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Hesiod, The Poems and Fragments 
The Poems and Fragments done into English Prose with Introduction and Appendices by A.W. Mair M.A. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908).
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Table of Contents
No apology seems needed for a new English translation of Hesiod. I shall be glad if the present rendering lead to a more general study of an author who, if only for his antiquity, must always possess a particular interest.
In some few cases of great doubt and difficulty I have consciously given a merely provisional version. These need not be specified here, and I hope to have an opportunity elsewhere of a full discussion.
The Introduction aims at no more than supplying a certain amount of information, within definite limits, about the Hesiodic epos and the traditional Hesiod. A critical introduction was clearly beyond the scope of this book. In the Addenda I have given a preliminary and necessarily slight discussion of a few selected topics from the Works and Days.
The vexed question of the spelling of Greek proper names is particularly troublesome in Hesiod, since, as Quintilian says, ‘magna pars eius in nominibus est occupata.’ I have preferred some approximation to the Greek spelling rather than the Romanized forms, but I have not troubled about a too laborious consistency.
I have had the privilege of consulting my colleague the Astronomer Royal for Scotland (Professor Dyson) on some astronomical matters, and several of my brothers have given me the benefit of their criticism on various points of scholarship. But neither he nor they have any responsibility for errors into which I may have fallen.
My best thanks are due to the careful scholarship of the staff of the Clarendon Press.
October 13, 1908.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE HESIODIC EPOS
1. ‘Poetry is earlier than Prose’ is a familiar dictum of historical literary criticism, and the dictum is a true one when rightly understood. It has been a difficulty with some that prose—prosa oratio, or direct speech—the speech which, like Mark Antony, ‘only speaks right on,’ should be later in literature than verse. But all that is meant is merely this: that before the invention of some form of writing, of a mechanical means in some shape or other of recording the spoken word, the only kind of literature that can exist is a memorial literature. And a memorial literature can only be developed with the help of metre.
Aristotle finds the origin of poetry in two deepseated human instincts: ‘the instinct for Imitation and the instinct for Harmony and Rhythm, metres being clearly sections of rhythm. Persons, therefore, starting with this natural gift developed by degrees their special aptitudes, till their rude improvisations gave birth to Poetry’ (Poet. iv). What Aristotle says of Tragedy (Poet., l. c.) is true of poetry in general, that ‘it advanced by slow degrees; each new element that showed itself was in turn developed’, and everywhere ‘Nature herself discovered the appropriate measure’.
Poetry, then, for primitive man, was the only vehicle of literature, the only means by which the greatest experiences, the deepest feelings and aspirations of humanity could find an enduring record. ‘In one way only,’ says Pindar, Nem. vii. 14 sq., ‘know we a mirror for glorious deeds—if by grace of bright-crowned Mnemosyne a recompense of toils is found in glorious folds of verse.’ What in Pindar is a claim and a vaunt is for the primitive man literally true. Not for nothing was Mnemosyne or Memory the mother of the Muses: and not for nothing was Number, ‘by which all things are defined,’ the handmaiden of Memory. Number and Memory are significantly coupled by Aeschylus in the Prometheus Vinctus, 459 sqq., where Prometheus, among other benefits he conferred on men, boasts, ‘I found for them Number, most excellent of arts, and the putting together of letters, and Memory (Mneme), the muse-mother, artificer of all things.’
Poetry, accordingly, in the earliest times counted nothing common or unclean, but embraced the whole range of experience. Yet the poet was from the first regarded with a peculiar reverence. He stood apart from his fellow men, in a closer relation to the gods from whom he derived his inspiration. Generally he was not merely the singer of things past—
but also he was the prophet of things to come, and the wise man in whom was enshrined the wisdom of the ages, the highest adviser in things present, whether material or spiritual. With the development of a prose literature which was adequate to record the more ordinary things of life, the poet more and more confined himself to the higher levels of experience, or he dealt with common things in an uncommon way. Hence, as it were by an accident, there was developed the quality which, however hard to define, we each of us think ourselves able to recognize as poetic. But it still remains true that the one distinctive essential of poetry as compared with prose is that it is marked by ‘metres, which are sections (τμήματα) of rhythm’.
2. Before the invention of writing, then, there existed a vast body of popular poetry, handed down memorially. For the most part doubtless it consisted of comparatively short poems. But, even without the aid of writing, memory of itself was adequate to the composition and tradition of poems of considerable length. The old argument against the antiquity of the Homeric poems which was founded on the alleged impossibility of composing or preserving poems of such length by means of memory alone, has long since, on other grounds, become obsolete. It is difficult to understand how it could ever have been seriously advanced. So far as mere length goes I should not think that a good Greek scholar would find much difficulty in composing a poem as long as the Iliad, and certainly in committing it to memory he should find none. But in any case poetry in earlier days occupied a much more intimate part in the popular life than it does now or is ever likely to do again. In camp and in bower, in the labour of the field, in the shepherd’s hut on the hill, in the farmer’s hall on the long winter evenings at the season when ‘the Boneless One gnaweth his own foot within his fireless home and cheerless dwelling’, poetry and song formed the delight and solace of life, enshrining as they alone did the traditions and the wisdom of the race. Pennicuick’s picture of a farmer’s hall in old Scotland would apply, mutatis mutandis, to a farmer’s hall in ancient Greece:
3. All the great types of later poetry are found in germ or prototype in the early popular poetry. One by one they are taken up, so to speak, and carried to their full perfection on the stage of literature. Nowhere is this process of development more simple or natural than in the literature of ancient Greece which, little influenced by external models, runs parallel at every stage and corresponds to the course of the national life. The rustic song and dance in honour of Dionysus gives birth to the magnificent creations of Aeschylus and Sophocles: the rustic harvest-home with its rude and boisterous mirth, when
is the progenitor of the Aristophanic comedy. And so with other forms of literature.
Here we are concerned with Epic poetry only. First we have the unprofessional singer who sang unbidden and unbought: when ‘the Muse was not yet lover of gain nor hireling, and honey-tongued Terpsichore sold not her sweet and tender-voiced songs with silvered faces’ (Pindar, Isthm. ii. 6 sqq.). Next we have the professional minstrel, a wanderer from house to house, singing for his livelihood and a night’s shelter, or, at the top of his profession, the honoured and most trusted retainer of a royal household. The nearest analogy to the position of the latter type of minstrel would be perhaps the modern clergyman: only the early minstrel added to the privileges of the clergyman something of the responsibilities of the family lawyer. There are few more pleasing passages in Homer than those which introduce the honoured minstrel, such as Phemios in the palace of Odysseus and Demodokos in the palace of Alkinoos; of the latter, in Odyssey, viii. 62 sqq., we read how ‘the herald drew nigh, leading the trusty minstrel, whom the Muse loved with an exceeding love and gave him good and evil. She robbed him of his eyes, but she gave him sweet song. For him Pontonoos set a silver-studded chair in the midst of the banqueters, leaning it against a tall pillar. And from a peg he hung the shrill lyre just above his head and guided his hands to grasp it. And by him he set a basket and a table fair, and by him a cup of wine that he might drink when his spirit bade him. And they put forth their hands to the good cheer set ready before them. But when they had put from them desire of meat and drink, then the Muse stirred up the minstrel to sing the glories of men (κλέα ἀνδρωˆν), even that lay whose glory was then come unto the wide heaven, of the strife of Odysseus and Achilles, son of Peleus.’ And just as our Scottish farmer ‘was telling blads of William Wallace’, so in Homer, Iliad, ix. 186 sqq., when a deputation of chiefs came from Agamemnon to persuade Achilles to renounce his wrath, ‘they found him taking his delight in the shrill fair-carven lyre whereon was a bridge of gold: the lyre which he had taken from the spoils, when he sacked the city of Eetion. Therein he was taking his delight and was singing the glories of men (κλέα ἀνδρωˆν), while over against him, alone and in silence, sat Patroklos waiting till the son of Aiakos should end his lay.’
The direct descendant of this type of minstrelsy is the Homeric epic.
4. The first aim of the Homeric poet is to give pleasure: he is a teacher, but he is so indirectly. It is his privilege, nay, it is a condition of his art, to be imaginative, to prefer, in Aristotle’s phrase, ‘probable impossibilities to improbable possibilities,’ and the triumph of Homer is that he ‘chiefly has taught other poets to tell lies as they ought to be told’.
Now the Hesiodic epic is the antithesis of the Homeric. It is a didactic poetry, whose aim is not to please but to instruct. No less than the Homeric poet Hesiod claims divine inspiration, and he recognizes that the Muses are equally operative in both types of poetry. ‘We know,’ he makes the Muses say in Theogony, 27 sq., where he receives his call to poetry, ‘we know to speak full many things that wear the guise of truth (ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοɩ̂α): we know also when we will to utter truth.’ In other words, the aim of the Homeric epos is to please by the invention of artistic probabilities: the aim of the Hesiodic epos is to instruct men in the truth.
Leaving on one side the shield, which, whatever we may think about its authorship and date, belongs rather to the Homeric type of epos, and more particularly to the special type of Iliad xviii, and confining our attention to the Works and Days and the Theogony, we find perhaps the best and most illuminating parallel to the Hesiodic epos in the Wisdom (הסָבְחָ) of the Hebrews as represented by Job, Proverbs, and Koheleth among the canonical books of the Old Testament, and by the Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach, among the Apocrypha. A full discussion of the points of comparison cannot be attempted here; but one or two things may be noticed.
First, both the Hebrew Wisdom and the Greek as represented by Hesiod are essentially practical. Both the one and the other have less metaphysical bent than the seventh-century sages of Greece. Thus, just as Hesiod includes within his scope not merely religious and ethical precepts, but also precepts of law and order, and precepts of husbandry and even of seafaring, so while Hebrew wisdom is mainly occupied with ethical observations, it does not despise the counsels of practical affairs: ‘I Wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. . . . Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding: I have strength. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth’ (Proverbs viii. 12 sqq.); ‘Give ye ear, and hear my voice; hearken, and hear my speech. Doth the plowman plow all day to sow? doth he open and break the clods of his ground? When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place? For his God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him. For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart-wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. This also cometh forth from the Lord of Hosts, which is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working’ (Isaiah xxviii. 23 sqq.). So Hesiod (W. 660 sqq.) has no experience of ships, ‘yet will I declare the mind of Zeus, for the Muses have taught me to sing the wondrous hymn.’
Again, both the Hebrew Wisdom and the Greek offer their reward in this world: Hesiod, W. 225-47, contrasts the prosperity which attends the just man—peace, plenty, fruitful wife—with the afflictions of the unjust man—famine and plague and barren wife. So Proverbs viii. 18 sqq., ‘Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. . . . I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill their treasures’: Proverbs ii. 21 sq., ‘the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it: but the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.’ Hesiod tells how with the successive races of men old age followed faster and ever faster upon youth, until one day men shall be grey-haired at their birth. So Proverbs iii. 16 sqq., ‘Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her; and happy is every one that retaineth her.’
