Greek Mythology and Poetics

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Chapter 3. Hesiod and the Poetics of Pan-Hellenism

The Hesiodic Question

From the vantage point of the ancient Greeks themselves, no accounting of Homer is possible without an accounting of Hesiod as well. In the fifth century B.C., Herodotus was moved to observe (2.53.2) that the Greeks owed the systematization of their gods—we may say, of their universe—to two poets, Homer and Hesiod. The current fashion is to argue, from the internal evidence of their poetry, that both lived sometime in the latter half of the eighth century, roughly three hundred years before Herodotus composed his Histories—although there is considerable controversy about which of the two was earlier. For Herodotus, as for all Greeks of the Classical period, however, the importance of Homer and Hesiod was based not on any known historical facts about these poets and their times. Whatever Homer and Hesiod may have meant to the eighth century, the only surviving historical fact about them centers on what their poems did indeed mean to the succeeding centuries extending into the historical period. From Herodotus and others, we know that the poems of Homer and Hesiod were the primary artistic means of encoding a value system common to all Greeks. [1]

The notion that the Homeric and Hesiodic poems were a pan-Hellenic phenomenon going back to the eighth century leads to the tempting scenario of connecting a likewise pan-Hellenic phenomenon, alphabetic writing: the formative stage of the Greek alphabet, after all, is dated to the eighth century. According to this scenario, the Homeric and Hesiodic poems were enshrined for the Greeks because they were written down, thus becoming fixed texts that proliferated throughout the Hellenic world. The problem is, how exactly are we to imagine this proliferation? It is clear that literacy was a tenuous phenomenon at best throughout the archaic period of Greece, and the pan-Hellenic spread of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems during this period stretching from the eighth to the fifth century could hardly be attributed to some hypothetical circulation of manuscripts. To put it bluntly: it seems difficult to imagine an incipient eighth-century reading public—let alone one that could have stimulated such widespread circulation of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems.

The argument for an archaic reading public is actually rendered pointless by the historical fact that the medium of transmitting the Homeric and Hesiodic poems was consistently that of performance, not reading. One important traditional context of poetic performance was the institution of pan-Hellenic festivals, though there may well have been other appropriate public events as well. [8] The competing performers at such public events were called rhapsōidoí ‘rhapsodes’ (as in Herodotus 5.67.1), one of whom has been immortalized in Plato’s Ion. We learn that the rhapsode Ion has come from his home in Ephesus to compete with other rhapsodes by reciting Homer at the Feast of the Panathenaia at Athens, after having already won at another festival, the Feast of Asclepius in Epidauros (Ion 530ab). In the dialogue as dramatized by Plato, Socrates ascertains that Ion is a specialist in Homer, to the exclusion of Hesiod and Archilochus (Ion 531a and 532a)—the implication being that there are other rhapsodes who specialize in these other poets. [9] Socrates and Ion then go on to discuss the different repertoires required for the rhapsodes’ recitation of Homer and Hesiod (see especially Ion 531a-d). In fact, Plato elsewhere presents Homer and Hesiod themselves as itinerant rhapsodes (Republic 600d). The examples could be multiplied, but the point is already clear; the proliferation of the Homeric and Hesiodic poems throughout Greece in the archaic period (and beyond) did not depend on the factor of writing. {38|39}

If, then, the Homeric and Hesiodic poems are reflexes of oral poetry, we can in theory eliminate writing as a factor in the composition of these {39|40} poems, much as we have eliminated it as a factor in their performance. The absence of writing would suit, at least superficially, the findings of Parry and Lord: in the South Slavic traditions, oral poetry and literacy are incompatible. But now we have to reckon with a new problem, one raised by the study of oral poetry itself. The findings of Parry and Lord also suggest that composition and performance are aspects of the same process in oral poetry, and that no poet’s composition is ever identical even to his previous composition of the “same” poem at a previous performance, in that each performance entails a recomposition of the poet’s inherited material.

The problem, then, is this: how could the Homeric and Hesiodic poems survive unchanged into the historical period without the aid of writing? One solution is to posit that the poems were dictated by their illiterate composers. But we have already noted that the hypothetical existence of fixed texts in, say, the eighth century cannot by itself account for the proliferation of Homeric and Hesiodic poetry throughout the city-states. That process, as we have also noted, must be attributed long-range to the recurrent competitive performances of the poems over the years by rhapsodes at such events as pan-Hellenic festivals. Thus we must resort to positing the existence of early fixed texts only if the competing rhapsodes really needed to memorize written versions in order to perform, and for this there is no evidence.

Recalling the testimony of Herodotus and others to the effect that Homer and Hesiod provide a systematization of values common to all Greeks, we may go so far as to say that “Homer” and “Hesiod” are themselves the cumulative embodiment of this systematization—the ultimate poetic response to pan-Hellenic audiences from the eighth century onward. An inevitable consequence of such evolution from compositional trends to set poems is that the original oral poet, who composes while he performs and performs while he composes, evolves with the passage of time into a mere performer. We must not be too quick to dismiss the importance of the rhapsode, however: he must have been a master of mnemonic techniques inherited directly from oral poets. Even in such minute details as accentual patterns, as we have seen, he preserved the heritage of a genuine oral poet. The etymology of rhapsōidós ‘stitcher of songs’ reveals a traditional conceit of the oral poet as overtly expressed by the poet himself in cognate Indo-European poetic traditions. [21] There is, then, no demotion implicit in the formal distinction between rhapsōidós and aoidós ‘singer’—which is the word used by the Homeric and Hesiodic poems to designate the genuinely oral poet. [22] It is simplistic and even misleading to contrast, as many have done, the “creative” aoidós with the “reduplicating” rhapsōidós. We must keep in mind that even the traditional oral poet does not really “create” in the modern sense of authorship; rather, he re-creates for his listeners the inherited values that serve as foundations for their society. Even the narrative of epic, as we have noted, is a vehicle for re-creating traditional values, with a set program that will not deviate in the direction of personal invention, away from the traditional plots known and expected by the audience. [23] If, then, the aoidós is an upholder of such set poetic ways, he is not so far removed from the rhapsōidós as from the modern concept of “poet.”

The obvious dilemma of the oral poet is that each of the various local traditions in his repertoire will have validity only when it is performed in the appropriate locale. With the surge of intercommunication among the cities from the eighth century onward, the horizons for the poet’s travels would continually expand, and thus the regional differences between one audience and the next would become increasingly pronounced. The greater the regional differences, the greater the gap between what one community and another would hold to be true. What was held to be true by the inhabitants of one place may well have been false to those of another. What is true and false will keep shifting as the poet travels from place to place, and he may even resort to using alternative traditions as a foil for the one that he is re-creating for his audience. This device is still reflected in Homeric Hymn 1, where the poet declares in his prayer to Dionysus that the god was not born in Drakanos or in Ikaria or in Naxos or by the banks of the Alpheios or even in Thebes (verses 1-5), and that those who claim any of these proveniences are pseudómenoi ‘lying’ (6); he goes on to say that the god was really born at the mountain Nyse (6-9; compare Hymn 26.5). The localization of this Nyse is a separate problem, and the point now is simply that various legitimate local traditions are here being discounted as false in order to legitimize the one tradition that is acceptable to the poet’s audience. {43|44}

There is a parallel poetic device that inaugurates the Theogony of Hesiod, at verses 22-34, which we will understand only by first examining the testimony of Homeric poetry about poetry itself. In the Odyssey Odysseus himself tells stories like an oral poet who has to keep adjusting his composition/performance to the exigencies of his diverse audiences, [27] and in such contexts the resourceful hero is explicitly likened to a poet (xi 368, xviii 518). It is in the manner of a poet that he tells his “Cretan lies” (compare xvii 514, 518-521). As he finishes telling one such Cretan tale to Penelope, Odysseus is described in these words:

ἴσκε ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγων ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα

Odyssey xix 203

He spoke, assimilating many falsehoods [pseúdea] to make them look like genuine things.

