The Power of Thetis and Selected Essays

  Slatkin, Laura. 2011. The Power of Thetis and Selected Essays. Hellenic Studies Series 16. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies.

Part II. Chapter 6. Measuring Authority, Authoritative Measures: Hesiod’s Works and Days [1]

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. [4] 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.

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. [7] 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

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. [
9] 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.

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 {192|193} not seamless: the coordination of explanation and prescription constitutes, in fact, the work of the poem’s measures.

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.

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. [15] 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: {194|195}

Theogony 535–544

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 tells us:

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…. {195|196}

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 {196|197} 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.

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, [24] 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.” [25] 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.” [26]

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 {199|200} 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:

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 {200|201} 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.

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. [29] The Iliad 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: [30] {201|202}

Iliad 12.417–423

Although a consideration of the competition between poetic genres, to which Hesiodic poetry alludes, [
32] 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.” [33]

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:

Works and Days 342–348

Hesiod’s advice is to make sure that your neighbor needs you more than you need him: {203|204}

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:

The line between cooperation and competition is thus constantly blurred and redrawn throughout the account of agricultural work:

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, [41] 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 {204|205} 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 and receiving in an exchange system. Thus his options have become, according to Hesiod, either to seize illegitimately or to beg; neither furthers the desired economy.

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:

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: {205|206}

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:

Works and Days 694

When Hesiod insists that he will no longer help Perses if the latter is in need—

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:

Works and Days 349–351 {206|207}

Or, more pessimistically,

Works and Days 708–711

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; hôra = 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: {207|208}

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 unseasonable,” untimely” (parakairia):

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.

Works and Days 609–617 {208|209}

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 {209|210} 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.

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:

Works and Days 274–279 {210|211}

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.

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 {211|212} 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. {212|}

Works Cited

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 [ back ] ἰθείῃσι δίκῃς, αἵ τ’ ἐκ Διός εἰσιν ἄρισται. [ back ] ἤδη μὲν γὰρ κλῆρον ἐδασσάμεθ’, ἀλλὰ τὰ πολλὰ [ back ] ἁρπάζων ἐφόρεις μέγα κυδαίνων βασιλῆας [ back ] 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 [ back ] οὐδ’ ἄτη, θαλίῃς δὲ μεμηλότα ἔργα νέμονται. [ back ] τοῖσι φέρει μὲν γαῖα πολὺν βίον, οὔρεσι δὲ δρῦς [ back ] ἄκρη μέν τε φέρει βαλάνους, μέσση δὲ μελίσσας· [ back ] εἰροπόκοι δ’ ὄιες μαλλοῖς καταβεβρίθασιν· [ back ] τίκτουσιν δὲ γυναῖκες ἐοικότα τέκνα γονεῦσιν·

[ back ] 9. See Nelson 1998.

[ back ] 10. χρύσεον μὲν πρώτιστα γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων [ back ] ἀθάνατοι ποίησαν Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχοντες. [ back ] οἳ μὲν ἐπὶ Κρόνου ἦσαν, ὅτ’ οὐρανῷ ἐμβασίλευεν: [ back ] ὥστε θεοὶ δ’ ἔζωον ἀκηδέα θυμὸν ἔχοντες [ back ] νόσφιν ἄτερ τε πόνων καὶ ὀιζύος· οὐδέ τι δειλὸν [ back ] γῆρας ἐπῆν, αἰεὶ δὲ πόδας καὶ χεῖρας ὁμοῖοι [ back ] τέρποντ’ ἐν θαλίῃσι κακῶν ἔκτοσθεν ἁπάντων· [ back ] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .ἐσθλὰ δὲ πάντα [ back ] τοῖσιν ἔην· καρπὸν δ’ ἔφερε ζείδωρος ἄρουρα [ back ] αὐτομάτη πολλόν τε καὶ ἄφθονον· οἳ δ’ ἐθελημοὶ [ back ] ἥσυχοι ἔργ’ ἐνέμοντο σὺν ἐσθλοῖσιν πολέεσσιν. [ back ] ἀφνειοὶ μήλοισι, φίλοι μακάρεσσι θεοῖσιν.