But most notable of all is that striking feature of the Wisdom literature which, for want of a better word, we may in general describe as parabolic. In the Book of Proverbs i. 6, we read: ‘to understand a proverb (םָשָׁל) and a riddle (םְלִיצָה); the words of the wise (חֲבָםִים דִבְדֵי) and their dark sayings’ (חִידֹח), and similarly in Habakkuk ii. 6 (םָשָׁל וםְלִיצָה חִידוֹח). The several terms here given seem to shade into one another in meaning, and cover the whole range of parable, proverb, byword, parallelistic poem, fable, allegory. The distinctions attempted to be drawn between these seem to me rather thin, and in any case are more of form than of essence, and need not concern us here. In Greek we have a similar variety of expressions, αἰ̂νος, αἴνιγμα, παραβολή, παροιμία (Ecclesiasticus xxxix. 1 sq. σοϕίαν πάντων ἀρχαίων ἐκζητήσει καὶ ἐν προϕητείαις ἀσχοληθήσεται· διήγησιν ἀνδρωˆν ὀνομαστωˆν συντηρήσει καὶ ἐν στροϕαɩ̂ς παραβολωˆν συνεισελεύσεται· ἀπόκρυϕα παροιμιωˆν ἐκζητήσει καὶ ἐν αἰνίγμασι παραβολωˆν ἀναστραϕήσεται), γρɩ̂ϕος, κέρτομα, and I venture to add σκόλιον, which was properly in its origin a ‘crooked’ or cryptic ‘sentiment’, like the Hebrew m’lîça. Very close in meaning also is εἰκών, imago and similitudo. The use of the fable, parable, &c., in the Bible need not be illustrated here. In Hesiod we find the same characteristic. Thus we have the fable (αἰ̂νος) of the hawk and the nightingale in W. 202 sqq., the proverb in W. 345 sqq. and passim, cryptic expressions like εὕει ἄτερ δαλονˆ, W. 705, &c.
The most curious form of this phenomenon in Hesiod is the use of the allusive or descriptive expression in place of the κύριον ὄνομα or ‘proper’ word. Thus we have ‘Athene’s servant’ = carpenter; ‘the three-footed man’ = old man with his staff (cf. the ‘three-footed ways’ of the old in Aesch. Agam.); ‘the boneless one’ = cuttlefish; ‘the house-carrier’ = the shell-snail; ‘the wise one’ = the ant; ‘the daysleeper’ = the burglar; ‘to cut the withered from the quick from the five-branched’ = to cut the nails of the hand.
Such expressions are sometimes described as ritualistic. But to label a phenomenon is not to explain it. The fact would seem to be that the use of the descriptive or allusive expression may be due to a variety of motives. In the first place, our ‘proper’ names are themselves very largely in their origin descriptive names: only the original meaning has become obscured and been forgotten, and they now merely denote, without being felt to describe. Thus, e.g., ‘squirrel’ is now merely a denotative label, but when first used and still felt to mean shadow-tail, or shady-tail, it was not simply denotative but also descriptive. Again, we feel ‘boneless one’ to be a significantly picturesque name for a cuttlefish, while polypus, which is just as picturesque in origin, is no longer felt to be so, except by one who knows Greek. So ἀνθεμουργός (Aeschylus), ‘flower-worker,’ we still feel to be an expressive name for a bee, whereas μέλισσα probably to most scarcely hints its original meaning, ‘the honey one.’
The phenomenon we have to do with is the deliberate choice of the allusive in preference to the ‘proper’ word, when it lay ready to hand. Among the motives are the desire for picturesqueness and variety (thus ‘the croucher’ for Mr. G. L. Jessop); the desire of euphemism—ἀποπατεɩ̂ν, ‘cover the feet’; of poetical dignity—‘the chalice of the grapes of God’ (Tennyson) = the Communion cup. Often, again, the allusive term is half-humorously meant; this is especially common in rustic or popular speech: thus ‘clear buttons’ for policeman; and the Aberdeen urchin still salutes the guardian of the peace as ‘Tarryhat’, though the headgear which occasioned the epithet has long been obsolete. Akin to this is the pet name; thus Scots ‘crummie’ = cow, means literally ‘crooked’ (Germ. krumm), i.e. with crooked horns, and thus corresponds to ἕλικες in Homer. In certain cases, again, there may be a superstitious motive: thus on the NE. coast of Scotland a fisherman when at sea must not mention a minister as such, but refer to him only as the ‘man with the black coat’. Sometimes, again, the turn of expression is definitely intended to be a riddle, a dark saying.
We need not discriminate these various motives too carefully, as they must often have worked together. That such turns of expression were characteristic of the early didactic poet is certain. He spoke in pregnant parables and memorable epigrams: as Pindar tells us, Pyth. ix. 77 βαιὰ δ’ ἐν μακροɩ̂σι ποικίλλειν ἀκοὰ σοϕοɩ̂ς. Thus also such language was characteristic of the oracles. Yet it seems a little misleading to dismiss such expressions wherever found as priestly, oracular, ritualistic. If they are ritualistic, then we must try to explain why. When we find in Pindar, Ol. xiii. 81 κραταίπους—‘the strong-footed,’ in the sense of ‘bull’, and when we read the scholiast’s note thereon: τὸν τανˆρον ϕησίν· οὕτω δὲ Δελϕοὶ ἰδίως ἐκάλουν, our remark would be (1) that the expression is one of those allusive terms characteristic of oracles; (2) it may, however, be an invention of Pindar’s own; (3) in any case we are familiar with the type, and it is utterly improbable that it was peculiar to Delphi. We find, in fact, an exact parallel in the Hebrew אַבִּיד, ‘strong,’ meaning ‘bull’, Ps. xxii. 13 (in Jeremiah = horse). So לְבָנָה, ‘pale,’ = the moon (cf. Phoebe).
The reader should be warned, however, from finding subtle meanings where none exists. Thus Professor Gilbert Murray’s remarks on Hesiod’s ox and Hesiod’s ploughman on p. 62 of his Rise of the Greek Epic have no obvious relation to the facts. Indeed he is refuted by himself when in a footnote on p. 63 he confesses, ‘v. 559 f. I do not understand.’ Nor do I think he is more fortunate with Homer’s ox, p. 64, when he writes: ‘Then as the bull is struck, “the daughters and the daughters-in-law and the august wife of Nestor all wailed aloud.” Exactly, you see, as the Todas wail.’ Unfortunately, Homer does not say that Nestor’s wife and daughters-in-law wailed.
In conclusion, I should like to suggest that the gloom which is supposed to characterize the Hesiodic epos is by no means so marked as is often said. You do not expect a sermon to be as cheerful as a ballad of adventure. And the political discontent of which so much is made is no more obvious than in Homer. When Professor Murray (Greek Literature) says that there is indeed a hope when one day the demos ‘arises and punishes’ the sins of the princes, he is merely mistranslating the lines in which Hesiod says that one day the people suffer for the sins of the princes—‘quidquid delirant reges, plectuntur Achivi’—which is a somewhat different thing.
THE LIFE OF HESIOD
It may be convenient for the reader if we here set out the most noteworthy of the ancient testimonia regarding Hesiod’s life—A. Internal evidence from the Hesiodic Poems. B. External evidence.
A. (1) Works and Days, 27 sqq. ‘O Perses, lay thou this to heart, nor let strife that exulteth in evil turn thy mind from work, to watch contention and to hearken in the market-place. Little time hath he for wrangling and contention, who hath not laid up at home store of food sufficient for the year, Demeter’s grain. When thou hast gotten thee enough thereof, then be contentious for the goods of others. But no more mayst thou do thus. Let us straightway judge between us with just judgement, even of Zeus, which is best. Already had we divided our inheritance, and much besides didst thou seize and carry away, for the great glory of the bribe-devouring princes, who are fain to judge this suit’ (τήνδε δίκην ἐθέλουσι δικάσσαι).
We gather from this that Hesiod’s father must have been a man of considerable estate. Otherwise there would have been no possibility of Perses giving great glory to the bribe-devouring princes. On the death of their father the two sons had divided his estate—on what principle we do not know. But Perses, not content with his due share, carried off much besides. The case was about to come before the bribe-devouring princes, who were only too glad to decide the case. Hesiod, however, invites Perses to an equitable agreement—‘with just judgement, even of Zeus, which is best.’ The ‘emendation’ adopted by Fick and others —ἐθέλουσι δίκασσαν—‘gave this verdict with our consent,’ implies that the trial had already taken place. An assumption at once more gratuitous and more at variance with the context can hardly be imagined. Hesiod does not say that Perses got more than his share by bribing the judges. ‘Didst seize and carry away’ would not be the natural language to apply to his action in that case. What he does say is that Perses took more than his share, and the subsequently necessary lawsuit was calculated to bring great glory to the bribe-devouring princes who would be glad to decide the case: instead of which Hesiod proposes an equitable arrangement, which would not require the intervention of the ‘princes’.
(2) W. 299, Πέρση, δɩ̂ον γένος: ‘noble Perses.’ This might at first sight argue noble birth: but the epithet is only a convention, applied as it is in Homer to the swineherd Eumaios (Od. passim), who of course as the son of prince Ktesios was, indeed, of noble birth—only I do not think it is in virtue of his birth that the epithet is applied to him.
(3) W. 633: ‘Even as thy father and mine, foolish Perses, was wont to sail in ships, seeking a goodly livelihood: who also on a time came hither, traversing great space of sea in his black ship from Aiolian Kyme: not fleeing from abundance, nor from riches and weal, but from evil penury, which Zeus giveth unto men. And he made his dwelling near Helikon in a sorry township, even Askra, bad in winter, hard in summer, never good.’ According to this Hesiod’s father was an inhabitant of Kyme in Aiolis on the coast of Asia Minor, who earned his livelihood as a merchant, and ultimately came across to Greece and settled at Askra in Boiotia. Fick is not justified in saying that ‘came hither’ cannot refer to an inland town like Askra, but must refer to a coast town—i.e. Naupaktos in the district of the Western Lokrians. Still less convincing is Fick’s argument that the Works and Days, or that portion of it which Fick calls the ‘Rügelied’, could not have been written at Askra, or at any rate not published there, because the poet would not in that case have spoken so disparagingly of the princes of Thespiai!
(4) W. 648: ‘I will show thee the measures of the surging sea, though I have no skill of seafaring or of ships. For never yet have I sailed over the sea in a ship save only to Euboia from Aulis, where of old the Achaians abode a storm, when they had assembled a mighty host that should go from sacred Hellas unto Troy, the land of fair women. Thither even unto Chalkis I crossed to the games of wise Amphidamas. And the prizes full many did his great-hearted sons offer and set forth, where I avow that I was victorious with my hymn and carried off an eared tripod: which I offered up to the Muses of Helikon, where first they set me on the path of sweet song. Such is all the experience I have of dowelled ships.’
The first inference from this is that Hesiod was born subsequent to his father’s settling at Askra. Again we have here a clear reference to Hesiod’s account in the Theogony prooemium of the Muses’ visit to him on Mount Helikon. The date of the Amphidamas referred to is unfortunately unknown, the earlier chronologists fixing his date by Hesiod’s, not Hesiod’s by his.
In this passage for the words (v. 656-7) ἔνθά μέ ϕημι | ὕμνῳ νικήσαντα ϕέρειν τρίποδ’ ὠτώεντα, there was a variant, Proclus tells us, ἔνθά μέ ϕημι | ὕμνῳ νικήσαντ’ ἐν Χαλκίδι θεɩ̂ον Ὅμηρον. There need be no doubt whatever that the first is the correct reading, but the legend of the contest between Hesiod and Homer obtained much currency in later times. The scholiast on Pind. Nem. ii. 1 attributes to Hesiod the lines:
and we have a poem entitled ‘Of Homer and Hesiod, their lineage and their contest’, generally known as the Contest or Agon of Homer and Hesiod. But as it mentions the Emperor Hadrian (a.d. 76-138, emperor a.d. 117-38) it cannot be earlier than the second century after Christ.
The tripod which Hesiod won in this contest was still shown in the time of Pausanias (a.d. 138-81), who writes in his Description of Greece, ix. 31. 3: ‘On Helikon, among other tripods erected, the most ancient is that which Hesiod is said to have won at Chalkis on the Euripos, as victor in a poetic contest.’ Pausanias says nothing of the inscription on the vase. In the Agon it is given as follows:
and so it is given in Proclus’s Life of Homer, and in A. Gellius, 3. 11.