Earlier, Eumaios had described other wanderers who, just as the disguised wanderer Odysseus is doing now, would come to Penelope with stories about Odysseus that are calculated to raise her hopes:

ἀλλ’ ἄλλως κομιδῆς κεχρημένοι ἄνδρες ἀλῆται
ψεύδοντ’, οὐδ’ ἐθέλουσιν ἀληθέα μυθήσασθαι

Odyssey 124-125

It’s no use! Wanderers in need of food
are liars [pseúdontai], and they are unwilling to tell true things [alēthéa mūthḗsasthai].

Odysseus himself fits this description: before telling his major tale of the Odyssey in the court of Alkinoos, he asks the king to let him eat first, since his gastḗr ‘belly’ is making him forget his tales of woe until it is filled with food (vii 215-221). Such a gambit would be typical of an oral poet who is making sure that he gets an appropriate preliminary reward for entertaining his audience. [

With these passages in mind, we come finally to Theogony 22-34, retelling Hesiod’s encounter with the Muses. These goddesses, as daughters of Mnēmosúnē ‘Memory’, not only confer the mnemonic powers of poetry on the poet of the Theogony but also offer to endow his poetry with truth, as they themselves announce to him:

ποιμένες ἄγραυλοι, κάκ’ ἐλέγχεα, γαστέρες οἶον,
ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα,
ἴδμεν δ’, εὖτ’ ἐθέλωμεν, ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι

Theogony 26-28

Shepherds living in the fields, base objects of reproach, mere bellies [gastéres]!
We know how to say many falsehoods [pseúdea] that look like genuine things,
but we can also, whenever we are willing, proclaiming things [alēthéa mūthḗsasthai].

“Truth,” which itinerant would-be oral poets are “unwilling” to tell because of their need for survival (oud’ ethélousin at Odyssey xiv 124-125), may be “willingly” conferred by the Muses (ethélōmen). We see here what can be taken as a manifesto of pan-Hellenic poetry, in that the poet Hesiod is to be freed from being a mere “belly”—one who owes his survival to his local audience with its local traditions; all such local traditions are pseúdea ‘falsehoods’ in face of the alēthéa ‘true things’ that the Muses impart specially to Hesiod. The conceit inherent in the pan-Hellenic poetry of Hesiod is that this overarching tradition is capable of achieving something that is beyond the reach of individual local traditions. As in the Homeric Hymn 1 to Dionysus, the mutually incompatible traditions of various locales are rejected as falsehoods, in favor of one single tradition that can be acceptable to all. In the case of Hymn 1 this {45|46} goal seems to be achieved by assigning the remotest imaginable traditional place of birth to the god (Nyse is pictured as “near the streams of Aigyptos,” verse 9). In the case of the Theogony we see this sort of process in a global dimension: the many local theogonies of the various city-states are to be superseded by one grand Olympian scheme.

As we have noted already, the Olympus of Hesiodic and Homeric poetry is a pan-Hellenic construct that elevates the gods beyond their localized attributes. It is a historical fact about Greece in the archaic period that whatever can be classified as religious practice or ideology was confined to the local level, and a survey of the attested evidence, as gleaned from sources like Tansanias or epichoric inscriptions, reveals clearly that each city had a very distinct pattern of cults. A given god as worshiped in one city could be radically different from a god bearing the same name as he was worshiped in another city.

Under these circumstances, the evolution of most major gods from most major cities into the integrated family at Olympus amounts to a synthesis that is not just artistic but also political, comparable with the evolution of the pan-Hellenic games known as the Olympics, another crucial phenomenon originating in the eighth century. As in any political process, the evolution of the pan-Hellenic poems would afford some victories and many concessions on the part of each region; some one salient local feature of a god may become accepted by all audiences, while countless other features that happen to contradict the traditions of other cities will remain unspoken. For example, Cythera and Cyprus may well be recognized as places that the newborn Aphrodite first visited (the narrative specifies that she did so in that order, see Theogony 192-193), but very little else about their local lore will ever come to the surface in Hesiodic and Homeric poetry.

The oral poet as represented by the poetry itself is one who can sing both epics and theogonies, as we learn in this description of the poetic repertory of Phemios:

ἔργ’ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε, τά τε κλείουσιν ἀοιδοί

Odyssey i 338

the deeds of men and gods, upon which the singers confer glory [kléos]

So also in this description of a generic poet:

αὐτὰρ ἀοιδὸς
Μουσάων θεράπων κλεῖα προτέρων ανθρώπων {46|47}
ὑμνήσει μάκαράς τε θεοὺς οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν

Theogony 99-101

But when a poet,
attendant [therápōn] of the Muse sings the glories [kléos plural] of earlier men
and the blessed gods who hold Olympus.

In view of the diversity that existed among the cities, an oral poet would have needed for his repertoire a staggering variety of traditions for composing epics and theogonies, which could in the end be rejected as pseúdea ‘falsehoods’ by the poets of the ultimate epic and ultimate theogony, Homer and Hesiod. Pan-Hellenic poetry can still tell us how an actual epic was being composed by Phemios in the Odyssey (i 326-327), or how Hermes composed a theogony for Apollo in the Hymn to Hermes (425-433). Yet such pan-Hellenic poetry, ascribed to the ultimate poets, is itself no longer oral poetry in the strict sense: it is being performed by rhapsodes. In the case of the Homeric poems, the compositions have even become too long for any single performance. [
31] Moreover, oral poetry, at least in the form represented by the medium itself, has not survived. The emergence of a monumental marvel like the uniquely “truthful” and pan-Hellenic Theogony of Hesiod from among countless “deceitful” and local theogonies of oral poets entails not only the crystallation of the one but also the extinction of the many.

Hesiod, Poet of the Theogony

Of course, Hesiodic poetry refers to itself not as the gradual evolution of poetic traditions into compositions on a pan-Hellenic scale but, rather, as the one-time creation of one ultimate poet whose self-identification with the Muses, for him both a bane and a blessing, makes him a cult hero. Besides the poet’s name and the epithet “therápōn of the Muses,” the most striking sign of Hesiod’s stance as hero is dramatized in the scene describing his first encounter with the Muses. The goddesses are antagonistic to the poet’s local origins but aid him anyway by transforming his repertoire from localized “falsehoods” into the “truth” that all Hellenes can accept; they give Hesiod a skêptron ‘staff, scepter’ as an emblem of his transformation from shepherd to poet (Theogony 30).

In this connection a brief word is in order about a pan-Hellenic tendency inherent in all archaic Greek poetry—not just the Homeric and Hesiodic. It is a historical fact that each major poetic genre in the archaic period tends to appropriate the surface structure of a single dialect to the exclusion of all others. For example, the elegiac poetic of even the Doric areas is characterized by Ionic diction, as we see in the poems of Theognis of Megara and Tyrtaeus of Sparta; conversely, the diction of choral lyric will be a synthetic form of Doric even for Ionic poets like Simonides and Bacchylides.

