gift and counter-gift, namely that it is inherently and perpetually in disequilibrium and must be continually rebalanced over time, so that every exchange begets a further exchange:
Take fair measure from your neighbor and pay him back fairly with the same measure, or better, if you can; so that if you are in need afterwards, you may find him reliable. 
Works and Days 349–351
We have seen that, after the crisis of bad apportioning—the scandal at Mekone and the theft of Prometheus—exchange has become an imperative: the system of reciprocity, of paybacks conducted through time, is now, we might say, what is
. How one ought
to behave, given these conditions, returns Hesiod to the problem of measure. The Works and Days
prescribes adherence to due season and fair measure, both as literal mandates in daily activity and—beyond practicality—as tropes of mortal temporality, mutual (if agonistic) dependence, and the ethical ordering of society:
Observe due measure (metra
): and best in all things is the right time and right amount. 
Works and Days 694
When Hesiod insists that he will no longer help Perses if the latter is in need—
But I will give you no more nor give you further measure. 
Works and Days 396–397
—Hesiod’s “measure” may denote the actual material, the begrudged hand-outs, that he announces he will no longer give Perses. But elsewhere, as in the passage cited above, we see that “measure” functions as a more abstract, mobile counter in Hesiod’s normative economy of good relations:
Take fair measure from your neighbor and pay him back fairly with the same measure, or better, if you can; so that if you are in need afterwards, you may find him reliable. 
Works and Days 349–351
Or, more pessimistically,
Do not make a friend equal to a brother; but if you do, do not injure him first, and do not lie to please the tongue. But if he injures you first, either by saying or doing something offensive, remember to repay him double… 
Works and Days 708–711
The notions of due measure and right season are thus linked in ways that at first seem to be quite literal—
…but let it be your care to arrange your work in due measure, that in the right season your barns may be full of grain. 
Works and Days 306–307
—but that also function as ramifying tropes that figure a system in equilibrium. “Fair measure” then represents not a precise equivalent, but a just amount—an amount that will continue the sequence of exchanges. And the “right season” takes account of those exchanges as part of a cycle, operating with and through the patterns of nature.
We see, then, that the Hesiodic etiology of work and exchange (the mythic narrative) and his prescriptions regarding proper conduct (the didactic discourse) both partake of the figurative system of the seasonable, the timely, the natural—that which is “in season” (hôraios
= season). Life can be regulated according to calculable elements, says the Hesiodic tradition, and if you measure your actions and exchanges appropriately (erga … metria kosmein
) you can recapitulate that order. Because of the predictability of at least some vital natural phenomena on which the life—the bios
—of mortals depends, that which is “timely” (hôraios
, e.g., the appearance and disappearance of constellations throughout the year, their rising and setting, the sequence of the seasons) becomes a figure both for the ordered life and for a standard of appropriateness within it. Thus Hesiod’s recourse to the imperative of due season:
But you, Perses, remember all works in their season… 
Works and Days 641–642
“Due measure”—a figure for fair treatment and appropriate interactions—and “seasonability,” a figure for order, first reinforce each other and then function as metonyms of one another; so that in a passage on right conduct and relations, inappropriate, improper behavior (like harming a suppliant or sleeping with your brother’s wife) is called “
Alike with whoever wrongs a suppliant or a guest, or does acts contrary to nature [unseasonable/untimely
acts], climbing into his brother’s wife’s bed in covert lust, or who thoughtlessly injures orphaned children, or who abuses his old father at the grim threshold of old age and attacks him with harsh words, with this one truly Zeus himself is angry, and in the end imposes on him a harsh requital for his unjust acts. 
Works and Days 327–334
Hence the poem’s insistence on acting “in season,” on the importance of the calendar and of observing the proper timing for accomplishing work—this is the Days
part of the Works and Days
But when Orion and Sirius are come into midheaven, and rosy-fingered Dawn sees Arcturus, then cut off all the grape-clusters, Perses, and bring them home. Show them to the sun ten days and ten nights: then cover them over for five, and on the sixth day draw off into vessels the gifts of joyful Dionysus. But when the Pleiades and Hyades and strong Orion begin to set, then remember to plough in season: and so the completed year will fitly pass beneath the earth. 
Works and Days 609–617
Another perspective on the problematic of seasonality is offered by the account of the history of humankind through time, as delineated in the myth of the Five Ages, of which the Golden Age is the first:
Thereafter, I wish that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labor and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods will give them sore cares. But, notwithstanding, even they shall have some good mixed with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on their temples at birth. 