(5) Theogony, 22-35: ‘(the Muses) which also of old taught Hesiod sweet song what time he tended his sheep under holy Helikon. These words first spake to me the goddess Muses of Olympos, the daughters of Zeus the Lord of the Aigis: “Shepherds of the fields, evil things of shame, bellies only! We know to speak full many things that wear the guise of truth, and know also when we will to utter truth.” So spake the eloquent daughters of mighty Zeus. And they gave me a staff, even a branch of lusty olive, wondrous to pluck, and breathed in me a voice divine that I might celebrate the things that shall be and the things that were aforetime. They bade me sing the race of the Blessed Ones which are for ever, but always to sing their own selves first and last. But wherefore this tale of stock or stone?’
The incident here mentioned is clearly that referred to in the previous quotation from the Works and Days: ‘where first they set me on the path of sweet song.’
B. Of external sources of information about Hesiod’s life we may take first the Agon and the Life by Ioannes Tzetzes (twelfth century a.d.).
The Life by Tzetzes may be shortly summarized as follows: ‘Hesiod and his brother Perses were the children of Dios [this name, which is regularly assigned to Hesiod’s father in later notices of the poet, seems to be derived from the variant reading Δίου γένος for δɩ̂ον γένος in W. 299; similarly from τύνη=σύ in W. 10, one Polyzelos invented Tynes as a King of Chalkis] and Pykimede, of Kyme in Aiolis, who owing to stress of poverty removed to Askra, a township near the foot of Helikon, in Boiotia. Owing to the poverty of his parents Hesiod became a shepherd of sheep on Helikon. Hesiod tells how nine women came to him and gave him to eat shoots of Heliconian bay, whereby he was inspired with wisdom and poetry (σοϕίας καὶ ποιητικη̂ς ἐμπεϕόρητο). So far the narrative is true—that Hesiod was the son of Dios and Pykimede, and that he was a shepherd on Helikon: the rest is mythical and allegorical. For either Hesiod, while shepherding upon Helikon, fell asleep, and in a dream beheld nine women who fed him with bays—the dream signifying that through partaking of the education of bitterness and toil he should produce evergreen poems. Hesiod then, having beheld these things in a dream, awoke from sleep and gave up shepherding and devoted himself to toil and study, and so accomplished the fulfilment of his dream. Or it may be that while shepherding on Helikon, awake and not asleep, having reflected in his heart and attained the appropriate mind, he eschewed the meanness and hardness of a shepherd’s life and applied himself to study and endured toil, and so attained great renown: and produced his many books which I know to be food of the Muses and of knowledge, vocal Heliconian bays, everywhere circling and blooming and proclaiming him who was erstwhile the poor and obscure shepherd of flocks, but now has attained repute through virtue and culture.
‘Some hold that Hesiod was contemporary with Homer; others maintain that he was earlier than Homer. Those who maintain the latter opinion say he lived at the beginning of the reign of Arxippos [King of Athens (according to Philochoros) 1029-994 b.c.], while Homer lived at the end of that reign. This Arxippos was the son of Akastos, and ruled Athens for thirty-five years. Those who hold that they [i.e. Homer and Hesiod] were contemporaries say that at the death of Amphidamas, King of Euboia, they contended, and Hesiod was victorious,’ &c. [Here follows an account of the contest, at which Paneides, brother of Amphidamas, was president and judge along with Ganyktor and the other sons of Amphidamas. The prize was finally awarded by Paneides to Hesiod on the ground that ‘he taught peace and agriculture, and not war and slaughter, like Homer’. Tzetzes himself dismisses the whole story as ‘the babble of a later day’, while he records his own opinion—‘or rather,’ he writes, ‘I know for certain’—that Homer was much earlier than Hesiod. He suggests that the Homer who competed with Hesiod may have been another Homer, a Phocian and son of Euphron, since there were various Homers, e.g. later than the Phocian Homer, there was Homer, son of Andromachos, a Byzantine, author of the Eurypyleia. The ancient Homer lived, according to Dionysios ὁ κυκλογράϕος, in the time of the Theban expeditions and the taking of Troy.] ‘Hence I conclude that he lived four hundred years before Hesiod. For Aristotle, the philosopher—or rather, I imagine, the author of the Peploi—in his Polity of the Orchomenians, says that Stesichoros, the lyric poet, was the son of Hesiod by Ktimene, sister of Amphiphanes and Ganyktor, and daughter of Phegeus. This Stesichoros was contemporary with Pythagoras, the philosopher, and Phalaris of Acragas. Others say he was four hundred years later than Homer, as Herodotos also says.
‘Hesiod wrote sixteen books, Homer thirteen.’
Tzetzes concludes with an account of the death of Hesiod, to which I shall refer later.
The Agon (which, as we have seen, cannot, in its present form at any rate, be earlier than the second century after Christ) opens with a genealogy of Homer, and then proceeds: ‘Some say that he (Homer) was earlier than Hesiod, others that he was younger and a kinsman. They give the genealogy thus:
‘Others say they were contemporaries, and competed together at Chalkis in Euboia.’ Then follows an account of the contest, which is introduced in the following words: ‘Homer having composed the Margites went about from city to city rhapsodizing. He went to Delphi also, where he inquired what was his mother’s native country. The Pythian priestess answered: “The Isle of Ios is thy mother’s fatherland which shall receive thee dead. But beware of the riddle of young children.” Homer, on hearing this, avoided going to Ios, and stayed in the district round about Delphi. About the same time Ganyktor, holding the funeral feast of his father, Amphidamas, King of Euboia, invited to the meeting, not merely all men who were distinguished for strength and speed, but those also who were distinguished for wisdom, honouring them with great rewards. So, as we are told, Homer and Hesiod met by accident at Chalkis. The judges of the contest were certain eminent Chalcidians, and, with them, Paneides, brother of the deceased.’ The procedure at the contest is a little ridiculous, and may be dismissed briefly. First Hesiod put single questions to Homer which Homer answered. Thus Hesiod: ‘Homer, son of Meles, who knowest wisdom from the gods, come tell me first of all, What is best for men?’ To this Homer replies: ‘Never to be born at all is best for mortal men, and if born to pass as soon as may be the gates of Hades.’ To a second and similar question by Hesiod Homer replies in the amous lines of Odyssey, ix. 6-11. This reply of Homer’s greatly delights the judges. Hesiod, chagrined at Homer’s success, next tries Homer with ‘indefinite’ questions: ‘Come, Muse, the things that are and the things that shall be and the things that were aforetime—thereof sing not, but mind thee of another song.’ Homer answers: ‘Never around the tomb of Zeus shall horses with clattering feet wreck the chariot, contending for victory.’ Homer having answered successfully, Hesiod has recourse to ‘ambiguous sentences’, i.e. Hesiod recites a line or lines, and Homer adds a line to complete the sense. Thus Hesiod: ‘Now when they had made libation and drunk—the wave of the sea—’. Homer:—‘they were to voyage over on their well-benched ships.’ Homer having successfully answered a number of questions of this type, Hesiod next propounds a problem: ‘How many Achaians went to Troy with the Atreidae?’ Homer answers by means of an arithmetical problem: ‘There were fifty hearths; in each hearth fifty spits (ὀβελοί); on each spit fifty pieces of flesh; round each piece of flesh thrice three hundred Achaians.’ This would give, as Tzetzes says, an incredible number: 50 × 50 × 50 × 900 = 112,500,000. Homer having got the better of him in all these questions, Hesiod, ‘being jealous,’ proposes some further questions, which are again so successfully answered that all the Greeks were for awarding the crown to Homer: but King Paneides ordered each of the poets to quote the best passage in their poems. Hesiod quotes W. 383-92—the passage commencing ‘What time the Pleiades, the daughters of Atlas, rise,’ &c. Homer quotes Iliad, xiii. 126-35, 339-44: ‘Around the two Aiantes,’ &c. Still the Greeks were for awarding the victory to Homer. But King Paneides crowned Hesiod, saying that the victory ought to go to the poet who incited to agriculture and peace, not to him who described wars and battles. So Hesiod won, and received a brazen tripod which he dedicated to the Muses with the inscription: ‘Hesiod dedicated this to the Heliconian Muses, having by his hymn at Chalkis conquered divine Homer.’
The rest of the Agon, so far as concerns Hesiod, is the story of his death, and that is the only further circumstance of Hesiod’s biography which it is worth while to consider here. I give the chief accounts which have come down to us.
1. Thucydides, iii. 96: ‘[Demosthenes], having bivouacked with his army in the precincts of Nemean Zeus, in which Hesiod the poet is said to have been killed by the people of the country, an oracle having before declared that he should suffer this fate at Nemea, set out,’ &c., i.e. the oracle had foretold that Hesiod should die at Nemea, whereby he naturally understood Nemea in Argolis to be meant, not Nemea in Lokris.
2. Tzetzes’ Life: ‘Hesiod died in Lokris in the following manner: after his victory at the funeral feast of Amphidamas, he went to Delphi, where this oracle was given to him: “Happy is this man who visiteth my house, even Hesiod, honoured of the deathless Muses: his glory shall be wideflung as the dawn. But beware thou of the fair grove of Nemean Zeus: for there the end of death is foredoomed for thee.” Avoiding Nemea in Peloponnesos he was slain at Oinoe in Lokris by Amphiphanes and Ganyktor, the sons of Phegeus, and cast into the sea, as having ruined their sister Ktimene (mother of Stesichoros). Now Oinoe was called the temple of Nemean Zeus. Three days afterwards the body was carried ashore by dolphins between Lokris and Euboia [this seems to be a confusion of the Epicnemidian Locrians with the Ozolian Locrians, in whose country Oinoe was situated], and the Locrians buried him at Nemea in Oinoe. His murderers went on board a ship and endeavoured to escape, but perished in a storm. Afterwards, the people of Orchomenos, in obedience to an oracle, brought Hesiod’s bones and buried them in the middle of their market-place, and wrote over him this epitaph: “Askra of rich corn-land was the fatherland, but the knightly Minyan land holds the bones of Hesiod dead: Hesiod, whose glory is greatest among men, when men are tried by wisdom’s touchstones.’ [This epitaph is given in the Greek Anthology, vii. 54, as by Mnasalcas of Sikyon, third century b.c.] ‘Pindar also wrote an epitaph: “Hail, Hesiod! twice young, twice buried, who holdest the measure of wisdom for men”.’
3. The Agon: ‘After the meeting [at Chalkis] was dissolved Hesiod sailed across to Delphi to consult the oracle and to dedicate the fruits of victory to the god. As he approached the shrine, it is said, the priestess became inspired and said, “Happy is this man,” &c. [as in Tzetzes]. Hesiod having heard the oracle withdrew from the Peloponnesos, thinking that the god meant the Peloponnesian Nemea, and went to Oinoe in Lokris, where he stayed with Amphiphanes and Ganyktor, the sons of Phegeus—not understanding the oracle. For the whole of this place was called the temple of Nemean Zeus. Having stayed a considerable time in Oinoe, he was suspected by the young men of corrupting their sister. So they killed Hesiod and threw his body into the sea between Euboia and Lokris. On the third day the body was brought ashore by dolphins, while the people of the district were celebrating a local festival—the Ariadneia. All rushed to the shore, and recognizing the body, they buried it with mourning, and proceeded to seek out his murderers. They, fearing the anger of their fellow citizens, launched a fishing-vessel and sailed across to Crete. In the course of their voyage Zeus sank them with a thunderbolt—as Alkidamas says in his Museum. Eratosthenes, however, in his Hesiod says that when Ktimenos and Antiphos, the sons of Ganyktor, had slain Hesiod on the charge before-mentioned, they were sacrificed to the gods of Hospitality (θεοɩ̂ς ξενίοις) by the seer Eurykles. The maiden, sister of the aforesaid, after her ruin hanged herself: her ruin, however, was due, he says, to a stranger who was a fellow traveller of Hesiod, by name Demonides, who was killed by the brothers. Afterwards the people of Orchomenos, in obedience to an oracle, transferred Hesiod’s body to their own city, where they buried him, and inscribed on his tomb “Askra” ’, &c. [as in Tzetzes].