Before we consider any further the evolution of the local Boeotian poetic traditions of Hesiod into the Ionic hexameters of the pan-Hellenic Theogony, it is instructive to ask this related question: why should the local Doric traditions of a city like Megara evolve into the Ionic elegiacs of a Theognis? The answer is given by the poetry itself: {51|52} the goal of this poetry, the poet says, is to be heard by all Hellenes everywhere (Theognis 22-23, 237-254). It seems as if such a goal can be reached only with the evolution of the local poetry into a form that is performable at pan-Hellenic events. In the case of the elegiac, that form would be Ionic. And such evolution entails, again, the eventual crystallization of oral poetic traditions into the kind of fixed poems that are the repertoire of rhapsodes. Who, then, is the poet? As we shall observe in the next section, Theognis too—like Archilochus and other masters of lyric—may be considered an idealized creation of the poetry in which he has an integral function—and which he is credited with creating.

There is an important difference, however, between the poems of a Hesiod, on the one hand, and of a Theognis or an Archilochus, on the other. The difference is one of degree: these three figures, among others, seemingly have in common an intent to address all Hellenes, but Hesiod has far more authority than all the other poets. A Theognis or an Archilochus speaks from the perspective of his own city, though the localized aspects of the city are shaded over and the pan-Hellenic aspects are highlighted. In the case of Hesiod, however, the perspective is meant to be that of all cities. This transcendence is of course facilitated by the historical fact that the figure of Hesiod has no native city to claim him, since Askra was destroyed by Thespiai. Because Askra is no more, its traditions need not infringe on those of other cides. By allowing Hesiod to speak as a native of Askra, the pan-Hellenic tradition is in effect making him a native of all Greek cities, as we shall see in our survey of the Works and Days. The Theogony, too, expresses this transcendence, in two interrelated ways: the form in which the Muses are invoked and the nature of the gift that they confer on Hesiod.

Such an elder is the equivalent of the generic basileús ‘king’ as described in the Theogony (80-93). Moreover, the king’s function of speaking díkē at the agorā́ ‘assembly’ is in fact a gift of the Muses, as the Theogony itself tells us. The just king is imbued, from childhood on, by the Muses (Theogony 81-84), and he decides what is thémis ‘divine law’ (85) byway of ‘straight díkē (plural)’ (86)—in the context of the agorā́ ‘assembly’ (ἀγορεύων 86, ἀγορῆφι 89, ἀγρομένοισιν 92).

In sum, the skêptron given to Hesiod by the Muses indicates that the poet will speak with the authority of a king—an authority that emanates from Zeus himself (Theogony 96; Iliad I 238-239, IX 97-99). The point is, just as Zeus has authority over all other gods, so also the poet who formalizes this authority by telling how it all happened thereby implicitly has authority over all other poets.

Next we turn to the invocation of the Muses in the Theogony. Our first impression may be that Hesiod might not fit the image of a poet whose authority transcends that of all other poets. He is situated in Askra (Works and Days 640), a remote Boeotian settlement at the foot of Mount Helikon, which in turn is described as the local cult place of the Muses (Theogony 1-7). Such a localization, as well as the poet’s self-identification as Hesiod, has conventionally been interpreted as a primitive assertion of individualism in contrast with Homer’s elevated anonymity.

These fives stages may or may not be explicit in any given Hymn. For instance, in the shorter Hymn to Hermes (18.5-9) the admission of Hermes as an Olympian god (stage 3) is suggested by way of mentioning the delay of his admission during the confinement of Maia in her cave; in the longer Hymn to Hermes (4.5-9), by contrast, the closely corresponding mention of this delay is followed by a lengthy narrative that elaborates on the god’s subsequent admission. This narrative in the longer Hymn takes us all the way to verse 578, where we finally reach stage 4; by contrast, stage 4 in the shorter Hymn To Hermes is reached by verse 10.

Whereas the short hymn is a simplex prelude that motivates the genesis of the Muses, the long hymn is a complex prelude that first motivates the genesis of the Muses, who are then invoked to motivate the genesis of all the gods, which is the theogony proper. But from verse 964 onward, the Theogony is no longer formally a theogony, in that the subject matter shifts from the theôn génos ‘genesis of gods’ (as at Theogony 44, 105; cf. 115) to the genesis of demigods born of gods who mated with mortals (cf. Theogony 965-968); the latter theme, which amounts to catalogue poetry about heroes and heroines, is actually expressed as génos andrôn | hēmithéōn ‘genesis of men who were demigods’ at Homeric Hymn 31.18-19—a theme to which Hymn 31 announces itself as a formal prelude.

In the case of the Theogony, verses 105-962 amount to an expanded variant of the compressed hymn at verses 36-103, just as verses 179-544 in the Hymn to Apollo amount to an expanded variant of the compressed hymn at verses 1-165. There is an important formal difference, however, between the compressed version at verses 36-103 of the Theogony and the expanded version of verses 105-962: whereas both are simultaneously a prelude and a theogony—just like the composition performed by Hermes in Hymn to Hermes 425-433—the compressed version is more of a prelude and the expanded version is more of a theogony.

The expanded version is the Theogony proper, told by Hesiod in his own persona and “retelling” what the Muses had told him. The compressed version, on the other hand, is told only indirectly: in this case the theogony related by the Muses to Hesiod is merely paraphrased, as it were, in the context of describing what the goddesses sang as they went tip to Mount Olympus.

Verses 1-21 of the Theogony present yet another indirect version (thus there are altogether three versions of theogony in the Theogony). Here, too, the theogony related by the Muses is paraphrased, this first time in the context of describing what the goddesses sang as they came down from Mount Helikon. In this version the Muses are invoked as Helikonian (Theogony 1-2), not Olympian as everywhere else in the Theogony. Moreover, the thematic order of the Muses’ theogony, which they sing and dance (Theogony 3-4) as they come down from the summit of Mount Helikon, is the inverse of what they sing and dance (Theogony 70) as they go up to the summit of Mount Olympus (which is stage 3 in the program of a pan-Hellenic hymn).

In the first theogony, at Theogony 11-20, the Muses are described as starting their narrative with Olympian Zeus (11) and moving their way “down” from the other Olympian gods—Hera, Athena, Apollo, Artemis, Poseidon (11-15)—all the way to the previous divine generations (16-19) and then to the primordial forces, Earth, Okeanos, Night (20). These same Muses, after they encounter Hesiod at the fool of Mount Helikon, are described in the second theogony (Theogony 36-52) as starting their narrative with Earth/Sky (45) and moving their way “up” to the Olympian gods, culminating with Zeus himself (47; the word deúteron ‘next’ here denotes merely the order of this theogony and therefore does not slight the importance of Zeus). It is important that this narrative direction of the Muses’ second theogony, which determines the direction of Hesiod’s third and definitive theogony at verses 105-962, corresponds to stage 3 in the program of a pan-Hellenic hymn, the ascent to Olympus of the divinity who is being praised.