Works and Days 174–181
For the sign of the last stage of corruption among mortals, when they have become so degenerate that Zeus will destroy them, is a stunning one: the mark of their corruption is that their timing
is out of sync
. Hesiod says that Zeus will destroy this age when babies are born with grey hair, that is, when the seasons and generations of man have collapsed all together and become confused. When newborns have the features of old men, the seasons of our lives are truly out of joint. So to observe the due sequence of things—to pay attention to the calendar—is not only to bring temporality, that inescapable fact of our lives, in some small way under control, but it is also to resist such moral chaos as is envisaged for the end of the fifth age, the age of iron—our own.
If that which is “in season” (hôraios) emerges in Hesiod as a normative ground, the trope of due measure par excellence, we also know that it has required narrative explanation. Hesiod has, as we have seen, spent many measures explaining that time is, philosophically, a problem, not a given, for man; that the existence of the calendar measures, in fact, the distance men have come from their previous timeless ease; that the current measures of man, the conditions governing him—from temporality to mortality to work—are all developments requiring explanation.
Due measure and right season are invested with an ethical dimension, most fully realized as the basis for the operations of Justice. 
In the poetic tradition transmitted by the Works and Days
, Justice herself brings to the imagery of balance and fair measure—dealing “straightly” as opposed to askew—the dimension of appropriate temporality. For we discover that, in the cosmic genealogy narrated in Hesiod’s Theogony
, Justice herself is none other than one of the Seasons (Hôrai
Thus Hesiodic etiology allows us to see what kind of norm justice is for archaic Greek thought: not just any norm, but an order; not just any order, but the cyclic order of the seasons, which defines time itself. 
The problem of measure thus informs justice as arbitration and calibration; it is brought equally to natural processes and to human affairs. Because days are more self-regulating than human works, it is not surprising that Hesiod orients us to the problem of measuring human transactions:
But you, Perses, lay up these things within your heart and listen now to Justice, ceasing altogether to think of violence. For the son of Kronos has ordained this law for men, that fishes and beasts and winged fowls should devour one another, for Justice is not in them; but to mankind he gave Justice which proves far the best. 
Works and Days 274–279
Hesiod’s identification of Justice and seasonality, and his coordination of the right time and the right amount, in a metaphorical discourse of ethical behavior, help us to read Heraclitus’ conjunction of the sun’s measures, the avenging Furies and the Justice that administers their function. Heraclitus invokes the sun’s measures—usually the very trope of regularity, of the predictable, of the obvious—as a problem
; he does so, moreover, through a strikingly peculiar, counterfactual rhetoric, as though beginning the trope of the adynaton
—the figure of impossibility (of the sort, “when rivers run back to their source, …” “when fish fly, …” etc.). Why is justice concerned with the passage of the day? Are (not) the sun’s measures inviolable? The extended coordination of Justice with the sun’s measures or with—more broadly—that which is seasonable (hôraios
), must be seen as a complex, provocative wager: betting on the sun’s regularity, troping norms out of nature, one gains in figurative power what one loses, perhaps, in ethical force. Heraclitus’ imagined transgression, even if offered through a conditional rhetoric of the improbable—invites us to continue our explorations of the thought-experiments conducted through poetry as well as philosophy.
As I hope to have shown for the Works and Days
, the measures of early Greek poetry accomplish their cognitive and ethical work through complex tropes and figurations: even if “nature” as such does not quite yet exist as a category in archaic epic, nevertheless the processes and ordination of the natural world—its measures from the seasons to cosmic rhythms—everywhere inform Hesiodic explanations of and prescriptions for the social and ethical orders of man and, indeed, of supra-human Justice. Any analysis of early Greek thought—whether construed as “pre-scientific,” “mythological,” “poetic,” or in later periods, “philosophical”—requires an extensive investigation of such figurative textures. The present reading, restricted as it is, aims to offer an invitation for future comparative readings across periods and cultures: through sustained collaborative analyses of the figurative bases of representations of cultural order (whether figured as “natural” or not), we can refine our understanding of human value-making and the role of figurally-based ideologics in the constitution of communities. 
We can also better approach the ways ancients, and indeed moderns, have chosen to represent themselves to themselves.