4. Plutarch, Septem Sap. Conviv. 19: ‘A Milesian with whom Hesiod shared hospitality in Lokris was discovered to have ruined their host’s daughter. Hesiod was suspected of having been cognisant of the crime and of having screened the guilty person. The brothers of the maiden laid an ambush and slew Hesiod and his attendant Troilos at the Locrian Nemeum. Their bodies were thrown into the sea—that of Troilos into the river Daphnos, where it was carried out to sea and landed on a reef which projected a little from the sea, and which is to this day called Troilos. Hesiod’s body, on the other hand, was at once taken up by a shoal of dolphins and carried to Rhium and Molykria. The Locrians happened to be holding the established festival and general assembly of the Rhians, which even at this day they manifestly hold at that place. When the body was seen coming ashore, the people, naturally surprised, ran down to the beach, and recognizing the corpse, which was not long dead, they postponed everything to an inquiry into the murder, on account of Hesiod’s fame. They speedily discovered the murderers, and threw them into the sea alive and razed their house to the ground. Hesiod was buried beside the Nemeum. Most strangers do not know his tomb, but it is kept concealed, being sought by the people of Orchomenos who wished, in obedience to an oracle, to take up his remains and inter them in their own country.’
5. Plutarch, De Animal. Sollert. 13. 10: ‘This wise Hesiod’s dog is said to have done—convicting the sons of Ganyktor of Naupaktos, by whom Hesiod was slain.’
6. Plutarch, op. cit. 36. 7: ‘Your mention of Hesiod is timely, my friend, “albeit the tale is incomplete”: mentioning the dog, you should not have omitted the dolphins. For blind had been the information of the dog, barking and crying as it bore down upon the murderers, had not his dead body, which was drifting in the sea near Nemeum, been taken up by dolphins, who eagerly took it up and in relays brought it ashore at Rhium and shown Hesiod slain.’
7. Pollux, v. 42: ‘Hesiod’s dogs, remaining beside him when slain, by their barking convicted his murderers.’
8. Pausanias, Descript. of Greece, ix. 31. 6(5): ‘Contradictory accounts are given also of Hesiod’s death. All are agreed that Ganyktor’s sons, Ktimenos and Antiphos, fled from Naupaktos to Molykria owing to the murder of Hesiod, and there committed impiety towards Apollo and received their punishment at Molykria: but some say the young men’s sister was shamed by another person, and that Hesiod wrongly got the blame for another’s sin: others say that Hesiod himself was the guilty person.’
9. Pausanias, op. cit. ix. 38. 3: ‘[At Orchomenos] are tombs of Minyas and Hesiod. They say they received Hesiod’s bones in this way. A plague seizing both man and beast, they sent an embassy to the god [i.e. to Apollo at Delphi], and the answer they received from the Pythian priestess was that their one remedy was to bring the bones of Hesiod to the land of Orchomenos. They next asked, where in the land of Naupaktos they should find his bones, and the priestess replied that a raven should indicate to them the place. Accordingly the men landed at Naupaktos, and not far from the road they saw a rock and the bird sitting on it: and in a cleft of the rock they found Hesiod’s bones. And on his tomb is inscribed “Askra” ’, &c. [the epitaph in Tzetzes, &c.].
10. Suidas, Lex.: ‘Hesiod died as the guest of Antiphos and Ktimenos, who by night slew him unawares, thinking they were slaying the betrayer of their sister.’
11. Proclus on W. 631. ‘Plutarch says Askra was uninhabited even then, the Thespians having destroyed the inhabitants, those who escaped being received by the Orchomenians. Hence also the god bade the Orchomenians take the remains of Hesiod and inter them in their own land: as also Aristotle says in the polity of the Orchomenians.’
12. Anthology, vii. 55, epigram by Alkaios of Messene: ‘In the shady grove of Lokris the nymphs washed Hesiod’s corpse from their own springs, and built high his tomb. And the goatherds sprinkled it with milk kneaded with yellow honey. For even as honey was the speech the old man breathed, when he had tasted the fountains undefiled of the Muses nine.’ Cf. vii. 52.
POEMS ASCRIBED TO HESIOD
We shall next consider the most noticeable of the ancient references to the nature, titles, and contents of the Hesiodic Poems.
1. Xenophanes of Kolophon (circa 570-480 b.c.), ap. Sext. Empir. Adv. Mathem. ix. 193: ‘Homer and Hesiod ascribed to the gods all things that among men are a shame and a reproach (ὀνείδεα καὶ ψόγος)—to steal and to commit adultery and to deceive one another.’
2. id. ap Sext. Empir. Adv. Mathem. i. 289: Homer and Hesiod, according to Xenophanes of Kolophon, ‘who told full many lawless deeds of the gods—to steal and to commit adultery and to deceive one another.’
3. id. ap. Aul. Gellius, N. A. iii. 11: ‘Some have written that Homer was older than Hesiod—among them Philochoros and Xenophanes: others that he was younger.’ Karsten, ad loc., thinks it probable that Gellius took his remark about Xenophanes from Philochoros, whom he mentions first.
4. Heraclitos of Ephesos (circa 535-475 b.c.), ap. Diogen. Laert. ix. 1: ‘Much learning (πολυμαθίη) does not teach sense: else it would have taught Hesiod and Pythagoras, and again Xenophanes and Hekataios.’
5. Pindar, Isthm. v. 95: ‘Lampon, in that he bestoweth diligence on works (μελέταν ἔργοις ὀπάζων), verily honours this precept of Hesiod,’ i.e. he remembers Hesiod’s saying in W. 412, ‘Diligence prospereth work.’ We have already quoted the epigram on Hesiod, ‘Hail,’ &c., attributed to Pindar.
6. Bacchylides (circa 507-428 b.c.), v. 191 sqq.: ‘Thus spake the Boeotian, Hesiod, servant of the sweet Muses, “Whomsoever the immortals honour, the good report of men goes with him also.” ’ Cf. Hesiod, Theog. 80 sqq.
7. Herodotos, ii. 53: ‘Whence each of the gods sprang, or if they all were from all eternity, and what were their attributes men knew not till, so to say, yesterday or the day before. For I consider that Hesiod and Homer were earlier in date than myself by four hundred years and no more. And they it was who created the Theogony of the Hellenes, and who assigned to the gods their names and defined their honours and their arts, and declared their attributes. The earlier poets of whom we hear were, I believe, later than these. The first of these accounts is that given by the priestesses of Dodona; the latter account of Hesiod and Homer is what I hold myself.’
8. Aristophanes, Frogs, 1030 sqq.: ‘For consider from the beginning how useful the noble poets have been. Orpheus showed us mysteries (τελετάς) and to abstain from murder: Musaios the healing of diseases and oracles: Hesiod the culture of the soil, the seasons of fruits, ploughings (γη̂ς ἐργασίας, καρπωˆν ὥρας, ἀρότους). Divine Homer—whence got he honour and glory save from this, that he taught good things (or “useful things”), dispositions, deeds of prowess, armings of men? (τάξεις, ἀρετάς, ὁπλίσεις ἀνδρωˆν).’
9. Pausanias, Descript. Graeciae, ix. 31. 4-5: ‘Those of the Boeotians who dwell round Helikon record it as the traditional opinion that Hesiod composed no other poem save the Works, and of that they take away the Prooemium to the Muses [i.e. W. 1-10], saying that the poem began with the passage about the Strifes (Εριδες); and they showed me a leaden tablet where the fountain is [i.e. Hippokrene], for the most part destroyed by lapse of time: on it is inscribed the Works. There is a second opinion different from the first, to the effect that Hesiod composed a large number of poems, on women, and what they call the Great Eoiai (Μεγάλαι Ηοɩ̂αι), and the Theogony, and on the seer Melampos, and an account of the descent to Hades of Theseus with Peirithoos, and the Advices of Chiron for the instruction of Achilles, and all that is embraced by [otherwise translated “all that follows”] the Works and Days. These, too, maintain that Hesiod was taught the art of the seer by the Acarnanians; and there exist oracular verses—which I read myself—and explanations of portents.’
10. id. op. cit. viii. 18. 1: ‘There are those who think the Theogony Hesiod’s.’
11. id. op. cit. ix. 27. 2: ‘I am aware that Hesiod, or he who foisted the Theogony on Hesiod, wrote that Chaos,’ &c.
12. Suidas (circa a.d. 900): ‘His [Hesiod’s] poems are these: Theogony, Works and Days, Shield, Catalogue of Women in five books, Dirge for one Batrachos beloved of him, On the Daktyloi Idaioi, and many others.’
13. Argument prefixed to Shield: ‘The beginning of the Shield, as far as verse 56, is contained in the Fourth Catalogue. Wherefore Aristophanes [“not the comic poet but some other, a grammarian,” add some MSS.] suspect it not to be Hesiod’s, but the work of some other whose design was to imitate the Homeric Shield [i.e. Il. xviii]. But Megakles [Megakleides, Schomann] the Athenian recognizes the poem as genuine, but finds fault with Hesiod on other grounds. For it is unreasonable, he says, that Hephaistos should make arms for his mother’s foes. Apollonios of Rhodes in his third book says the poem is Hesiod’s, both on the ground of style (χαρακτήρ) and from the fact that he found Iolaos again in the Catalogue acting as charioteer to Herakles. Stesichoros also says the poem is Hesiod’s.’
Reserving for the moment the Works and Days, Theogony, and Shield, we may very briefly consider the poems other than those which we find in one author or another ascribed to Hesiod.
1. The Great Works (Μεγάλα Ἔργα): An anonymous commentator on Aristotle, Eth. Nic. v. 8, and Proclus on Hesiod, W. 126, refer to Hesiod ἐν τοɩ̂ς Μεγάλοις Ἔργοις, and some later writers (esp. Pliny, N. H. xv. 1, xxi. 17, &c., &c.) quote Hesiod as their authority for various statements which are not found, and on topics which are not treated in the extant works. It is reasonably concluded that there was a poem passing under Hesiod’s name which had a wider scope than our Works, and which, it would appear, discussed, among other things, the culture and use of plants.
2. The Catalogue (κατάλογος) and the Eoiai (Ἠοɩ̂αι). These seem to have been two distinct works of a genealogical type. The latter poem is supposed to have taken its name from the catch-phrase ἢ οἵη = ‘or such as she’, with which each now heroine is introduced. The first fifty-six lines of the Shield, which commences with that phrase, is said, in the old argument already quoted, to have been contained ‘in the Fourth Catalogue’. Hence it is argued that in some editions the Eoiai formed the fourth book of a work which, as a whole, bore the name of Catalogue. Suidas says the Catalogue of Women was in five books.
3. The Marriage of Keyx (Κήυκος Γάμος). Whether this was an independent work or an episode in the Catalogue or the Eoiai we cannot determine. Plutarch regarded it as spurious; Athenaios, while recording that the γραμματικωˆν παɩ̂δες consider it spurious, asserts his own belief that it is ancient.
