Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 271 pages of information about Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica.

Two other poems are ascribed to Hesiod.  Of these the “Aegimius” (also ascribed by Athenaeus to Cercops of Miletus), is thought by Valckenaer to deal with the war of Aegimus against the Lapithae and the aid furnished to him by Heracles, and with the history of Aegimius and his sons.  Otto Muller suggests that the introduction of Thetis and of Phrixus (frags. 1-2) is to be connected with notices of the allies of the Lapithae from Phthiotis and Iolchus, and that the story of Io was incidental to a narrative of Heracles’ expedition against Euboea.  The remaining poem, the “Melampodia”, was a work in three books, whose plan it is impossible to recover.  Its subject, however, seems to have been the histories of famous seers like Mopsus, Calchas, and Teiresias, and it probably took its name from Melampus, the most famous of them all.

Date of the Hesiodic Poems

There is no doubt that the “Works and Days” is the oldest, as it is the most original, of the Hesiodic poems.  It seems to be distinctly earlier than the “Theogony”, which refers to it, apparently, as a poem already renowned.  Two considerations help us to fix a relative date for the “Works”. 1) In diction, dialect and style it is obviously dependent upon Homer, and is therefore considerably later than the “Iliad” and “Odyssey”:  moreover, as we have seen, it is in revolt against the romantic school, already grown decadent, and while the digamma is still living, it is obviously growing weak, and is by no means uniformly effective.

2) On the other hand while tradition steadily puts the Cyclic poets at various dates from 776 B.C. downwards, it is equally consistent in regarding Homer and Hesiod as `prehistoric’.  Herodotus indeed puts both poets 400 years before his own time; that is, at about 830-820 B.C., and the evidence stated above points to the middle of the ninth century as the probable date for the “Works and Days”.  The “Theogony” might be tentatively placed a century later; and the “Catalogues” and “Eoiae” are again later, but not greatly later, than the “Theogony”:  the “Shield of Heracles” may be ascribed to the later half of the seventh century, but there is not evidence enough to show whether the other `developed’ poems are to be regarded as of a date so low as this.

Literary Value of Homer

Quintillian’s (11) judgment on Hesiod that `he rarely rises to great heights... and to him is given the palm in the middle-class of speech’ is just, but is liable to give a wrong impression.  Hesiod has nothing that remotely approaches such scenes as that between Priam and Achilles, or the pathos of Andromache’s preparations for Hector’s return, even as he was falling before the walls of Troy; but in matters that come within the range of ordinary experience, he rarely fails to rise to the appropriate level.  Take, for instance, the description

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Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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