We see here a transformation of the Muses from local goddesses on Mount Helikon into pan-Hellenic goddesses on Mount Olympus. As {57|58} they start their way down the slopes of Helikon, they are described as énthen apornúmenai ‘starting from there’ at Theogony 9—corresponding to énthen apornúmenos (same meaning) at Hymn to Apollo 29, where the verse goes on to proclaim the transformation of Apollo from lord of his native Delos into lord of all mankind. In their local setting the singing and dancing Helikonian Muses resemble the Deliades of the Hymn to Apollo. Like the Muses (for example, Hymn to Apollo 189-190), the Deliades are Apollo’s attendants (157), and the poet seems to be praying to them and Apollo together at stage 4 of his hymn (177-178). Further, the Deliades, too, seem to sing and dance (cf. khorós at Thucydides 3.104.5; cf. also Euripides Herakles 687-690); it is as if the performances of the Helikonian Muses and the Deliades were envisioned as lyric rather than hexameter poetry.

We may also compare Hermes’ miniature theogony as paraphrased in the Hymn to Hermes 425-433; this theogony is technically a hymn to the mother of the Muses, Mnēmosúnē (429), who is described as the deity presiding over and defined by the characteristics of Hermes (for the diction, cf. Callimachus Hymn to Apollo 43). In the same way the Helikonian Muses preside over and are defined by the characteristics of Hesiod—characteristics that they themselves had conferred upon him.

And here we finally see why it is essential for the Theogony that Hesiod should have his local origins at the foot of Mount Helikon. As an expression of the Helikonian Muses, he possesses characteristics that are beyond the immediate sphere of the Olympian Muses. As we have noticed, the goddesses confer upon him a staff (Theogony 30), an emblem of authority that is the province of kings and that emanates from Zeus himself. Also, as his very name Hēsíodos proclaims, the Muses {58|59} of Helikon endow the poet with audḗ (Theogony 31), a special voice that enables him not only to sing a theogony (33-34) but also to tell the future as well as the past (32). Whereas the generic protégé of the Olympian Muses and Apollo is an aoidós ‘poet’ who composes the equivalent of Homeric epos and hymns (cf. Homeric Hymn 25.2-3 and Theogony 94-103), Hesiod as protégé of the Helikonian Muses has the powers not only of a poet but also of what the Greeks would call a kêrux ‘herald’ and a mántis ‘seer’.

The division of attributes between Apollo and Hermes dramatizes the evolutionary separation of poetic functions that are pictured as still integral at the time when Hermes sang the theogony. But then Hermes cedes the lyre to Apollo and confines himself to the primitive shepherd’s pipe (Hymn to Hermes 511-512) so that Apollo can take over the sphere of the aoidós ‘poet’. Apollo also takes over the sphere of the mántis ‘seer’ on a highly evolved pan-Hellenic level (his oracle at Delphi), leaving to Hermes the more primitive sphere of the mántis ‘seer’ as a local exponent of the sort of alētheíē ‘truth’ that is induced by fermented honey. But the “newer” god’s dramatized affinity with the more primitive aspects of poetry and his actual inauguration of Apollo’s poetic art by way of singing a theogony indicate that Hermes—not Apollo—is in fact the older god, and that his “authorizing” staff and his “authorizing” Bee Maidens are vestiges of an older and broader poetic realm. From a historical point of view, Apollo and his Olympian Muses are the newer gods: they represent a streamlining of this older realm into the newer and narrower one of pan-Hellenic poetry.

Similarly, Hesiod’s relationship with the Helikonian Muses represents an older and broader poetic realm that the poet then streamlines into the newer and narrower one of a pan-Hellenic theogony by way of synthesizing the Helikonian with the Olympian Muses. The skêptron ‘staff’ and the prophetic voice that Hesiod receives from the Helikonian Muses, speakers of both falsehoods and truth, are analogous to the Hermetic rhábdos ‘staff’ and Bee Maidens, likewise speakers of both falsehoods and truth. It seems as if the Muses of Olympus inherit the genre of theogony from the Muses of Helikon, just as Apollo gets the lyre from Hermes, composer of the first theogony. For a pan-Hellenic theogony to happen, the Muses have to come down from Helikon and go up to Olympus, through the intermediacy of Hesiod.

The Language of Hesiod

The figure of Hesiod can proudly announce his local origins and still speak in a language that has evolved to match the language of pan-Hellenic hymns, which in turn have evolved to match the language of the epics that they inaugurate. The poet of the Theogony can even equate the artistry of composing a pan-Hellenic theogony with that of composing an epic (100-101)—and the ritual context that a local theogony would surely entail is for us all but forgotten.

As it happens, accusative plurals ending in -ăs and -ŏs are decidedly not a feature of the Boeotian dialect. As for the sporadic occurrences of first-declension –ăs before vowels, it is not true that this phenomenon is limited to Hesiodic diction, as is generally claimed. There are sporadic occurrences in Homeric diction as well, including the Hymns (for instance, at Iliad V 269, VIII 378; Odyssey xvii 232; Hymn to Hermes 106). It is difficult, granted, simply to rule out the possibility that this phenomenon is a reflex of Doric dialects, where first- and second-declension – ăs V- and -ŏs V- are indeed attested. Still, it seems preferable to account for the entire problem in terms of the Ionic dialects, which represent the final and definitive phase in the evolution of both Homeric and Hesiodic poetry. The formulaic evidence could go back to a pre-Ionic stage common to all Greek dialects, with accusative plurals ending in

  • ăns V-      –ăns C-
  • ŏns V-      –ŏns C-

Then we may posit an intermediate stage common to all dialects (and still attested in some) with

  • ăns V-      –ăs C-
  • ăns V-      –ŏs C-

In the final Ionic stage, prevocalic – ăns/-ŏns became -ās/-ous, which were extended to preconsonantal position as well:

  • ās V-       –ās C-
  • ous V-     –ous C-

But the intermediate stage, by way of formulaic repositionings of words from prevocalic to preconsonantal contexts and vice versa, could have left sporadic traces of “contaminations”:

  • ăs V-      –ās C-
  • ŏs V-      –ous C-

There would be more such traces in Hesiodic than in Homeric poetry simply because the Hesiodic reflects a longer span of evolution in the Ionic hexameter tradition. The point remains: not only does Hesiodic poetry implicitly claim to be like Homeric poetry (as at Theogony 100-101) but it also shares extensively in its formal heritage.

In sum, not only does Hesiodic poetry implicitly claim to be like Homeric poetry, but it also shares its predominantly Ionic formal heritage.

Hesiod, Poet of the Works and Days

Hesiod’s ultimate authority as poet, emanating from the ultimate authority of Zeus as king, is put to the test in the Works and Days. In the prelude to the poem (1-10), which is formally the equivalent of a hymn to Zeus, the supreme god is implored to “straighten the divine laws [thémis plural] with your judgment [díkē]” (9) while the poet proceeds to {63|64} say etḗtuma ‘genuine things’ to his brother Perses (10). Thus the actions of Zeus and the words of Hesiod are drawn into an explicitly parallel relationship.

This is not to say that Hesiod is a king; rather, as we shall see, the Works and Days elaborates an authority that replaces and transcends that of kings. The impetus for the entire poem is in fact a neîkos ‘quarrel’ between Hesiod and Perses (35), but this quarrel will not be stopped by any ideal king; the poet wishes that he and his brother would settle it themselves (35), “with straight judgments [díkē plural], which are the best, being from Zeus” (36). The original cause of the quarrel between the two brothers is this: after they had divided up their inheritance from their father (37), Perses forcibly took some of Hesiod’s fair share (38), thereby enhancing the prestige of greedy kings “who wish to pronounce this judgment [díkē]” (38-39). These kings, characterized by Hesiod as dōrophágoi ‘gift-devouring’ (39, 221, 264), are anything but ideal, and the poet threatens that they will be punished for their “crooked judgments [díkē plural]” (250, 264).