4. Marriage Hymn (ἐπιθαλάμιον) for Peleus and Thetis. Of this practically nothing is known.
5. The Descent of Theseus to Hades.
6. Aigimios. Possibly on the war of Aigimios with the Lapithai.
7. Melampodia. Attributed to Hesiod by Athenaios.
8. On the Daktyloi Idaioi. This poem, of which nothing survives, dealt with the Daktyloi of Ida, who brought up the infant Zeus.
9. Astronomia or Astrologia: attributed to Hesiod by Pliny and Plutarch, regarded as spurious by Athenaios.
10. The Advices (ὑποθη̂και) of Chiron. Quintilian tells us, i. 1. 15, that Aristophanes of Byzantium was the first to deny the genuineness of this.
11. The Great Eoiai. This poem, mentioned by Pausanias and others, apparently stood in the same relation to the Eoiai as the Great Works to the Works.
Other works attributed to Hesiod, such as the Epicedium on Batrachos and the Γη̂ς περίοδος, need only be mentioned.
A critical opinion on the date and authenticity of the Works, Theogony, and the Shield, cannot be attempted here, and I have no desire to imitate the easy dogmatism which moves so lightly in slippery places. Comparatively little assault has been made upon the first two poems, though they have been subject to a good deal of very reckless and unskilful dissection, and a later date has sometimes been assigned to them than I think they are entitled to claim. In the case of the Shield the verdict has been mostly unfavourable. But the grounds on which that verdict has been pronounced have not been so convincing as to justify the certainty with which the question is generally dismissed. In any case, here I merely imitate Athenaios and say that ‘to me they appear ancient’: cetera alii aut nos alio loco.
ANALYSIS OF THE WORKS AND DAYS
1-10 Invocation to the Muses and to Zeus. Hesiod will ‘speak true things’ to Perses.
11-26 The two sorts of Strife—good and bad. 27-41 Perses is exhorted to put from him Strife which rejoices in evil; how Perses took an unjust proportion of their father’s estate, ‘for the great glory of the bribe-devouring princes . . . who know not how much more is the half than the whole, nor what blessedness there is in mallow and asphodel’; 42-52 Toil now needed to earn a livelihood; how Zeus, having been deceived by Prometheus, took away fire from mankind, until Prometheus stole it back again in a hollow fennel-stalk. 53-89 Zeus in anger caused Hephaistos to create Pandora, the first woman, to be the bane of men; 90-105 Hitherto mankind had been immune from all ills, disease, and toil. But the woman ‘took off the great lid of the Jar and scattered the contents, and devised woe for men’. Only Hope remained in the Jar, Pandora having by the devising of Zeus replaced the lid before Hope escaped; from that time the earth and the sea are full of evil, and diseases assail men by night and day. 105-201 The Five Races of Men: (1) The Golden Race, who lived in the time of Kronos. (2) The Silver Race. (3) The Brazen Race. (4) The Heroic Race, or Race of Demigods. (5) The Iron Race, which is Hesiod’s own. 202-212 The parable of the hawk and the nightingale. 213-297 Exhortation to pursue justice and to avoid insolence and sin. 298-319 Exhortation to work. 320-334 Thou shalt not steal: thou shalt not wrong the suppliant nor the stranger within thy gates: thou shalt not enter thy brother’s bed. Thou shalt not wrong the fatherless: thou shalt honour thy parents in their old age. 335-341 Exhortation to worship the gods with burnt-offerings, libations, and incense. 342-380 Certain practical proverbs. 381-382 If thou desirest wealth, act thus and do one work after another. 383-617 The Farmer’s Year, with sundry advices about farm implements. 618-694 Of seafaring. 695-705 Of marriage.
706-764 Certain social and religious precepts and taboos. 765-825 Calendar of lucky and unlucky days.
826-828 Happy is he who knowing all these things works his work blameless in the sight of the immortals, reading omens and avoiding sin.
ANALYSIS OF THE THEOGONY
1-115 Prooemium: 1-35 The Muses came on a time to Hesiod as he shepherded his sheep under Helikon and taught him sweet song. ‘Shepherds of the fields,’ they said, ‘evil things of reproach, bellies only! We know to speak full many things that wear the guise of truth, and know also when we will to utter truth.’ So saying, they gave to Hesiod a wondrous olive branch and breathed in him a voice divine that he might sing of the things that shall be and the things that were aforetime; 36-67 Of the manner of the song of the Muses: how in Pieria Mnemosyne bare them unto Zeus; 68-74 How the Muses, after visiting Hesiod, departed unto Olympos; 75-103 The names of the Muses and the manner of their gifts to men.
104-115 Invocation of the Muses to sing the generation of the everlasting gods, the children of Earth and Heaven and Night and Sea: how Gods and Earth came into being, and the Rivers and the Sea and the Stars and Heaven above, and the gods who sprang from these: how they divided their possessions and attributes.
116-125 First of all was Chaos and then Earth and Eros. From Chaos sprang Erebos and Night, and from Night in wedlock with Erebos sprang Aether and Day. 126-155 Earth first bare Ouranos (Heaven), and the Mountains and Pontos (Sea). These she bare without wedlock. In wedlock with Ouranos she bare Okeanos and Koios and Krios and Hyperion and Iapetos and Theia and Rheia and Themis and Mnemosyne, and Phoibe and Tethus, and, youngest, Kronos: also the Kyklopes—Brontes, Steropes, Arges; and further the hundred-handed Kottos, Briareos, Gyes; 155-210 How Ouranos hated his own children, and as each was born hid it in Earth: how Earth being sore straitened, devised a crafty device and gave to Kronos a sharp sickle, wherewith she persuaded him to do his sire grievous hurt: how the blood of the wound fell into the lap of Earth, whence sprang the Erinyes and the Giants, and the Nymphs Meliac: but from the fleshy parts that were cast into the sea sprang Aphrodite: and how Ouranos named his sons Titans.
211-225 The children of Night, without a sire:—Doom (Moros), Fate (Ker), Death, Sleep, Dreams, Blame (Momos), Woe (Oizus), Hesperides, Moirai (Klotho, Lachesis, Atropos), Nemesis, Deceit, Love (Φιλότης), Old Age, and Strife (Eris).
226-232 The children of Strife (Eris):—Toil, Oblivion, Famine, Griefs, Wars, Battles, Murders, Manslaughter, Quarrels, False Speech, Dispute, Lawlessness, Ruin (Ate), and Horkos (Oath).
233-239 The children of Pontos (Sea) and Earth:—Nereus, or the Old Man of the Sea, Thaumas, Phorkys and Keto, and Eurybia.
240-264 The daughters of Nereus, son of Pontos and Earth, and Doris, daughter of Okeanos:—Thetis, &c.—fifty in all.
265-269 The daughters of Thaumas and Elektra, daughter of Okeanos:—Iris and the Harpies (Aello and Okypete).
270-279 The children of Phorkys and Keto (son and daughter respectively of Pontos):—the Graiai (Pemphredo and Enyo) and the Gorgons (Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa).
280-286 When Perseus cut off Medusa’s head there sprang from her Chrysaor and the horse Pegasos. The latter left earth for the immortals, and now dwells in the halls of Zeus.
287-294 But Chrysaor with Kallirrhoe, daughter of Okeanos, begat three-headed Geryoneus, whom Herakles slew in Erytheia; 295-305 Kallirrhoe next bare Echidna; 305-332 Echidna in wedlock with Typhaon bare Orthos, the dog of Geryoneus, and Kerberos, the hound of Hades, and the Lernaean Hydra, whom Herakles slew: and Chimaira, whom Pegasos and Bellerophon slew. Chimaira bare to Orthos the Sphinx and the Nemean lion, which Herakles slew. 333-336 Keto to Phorkys bare the dragon which guards the golden apples of the Hesperides, 337-345 Rivers sprung from Tethys and Okeanos:—Nile, Alpheios, Simois, Skamandros, Acheloos, &c., &c. 346-363 Nymphs sprung from the same, including Styx, eldest (or ‘most excellent’) of them all. 364-370 Three thousand daughters of Okeanos there be and sons as many—sounding rivers, ‘whose names it were hard for mortal man to tell: but those who dwell by each know them every one.’
371-374 The children of Theia and Hyperion:—Sun, Moon, Dawn; 375-377 the children of Krios and Eurybia:—Astraios, Pallas, Perses; 378-382 the children of Astraios and Dawn:—the winds Argestes, Zephyros, Boreas, Notos, and after them the Morning Star. 383-403 the children of Styx and Pallas:—Zelos and Nike and Kratos and Bia, who dwell with Zeus, as he had vowed of old to Styx, when, with her children, she aided him against the Titans; Styx herself he appointed to be the Mighty Oath of the gods; 404-410 the children of Koios and Phoibe:—Leto and Asteria. 411-452 Asteria bare to Perses Hekate: the eminent powers and privileges of Hekate, as answerer of prayer, helper in council in games, and in war, aider of kings in judgement; of horsemen and of seamen, and of shepherds: and finally the nurse of children.
453-458 The children of Rheia, daughter of Ouranos and Gaia, and Kronos:—Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Zeus; 459-491 how Kronos, learning from Ouranos and Gaia that he was fated to have a son who should overthrow him, swallowed his own children: how Rheia, when about to bear Zeus, took counsel of Earth and Heaven to save her child: how they carried her to Lyktos in Krete, where she brought forth Zeus and hid him in a cave on the hill Aigaion: but she swaddled a great stone and gave it unto Kronos, who swallowed it, thinking it to be his son Zeus. 492-506 how Zeus throve mightily, and how in time by the devising of Earth, Kronos vomited forth the stone: which Zeus set up at Pytho to be a sign in the aftertime, a marvel to mortal men. And Zeus set free his father’s brothers, who in gratitude gave him thunder and lightning; 507-511 the children of Iapetos and Klymene, daughter of Okeanos:—Atlas, Menoitios, Prometheus, Epimetheus. 512-520 the fates of Epimetheus, Menoitios, and Atlas. 521-616 the fate of Prometheus: how at Mekone he cut up an ox and attempted to deceive Zeus by offering him the bones concealed in fat (wherefore to this day men ‘burn white bones to the immortals upon fragrant altars’): how Zeus in vengeance refused men fire till it was stolen by Prometheus: created the first woman to be the bane of men: bound Prometheus and sent an eagle to devour his liver, which grew again by night as much as the eagle devoured by day—till he was at last, by consent of Zeus, delivered by Herakles, who slew the eagle. 617-719 how with the help of the hundred-handed giants, Briareos, Kottos, and Gyes, Zeus overcame the Titans and imprisoned them in Tartaros; 720-745 descriptive of Tartaros; 746-757 the abode of Atlas in the west; 758-766 the abode of Sleep and Death, children of Night; 767-774 the abode of Hades and Persephone, guarded by the dog Kerberos; 775-806 the abode of Styx: how the gods swear by Styx, and the punishment of perjury; 807-819 of Tartaros, in which the Titans are imprisoned: of the abode of the hundred-handed giants; 820-868 of Typhoeus, son of Earth and Tartaros, and how Zeus overcame him and hurled him into Tartaros: 869-880 the offspring of Typhoeus;—all winds except Notos, Boreas, and Zephyros; 881-885 how Zeus became king of the gods; 886-900 how Zeus took Metis to wife and swallowed her when about to give birth to Athene; 901-906 Zeus next took to wife Themis, mother of the Hours (or Seasons)—ραι, namely Eunomia, Dike, and Eirene, and of the Fates (Moirai), namely Klotho, Lachesis, and Atropos; 907-911 next Zeus took to wife Eurynome, daughter of Okeanos, who bare to him the Graces, namely Aglaia, Euphrosyne, and Thalia; 912-914 next Zeus took to wife Demeter, who bare to him Persephone, whom Aidoneus carried off; 915-917 next Mnemosyne, who bare the nine Muses; 918-920 next Leto, who bare Apollo and Artemis; 921-923 lastly Hera, who bare Hebe, Ares, Eileithuia. 924-929 Zeus begot Tritogeneia from his own head, and Hera of herself bare Hephaistos; 930-937 the son of Amphitrite and Ennosigaios:—Triton; the children of Ares and Kythereia:—Fear and Terror and Harmonia; 938-944 other children of Zeus:—by Maia, daughter of Atlas,—Hermes; by Semele, daughter of Kadmos,—Dionysos; by Alkmene,—Herakles, 945-955 Hephaistos wedded Aglaia, the youngest of the Graces; Dionysos wedded Ariadne, daughter of Minos, and Zeus made her immortal; Herakles wedded Hebe and dwells with the immortals, sorrowless and ageless for ever, 956-962 the children of Helios and Perseis, daughter of Okeanos:—Kirke and Aietes; Aietes wedded Iduia, daughter of Okeanos, who bare to him Medea. 963-1020 goddesses who bare children to mortal men: Demeter to Iasios—Ploutos; Harmonia to Kadmos—Ino, Semele, Agave, Autonoe (wife of Aristaios), and Polydoros; Kallirrhoe to Chrysaor—Geryoneus; Dawn to Tithonos—Memnon and Emathion; Dawn to Kephalos—Phaethon; Medea to Iason—Medeios; Psamathe, daughter of Nereus, to Aiakos—Phokos; Thetis to Peleus—Achilles; Kythereia to Aineias—Anchises; Kirke to Odysseus—Agrios, Latinos, Telegonos, Kings of the Tyrrhenians; Kalypso to Odysseus—Nausithoos and Nausinoos; 1021-1022 ‘And now, sweet-voiced Muses of Olympos, . . . sing ye the race of women.’