[ back ] 11. . . . . . . . . . . . ἐργάζευ, νήπιε Πέρση, [ back ] ἔργα, τά τ’ ἀνθρώποισι θεοὶ διετεκμήραντο…(397–398)

[ back ] 12. κρύψαντες γὰρ ἔχουσι θεοὶ βίον ἀνθρώποισιν: [ back ] ῥηιδίως γάρ κεν καὶ ἐπ’ ἤματι ἐργάσσαιο, [ back ] ὥστε σε κεἰς ἐνιαυτὸν ἔχειν καὶ ἀεργὸν ἐόντα· [ back ] αἶψά κε πηδάλιον μὲν ὑπὲρ καπνοῦ καταθεῖο, [ back ] 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 [ back ] εὖ καὶ ἐπισταμένως· σὺ δ’ ἐνὶ φρεσὶ βάλλεο σῇσιν. [ back ] 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 [ back ] Μηκώνῃ, τότ’ ἐπειτα μέγαν βοῦν πρόφρονι θυμῷ [ back ] δασσάμενος προέθηκε, Διὸς νόον ἐξαπαφίσκων. [ back ] τοῖς μὲν γὰρ σάρκας τε καὶ ἔγκατα πίονα δημῷ [ back ] ἐν ῥινῷ κατέθηκε καλύψας γαστρὶ βοείῃ, [ back ] τῷ δ’ αὖτ’ ὀστέα λευκὰ βοὸς δολίῃ ἐπὶ τέχνῃ [ back ] εὐθετίσας κατέθηκε καλύψας ἀργέτι δημῷ. [ back ] δὴ τότε μιν προσέειπε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε· [ back ] Ἰαπετιονίδη, πάντων ἀριδείκετ’ ἀνάκτων, [ back ] ὦ πέπον, ὡς ἑτεροζήλως διεδάσσαο μοίρας.

[ back ] 17. ἀλλἀ Ζεὺς ἔκρυψε χολωσάμενος φρεσὶν ᾗσιν, [ back ] ὅττι μιν ἐξαπάτησε Προμηθεὺς ἀγκυλομήτης· [ back ] τοὔνεκ’ ἄρ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ἐμήσατο κήδεα λυγρά. [ back ] κρύψε δὲ πῦρ· τὸ μὲν αὖτις ἐὺς πάις Ἰαπετοῖο [ back ] ἔκλεψ’ ἀνθρώποισι Διὸς πάρα μητιόεντος [ back ] ἐν κοΐλῳ νάρθηκι λαθὼν Δία τερπικέραυνον. [ back ] τὸν δὲ χολωσάμενος προσέφη νεφεληγερέτα Ζεὺς· [ back ] Ἰαπετιονίδη, πάντων πέρι μήδεα εἰδώς, [ back ] χαίρεις πῦρ κλέψας καὶ ἐμὰς φρένας ἠπεροπεύσας, [ back ] σοί τ’ αὐτῷ μέγα πῆμα καὶ ἀνδράσιν ἐσσομένοισιν. [ back ] τοῖς δ’ ἐγὼ ἀντὶ πυρὸς δώσω κακόν, ᾧ κεν ἅπαντες [ back ] τέρπωνται κατὰ θυμὸν ἑὸν κακὸν ἀμφαγαπῶντες. [ back ] ὣς ἔφατ’· ἐκ δ’ ἐγέλασσε πατὴρ ἀνδρῶν τε θεῶν τε. [ back ] Ἥφαιστον δ’ ἐκέλευσε περικλυτὸν ὅττι τάχιστα [ back ] γαῖαν ὕδει φύρειν, ἐν δ’ ἀνθρώπου θέμεν αὐδὴν [ back ] καὶ σθένος, ἀθανάτῃς δὲ θεῇς εἰς ὦπα ἐίσκειν [ back ] παρθενικῆς καλὸν εἶδος ἐπήρατον· [ back ] …ὀνόμηνε δὲ τήνδε γυναῖκα [ back ] Πανδώρην, ὅτι πάντες Ὀλύμπια δώματ’ ἔχοντες [ back ] δῶρον ἐδώρησαν, πῆμ’ ἀνδράσιν ἀλφηστῇσιν. [ back ] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [ back ] Πρὶν μὲν γὰρ ζώεσκον ἐπὶ χθονὶ φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων [ back ] νόσφιν ἄτερ τε κακῶν καὶ ἄτερ χαλεποῖο πόνοιο [ back ] 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. West 1978:166.

