Essay about Works and Days by Hesiod

Essay about Works and Days by Hesiod

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Sometime around 750-600 B.C.E., the Greek poet Hesiod produced what is generally thought to be the oldest surviving Greek poetic works. During this time, Greece was near the middle of its Archaic period, a period of technological, social, political, and cultural innovations. This was the period in which the first true alphabet system arose, the system which allowed Hesiod and other poets like him to record permanently the oral stories and lyrics so important to Greek culture. This was also the time in which the Greek polis emerged – what is today translated as “city-state” – as a result of increases in population size. Hand in hand with the increase in population and formation of political bodies like the polis comes the colonization of foreign land which marked this period. Colonies arose all around the Aegean Sea and onto the coast of North Africa, spreading the Greek culture well beyond its homeland (Earth 128-131).
It was during this time that Hesiod composed Works and Days, a didactic poem of about 800 lines addressed to Hesiod’s brother, Perses. Works and Days is Hesiod’s way of telling his brother how to live a good and prosperous life. It is full of Hesiod’s beliefs about right and wrong, justice and injustice, the importance of a solid work ethic, warnings about the deceitful and thievish nature of women, and detailed instructions on everything from when to harvest the crops and take a wife to how to build your plow and dress during winter; it is also heavy in mythology and emphasis on the necessity of obedience to the gods.
Several themes are readily apparent throughout Works and Days. One important theme that Hesiod comes back to time and again is the importance of work. Perses has squandered his inheritance and c...


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...ion back to the seasons and agriculture. Greeks were also very concerned about property rights and inheritance, as Hesiod shows us with his worries about the uncertainty of children’s paternity when women are not kept submissively in the home. Through his advice to his brother, Hesiod’s Works and Days becomes a wealth of information about the particulars of life in ancient Greece during the 7th and 8th centuries B.C.E.



Works Cited

Bulliet, Richard W. Earth and Its Peoples: a Global History. 5th ed. Vol. 1. Boston, MA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

Hesiod. "Works and Days." Theogony and Works and Days. Trans. Catherine Schlegel and Henry Weinfield. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2006. 57-83. Print.

Schlegel, Catherine. "Introduction to Hesiod." Introduction. Theogony and Works and Days. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 2006. 1-10. Print.

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