As we shall see, what ultimately settles the quarrel of Hesiod and Perses is not any king, but the Works and Days itself, elaborating on the concept of díkē in the sense of ‘justice’. So far, the translation offered for díkē has been ‘judgment’, which is how we must interpret the word in the immediate contexts of Works and Days 39, 249, and 269. In each of these instances, an accompanying demonstrative (tḗnde, see also táde ‘these things’ at 268) forces a translation such as ‘this judgment’, referring short-range to the unjust pronouncement that the greedy kings wish to make. Such contexts even help us understand the etymology of díkē: the ideal king ‘sorts out’ (verb diakrī́nō, at Theogony 85) what is thémis ‘divine law’ and what is not (85) by way of díkē (86), which is an indication (as in Latin indic-āre, where –dic– is cognate with Greek díkē), hence {64|65} ‘judgment’. Long-range, however, any ad hoc ‘judgment’ can be turned into ‘justice’ by Zeus, who is the authority behind all human judgments. Thus, when Hesiod implores Zeus to “straighten the divine laws laws [thémis plural] with díkē” (Works and Days 9), the supreme god’s ‘judgment’ is the same as ‘justice’. This action of Zeus, to repeat, is coefficient with the words of Hesiod to Perses (10), in the context of a neîkos ‘quarrel’ that the two of them must ‘sort out’ for themselves (verb diakrī́nō again, this time in the middle voice; verse 35).

At this point Hesiod turns to Perses and, applying all that he has just told him, concludes by urging his brother to espouse díkē and reject húbris (Works and Days 213). He warns that the fulfillment of díkē is an eventual process, and that díkē will in the end triumph over húbris (217-218). Personified as a goddess, Díkē will punish greedy men who “sort out divine laws [verb krīno; noun thémis] with crooked judgments [díkē plural]” (220-223), and “who drive her out, making her not straight” (224; cf. Iliad XVI 387-388). Then follows the paradigm of the two cities: the polis of díkē becomes fertile and rich (225-237; cf. Odyssey xix 109-114), while the polis of húbris becomes sterile and poor (238-247). {65|66}

Having defined justice as an eventual process (Works and Days 217-218), Hesiod invites the greedy kings to reconsider “this judgment [díkē]” (269) that they had wanted to pronounce in response to the forcible taking of Hesiod’s property by Perses (39). We now see that kings who make “this judgment [díkē]” (269) are thereby making the goddess Díkē “not straight” (224), and that the goddess will eventually punish such men through the power of her father, Zeus (220-224, 256-269). The eventuality of Díkē is also clearly defined in the poetry of Solon: men who forcibly take the property of others (F 4.13 W) are thereby guilty of húbris (4.8) in violating the foundations of Díkē (4.14), who will come to exact just punishment “with the passage of time” (4.16).

The Works and Days dramatizes the actual passage of time required for the workings of Díkē. At the beginning of the poem we find the goddess implicitly violated through the forcible taking of Hesiod’s property by Perses and through the crooked judgment pronounced in the unjust brother’s favor by the greedy kings. At verse 39 “this judgment [díkē]” is still implicitly crooked as the poet begins to teach about Díkē, and the initial teachings are still pessimistic about the outcome of the struggle between húbris and díkē, as also about the power of the hawk/king over the nightingale/poet. By the time we reach verses 249 and 269, however, “this judgment [díkē] is seen in the light of the vengeance that Díkē herself will take on those who violated her. Perses is now urged to espouse díkē in the sense of ‘justice’ (275), since those without it will devour each other like wild beasts (275-278).

As for Perses, he is being taught that, in the end, it is the man of díkē who gets rich (Works and Days 280-281), while the man who forcibly takes the property of others (320-324) will have wealth “only for a short while” (325-326). By the time we reach verse 396 of the Works and Days, {66|67} Perses has been reduced to utter penury and “now” comes to beg from Hesiod. But the poet refuses to give him anything, teaching him instead to work the land for a living (396-397). While the authority of díkē as emanating from Zeus and as represented by Hesiod is eventually taking hold, even the sense of indignation originally felt by the poet against his brother begins to recede; already by verse 286 he is expressing his good intentions toward Perses. Toward the latter half of the poem, the figure of Perses recedes in favor of a generalized second-person singular: it is as if Perses were now tacitly ready to accept the teachings of his righteous brother.

In the end, then, díkē ‘justice’ is totally vindicated in the Works and Days, and its eventual triumph is dramatized in the time that elapses in the course of the poem. Moreover, the function of the basileús ‘king’ as the authority who tells what is and what is not thémis ‘divine law’ by way of his díkē ‘judgment’ is taken over by the poem itself. The vantage point is pan-Hellenic, in that all the cities of the Hellenes arc reduced to two extreme types, the polis of díkē (225-237) and the polis of húbris (238-247). Even the consistently plural use of basileîs ‘kings’ in the Works and Days suggests a pan-Hellenic perspective: from the Homeric tradition we see that each city is ruled by a single king.

With the elimination of kings, the Works and Days can address itself to any polis of, say, the eighth century or thereafter—whether its government is an oligarchy, a democracy, or even a tyranny. And what the poem in effect communicates is the universal foundation of the law codes native to each Greek city-state.

Even in a democracy like Athens, the laws of Solon, as his own poetry proclaims, are founded on the authority of Zeus as king (F 31 W). Just as Zeus is the one who “straightens what is crooked and withers the overweening” (Works and Days 7), as he is implored by Hesiod to “straighten the divine laws [thémis plural] with díkē” (9), so also Solon’s Eunomíā ‘good government by way of good laws’ is a goddess who “shackles those without díkē” (F 4.33 W), “blackens húbris” (4.34), “withers the sprouting outgrowths of derangement” (4.35), and “straightens crooked judgments [díkē plural]” (4.36). In the Theogony we find that Zeus himself fathered Eunomíā, as well as Díkē (902); moreover, their mother is Thémis, the incarnation of divine law and order (901), and it is significant that Zeus married her after defeating Typhoeus and swallowing Metis, the last two remaining threats to cosmic order.

Assuming the stance of a lawgiver, Solon says in his poetry that he “wrote down” his thesmoí ‘laws’ after having adjusted “a díkē that is straight” for the noble and the base alike (F 36.18-20 W). But besides this written law code, we must also keep in mind the poetic traditions attributed to Solon; and in these traditions the figure of Solon functions {67|68} not only as a lawgiver, as we see here, but also as a personal exponent of díkē by virtue of his life as dramatized through his poetry. In one poem, for example, Solon prays to the Muses that they give him wealth and fame (F 13.1-4 W), and that they should allow him to help his friends and hurt his enemies (13.5-6). He yearns to own khrḗmata ‘possessions’ but renounces any thought of forcibly taking any from others, which would be “without díkē” (13.7-8); sooner or later díkē would have revenge (13.8). More specifically, deeds of húbris will surely be punished by Zeus, who appears like a violent wind (13.16-25; cf. again Iliad XVI 384-392).