[ back ] 20. Πρὶν μὲν γὰρ ζώεσκον ἐπὶ χθονὶ φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων [ back ] νόσφιν ἄτερ τε κακῶν καὶ ἄτερ χαλεποῖο πόνοιο [ back ] νούσων τ’ ἀργαλέων, αἵ τ’ ἀνδράσι Κῆρας ἔδωκαν. [ back ] [αἶψα γὰρ ἐν κακότητι βροτοὶ καταγηράσκουσιν.] [ back ] ἀλλὰ γυνὴ χείρεσσι πίθου μέγα πῶμ’ ἀφελοῦσα [ back ] ἐσκέδασ’· ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἐμήσατο κήδεα λυγρά. [ back ] μούνη δ’ αὐτόθι Ἐλπὶς ἐν ἀρρήκτοισι δόμοισιν [ back ] ἔνδον ἔμιμνε πίθου ὑπὸ χείλεσιν, οὐδὲ θύραζε [ back ] ἐξέπτη· πρόσθεν γὰρ ἐπέλλαβε πῶμα πίθοιο [ back ] [αἰγιόχου βουλῇσι Διὸς νεφεληγερέταο.] [ back ] ἄλλα δὲ μυρία λυγρὰ κατ’ ἀνθρώπους ἀλάληται· [ back ] πλείη μὲν γὰρ γαῖα κακῶν, πλείη δὲ θάλασσα· [ back ] νοῦσοι δ’ ἀνθρώποισιν ἐφ’ ἡμέρῃ, αἳ δ’ ἐπὶ νυκτὶ [ back ] αὐτόματοι φοιτῶσι κακὰ θνητοῖσι φέρουσαι [ back ] σιγῇ. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

[ back ] 21. See Odyssey 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. Lévi-Strauss 1967:30.

[ back ] 26. In J.M. Redfield’s formulation (private communication). See Redfield 1993.

[ back ] 27. οὐκ ἄρα μοῦνον ἔην Ἐρίδων γένος, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν [ back ] εἰσὶ δύω· τὴν μέν κεν ἐπαινέσσειε νοήσας, [ back ] ἣ δ’ ἐπιμωμητή· διὰ δ’ ἄνδιχα θυμὸν ἔχουσιν. [ back ] ἣ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλει, [ back ] σχετλίη· οὔτις τήν γε φιλεῖ βροτός, ἀλλ’ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης [ back ] ἀθανάτων βουλῇσιν Ἔριν τιμῶσι βαρεῖαν. [ back ] τὴν δ’ ἑτέρην προτέρην μὲν ἐγείνατο Νὺξ ἐρεβεννή, [ back ] θῆκε δέ μιν Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος, αἰθέρι ναίων, [ back ] γαίης ἐν ῥίζῃσι, καὶ ἀνδράσι πολλὸν ἀμείνω· [ back ] ἥτε καὶ ἀπάλαμόν περ ὁμῶς ἐπὶ ἔργον ἔγειρεν. [ back ] είς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἰδὼν ἔργοιο χατίζει…

[ back ] 28. εἰς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἰδὼν ἔργοιο χατίζει [ back ] πλούσιον, ὅς σπεύδει μὲν ἀρώμεναι ἠδὲ φυτεύειν [ back ] οἶκόν τ’ εὖ θέσθαι· ζηλοῖ δὲ τε γείτονα γείτων [ back ] 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 [ back ] τεῖχος ῥηξάμενοι θέσθαι παρὰ νηυσὶ κέλευθον, [ back ] οὔτε ποτ’ αἰχμηταὶ Δαναοὶ Λυκίους ἐδλυναντο [ back ] τείχεος ἂψ ὤσασθαι, ἐπεὶ τὰ πρῶτα πέλασθεν. [ back ] ἀλλ’ ὥς τ’ ἀμφ’ οὔροισι δύ’ ἀνέρε δηριάασθον [ back ] μέτρ’ ἐν χερσὶν ἔχοντες ἐπιξύνῳ ἐν ἀρούρῃ, [ back ] ὥ τ’ ὀλίγῳ ἐνὶ χώρῳ ἐρίζητον περὶ ἴσης…

[ back ] 32. Works and Days 24–26.

[ 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. Hamilton 1989:84.