In the authoritative explanations and pronouncements of Hesiod, we have an example of archaic Greek culture thinking about itself, authorizing itself, taking its own measure. In archaic Greek poetry, man may not yet be what he later becomes for the 5th century philosopher Protagoras, who called him the measure of all things, but as a worker, he is already what he must be first: the measurer of them.
Arthur, M. 1982. “Cultural Strategies in Hesiod’s Theogony.” Arethusa 15:63–82.
Evelyn-White, H. G., trans. 1929. Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica. Loeb Classical Library. London.
Ferrari, G. 1990. “Figures of Speech: The Picture of Aidos.” Metis 5:185–200.
———. 2002. Figures of Speech: Men and Maidens in Ancient Greece. Chicago.
Finley, J. H., Jr. 1965. Four Stages of Greek Thought. Stanford, CA.
Griffiths, M. 1983. “Personality in Hesiod.” Classical Antiquity 2 (1):47–62.
Hamilton, R. 1989. The Architecture of Hesiodic Poetry. Baltimore.
Kahn, C. H. 1993. The Art and Thought of Heraclitus. Cambridge.
Lévi-Strauss, C. 1967. “The Story of Asdiwal.” In The Structural Study of Myth and Totemism, ed. E. Leach, 1-47. A.S.A. Monographs 5. London.
Loraux, N. 1993. “On the Race of Women and Some of Its Tribes: Hesiod and Semonides.” In The Children of Athena: Athenian Ideas about Citizenship and the Division between the Sexes, trans. C. Levine, 72–110. Princeton. Originally published as “Sur la race des femmes et quelques-unes de ses tribus.” Arethusa 11 (1978):43–88.
Mauss, M. 1967. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. Trans. I. Cunnison. New York. Originally published as Essai sur le don, 1925.
Merkelbach, R. and M. L. West, eds. 1967. Fragmenta Hesiodea. Oxford.
Millett, P. 1983. “Hesiod and his World.” Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society 209:84–115.
Nelson, S. 1998. God and the Land: The Metaphysics of Farming in Hesiod and Vergil. Oxford.
Redfield, J. M. 1994. “The Sexes in Hesiod.” In “Reinterpreting the Classics,” ed. C. Stray and R. Kaster. Special issue, Annals of Scholarship 10(1):31–61.
Vernant, J.-P. 1988. “The Myth of Prometheus in Hesiod.” In Myth and Society in Ancient Greece, trans. J. Lloyd, 183-201. New York.
West, M. L., ed. 1978. Hesiod: Works and Days. Cambridge.
[ back ] 1.
This is a slightly revised version of Chapter 1, The Moral Authority of Nature
eds. L. Daston and F. Vidal (Chicago: 2002).
[ back ] 2.
μέτρα φυλάσσεσθαι· καιρὸς δ’ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἄριστος. Translations of the Works and Days
are based on Evelyn-White 1929.
[ back ] 3.
As translated by Kahn 1993:49.
[ back ] 4.
For archaic thinkers’ turn to nature as a cognitive model as well as a field for perception, see Finley 1965.
[ back ] 5.
…ἀλλ’ αὖθι διακρινώμεθα νεῖκος
ἰθείῃσι δίκῃς, αἵ τ’ ἐκ Διός εἰσιν ἄρισται.
ἤδη μὲν γὰρ κλῆρον ἐδασσάμεθ’, ἀλλὰ τὰ πολλὰ
ἁρπάζων ἐφόρεις μέγα κυδαίνων βασιλῆας
δωροφάγους, οἳ τήνδε δίκην ἐθέλουσι δίκασσαι.
[ back ] 6.
On the issue of the audiences (external and internal) of the Works and Days
, as well as questions of persona and identity, see Griffiths 1983.
[ back ] 7.
Similarly, neither Hesiod nor Homer uses the term kosmos
(κόσμος) as an abstraction meaning “unified world order,” as do sixth-century natural philosophers.
[ back ] 8.
οὐδέ ποτ’ ἰθυδίκῃσι μετ’ ἀνδράσι λιμὸς ὀπηδεῖ
οὐδ’ ἄτη, θαλίῃς δὲ μεμηλότα ἔργα νέμονται.
τοῖσι φέρει μὲν γαῖα πολὺν βίον, οὔρεσι δὲ δρῦς
ἄκρη μέν τε φέρει βαλάνους, μέσση δὲ μελίσσας·
εἰροπόκοι δ’ ὄιες μαλλοῖς καταβεβρίθασιν·
τίκτουσιν δὲ γυναῖκες ἐοικότα τέκνα γονεῦσιν·
[ back ] 9.