[Here the poem breaks off]
ANALYSIS OF THE SHIELD
1-56 Alkmene bare twin sons—Herakles to Zeus, Iphikles to Amphitryon; 57-121 how Herakles and Iolaos encountered Kyknos and his father Ares in the precincts of the temple of Apollo at Pagasae; 122-320 The Arming of Herakles: (1) greaves of orichalc (mountain brass), (2) breastplate of gold (3) sword of iron, (4) quiver with arrows winged with feathers of the black eagle, (5) spear shod with bronze, (6) helmet of adamant, (7) shield—the description of which occupies 139-320; 321-480 The fight: Kyknos is slain by Herakles.
WORKS AND DAYS
Not one breed of Strife is there on earth, but twain. One shall a man praise when he beholdeth her, but the other is a thing of reproach, and diverse altogether are their souls. The one increaseth evil war and contention, for frowardness. No man loveth her, albeit the will of the immortals constraineth men to worship grievous Strife. But the other is the elder child of black Night, and her the Son of Kronos, who dwelleth in the height of Heaven, both in the Earth’s foundations and among men made mightier far. She stirreth even the helpless to labour. For when he that hath no business looketh on him that is rich, he hasteth to plow and to plant and to array his house: and neighbour vieth with neighbour hasting to be rich: good is this Strife for men. So potter with W25-52potter contendeth: the hewer of wood with the hewer of wood: the beggar is jealous of the beggar, the minstrel jealous of the minstrel.
O Perses, lay thou this to heart, nor let Strife that exulteth in evil turn thy mind from work, to watch contention and to hearken in the market-place. Little time hath he for wrangling and contention, who hath not laid up at home store of food for the year, the seasonable fruits of the earth, Demeter’s grain. When thou hast gotten thee enough thereof, then be contentious for the goods of others. But no more mayst thou do thus. Let us straightway judge between us with just judgement, even of Zeus, which is best. Already had we divided our inheritance, and much besides didst thou seize and carry away, for the great glory of the bribe-devouring princes, who are fain to judge this suit. Fools! who know not how much more is the half than the whole, nor what blessedness there is in mallow and asphodel.
For the gods have hidden the livelihood of men. Lightly in a day mightst thou have won sufficient store even for a year of idleness, and soon mightst thou have hung the rudder in the smoke, and the work of oxen and of sturdy mules had perished. But Zeus in his anger hid the bread of life, for that Prometheus of crooked counsels had deceived him. Wherefore Zeus devised sorrow for men, and hid fire. But that the good son of Iapetos stole again for men from Zeus the Counsellor in a hollow fennel stalk, what time the Hurler of the Thunder knew not. W53-80But in wrath did the Gatherer of the Clouds say to him. ‘Son of Iapetos, cunning above men, thou joyest to have dealt deceitfully and stolen fire, great bane as it shall be to thyself and to the men of aftertime. For fire will I give them an evil thing wherein they shall rejoice, embracing their own doom.’
So spake the Father of men and gods, and laughed aloud. And He bade glorious Hephaistos speedily to mingle earth with water, and put therein human speech and strength and make as the deathless goddesses to look upon the fair form of a lovely maiden. And Athene He bade teach her handiwork, to weave the embroidered web. And He bade golden Aphrodite shed grace about her head and grievous desire and wasting passion. And Hermes, the Messenger, the Slayer of Argos, He bade give her a shameless mind and a deceitful soul.
So Zeus bade and they hearkened unto Zeus the King, the Son of Kronos. Straightway of earth did the glorious Lame One fashion the likeness of a modest maiden, as the Son of Kronos willed. And the goddess grey-eyed Athene girdled and arrayed her: the goddess Graces and the Lady Persuasion hung chains of gold about her: the fair-tressed Hours crowned her with flowers of spring. All manner of adornment did Pallas Athene bestow about her body. And in her breast, the Messenger, the Slayer of Argos, put lies and cunning words and a deceitful soul, as Zeus the Thunderer willed. Also the Messenger of the gods gave her speech. And he named this woman W80-107Pandora, for that all the dwellers in Olympos had bestowed on her a gift: to be the bane of men that live by bread.
Now when He had wrought the sheer delusion unescapeable, the Father sent the glorious Slayer of Argos, the gods’ swift Messenger, unto Epimetheus with the gift. And Epimetheus took no thought how Prometheus had bidden him never take a gift from Olympian Zeus, but send it back, lest haply it become the bane of men. But he took it, and afterward in sorrow learned its meaning.
For of old the tribes of men lived on the earth apart from evil and grievous toil and sore diseases that bring the fates of death to men. For in the day of evil men speedily wax old. But the woman took off the great lid of the Jar with her hands and made a scattering thereof and devised baleful sorrows for men. Only Hope abode within in her unbreakable chamber under the lips of the Jar and flew not forth. For ere she could, the woman put on the lid of the Jar, as Zeus the Lord of the Aegis, the Gatherer of the Clouds, devised. But ten thousand other evils wander among men. For the earth is full of evil and the sea is full. By night and by day come diseases of their own motion, bringing evil unto mortal men, silently, since Zeus the Counsellor hath taken away their voice. So surely may none escape the will of Zeus.
And if thou wilt, yet another tale will I build for thee, well and cunningly, and do thou lay it to thy W107-137heart: how from one seed spring gods and mortal men. First of all, a golden race of mortal men did the Immortal Dwellers in Olympos fashion. These lived in the time of Kronos when he was king in Heaven. Like gods they lived, having a soul unknowing sorrow, apart from toil and travail. Neither were they subject to miserable eld, but ever the same in hand and foot, they took their pleasure in festival apart from all evil. And they died as overcome of sleep. All good things were theirs. The bounteous earth bare fruit for them of her own will, in plenty and without stint. And they in peace and quiet lived on their lands with many good things, rich in flocks and dear to the blessed gods. But since this race was hidden in the earth, Spirits they are by the will of mighty Zeus: good Spirits, on earth, keepers of mortal men: who watch over dooms and the sinful works of men, faring everywhere over the earth, cloked in mist: givers of wealth. Even this kingly privilege is theirs.
Then next the Dwellers in Olympos created a far inferior race, a race of silver, no wise like to the golden race in body or in mind. For a hundred years the child grew up by his good mother’s side, playing in utter childishness within his home. But when he grew to manhood and came to the full measure of age, for but a little space they lived and in sorrow by reason of their foolishness. For they could not refrain from sinning the one against the other, neither would they worship the deathless gods, nor do sacrifice on the holy altars of the Blessed Ones, as is the manner W137-167of men wheresoever they dwell. Wherefore Zeus in anger put them away, because they gave not honour to the blessed gods who dwell in Olympos. Now since this race too was hidden in earth, they beneath the earth are called blessed mortals: of lower rank, yet they too have their honour.
Then Zeus the Father created a third race of mortal men, a race of bronze, begotten of the Meliai, terrible and strong: whose delight was in the dolorous works of Ares and in insolence. Bread they ate not: but souls they had stubborn of adamant, unapproachable: great was their might and invincible the arms that grew from their shoulders on stout frames. Of bronze was their armour, of bronze their dwellings, with bronze they wrought. Black iron was not yet. These by their own hands slain went down to the dank house of chill Hades, nameless. And black Death slew them, for all that they were mighty, and they left the bright light of the sun.
Now when this race also was hidden in earth, yet a fourth race did Zeus the Son of Kronos create upon the bounteous earth, a juster race and better, a godlike race of hero men who are called demigods, the earlier race upon the boundless earth. And them did evil war and dread battle slay, some at seven-gated Thebes, the land of Kadmos, fighting for the flocks of Oidipodes: some when war had brought them in ships across the great gulf of the sea to Troy for the sake of fair-tressed Helen. There did the issue of death cover them about. But Zeus the Father, the W167-193Son of Kronos, gave them a life and an abode apart from men, and established them at the ends of the earth afar from the deathless gods: among them is Kronos king. And they with soul untouched of sorrow dwell in the Islands of the Blest by deep eddying Okeanos: happy heroes, for whom the bounteous earth beareth honey-sweet fruit fresh thrice a year.
I would then that I lived not among the fifth race of men, but either had died before or had been born afterward. For now verily is a race of iron. Neither by day shall they ever cease from weariness and woe, neither in the night from wasting, and sore cares shall the gods give them. Howbeit even for them shall good be mingled with evil. But this race also of mortal men shall Zeus destroy when they shall have hoary temples at their birth. Father shall not be like to his children, neither the children like unto the father: neither shall guest to host, nor friend to friend, nor brother to brother be dear as aforetime: and they shall give no honour to their swiftly ageing parents, and shall chide them with words of bitter speech, sinful men, knowing not the fear of the gods. These will not return to their aged parents the price of their nurture: but might shall be right, and one shall sack the other’s city. Neither shall there be any respect of the oath abiding or of the just or of the good: rather shall they honour the doer of evil and the man of insolence. Right shall lie in might of hand, and Reverence shall be no more: the bad shall wrong the W193-220better man, speaking crooked words and abetting them with an oath. Envy, brawling, rejoicing in evil, of hateful countenance, shall follow all men to their sorrow. Then verily shall Reverence and Awe veil their fair bodies in white robes and depart from the wide-wayed earth unto Olympos to join the company of the Immortals, forsaking men: but for men that die shall remain but miserable woes: and against evil there shall be no avail.