Like Solon, who protects “both sides” and allows “neither side” to win (ἀμφοτέροισι/οὐδετέρους at F 5.5/6), Theognis presents himself as giving an equal share to “both sides” (ἀμφοτέροισι at 544 above), elsewhere advising Kyrnos to walk “the middle road” (219-220, 331-332) and to give to “neither side” that which belongs to the other (μηδετέροισι 332). The fact that Theognis pronounces “this díkē” (verse 544) in a setting of sacrifice and ritual correctness (545) is significant in view of Hesiod’s instructions in the latter part of the Works and Days, where moral and ritual correctness are consistently made parallel. At verses 333-335 Hesiod’s concluding moral injunction to shun “deeds without díkē” is followed up by further advice, this time a ritual injunction:

κὰδ δύναμιν δ’ ἔρδειν ἱέρ’ ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσιν
ἁγνῶς καὶ καθαρῶς, ἐπὶ δ’ ἀγλαὰ μηρία καίειν·
ἄλλοτε δὲ σπονδῇσι θύεσσί τε ἱλάσκεσθαι,
ἠμὲν ὅτ’ εὐνάζῃ καὶ ὅτ’ ἂν φάος ἱερὸν ἔλθῃ,
ὥς κέ τοι ἵλαον κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἔχωσιν, {69|70}
ὄφρ’ ἄλλων ὠνῇ κλῆρον, μὴ τὸν τεὸν ἄλλος

Hesiod Works and Days 336-341

To the best of your ability, sacrifice to the immortal gods
in a holy and pure manner, burning sumptuous thigh-portions;
and at other times propitiate them with libations and burnt offerings,
both when you go to bed and when the holy light comes back,
so that they may have a gracious heart and disposition,
and so you may buy another man’s holding, rather than have him buy yours.

There is a parallel thematic pattern in the Precepts of Cheiron, a poem attributed to Hesiod (scholia to Pindar Pythian 6.22) in which Cheiron the Centaur instructs the boy Achilles. The one fragment that we have (Hesiod F 283 MW) contains the initial words spoken by the centaur, in which he tells Achilles that the very first thing the young hero must do when he arrives home is to sacrifice to the gods. In a fragment from the {70|71} Epic Cycle (Titanomachy F 6 p. 111 Allen), Cheiron is described as the one who “led the race of mortals to justice [dikaiosúnē] by showing them oaths, festive sacrifices, and the configurations [skhḗmata] of Olympus.” There are also parallel formal patterns shared by the Precepts and by the Works and Days (336-337, 687-688), as well as by Theognis (99-100, 1145 in conjunction with 1147-1148).

Or again, there are analogues to the complementary characterizations of Theognis and Kyrnos in the Works and Days. For example, Hesiod pointedly teaches that one should not make one’s hetaîros ‘comrade’ equal to one’s own brother (707). This negative injunction then becomes an excuse for displaying the poetic traditions available for teaching a hetaîros instead of a brother, since Hesiod goes on to say in {71|72} the next verse: “but if you should do so [make your hetaîros equal to your own brother], then . . .” (708). What follows in the next several verses is a veritable siring of aphorisms that deal precisely with the topic of behavior toward one’s hetaîros (708-722), and there are numerous striking analogues to the aphorisms explicitly or implicitly offered by Theognis to his hetaîros Kyrnos (for instance, Works and Days 710-711, 717-718, 720 and Theognis 155-158, 945, 1089-1090, respectively). Conversely, Theognis pointedly defines a true phílos ‘friend’ as a man who puts up with a difficult hetaîros as if he were his brother (97-100 = 1164a-d). By implication, one simply has to put up with a difficult brother. Theognis is uncertain whether his being a phílos ‘friend’ to Kyrnos is actually reciprocated: he challenges the fickle youth either to be a genuine phílos (89 = 1082e) or to declare that he is an ekhthrós ‘enemy’, overtly stalling a neîkos ‘quarrel’ between the two of them (89-90). We may compare the neîkos between Hesiod and Perses, which is indeed overt (Works and Days 35) but at least is settled in the course of the poem. By contrast, no overt neîkos ever develops between Theognis and Kyrnos, and neither is Theognis ever assured that Kyrnos is a genuine phílos.

In reckoning with different samples of archaic Greek poetry, we must of course avoid the assumption that parallel passages are a matter of text referring to text; rather, it is simply that any given composition may refer to traditions other than the ones that primarily shaped it, and such different traditions may be attested elsewhere. Still, it is almost as if Theognis here were alluding to Perses, or as if Hesiod were actually giving advice on how to treat a fickle Kyrnos.

Hesiod and Perses are not the only key characters in the Works and Days. Their father’s very essence retells some of the key themes that shape the composition. He came from Kyme in Asia Minor (636), sailing the seas in an effort to maintain his meager subsistence (633-634), until he settled on the mainland at Askra, a place that is harsh in the winter, unpleasant in the summer—in short, never agreeable (639-640).

Of course húbris destroys cities only figuratively: more precisely, it is Zeus who destroys cities because of their húbris—which is actually what he does to the archetypical city of húbris at Works and Days 238-247 (especially 239, 242). In this sense the name Pérsēs formalizes the negative side of what Zeus does to those mortals who are marked by húbris. Thus it may be significant that Perses is addressed as dîon génos ‘descendant of Zeus’ by his brother Hesiod at Works and Days 299—and that this title is elsewhere applied only to the children of Zeus (for instance, Artemis at Iliad IX 538). Moreover, from the fifth century onward, the name of the father of Hesiod and Perses is attested as Dîos (see, for example, Ephorus of Kyme FGH 70 F 1). Thus the split between Hesiod and Perses as exponents of díkē and húbris, corresponding to the split between the city of díkē and the city of húbris, is genetically reconciled in a figure whose name carries the essence of Zeus, much as Hesiod and Perses become reconciled in the course of the Works and Days through the utter defeat of húbris by the díkē of Zeus.

Hekate is the only legitimate child of Perses the god, and as such she is mounogenḗs ‘only-born’ (Theogony 426, 448). By contrast, Perses the man is distinctly not the only child of Dîos, being the brother of Hesiod, who in turn implicitly wishes he were an only child: he advises that the ideal household should indeed have a mounogenḗs ‘only-born’ to inherit the possessions of the father (Works and Days 376-377). What would happen if Hekate were not mounogenḗs is suggested by the story about the birth of Eris ‘Strife’ in Works and Days 11-26, presented as a traditional alternative to the story reflected in Theogony 225. The Works and Days affirms that there is not just a moûnongénos ‘single birth’ of Eris (11), the version that we see in the Theogony (225), but that there are in fact two Erides (Works and Days 11-12). The younger and secondary one of these Erides is negative in her stance toward mankind, but the older and primary one is positive: she instills the spirit of competition that motivates even the idler to work the land for a living (Works and Days 12-24). In that Eris is parent of Neîkos ‘quarreling’ (Theogony 229), the neîkos between Hesiod and Perses (Works and Days 35) is motivated by Eris. At first it seems as if it had been the maleficent and secondary Eris that had done so, but, as the neîkos eventually reaches a resolution with the triumph of Hesiod’s díkē over Perses’ húbris in the Works and Days, we realize that it must have been the beneficent and primary Eris all along. [102] The point is, just as an undivided negative Eris can split into a primary positive and secondary negative pair, so also an undivided positive Hekate could by implication split into a primary negative and a {76|77} secondary positive pair. Thus it is beneficial for mankind that Hekate should remain an only child: the primary child in a hypothetical split of the mounogenḗs Hekate figure would presumably take after the father Pérsēs, whose name conveys the negative response of gods to the húbris of mankind. [103] Similarly, Hesiod and Perses themselves are a primary positive and secondary negative pair, while the secondary child Pérsēs has a name that conveys, again, the negative response of Zeus to the húbris of mankind. As for the father of Hesiod and Perses, his name, Dîos—to repeat—carries the essence of Zeus.