See Nelson 1998.
[ back ] 10.
χρύσεον μὲν πρώτιστα γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
ἀθάνατοι ποίησαν Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχοντες.
οἳ μὲν ἐπὶ Κρόνου ἦσαν, ὅτ’ οὐρανῷ ἐμβασίλευεν:
ὥστε θεοὶ δ’ ἔζωον ἀκηδέα θυμὸν ἔχοντες
νόσφιν ἄτερ τε πόνων καὶ ὀιζύος· οὐδέ τι δειλὸν
γῆρας ἐπῆν, αἰεὶ δὲ πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ὁμοῖοι
τέρποντ’ ἐν θαλίῃσι κακῶν ἔκτοσθεν ἁπάντων·
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ἐσθλὰ δὲ πάντα
τοῖσιν ἔην· καρπὸν δ’ ἔφερε ζείδωρος ἄρουρα
αὐτομάτη πολλόν τε καὶ ἄφθονον· οἳ δ’ ἐθελημοὶ
ἥσυχοι ἔργ’ ἐνέμοντο σὺν ἐσθλοῖσιν πολέεσσιν.
ἀφνειοὶ μήλοισι, φίλοι μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν.
[ back ] 11.
. . . . . . . . . . . ἐργάζευ, νήπιε Πέρση,
ἔργα, τά τ’ ἀνθρώποισι θεοὶ διετεκμήραντο…(397–398)
[ back ] 12.
κρύψαντες γὰρ ἔχουσι θεοὶ βίον ἀνθρώποισιν:
ῥηιδίως γάρ κεν καὶ ἐπ’ ἤματι ἐργάσσαιο,
ὥστε σε κεἰς ἐνιαυτὸν ἔχειν καὶ ἀεργὸν ἐόντα·
αἶψά κε πηδάλιον μὲν ὑπὲρ καπνοῦ καταθεῖο,
ἔργα βοῶν δ’ ἀπόλοιτο καὶ ἡμιόνων ταλαεργῶν.
[ back ] 13.
At fr. 1, Merkelbach and West 1967, men and gods are said originally to have taken their places together at shared feasts.
[ back ] 14.
. . . . . . . .ἕτερόν τοι ἐγὼ λόγον ἐκκορυφώσω
εὖ καὶ ἐπισταμένως· σὺ δ’ ἐνὶ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσιν.
ὡς ὁμόθεν γεγάασι θεοὶ θνητοί τ’ ἄνθρωποι.
[ back ] 15.
See the valuable study in Vernant 1988.
[ back ] 16.
καὶ γὰρ ὅτ’ ἐκρίνοντο θεοὶ θνητοί τ’ ἄνθρωποι
Μηκώνῃ, τότ’ ἐπειτα μέγαν βοῦν πρόφρονι θυμῷ
δασσάμενος προέθηκε, Διὸς νόον ἐξαπαφίσκων.
τοῖς μὲν γὰρ σάρκας τε καὶ ἔγκατα πίονα δημῷ
ἐν ῥινῷ κατέθηκε καλύψας γαστρὶ βοείῃ,
τῷ δ’ αὖτ’ ὀστέα λευκὰ βοὸς δολίῃ ἐπὶ τέχνῃ
εὐθετίσας κατέθηκε καλύψας ἀργέτι δημῷ.
δὴ τότε μιν προσέειπε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε·
Ἰαπετιονίδη, πάντων ἀριδείκετ’ ἀνάκτων,
ὦ πέπον, ὡς ἑτεροζήλως διεδάσσαο μοίρας.
[ back ] 17.
ἀλλἀ Ζεὺς ἔκρυψε χολωσάμενος φρεσὶν ᾗσιν,
ὅττι μιν ἐξαπάτησε Προμηθεὺς ἀγκυλομήτης·
τοὔνεκ’ ἄρ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ἐμήσατο κήδεα λυγρά.
κρύψε δὲ πῦρ· τὸ μὲν αὖτις ἐὺς πάις Ἰαπετοῖο
ἔκλεψ’ ἀνθρώποισι Διὸς πάρα μητιόεντος
ἐν κοΐλῳ νάρθηκι λαθὼν Δία τερπικέραυνον.
