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.

Lastly, there is the famous story of the contest in song at Chalcis.  In later times the modest version in the “Works and Days” was elaborated, first by making Homer the opponent whom Hesiod conquered, while a later period exercised its ingenuity in working up the story of the contest into the elaborate form in which it still survives.  Finally the contest, in which the two poets contended with hymns to Apollo (4), was transferred to Delos.  These developments certainly need no consideration:  are we to say the same of the passage in the “Works and Days”?  Critics from Plutarch downwards have almost unanimously rejected the lines 654-662, on the ground that Hesiod’s Amphidamas is the hero of the Lelantine Wars between Chalcis and Eretria, whose death may be placed circa 705 B.C. —­ a date which is obviously too low for the genuine Hesiod.  Nevertheless, there is much to be said in defence of the passage.  Hesiod’s claim in the “Works and Days” is modest, since he neither pretends to have met Homer, nor to have sung in any but an impromptu, local festival, so that the supposed interpolation lacks a sufficient motive.  And there is nothing in the context to show that Hesiod’s Amphidamas is to be identified with that Amphidamas whom Plutarch alone connects with the Lelantine War:  the name may have been borne by an earlier Chalcidian, an ancestor, perhaps, of the person to whom Plutarch refers.

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 (5), 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

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