The special thematic relationship of Hesiod with the figure of Hekate raises questions about a revealing detail in the Works and Days. Despite all the advice given by Hesiod to Perses about sailing, the poet pointedly says that he himself has never sailed on a ship except for the one time when he traveled from Aulis to the island of Euboea (650-651). There follows a pointed reference to the tradition claiming that the Achaean expedition to Troy was launched from Aulis (651-653). The Iliad acknowledges Aulis as the starting point of the Trojan expedition (II 303-304), and according to most versions it was there that Agamemnon sacrificed his daughter Iphigeneia to Artemis (for instance, Cypria Proclus summary p. 104.12-20 Allen). In the Hesiodic Catalogue of Women (F 23a.15-26 MW), we read that the sacrificed Iphigeneia (here called Iphimede, verses 15, 17) was thereupon made immortal by Artemis, and that, as a goddess, Iphigeneia became Artemis-of-the-Crossroads, otherwise known as Hekate (Hesiod F 23b = Pausanias 1.43.1).

Hekate, as the Theogony (435-438) tells us, aids those who compete in contests, and the poet cites athletic contests in particular. When Hesiod crosses over from Aulis to Euboea, he is traveling to an occasion of contests, the Funeral Games of Amphidamas at Chalkis (Works and Days 654-656). Moreover, Hesiod competes in a poetic contest at the games—and wins (656-657). He goes home with a tripod as prize and dedicates it to his native Helikonian Muses (657-658). Finishing his narrative about the prize that he won in the poetic contest, Hesiod pointedly says again that this episode marks the only time that he ever made a sea voyage (660).


To treat Hesiod simply as an author will only accentuate our inability to appreciate fully his poems, in that he represents a culmination of what must have been countless successive generations of singers interacting with their audiences throughout the Greek-speaking world. Whatever poetic devices we admire in the poems have been tested many thousands of times, we may be sure, on the most discerning audiences. Even the unmistakable signs of a Hesiodic poem’s structural unity are surely the result of streamlining by the tradition itself, achieved in the continuous process of a poem’s being recomposed in each new performance. Instead of referring to a poem in such a context, moreover, it would be better to speak in terms of a tradition of performing a certain kind of poem.

With the important added factor of pan-Hellenic diffusion, the successive recompositions of Hesiodic poetry could in time become ever less varied, more and more crystallized, as the requirements of composition became increasingly universalized. Of course the rate of such crystallization, and even the date, could have been different in each poem or even in different parts of the same poem. From this point of view, we can in principle include as Hesiodic even a composition like the Shield of Herakles, though it may contain references to the visual arts datable to the early sixth century. Scholars are too quick to dismiss this poem as not a genuine work on the basis of the dating alone, and it then becomes all the easier for them to underrate its artistic qualities on the grounds that it is merely an imitation of Hesiod. {79|80}

Another obstacle to our understanding of Hesiodic poetry, perhaps even harder to overcome, is the commonplace visualization of Hesiod as a primitive landlubber of a peasant who is struggling to express himself in a cumbersome and idiosyncratic poetic medium clumsily forged out of an epic medium that he has not fully mastered. Hesiod’s self-dramatization as one who works the land for a living is thus assumed to be simply a historical fact, which can then serve as a basis for condescending speculations about an eighth-century Boeotian peasant’s lowly level of thinking. It is as if the poetry of Hesiod, and of Homer, for that matter, were primitive raw material that somehow became arbitrarily universalized by the Greeks as a point of reference for their poetry and rhetoric in particular, and as the foundation of their civilization in general. Of course, if critics go on to treat such poetry as a producer rather than a product of the Greek poetic heritage, it is easy to find fault whenever we fail to understand. Over the years Hesiod especially has been condemned for many offenses against the sensibilities of modern literary critics. Perhaps the most shortsighted of the many charges leveled against him is that he is, on occasion, capable of forgetting his starting point.

One of the most neglected areas in the general study of Hesiod, as also in this specific presentation, is the artistry of the poems. With our fragmentary understanding of the Hesiodic tradition, some special effects that would have delighted the intended audience will be forever lost to us, while others will emerge only in their barest outlines. It seems appropriate to bring this survey to a close with one such dimly perceived set of special effects, illustrating simultaneously the richness of the poetry and our own poverty of understanding.

This much said, we are still typically far from understanding all the implications of this passage, just as we are far from understanding all that can be understood about Hesiod and his world.

A definitive assessment of Hesiod’s poems is elusive, since we still know so little about their background. The best hope is that there will be further progress in rigorous internal analysis and in systematic comparison with other attested Greek poetic traditions, so that tomorrow’s reader may better appreciate the mechanics and esthetics of Hesiodic poetry. Even so, we shall always fall far short, unable ever to recover all that this poetry presupposes of its own audience at large. {82|83}


[ back ] 1. Cf also Xenophanes B 10 DK on Homer, Heraclitus B 57 DK on Hesiod.

[ back ] 2. On Hesiodic poetry as a type of “Mirror of Princes,” see Martin 1984a; cf. also Watkins 1979.

[ back ] 3. See pp. 8ff.

[ back ] 4. See pp. 9ff.

[ back ] 5. Cf. Snodgrass 1971.421, 435.

[ back ] 6. Cf. N 1979a.7.

[ back ] 7. Rohde 1898 1:125-127. Cf. pp. 10ff.

[ back ] 8. Cf. N 1979a.8 § 15n1.

[ back ] 9. For more on the rhapsodic recitation of the poetry of Archilochus, see e.g. Clearchus F 92 Wehrli.

[ back ] 10. Parry 1971 and Lord 1960.

[ back ] 11. See pp. 18ff.

[ back ] 12. See pp. 21ff.

[ back ] 13. See pp. 21ff.

[ back ] 14. Edwards 1971.

[ back ] 15. See pp. 23ff.

[ back ] 16. Wackernagel 1951.1103.

[ back ] 17. Wackernagel p. 1103.

[ back ] 18. Finnegan 1977.71-87.

[ back ] 19. Kiparsky 1976.99-102.

[ back ] 20. Further discussion in N 1979a.5-9.

[ back ] 21. Durante 1976.177-179.

[ back ] 22. For internal evidence, see e.g. N 1979a.15-20.

[ back ] 23. Cf. N pp. 265-267.

[ back ] 24. Radloff 1885.xviii-xix. See also Martin 1989.6-7.

[ back ] 25. See pp. 27-28.

[ back ] 26. N 1979a.140-141, 273.

[ back ] 27. N 1979a.233-237.

[ back ] 28. Cf. Svenbro 1976.50-59. See also pp. 274-275 below.

[ back ] 29. Detienne 1973.

[ back ] 30. Svenbro 1976.54; for other passages concerning the poetic gastḗr ‘belly’, see N 1979a.229-233, 261 § 11n4.

[ back ] 31. N 1979a. 18-20.

[ back ] 32. N 1979a.296-297, following DELG 137-138, 417. On possible explanations for the fact that there is no trace of laryngeal *h2 in such forms as Hēsíodos, see Peters 1980.14 and Vine 1982.144-145. Another possible factor: laryngeals (*h1, *h2, *h3) are frequently lost without trace in the second half of compounds (see Beekes 1969.242-243 for a list of examples; also Mayrhofer 1986.125, 129, 140).