τὸν δὲ χολωσάμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεὺς·
Ἰαπετιονίδη, πάντων πέρι μήδεα εἰδώς,
χαίρεις πῦρ κλέψας καὶ ἐμὰς φρένας ἠπεροπεύσας,
σοί τ’ αὐτῷ μέγα πῆμα καὶ ἀνδράσιν ἐσσομένοισιν.
τοῖς δ’ ἐγὼ ἀντὶ πυρὸς δώσω κακόν, ᾧ κεν ἅπαντες
τέρπωνται κατὰ θυμὸν ἑὸν κακὸν ἀμφαγαπῶντες.
ὣς ἔφατ’· ἐκ δ’ ἐγέλασσε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε.
Ἥφαιστον δ’ ἐκέλευσε περικλυτὸν ὅττι τάχιστα
γαῖαν ὕδει φύρειν, ἐν δ’ ἀνθρώπου θέμεν αὐδὴν
καὶ σθένος, ἀθανάτῃς δὲ θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἐίσκειν
παρθενικῆς καλὸν εἶδος ἐπήρατον·
…ὀνόμηνε δὲ τήνδε γυναῖκα
Πανδώρην, ὅτι πάντες Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχοντες
δῶρον ἐδώρησαν, πῆμ’ ἀνδράσιν ἀλφηστῇσιν.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Πρὶν μὲν γὰρ ζώεσκον ἐπὶ χθονὶ φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων
νόσφιν ἄτερ τε κακῶν καὶ ἄτερ χαλεποῖο πόνοιο
νούσων τ’ ἀργαλέων, αἵ τ’ ἀνδράσι Κῆρας ἔδωκαν.
[ back ] 18. Theogony
585. See the important article Arthur 1982, discussing reciprocity in the Theogony
with implications for the Works and Days
[ back ] 19.
[ back ] 20.
Πρὶν μὲν γὰρ ζώεσκον ἐπὶ χθονὶ φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων
νόσφιν ἄτερ τε κακῶν καὶ ἄτερ χαλεποῖο πόνοιο
νούσων τ’ ἀργαλέων, αἵ τ’ ἀνδράσι Κῆρας ἔδωκαν.
[αἶψα γὰρ ἐν κακότητι βροτοὶ καταγηράσκουσιν.]
ἀλλὰ γυνὴ χείρεσσι πίθου μέγα πῶμ’ ἀφελοῦσα
ἐσκέδασ’· ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἐμήσατο κήδεα λυγρά.
μούνη δ’ αὐτόθι Ἐλπὶς ἐν ἀρρήκτοισι δόμοισιν
ἔνδον ἔμιμνε πίθου ὑπὸ χείλεσιν, οὐδὲ θύραζε
ἐξέπτη· πρόσθεν γὰρ ἐπέλλαβε πῶμα πίθοιο
[αἰγιόχου βουλῇσι Διὸς νεφεληγερέταο.]
ἄλλα δὲ μυρία λυγρὰ κατ’ ἀνθρώπους ἀλάληται·
πλείη μὲν γὰρ γαῖα κακῶν, πλείη δὲ θάλασσα·
νοῦσοι δ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ἐφ’ ἡμέρῃ, αἳ δ’ ἐπὶ νυκτὶ
αὐτόματοι φοιτῶσι κακὰ θνητοῖσι φέρουσαι
σιγῇ. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
[ back ] 21.
4.92 where δόλον αἰπὺν, the Theogony
’s term for Pandora, is applied to the Trojan horse.
[ back ] 22.
See Arthur 1982:74 on Pandora as the principle of reproduction. As Froma Zeitlin points out to me, the Works and Days
does not explicitly associate Pandora with immortality through reproduction; it is suggestive, though, that the Catalogue of Women
links Pandora—as parent—with the ultimate progenitors of mankind, Deucalion and Pyrrha, and so with the prospect of future generations and the inextinguishability of humankind. According to a scholion at Apollonius Rhodius 3.1086, “Hesiod says in the Catalogue
” that Deucalion is the son of Prometheus and Pandora. In the text the name of Pandora is badly corrupt (Fr.2 in Merkelbach and West 1967), but Fr.4 maintains the connection, calling her the mother of Pyrrha.
[ back ] 23.
On women imagined as a race apart, see the definitive discussion in Loraux 1993.
[ back ] 24.