[ back ] 35. κρύψαντες γὰρ ἔχουσι θεοὶ βίον ἀνθρώποισιν· [ back ] ῥηιδίως γάρ κεν καὶ ἐπ’ ἤματι ἐργάσσαιο, [ back ] ὥστε σε κεἰς ἐνιαυτὸν ἔχειν καὶ ἀεργὸν ἐόντα·

[ back ] 36. τὸν φιλέοντ’ ἐπὶ δαῖτα καλεῖν, τὸν δ’ ἐχθρὸν ἐᾶσαι· [ back ] τὸν δὲ μάλιστα καλεῖν, ὅς τις σέθεν ἐγγύθι ναίει· [ back ] εἰ γάρ τοι καὶ χρῆμ’ ἐγχώριον ἄλλο γένηται, [ back ] γείτονες ἄζωστοι ἔκιον, ζώσαντο δὲ πηοί. [ back ] πῆμα κακὸς γείτων, ὅσσον τ’ ἀγαθὸς μέγ’ ὄνειαρ. [ back ] ἔμμορέ τοι τιμῆς, ὅς τ’ ἔμμορε γείτονος ἐσθλοῦ. [ back ] οὐδ’ ἂν βοῦς ἀπόλοιτ’, εἰ μὴ γείτων κακὸς εἴη.

[ back ] 37. εὐοχθέων δ’ ἵξεαι πολιὸν ἔαρ, οὐδὲ πρὸς ἄλλους [ back ] αὐγάσεαι· σέο δ’ ἄλλος ἀνὴρ κεχρημένος ἔσται.

[ back ] 38. oikos = “household,” “holdings.”

[ back ] 39. Millett 1983.

[ back ] 40. καὶ δόμεν, ὅς κεν δῷ, καὶ μὴ δόμεν, ὅς κεν μὴ δῷ. [ back ] δώτῃ μέν τις ἔδωκεν, ἀδώτῃ δ’ οὔτις ἔδωκεν.

[ back ] 41. Mauss 1967.

[ back ] 42. . . . . . . . . . ἐγὼ δέ τοι οὐκ ἐπιδώσω [ back ] οὐδ’ ἐπιμετρήσω· ἐργάζευ, νήπιε Πέρση, [ back ] ἔργα, τά τ’ ἀνθρώποισι θεοὶ διετεκμήραντο, [ back ] μή ποτε σὺν παίδεσσι γυναικί τε θυμὸν ἀχεύων [ back ] ζητεύῃς βίοτον κατὰ γείτονας, οἳ δ’ ἀμελῶσιν.

[ back ] 43. κὰδ δύναμιν δ’ ἔρδειν ἱέρ’ ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσιν [ back ] ἁγνῶς καὶ καθαρῶς, ἐπὶ δ’ ἀγλαὰ μηρία καίειν· [ back ] . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . [ back ] ὥς κέ τοι ἵλαον κραδίην καὶ θυμὸν ἔχωσιν, [ back ] ὄφρ’ ἄλλων ὠνῇ κλῆρον, μὴ τὸν τεὸν ἄλλος.

[ back ] 44. εὖ μὲν μετρεῖσθαι παρὰ γείτονος, εὖ δ’ ἀποδοῦναι, [ back ] αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρῳ, καὶ λώιον, αἴ κε δύνηαι, [ back ] ὡς ἂν χρηίζων καὶ ἐς ὕστερον ἄρκιον εὕρῃς

[ back ] 45. μέτρα φυλλάσσεσθαι· καιρὸς δ’ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἄριστος.

[ back ] 46. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ἐγὼ δέ τοι οὐκ ἐπιδώσω [ back ] οὐδ’ ἐπιμετρήσω . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

[ back ] 47. εὖ μὲν μετρεῖσθαι παρὰ γείτονος, εὖ δ’ ἀποδοῦναι, [ back ] αὐτῷ τῷ μέτρῳ, καὶ λώιον, αἴ κε δύνηαι, [ back ] ὡς ἂν χρηίζων καὶ ἐς ὕστερον ἄρκιον εὕρῃς.

[ back ] 48. μηδὲ κασιγνήτῳ ἶσον ποιεῖσθαι ἑταῖρον· [ back ] εἰ δέ κε ποιήσῃς, μή μιν πρότερος κακὸν ἔρξῃς. [ back ] μηδὲ ψεύδεσθαι γλώσσης χάριν· εἰ δὲ σέ γ’ ἄρχῃ [ back ] ἤ τι ἔπος εἰπὼν ἀποθύμιον ἠὲ καὶ ἔρξας, [ back ] δὶς τόσα τίνυσθαι μεμνημένος. . . . . . . .