[ back ] 33. For similar implications as built into the name Hómēros, see N pp. 297-300

[ back ] 34. N p. 297.

[ back ] 35. Van Brock 1959. Further details at pp. 129-130 below.

[ back ] 36. N pp. 292-295. Cf. p. 135n58 below.

[ back ] 37. Snodgrass 1971.191-193, 398-399.

[ back ] 38. See pp. 9-11 above; see also N 1979a.115 § 28n4.

[ back ] 39. N pp. 296-297.

[ back ] 40. I do not deny the notion of “poets within a tradition,” as advocated by Griffith 1983.58n82. I am not arguing generally, as Griffith claims, that tradition creates the poet, but I am arguing specifically that the pan-Hellenic tradition of oral poetry appropriates the poet, potentially transforming even historical figures into generic ones who merely represent the traditional functions of their poetry. To put it another way: the poet, by virtue of being a transmitter of tradition, can become absorbed by the tradition (detailed examples in N 1985a).

[ back ] 41. See pp. 8ff.

[ back ] 42. N 1979a.303-308.

[ back ] 43. Cf. Herodotus 5.83 for a reference to the ritual insulting of local women by choral groups.

[ back ] 44. Commentary in Pfister 1909 1:231n861.

[ back ] 45. On which see Pfister pp. 214-215n788. For more on the myths concerning the death and revival of Hesiod: Scodel 1980, especially with reference to the epigram in Life of Hesiod p. 51.9-10 Wilamowitz (1916), comparable with Plato Comicus F 68 Kock, a passage concerning the death and revival of Aesop. More on the Life of Aesop tradition in N 1979a.279-316.

[ back ] 46. Brelich 1958.322.

[ back ] 47. N 1979a.279-288.

[ back ] 48. N p. 306.

[ back ] 49. N p. 304§4n3.

[ back ] 50. For other references to the Homeridai of Chios, see Acusilaus FGH 2 F 2, Hellanicus FGH 4 F 20 (both by way of Harpocration s.v.); Isocrates Helen 65; Plato Republic 599d, Ion 530c.

[ back ] 51. The basic testimonia are conveniently available in Allen 1924.228-229 and Burkert 1972.76n10. Cf. N 1979a.165-166.

[ back ] 52. Brelich 1958.320-321; cf. N pp. 8-9.

[ back ] 53. For an Indic parallel to the skêptron ‘staff, scepter’: Minkowski 1986.49-78.

[ back ] 54. On the connection of this neîkos ‘quarrel’ with the one between Achilles an Agamemnon in Iliad I: N 1979a.109, following Muellner 1976.105-106.

[ back ] 55. Cf. Koller 1956.

[ back ] 56. Detailed discussion in Koller pp. 174-182. Koller p. 177 stresses that húmnos is the totality of performance; cf. ἀοιδῆς ὕμνον ‘húmnos of the song’ at Odyssey viii 429. Of course, the “rest of the song” that supposedly follows each of the Homeric Hymns may be a stylized formal convention rather than an actual sequel.

[ back ] 57. N 1979a.5-6, 8-9.

[ back ] 58. Koller 1956.170-171.

[ back ] 59. On the potential for expansion and compression in oral poetics, see Lord 1960.99-123.

[ back ] 60. On the interconnection: N 1979a.213-214 § 3n1, n3.

[ back ] 61. Cf. Thucydides 3.104.5.

[ back ] 62. N 1979a.5-6, 8-9.

[ back ] 63. N pp. 8-9.

[ back ] 64. Benveniste 1969 2:35-42.

[ back ] 65. Cf. West 1966.1-16.

[ back ] 66. Cf. Hesychius s.v. θεμούς· διαθέσεις, παραινέσεις.

[ back ] 67. Scheinberg 1979.16-28.

[ back ] 68. Cf. Detienne 1973.12.

[ back ] 69. Janko 1982.85, 197.

[ back ] 70. Edwards 1971.141-165.

[ back ] 71. In what follows, C = “consonant,” V = “vowel.”

[ back ] 72. Data in Janko 1982.

[ back ] 73. Ibid.

[ back ] 74. West 1978.27.

[ back ] 75. See p. 53.

[ back ] 76. N 1979a.151-165, following Vernant 1960, 1966. See also the updated observations of Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106.

[ back ] 77. West 1978.176.

[ back ] 78. On the importance of ornithomanteíā ‘divination by birds’ in the whole poem, cf. Works and Days 828 in the context of the comments by West 1978.364-365.

[ back ] 79. Commentary in N 1985a.68-74.

[ back ] 80. N p. 69.

[ back ] 81. N pp. 72-73. Cf. also Vernant 1985.101, 104, 106.

[ back ] 82. N p. 73.

[ back ] 83. Commentary in N pp. 37-38.

[ back ] 84. Cf. West 1978.334-335; cf. Watkins 1979.

[ back ] 85. Lévi 1966 [1898].121. Cf. N 1985a.38-41. See also pp. 110-111 below.

[ back ] 86. West 1978.33-34.

[ back ] 87. West p. 34.

[ back ] 88. West p. 34.

[ back ] 89. On which see Svenbro 1976.57-58.

[ back ] 90. Cf. N 1979a.228-242.

[ back ] 91. Wallace 1974.8

[ back ] 92. For a collection of fragments and commentary, see Schmid 1947.

[ back ] 93. Schmid pp. 28-29.

[ back ] 94. See Hanell 1934.95-97.

[ back ] 95. N 1985a.51-60.

[ back ] 96. Cf. N 1979a.180-181.

[ back ] 97. Cf. West 1978.197.

[ back ] 98. For these and other examples, see Perpillou 1973.239-240.

[ back ] 99. Perpillou p. 231.

[ back ] 100. West 1966.278.

[ back ] 101. DELG 553 (cf. also Greek koéō ‘perceive’, Latin caueō ‘beware, take precautions, provide guarantees’).

[ back ] 102. N 1979a.313-314.

[ back ] 103. On the maleficent aspects of Hekate, as represented in archaic Greek iconography: Vermeule 1979.109.

[ back ] 104. West 1978.320.

[ back ] 105. Commentary in N 1979a.333-347.

[ back ] 106. Cf. Lamberton 1988.45-48.

[ back ] 107. See janko 1982.259-260n80; cf. also Dunkel 1979.252-253. For a useful perspective on the problem: Lamberton pp. 5-10.

[ back ] 108. Detailed discussion in Durante 1976.197-198. Cf. also Dunkel 1979 and N 1979a.311 § 2n6. For an example of a myth about such a competition, I cite the story of a contest between Arctinus of Miletus and Lesches of Mytilene, two of the poets of the Epic Cycle (Phaenias F 33 Wehrli, in Clement Stromateis 1.131.6).

[ back ] 109. West 1966.398.

[ back ] 110. Vernant 1974.103-120, 177-194.

[ back ] 111. Walcot 1966.

[ back ] 112. West 1966, 1978.

[ back ] 113. Sinclair 1932.13.

[ back ] 114. Watkins 1978a.231.

[ back ] 115. References in Watkins p. 233.

[ back ] 116. Watkins p. 232.

[ back ] 117. References in West 1978.290.

[ back ] 118. West p. 284.

[ back ] 119. Cf. Asclepiades FGH 12 F 71 and the comments of West 1978.293.

[ back ] 120. West p. 302.