It is important to observe that in the Greek tradition work is not meted out simply as a punishment, as it is in ancient Near Eastern (including Mesopotamian and Hebrew) traditions. It is true that the need to work emerges in Hesiodic explanation as part of a series of contentious exchanges between Zeus and Prometheus, and that, as part of this serial “payback” for theft and bad-apportioning, it can resemble punishment—yet the archaic Greek tradition is more ambiguous about how and whether to valorize aspects of the human condition (e.g., work, sex, death) than a reading of work-as-punishment will allow.
[ back ] 25.
[ back ] 26.
In J.M. Redfield’s formulation (private communication). See Redfield 1993.
[ back ] 27.
οὐκ ἄρα μοῦνον ἔην Ἐρίδων γένος, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν
εἰσὶ δύω· τὴν μέν κεν ἐπαινέσσειε νοήσας,
ἣ δ’ ἐπιμωμητή· διὰ δ’ ἄνδιχα θυμὸν ἔχουσιν.
ἣ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλει,
σχετλίη· οὔτις τήν γε φιλεῖ βροτός, ἀλλ’ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης
ἀθανάτων βουλῇσιν Ἔριν τιμῶσι βαρεῖαν.
τὴν δ’ ἑτέρην προτέρην μὲν ἐγείνατο Νὺξ ἐρεβεννή,
θῆκε δέ μιν Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος, αἰθέρι ναίων,
γαίης ἐν ῥίζῃσι, καὶ ἀνδράσι πολλὸν ἀμείνω·
ἥτε καὶ ἀπάλαμόν περ ὁμῶς ἐπὶ ἔργον ἔγειρεν.
είς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἰδὼν ἔργοιο χατίζει…
[ back ] 28.
εἰς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἰδὼν ἔργοιο χατίζει
πλούσιον, ὅς σπεύδει μὲν ἀρώμεναι ἠδὲ φυτεύειν
οἶκόν τ’ εὖ θέσθαι· ζηλοῖ δὲ τε γείτονα γείτων
εἰς ἄφενος σπεύδοντ’· ἀγαθὴ δ’ Ἔρις ἥδε βροτοῖσιν.
[ back ] 29.
Greek culture develops, we might say, a poetics of strife, out of which competing and conceptually interdependent genres emerge: one (Hesiodic) oriented toward proper conduct given the limits of the human condition and the regular measures of the cosmos, the other genre (Homeric epic) oriented toward exceptional conduct, which aims at transcending the very limits that the other genre has theorized.
[ back ] 30.
This is one of a number of similes throughout the Iliad
which liken the warriors’ efforts on the battlefield to scenes in the wheatfield, or the vicinity thereof. See also e.g., Iliad
11.67–72, as well as the striking passage at Odyssey
18.365–380, in which Odysseus equates the eris
of work (using the phrase eris ergoio
) with that of warfare, in proposing the terms of a contest between himself and Eurymachus.
[ back ] 31.
οὔτε γὰρ ἴφθιμοι Λύκιοι Δαναῶν ἐδύναντο
τεῖχος ῥηξάμενοι θέσθαι παρὰ νηυσὶ κέλευθον,
οὔτε ποτ’ αἰχμηταὶ Δαναοὶ Λυκίους ἐδλυναντο
τείχεος ἂψ ὤσασθαι, ἐπεὶ τὰ πρῶτα πέλασθεν.
ἀλλ’ ὥς τ’ ἀμφ’ οὔροισι δύ’ ἀνέρε δηριάασθον
μέτρ’ ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντες ἐπιξύνῳ ἐν ἀρούρῃ,
ὥ τ’ ὀλίγῳ ἐνὶ χώρῳ ἐρίζητον περὶ ἴσης…
[ back ] 32. Works and Days
[ back ] 33.
In a world where destiny expresses a notion of allotment—where the word “fate” (moira
) is used to denote a serving of meat, a share of land, a portion of the spoils of war, as well as to refer to the final shape of a man’s life—we understand that the largest framework in which human lives are viewed is that of division and apportionment. Throughout the Homeric poems, for instance, we observe that a basis in appropriate distribution and reciprocal exchange is explicitly invoked by formal procedures such as honorific feasting, distribution of booty, awards of prizes, return for specific services, ransom arrangements and other transactions, where equitable division is the inflexible requirement. But this exigent imperative bespeaks a comprehensive view of social relations, in the Iliad
as well as in the Works and Days
, among human beings and between humans and gods. See 167-187 in this volume.
[ back ] 34.