[ back ] 49. …σοὶ δ’ ἔργα φίλ’ ἔστω μέτρια κοσμεῖν, [ back ] ὥς κέ τοι ὡραίου βιότου πλήθωσι καλιαί.

[ back ] 50. τύνη δ’, ὦ Πέρση, ἔργων μεμνημένος εἶναι [ back ] ὡραίων πάντων…

[ back ] 51. ἶσον δ’ ὅς θ’ ἱκέτην ὅς τε ξεῖνον κακὸν ἔρξῃ, [ back ] ὅς τε κασιγνήτοιο ἑοῦ ἀνὰ δέμνια βαίνῃ [ back ] κρυπταδίης εὐνῆς ἀλόχου, παρακαίρια ῥέζων, [ back ] ὅς τέ τευ ἀφραδίῃς ἀλιταίνεται ὀρφανὰ τέκνα, [ back ] ὅς τε γονῆα γέροντα κακῷ ἐπὶ γήραος οὐδῷ [ back ] νεικείῃ χαλεποῖσι καθαπτόμενος ἐπέεσσιν· [ back ] τῷ δ’ ἦ τοι Ζεὺς αὐτὸς ἀγαίεται, ἐς δὲ τελευτὴν [ back ] ἔργων ἀντ’ ἀδίκων χαλεπὴν ἐπέθηκεν ἀμοιβήν.

[ back ] 52. Εὖτ’ ἂν δ’ Ὠαρίων καὶ Σείριος ἐς μέσον ἔλθῃ [ back ] οὐρανόν, Ἀρκτοῦρον δ’ ἐσίδῃ ῥοδοδάκτυλος Ἠώς, [ back ] ὦ Πέρση, τότε πάντας ἀποδρέπεν οἴκαδε βότρυς· [ back ] δεῖξαι δ’ ἠελίῳ δέκα τ’ ἤματα καὶ δέκα νύκτας, [ back ] πέντε δὲ συσκιάσαι, ἕκτῳ δ’ εἰς ἄγγε’ ἀφύσσαι [ back ] δῶρα Διωνύσου πολυγηθέος. αὐτὰρ ἐπὴν δὴ [ back ] Πληιάδες θ’ Ὑάδες. τε τό τε σθένος Ὠαρίωνος [ back ] δύνωσιν, τότ’ ἔπειτ’ ἀρότου μεμνημένος εἶναι [ back ] ὡραίου· πλειὼν δὲ κατὰ χθονὸς ἄρμενος εἶσιν.

[ back ] 53. μηκέτ’ ἔπειτ’ ὤφελλον ἐγὼ πέμπτοισι μετεῖναι [ back ] ἀνδράσιν, ἀλλ’ ἤ πρόσθε θανεῖν ἤ ἔπειτα γενέσθαι. [ back ] νῦν γὰρ δὴ γένος ἐστὶ σιδήρεον· οὐδέ ποτ’ ἦμαρ [ back ] παύονται καμάτου καὶ ὀιζύος, οὐδέ τι νύκτωρ [ back ] φθειρόμενοι. χαλεπὰς δὲ θεοὶ δώσουσι μερίμνας· [ back ] ἀλλ’ ἔμπης καὶ τοῖσι μεμείξεται ἐσθλὰ κακοῖσιν. [ back ] Ζεὺς δ’ ὀλέσει καὶ τοῦτο γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων, [ back ] 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 256–262.

[ back ] 55. Theogony 901–902.

[ 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, [ back ] καί νυ δίκης ἐπάκουε, βίης δ’ ἐπιλήθεο πάμπαν. [ back ] τόνδε γὰρ ἀνθρώποισι νόμον διέταξε Κρονίων [ back ] χθύσι μὲν καὶ θηρσὶ καὶ οἰωνοῖς πετεηνοῖς [ back ] ἐσθέμεν ἀλλήλους, ἐπεὶ οὐ δίκη ἐστὶ μετ’ αὐτοῖς· [ back ] ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἐδωκε δίκην, ἣ πολλὸν ἀρίστη [ back ] γίγνεται·

[ back ] 58. For a powerful example of such a cultural reading, see Ferrari 2002 and 1990.