Now will I tell a tale to princes who themselves are wise. Thus spake the hawk to the nightingale of speckled neck, as he bore her far aloft to the clouds in the clutch of his talons, while she, on his crooked talons impaled, made pitiful lament: unto her he spake masterfully: ‘Wretch! wherefore dost thou shriek? Lo! thou art held in the grasp of a stronger. There shalt thou go, even where I carry thee, for all thy minstrelsy. And as I will, I shall make my meal of thee, or let thee go. A fool is he who would contend with the stronger. He loseth the victory and suffereth anguish with his shame.’ So spake the swift-flying hawk, the long-winged bird. But do thou, Perses, hearken to justice, neither nurse insolence. Insolence is an ill thing for a poor man. Not even a good man may lightly bear it, but burdened by it chanceth upon doom. Better is it to pass by on the other side, to ensue justice. Justice in the end is better than insolence, and the fool learneth it by suffering. For Oath (Horkos) runneth close on crooked judgements. There is the noise of the haling of Justice wheresoever bribe-devouring W220-247men hale her, adjudging dooms with crooked judgements. And she followeth weeping, clad in mist and fraught with doom, unto the city and the homes of men, who drive her forth and deal with her crookedly.
But whoso to stranger and to townsman deal straight judgements, and no whit depart from justice, their city flourisheth and the people prosper therein. And there is in their land peace, the nurse of children, and Zeus doth never decree war for them. Neither doth Famine ever consort with men who deal straight judgements, nor doom: but with mirth they tend the works that are their care. For them earth beareth much livelihood, and on the hills the oak’s top beareth acorns, the oak’s midst bees: their fleecy sheep are heavy with wool: their wives bear children like unto their parents: they flourish with good things continually, neither go they on ships, but bounteous earth beareth fruit for them. But whoso ensue evil insolence, and froward works, for them doth Zeus of the far-seeing eyes, the Son of Kronos, decree justice. Yea, oftentimes a whole city reapeth the recompense of the evil man, who sinneth and worketh the works of foolishness. On them doth the Son of Kronos bring from Heaven a grievous visitation, even famine and plague together, and the people perish. Their women bear not children: their houses decay by devising of Olympian Zeus: or anon He destroyeth a great host of them within a wall it may be, or the Son of Kronos taketh vengeance on their ships in the sea.
Best is that man who thinketh on all things for himself, taking heed to that which shall be better afterward and in the end: and good, too, is he who hearkeneth to good advice: but whoso neither thinketh himself nor layeth to heart the words of another—he again is a useless man.
But do thou be ever mindful of our injunction, and work, noble Perses, that hunger may abhor thee, but worshipful Demeter of the fair crown love thee and fill thy barn with livelihood. For hunger is altogether meet companion of the man who will not work. At him are gods and men wroth, whoso liveth in idleness, like in temper to the stingless drones, which in idleness waste and devour the labour of the bees. Be it thy W306-335choice to order the works which are meet, that thy barns may be full of seasonable livelihood. By works do men wax rich in flocks and gear: yea, and by work shalt thou be far dearer to immortals and to mortals: for they utterly abhor the idle. Work is no reproach: the reproach is idleness. But if thou wilt work, soon shall the idle man envy thee thy wealth: on wealth attend good and glory. And whatever be thy lot, work is best, if thou wilt turn thy foolish mind from the goods of other men to work and study livelihood as I bid thee. Ill shame attendeth the needy man: shame which greatly harmeth men or greatly helpeth. Shame goeth with unweal: boldness with weal.
Wealth is not to be seized violently: god-given wealth is better far. For if a man do seize great wealth by violence of hand, or steal it by craft of tongue, as chanceth oftentimes when greed beguileth the mind of men and shamelessness trampleth upon shame, lightly the gods abase him and make that man’s house decay, and weal attendeth him but for a little while.
Alike is he who wrongeth a suppliant and he who wrongeth a guest, or he who entereth his brother’s bed to lie with his wife privily, doing the works of sin: or he who in his foolishness sinneth against fatherless children: or who chideth an aged person on the evil threshold of old age, assailing him with harsh words. Against him surely Zeus himself is angered, and in the end for his unrighteous works he layeth on him a stern recompense.
But from these things do thou utterly refrain thy W335-361foolish soul, and with all thy might do sacrifice to the deathless gods in holy wise and purely, and burn glorious meat offerings withal, and at other times do thou propitiate them with libations and with incense, both when thou layest thee to rest and when the holy daylight cometh, that they may have a gracious heart and mind towards thee, and that thou mayest buy the estate of others, not another thine.
Call to meat him that loveth thee, but leave thine enemy alone. And call him chiefliest who dwelleth nigh thee. For if aught untoward happen in the township, the neighbours come ungirt, the kinsmen gird themselves. An ill neighbour is a bane, even as a good neighbour is a great blessing. He who findeth a good neighbour findeth a precious thing. Not an ox even will perish if thy neighbour be not bad. Take just measure from thy neighbour and give him just return with the same measure or yet better if thou canst, that even so afterward in thy need thou mayst find him a sure help. Get not ill gains: ill gains are even as disasters. Love him that loveth thee and visit him that visiteth thee. And give to him that giveth and give not to him that giveth not. To the giver one giveth, but none giveth to him that giveth not. A gift is good, but theft is evil, a giver of death. For whatsoever a man giveth willingly, give he never so much, he hath joy in his gift and rejoiceth in his heart: but whoso hearkeneth to frowardness and taketh aught himself, be it never so little, it chilleth the heart. For if thou addest but little to little and W362-392doest it often, soon will even that be great. Whoso addeth to that he hath, he shall escape fierce hunger. That which is laid up at home vexeth not a man. Better it is to have store at home, since that which is abroad is ruinous. Good it is to take of that one hath, but a sorrow to the soul to desire that which is absent: and of this I bid thee to beware. At the broaching of the vessel and in the end thereof take thy fill, but at the midst be sparing: a poor thing it is to be sparing in the lees. Let the promised reward of a friend be sure. And with a smile set a witness even on a brother. For faith and unfaith are alike the bane of men. Neither let the scarlet woman beguile thee with wheedling words, aiming at thy barn. Who putteth his trust in a woman putteth his trust in a deceiver. May there be an only born son to feed his father’s house: for so is wealth increased in the halls. But late be thy death if thou leave a second son. Yet even to more might Zeus easily give plenteous wealth. More is the work of more and greater the increase.
Now if thy heart in thy breast is set on wealth, do thou thus and work one work upon another:
What time the Pleiades, daughters of Atlas, rise, begin thy harvest, thy plowing when they set. Forty days and nights are they hidden and shine again with the revolving year when first the sickle is sharpened. This is the law of the plains, of them that dwell nigh the sea, or in gladed dells from the tossing sea afar, in a fertile place. Sow uncloked, plow uncloked, reap uncloked, if thou wouldst W392-420gather in season all the works of Demeter, even as they grow in their season, lest haply afterward for lack thou beg to other houses and in vain: even as now thou hast come to me. But I will give thee naught nor mete aught unto thee. Work, foolish Perses, the works which the gods have appointed unto men, lest one day with wife and children in anguish of soul thou seek livelihood among the neighbours and they regard thee not.
Twice or thrice haply thou shalt obtain, but if thou further vex, naught shalt thou gain, but shalt speak many things in vain, and idle shall be thy play of words. Nay, I bid thee take heed to the solving of thy debts and the avoidance of hunger.
Get a house first and a woman and a plowing ox—a slave woman—not a wife—who might also follow the oxen: and get all gear arrayed within the house, lest thou beg of another and he deny thee and thou go lacking, and the season pass by, and thy work be minished. Neither put off till the morrow nor the day after. The idle man filleth not his barn, neither he that putteth off. Diligence prospereth work, but the man who putteth off ever wrestleth with ruin.
What time the might of the keen sun abateth sweltering heat, when Zeus Almighty raineth in the autumn and the flesh of men turneth lighter far—for then the star Sirios goeth over the heads of men born to death but for a brief space in the daytime, and taketh a greater space of the night—then is wood cut W420-449with iron axe less liable to be wormeaten, but sheddeth its leaves to earth and ceaseth to sprout. Then be thou mindful to cut wood: a seasonable work. Three foot cut thy mortar, a pestle of three feet an axle of seven: so will it be right meet. Howbeit if thou cut it of eight feet, thou canst cut therefrom a mallet. Three spans cut thou the felloe for a waggon of ten palms. Cut therewithal many bent planks. And bring thou home a plowbeam, when thou findest it by search on hill or field—of holm oak: For this is the strongest to plow with, when Athene’s servant fasteneth it in the share beam and fixeth it with dowels to the pole. Get thee two plows, fashioning them at home, one of the natural wood, the other jointed, since it is far better to do so. So if thou break the one, thou canst yoke the oxen to the other. Freest of worms are poles of bay or elm. Get thee then sharebeam of oak, plowbeam of holm, and two oxen, bulls of nine years. For the strength of such is not weak, in the fulness of their age: they are best for work. They will not quarrel in the furrow and break the plow, and leave their work undone. And with them let a man of forty follow, his dinner a loaf of four quarters, eight pieces, who will mind his work and drive a straight furrow, no more gaping after his fellows, but having his heart in his work. Than he no younger man is better at sowing. For the mind of a younger man is fluttered after his age-fellows.
Take heed what time thou hearest the voice of the crane from the high clouds uttering her yearly cry, W450-475which bringeth the sign for plowing and showeth forth the season of rainy winter, and biteth the heart of him that hath no oxen. Then feed thou the oxen of crooked horn in their stalls. For an easy thing it is to say, Give me a team of oxen, and a waggon; but easy also is it to refuse: Mine oxen have work to do. The man whose wealth is in his imagining saith he will build a waggon. Fool! who knoweth not that a waggon hath a hundred beams? Whereof take thou thought beforehand to lay them up at home. And when first plowing appeareth for men, then haste thyself and thy thralls in wet and dry to plow in the season of sowing, hasting in the early morn that so thy fields may be full. Plow in spring, but the field that is fallowed in summer will not belie thee. Sow the fallow field while yet the soil is light. Fallow land is a defender of doom, a comforter of children.
And pray thou unto Zeus the Lord of Earth and unto pure Demeter that the holy grain of Demeter may be full and heavy: thus pray thou when first thou dost begin thy plowing, when grasping in thy hand the end of the stilt-handle thou comest down on the backs of the oxen as they draw the pole by the yoke collar. And let a young slave follow behind with a mattock and cause trouble to the birds by covering up the seed. For good husbandry is best for mortal men and bad husbandry is worst. So will the grain ears nod with ripeness to the ground, if the Lord of Olympos himself vouchsafe a good issue. So shalt thou drive the spider’s webs from thy vessels and I W475-502have hope that thou wilt rejoice as thou takest of thy store of livelihood. And in good case thou shalt come to grey spring and shalt not look to others, but another shall have need of thee.
But if at the turning of the sun thou dost plow the goodly earth, sitting shalt thou reap, grasping a little in thy hand, binding it contrariwise, covered with dust, no way rejoicing. And in a basket shalt thou bring it home, and few there be that shall admire thee. Otherwise at other times is the will of Zeus the Lord of the Aegis and hard for mortal men to know. But if thou plowest late, this shall be a charm for thee. When first the cuckoo uttereth his note amid the leaves of the oak and rejoiceth men over the limitless earth, then may Zeus rain on the third day and cease not, neither overpassing the hoof of an ox nor falling short thereof: so shall the late plower vie with the early. Keep thou all things well in mind nor fail to mark either the coming of grey spring or seasonable rain.
But pass by the smith’s forge and sunny place of dalliance in the winter season when cold constraineth men from work, wherein a diligent man would greatly prosper his house, lest the helplessness of evil winter overtake thee with poverty and thou press a swollen foot with lean hand. But the idle man who waiteth on empty hope, for lack of livelihood garnereth many sorrows for his soul. Hope is a poor companion for a man in need, who sitteth in a place of dalliance, when he hath no livelihood secured. Nay, declare W502-530thou to thy thralls while it is still midsummer: It will not be summer always; build ye barns.
