Hesiod, The Homeric Hymns, and Homerica

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The story of the end of Hesiod may be told in outline. After the contest at Chalcis, Hesiod went to Delphi and there was warned that the 'issue of death should overtake him in the fair grove of Nemean Zeus.' Avoiding therefore Nemea on the Isthmus of Corinth, to which he supposed the oracle to refer, Hesiod retired to Oenoe in Locris where he was entertained by Amphiphanes and Ganyetor, sons of a certain Phegeus. This place, however, was also sacred to Nemean Zeus, and the poet, suspected by his hosts of having seduced their sister 1105, was murdered there. His body, cast into the sea, was brought to shore by dolphins and buried at Oenoe (or, according to Plutarch, at Ascra): at a later time his bones were removed to Orchomenus. The whole story is full of miraculous elements, and the various authorities disagree on numerous points of detail. The tradition seems, however, to be constant in declaring that Hesiod was murdered and buried at Oenoe, and in this respect it is at least as old as the time of Thucydides. In conclusion it may be worth while to add the graceful epigram of Alcaeus of Messene ("Palatine Anthology", vii 55).

     "When in the shady Locrian grove Hesiod lay dead, the Nymphs
     washed his body with water from their own springs, and
     heaped high his grave; and thereon the goat-herds sprinkled
     offerings of milk mingled with yellow-honey: such was the
     utterance of the nine Muses that he breathed forth, that old
     man who had tasted of their pure springs."

The Hesiodic Poems

The Hesiodic poems fall into two groups according as they are didactic (technical or gnomic) or genealogical: the first group centres round the "Works and Days", the second round the "Theogony".

I. "The Works and Days":

The poem consists of four main sections. a) After the prelude, which Pausanias failed to find in the ancient copy engraved on lead seen by him on Mt. Helicon, comes a general exhortation to industry. It begins with the allegory of the two Strifes, who stand for wholesome Emulation and Quarrelsomeness respectively. Then by means of the Myth of Pandora the poet shows how evil and the need for work first arose, and goes on to describe the Five Ages of the World, tracing the gradual increase in evil, and emphasizing the present miserable condition of the world, a condition in which struggle is inevitable. Next, after the Fable of the Hawk and Nightingale, which serves as a condemnation of violence and injustice, the poet passes on to contrast the blessing which Righteousness brings to a nation, and the punishment which Heaven sends down upon the violent, and the section concludes with a series of precepts on industry and prudent conduct generally. b) The second section shows how a man may escape want and misery by industry and care both in agriculture and in trading by sea. Neither subject, it should be carefully noted, is treated in any way comprehensively. c) The third part is occupied with miscellaneous precepts relating mostly to actions of domestic and everyday life and conduct which have little or no connection with one another. d) The final section is taken up with a series of notices on the days of the month which are favourable or unfavourable for agricultural and other operations.