[ back ] 35.
κρύψαντες γὰρ ἔχουσι θεοὶ βίον ἀνθρώποισιν·
ῥηιδίως γάρ κεν καὶ ἐπ’ ἤματι ἐργάσσαιο,
ὥστε σε κεἰς ἐνιαυτὸν ἔχειν καὶ ἀεργὸν ἐόντα·
[ back ] 36.
τὸν φιλέοντ’ ἐπὶ δαῖτα καλεῖν, τὸν δ’ ἐχθρὸν ἐᾶσαι·
τὸν δὲ μάλιστα καλεῖν, ὅς τις σέθεν ἐγγύθι ναίει·
εἰ γάρ τοι καὶ χρῆμ’ ἐγχώριον ἄλλο γένηται,
γείτονες ἄζωστοι ἔκιον, ζώσαντο δὲ πηοί.
πῆμα κακὸς γείτων, ὅσσον τ’ ἀγαθὸς μέγ’ ὄνειαρ.
ἔμμορέ τοι τιμῆς, ὅς τ’ ἔμμορε γείτονος ἐσθλοῦ.
οὐδ’ ἂν βοῦς ἀπόλοιτ’, εἰ μὴ γείτων κακὸς εἴη.
[ back ] 37.
εὐοχθέων δ’ ἵξεαι πολιὸν ἔαρ, οὐδὲ πρὸς ἄλλους
αὐγάσεαι· σέο δ’ ἄλλος ἀνὴρ κεχρημένος ἔσται.
[ back ] 38. oikos
= “household,” “holdings.”
[ back ] 39.
[ back ] 40.
καὶ δόμεν, ὅς κεν δῷ, καὶ μὴ δόμεν, ὅς κεν μὴ δῷ.
δώτῃ μέν τις ἔδωκεν, ἀδώτῃ δ’ οὔτις ἔδωκεν.
[ back ] 42.
. . . . . . . . . ἐγὼ δέ τοι οὐκ ἐπιδώσω
οὐδ’ ἐπιμετρήσω· ἐργάζευ, νήπιε Πέρση,
ἔργα, τά τ’ ἀνθρώποισι θεοὶ διετεκμήραντο,
μή ποτε σὺν παίδεσσι γυναικί τε θυμὸν ἀχεύων
ζητεύῃς βίοτον κατὰ γείτονας, οἳ δ’ ἀμελῶσιν.
[ back ] 43.
κὰδ δύναμιν δ’ ἔρδειν ἱέρ’ ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσιν
ἁγνῶς καὶ καθαρῶς, ἐπὶ δ’ ἀγλαὰ μηρία καίειν·
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ὥς κέ τοι ἵλαον κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἔχωσιν,
ὄφρ’ ἄλλων ὠνῇ κλῆρον, μὴ τὸν τεὸν ἄλλος.
[ back ] 44.
εὖ μὲν μετρεῖσθαι παρὰ γείτονος, εὖ δ’ ἀποδοῦναι,
αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρῳ, καὶ λώιον, αἴ κε δύνηαι,
ὡς ἂν χρηίζων καὶ ἐς ὕστερον ἄρκιον εὕρῃς
[ back ] 45.
μέτρα φυλλάσσεσθαι· καιρὸς δ’ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἄριστος.
[ back ] 46.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ἐγὼ δέ τοι οὐκ ἐπιδώσω
οὐδ’ ἐπιμετρήσω . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
[ back ] 47.
εὖ μὲν μετρεῖσθαι παρὰ γείτονος, εὖ δ’ ἀποδοῦναι,
αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρῳ, καὶ λώιον, αἴ κε δύνηαι,
ὡς ἂν χρηίζων καὶ ἐς ὕστερον ἄρκιον εὕρῃς.
[ back ] 48.
μηδὲ κασιγνήτῳ ἶσον ποιεῖσθαι ἑταῖρον·
εἰ δέ κε ποιήσῃς, μή μιν πρότερος κακὸν ἔρξῃς.
μηδὲ ψεύδεσθαι γλώσσης χάριν· εἰ δὲ σέ γ’ ἄρχῃ
ἤ τι ἔπος εἰπὼν ἀποθύμιον ἠὲ καὶ ἔρξας,
δὶς τόσα τίνυσθαι μεμνημένος. . . . . . . .
[ back ] 49.
