Hesiod 8th Century B.C.

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Hesiod, born in Boeotia, a section of Greece somewhat northwest of Athens, lived sometime after Homer II or close to the end of the 8th Centruy B.C. Two main poems ascribed to him are extant, namely: Works and Days and Theogony. These represent the best didactic poetry of the Greeks. Hesiod and his brother, Perses, were farmers as was their father. Perses was an idler or ne'er-do-well while Hesiod in addition to farming felt impelled to sing and preach. He was murdered presumably near the temple of Zeus in Nemea.

Works and Days is comprised of four parts (1) an exhortation to his brother Perses (2) a collection of rules for husbandry and navigation (3) ethical and religious precepts and (4) a calendar of lucky and unlucky days. Sarton makes the interesting comment that Heriod in discussing the Five Ages of the World considered finally the age of iron as the present age of sorrow, hatred and strife. Sarton points out that Hesiod was living in an age similar to our own in which thoughtful men were contemplating the ruin, misery, and chaos that are the sequel of war and moral decline, and when in their disillusionment they were tempted to say: "The world is getting worse every day, it must needs come to an end." Certainly this kind of social pessimism may strike us as modern.

The part dealing with husbandry was designed to encourage his brother Perses to make an honest living by following the proper rules of producing crops in order that he might find "a way to pay your debts and avoid hunger." Sarton points out that until 1951 it was correct to state that Hesiod's Works and Days was the first "Farmers' Almanac." However, a cuneiform tablet discovered in Nippur dated about 1700 B.C. was deciphered in which a farmer gave instructions to his son. Duties throughout the year were explained in what has now been called a "Sumerian Farmer's Almanac": (Kramer, S.N. 1951, Scientific American, pages 54-55).

Sarton makes a final comment worthy of citation relative to the final sections of Works and Days: "The farmer was aware of many mysteries surrounding and threatening him; he was every day at the mercy of the elements and of luck. It was not enough for him to do his best in a practical way; he must be humble and full of awe" (A History of Science - page 151).

Hesiodus, The Works and Days, Theogony, The Shield of Herakies, trans. by Richmond Lattimore, Univ. of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, 1959.

Hesiod - THE RETURNS & THE TELEGONY (fragments)

Source: http://omacl.org/Hesiod/