Essay on Hesiod’s Theogony

Essay on Hesiod’s Theogony

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Hesiod’s Theogony has transcended generations, delivering to vast audiences the traditional stories of the Greek gods as well as ancient Greek conceptions of the world. One particularly well known aspect of the Theogony, the section that tells the tale of Prometheus, is unique in that it has little intrinsic worth; its value is in its ability to enhance other stories and conceptions. Across the globe, people know well the story of the one who deceived Zeus and stole fire for man, but few recognize its role in Hesiod’s work as a whole. The story of Prometheus serves two primary purposes for Hesiod and his audience. First, it solidifies Zeus’s position as king of the gods, providing one of the first characterizations of his temperament, and second, it serves as a mode of explanation for those evils in the world which plague mankind.

Caught between the “Birth of the Olympians” and the story of Pandora, lines 509-572 of Theogony, serve as an intermediary to enhance its preceding and subsequent stories. The “Birth of the Olympians” is the first introduction of Zeus into Hesiod’s world, beginning as “Rheia… was about to give birth to Zeus our father…” (Hesiod 472-73). The lines following Zeus’s birth mention the “wiles and power” (Hesiod 499) of Zeus, and the manner in which he frees all of his brothers and sisters, but does little to elaborate on the character of Zeus, simply stating that he “rules mortals and Immortals.” (Hesiod 508). Hesiod places the story of Prometheus immediately after this line, because this story exposes Zeus’s character traits. It is only logical for Hesiod to elaborate on Zeus after he has been introduced, and the most effective manner in which this can be accomplished is logically in the story of Prometh...


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...on of Iapetos provides fire to man, Hesiod’s tale of Prometheus provides a deeper comprehension of the attitudes of Zeus, king of the gods, and an acceptable cause for the evils that plague mankind. Prometheus has no value in himself; even his rescue by Herakles was achieved for the “glory of Theban-born Herakles.” (Hesiod 532). Prometheus’s identity is entirely dependent on Zeus’s wrath and the punishment delivered to mankind as a result and in turn, the explanation of these two things is entirely dependent on Prometheus.

Works Cited

Hesiod, Theogony. Trans. Lombardo. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc., 1993.

Murray, Oswyn. Early Greece. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Vernant, Jean-Pierre. “Feminine Figures of Death in Greece.” Mortals and Immortals. Ed.
Froma I. Zeitlin. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991. 95-110.

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