…σοὶ δ’ ἔργα φίλ’ ἔστω μέτρια κοσμεῖν,
ὥς κέ τοι ὡραίου βιότου πλήθωσι καλιαί.
[ back ] 50.
τύνη δ’, ὦ Πέρση, ἔργων μεμνημένος εἶναι
[ back ] 51.
ἶσον δ’ ὅς θ’ ἱκέτην ὅς τε ξεῖνον κακὸν ἔρξῃ,
ὅς τε κασιγνήτοιο ἑοῦ ἀνὰ δέμνια βαίνῃ
κρυπταδίης εὐνῆς ἀλόχου, παρακαίρια ῥέζων,
ὅς τέ τευ ἀφραδίῃς ἀλιταίνεται ὀρφανὰ τέκνα,
ὅς τε γονῆα γέροντα κακῷ ἐπὶ γήραος οὐδῷ
νεικείῃ χαλεποῖσι καθαπτόμενος ἐπέεσσιν·
τῷ δ’ ἦ τοι Ζεὺς αὐτὸς ἀγαίεται, ἐς δὲ τελευτὴν
ἔργων ἀντ’ ἀδίκων χαλεπὴν ἐπέθηκεν ἀμοιβήν.
[ back ] 52.
Εὖτ’ ἂν δ’ Ὠαρίων καὶ Σείριος ἐς μέσον ἔλθῃ
οὐρανόν, Ἀρκτοῦρον δ’ ἐσίδῃ ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς,
ὦ Πέρση, τότε πάντας ἀποδρέπεν οἴκαδε βότρυς·
δεῖξαι δ’ ἠελίῳ δέκα τ’ ἤματα καὶ δέκα νύκτας,
πέντε δὲ συσκιάσαι, ἕκτῳ δ’ εἰς ἄγγε’ ἀφύσσαι
δῶρα Διωνύσου πολυγηθέος. αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν δὴ
Πληιάδες θ’ Ὑάδες. τε τό τε σθένος Ὠαρίωνος
δύνωσιν, τότ’ ἔπειτ’ ἀρότου μεμνημένος εἶναι
ὡραίου· πλειὼν δὲ κατὰ χθονὸς ἄρμενος εἶσιν.
[ back ] 53.
μηκέτ’ ἔπειτ’ ὤφελλον ἐγὼ πέμπτοισι μετεῖναι
ἀνδράσιν, ἀλλ’ ἤ πρόσθε θανεῖν ἤ ἔπειτα γενέσθαι.
νῦν γὰρ δὴ γένος ἐστὶ σιδήρεον· οὐδέ ποτ’ ἦμαρ
παύονται καμάτου καὶ ὀιζύος, οὐδέ τι νύκτωρ
φθειρόμενοι. χαλεπὰς δὲ θεοὶ δώσουσι μερίμνας·
ἀλλ’ ἔμπης καὶ τοῖσι μεμείξεται ἐσθλὰ κακοῖσιν.
Ζεὺς δ’ ὀλέσει καὶ τοῦτο γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων,
εὖτ’ ἂν γεινόμενοι πολιοκρόταφοι τελέθωσιν.
[ back ] 54.
“And there is virgin Justice, the daughter of Zeus, who is honored and reverenced among the gods who dwell on Olympus, and whenever anyone hurts her with lying slander, she sits beside her father, Zeus the son of Kronos, and tells him of men’s wicked heart, until the people pay for the mad folly of their princes who, evilly minded, pervert judgment and give sentence crookedly. Keep watch against this, you princes, and make straight your judgments, you who devour bribes; put crooked judgments altogether from your thoughts.” Works and Days
[ back ] 55. Theogony
[ back ] 56.
I owe this formulation to the incisive editorial response of Raine Daston and Fernando Vidal.
[ back ] 57.
ὦ Πέρση, σὺ δὲ ταῦτα μετὰ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσι,
καί νυ δίκης ἐπάκουε, βίης δ’ ἐπιλήθεο πάμπαν.
τόνδε γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι νόμον διέταξε Κρονίων
χθύσι μὲν καὶ θηρσὶ καὶ οἰωνοῖς πετεηνοῖς
ἐσθέμεν ἀλλήλους, ἐπεὶ οὐ δίκη ἐστὶ μετ’ αὐτοῖς·
ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἐδωκε δίκην, ἣ πολλὸν ἀρίστη
[ back ] 58.
For a powerful example of such a cultural reading, see Ferrari 2002 and 1990.