But the month Lenaion, evil days, cattle-flaying every one, do thou shun, and the frosts that appear for men’s sorrow over the earth at the breath of Boreas, which over Thrace the nurse of horses bloweth on the wide sea and stirreth it up: and earth and wood bellow aloud. Many an oak of lofty foliage and many a stout pine in the mountain glens doth his onset bring low to the bounteous earth, and all the unnumbered forest crieth aloud, and wild beasts shudder and set their tails between their legs, even they whose hide is covered with hair. Yea, even through these, shaggy-breasted though they be, he bloweth with chill breath. Through the hide of the ox he bloweth, and it stayeth him not, and through the thin-haired goat: but nowise through the sheep doth the might of the wind Boreas blow, because of their abundant wool. But it maketh the old man bent. Through the delicate maiden it bloweth not, who within the house abideth by her dear mother’s side, not yet knowing the works of golden Aphrodite: when she hath bathed her tender body and anointed her with olive oil and lieth down at night within the house, on a winter day, when the Boneless One gnaweth his own foot within his fireless house and cheerless home: for the sun showeth him no pasture whereto to go, but wheeleth over the land and city of swarthy men and shineth more slowly on the Panhellenes. Then, too, the horned and hornless creatures of the woods, with W530-558piteous chattering teeth, flee through the deep glades, and flight is the thought in the breasts of all who seeking shelter haunt close covert or rocky cave. Then like a three-footed man whose back is broken and his head looketh to the ground—even like such a one they go to and fro avoiding the white snow.
In that season do thou for the defence of thy body array thee as I bid thee in soft cloke and full-length tunic, and twine much woof in a scanty warp. Therewith array thee that thy hair may be at rest nor stand on end over all thy body. About thy feet also bind fitting sandals of the hide of an ox violently slain, covering them within with felt. And when the frost cometh in its season sew thou together with thread of oxgut the skins of firstling kids to put about thy back as a shield against the rain. And on thy head wear thou a cap of wrought felt, that thou mayst not have thine ears wetted. For chill is the dawn at the onset of Boreas. And in the dawn a fruitful mist is stretched over the earth from starry heaven above the fields of happy men: a mist which drawing from the everflowing rivers is lifted high above the earth by the blowing of the wind, and anon turneth to rain toward eventide, and otherwhiles to wind, when Thracian Boreas driveth the thronging clouds. Forestalling that wind, finish thy work and get thee home betimes, lest the darkening cloud in Heaven cover thee and make thy body dank and wet thy raiment. Rather avoid it. For this is the hardest of the months, wintry, hard on W558-584cattle and hard on men. In that season let the men get larger rations, let the oxen get but half: for long are the friendly nights. Take thou heed of these things till the year be ended, till thou hast gotten night and day equal, even to the time when once again earth the mother of all things bringeth forth her manifold fruits.
But when Zeus hath completed sixty days after the turning of the sun, then the star Arkturos, leaving the sacred stream of Ocean, first riseth in his radiance at eventide. After him the twittering swallow, daughter of Pandion, cometh into the sight of men when spring is just beginning. Ere her coming prune the vines: for it is better so.
But when the House Carrier crawls up the plants from the ground, fleeing from the Pleiades, then is it no longer seasonable to dig about the vines, but rather to sharpen sickles and arouse the thralls, and to fly shady seats and sleep toward the dawn, in the season of harvest when the sun parcheth the skin. In that season must thou busy thee to lead the harvest home, rising up in the morning that thy livelihood may be secure. For the morning taketh the third part of a man’s business. Morning advanceth a man upon his journey and advanceth him also in his work: morning whose appearing setteth many men upon the road and setteth the yoke on many oxen.
But what time the artichoke bloometh and the chattering cicala sitting on a tree poureth his shrill song from beneath his wings incessantly in the season W584-613of weary summer, then are goats fattest and wine best, women most wanton and men most weak, since Sirios parcheth head and knee and the skin is dry for heat. Then let me have the shadow of a rock, and Bibline wine, and a milk cake, and milk of goats drained dry, and flesh of a pastured heifer that hath not yet borne a calf, and flesh of firstling kids, with ruddy wine to wash it down withal, while I sit in the shade, heart-satisfied with food, turning my face toward the fresh West Wind, and let me from an unmuddied everflowing spring which floweth away pour three measures of water and the fourth of wine.
But so soon as the strength of Orion appeareth, urge thy thralls to thresh the holy grain of Demeter in a windy place and on a rounded floor; measure and store it in vessels; and when thou hast laid up all thy livelihood within thy house, then I bid thee get a thrall that hath no family and seek a serving woman without a child. Troublous is a serving woman that hath a child. Care, too, for the dog of jagged teeth. Spare not his food, lest the Day Sleeper filch away thy goods. Also bring in fodder and litter that thou mayst have sufficient store for thy cattle and thy mules. Then let thy thralls rest their knees and loose thine oxen.
But when Orion and Sirios come into mid-heaven, and rosy-fingered Morning looketh upon Arkturos, O Perses, pluck and bring home all thy grapes, and show them to the sun for ten days and ten nights. Cover them for five and on the sixth draw off into W613-644vessels the gifts of joyful Dionysos. But when the Pleiades and the Hyades and the might of Orion set, then be mindful of seasonable plowing, and let the seed be duly bestowed under earth.
Howbeit, if desire of stressful seafaring seize thee—when the Pleiades, fleeing the mighty strength of Orion, plunge into the misty deep, then do blow the blasts of all the winds: then keep thou no more the ship upon the wine-dark sea, but mind thee to till the soil as I bid thee, and draw the ship on land and cover it about with stones to keep off the violence of the wet winds, and pull out the bottom-plug that the rain of Zeus rot not thy vessel. And duly bestow all thy shipgear within thy house, well furling the wings of the seafaring ship, and hang the well-wrought rudder in the smoke. And thyself await the coming of the sailing season, and then hale the ship to the sea, and therein bestow the cargo, that thou mayest bring profit home: even as thy father and mine, foolish Perses, was wont to sail in ships, seeking a goodly livelihood: who also on a time came hither, traversing great space of sea in his black ship from Aeolian Kyme: not fleeing from abundance, nor from riches and weal, but from evil penury, which Zeus giveth unto men. And he made his dwelling near Helikon in a sorry township, even Askra, bad in winter, hard in summer, never good.
And in season do thou, Perses, be mindful of all works and chiefliest of seafaring. Praise thou the small vessel, but set thy goods in a large. Greater the cargo, W644-673and greater the gain upon gain will be, if the winds refrain their evil blasts. When thou wouldst turn thy foolish soul to trafficking, to escape debts and joyless hunger, I will show thee the measures of the surging sea, though I have no skill of seafaring or of ships. For never yet have I sailed over the sea in a ship save only to Euboia from Aulis, where of old the Achaeans abode a storm, when they had assembled a mighty host that should go from sacred Hellas unto Troy, the land of fair women. Thither even unto Chalkis I crossed to the games of wise Amphidamas. And the prizes full many did his great-hearted sons offer and set forth, where I avow that I was victorious with my hymn and carried off an eared tripod: which I offered up to the Muses of Helikon, where first they set me on the path of sweet song. Such is all the experience I have of dowelled ships. Yet even so shall I declare the mind of Zeus, the Lord of the Aegis. For the Muses have taught me to sing the wondrous hymn.
For fifty days after the turning of the sun, when harvest, the weary season, hath come to an end, sailing is seasonable for men. Thou shalt not break thy ship, nor shall the sea destroy thy crew, save only if Poseidon the Shaker of the Earth or Zeus the King of the Immortals be wholly minded to destroy. For with them is the issue alike of good and evil. Then are the breezes easy to judge and the sea is harmless. Then trust thou in the winds, and with soul untroubled launch the swift ship in the sea, and well bestow therein all thy cargo. And haste with all speed to W673-705return home again; neither await the new wine and autumn rain, and winter’s onset and the dread blasts of the South Wind, which, coming with the heavy autumn rain of Zeus, stirreth the sea, and maketh the deep perilous. Also in the spring may men sail; when first on the topmost spray of the fig-tree leaves appear as the foot-print of a crow for size, then is the sea navigable. This is the spring sailing, which I commend not, for it is not pleasing to my mind, snatched sailing that it is. Hardly shalt thou escape doom. Yet even this men do in ignorance of mind. For money is the life of hapless men: but dread is death amid the waves, and I bid thee think of all these things in thy heart, even as I say. Neither set thou all thy livelihood in hollow ships, but leave the greater part, and put on board the less. For a dread thing it is to chance on doom amid the waves, even as it is dread to put too great a burden on a waggon and break the axle, while the goods are lost. Observe thou measure: due measure is ever best.
In the flower of thine age lead thou home thy bride, when thou art not far short of thirty years nor far over. This is the timely marriage. Four years past puberty be the woman: let her marry in the fifth. Marry a maiden that thou mayest teach her good ways. Marry a neighbour best of all, with care and circumspection, lest thy marriage be a joy to thy neighbours. For no better spoil doth a man win than a good wife, even as than a bad wife he winneth no worse—a gluttonous woman, that roasteth her husband W705-730without a brand, and giveth him over to untimely age.
Be thou very mindful of the anger of the blessed Immortals, nor make thy friend as a brother. But if thou so doest, sin not thou against him first, neither lie for the pleasure of the tongue. Yet if he first sin against thee, whether with unkindly word or with deed, remember thou to repay him twofold: yet if again he would take thee into friendship, and is willing to give thee satisfaction, receive him. A poor man is he that taketh ever another for his friend. But as for thee, let not thy mind put to shame thy beauty. Be thou called neither the man of many friends nor the friend of few, nor the companion of evil men, nor the chider of the good. Never deign to reproach a man with baleful penury that wasteth the heart, since poverty is given of the everlasting gods. The best treasure among men is the treasure of a sparing tongue, which is most pleasing when it waggeth in measure. If thou speak evil, greater evil shalt thou hear anon. Be not intolerant of common feast when many guests are bidden: greatest the pleasure, and the cost is least.
Never pour libation of the sparkling wine to Zeus after dawn with hands unwashed, neither to others of the deathless gods. For then they hear not, but spurn the prayer.
Neither make water standing upright with face to the sun, and from his setting till he riseth; neither make water as thou goest, whether on or off the road, nor uncover thy nakedness: the nights belong to the W730-756blessed gods. Nay, the holy man, whose heart is wise, sitteth down or draweth to the wall of a fenced court. Neither show thy privy parts unpurified by the hearth within the house, but avoid it. Neither beget children when thou returnest from the ominous funeral, but rather when thou comest from a holy festival of the gods.
Cross not the fair water of everflowing rivers until thou hast prayed with eyes turned to the fair streams and washed thy hands in the fair wan water. Whoso crosseth a river with hands unwashed for wickedness, against him are the gods wroth, and give him sorrow afterward.
Neither at a joyful festival of the gods cut thou with gleaming iron withered from quick from the five-branched. Lay not the ladle over the mixing-bowl when men drink. For a grievous fate is set thereon.
When thou buildest a house leave it not unplaned, lest the croaking raven sit thereon to croak. Neither from unhallowed vessels take thou wherewith to eat or wash: for on them, too, is a curse.
Neither let a boy of twelve days sit upon holy things—for it is not well so to do—for that maketh a man unmanly, neither a boy of twelve months; for that is even so.
Neither should a man wash in water wherewith a woman hath washed: for a baleful penalty attacheth to that also for a season. Neither if thou chancest on burning offerings make dark murmur. At this also is God angered.
Thus do thou and avoid the dread rumour of men. For Rumour is an ill thing, easy to raise lightly, but grievous to bear and hard to put away. And no Rumour altogether perisheth which many men utter. Yea, in some sort is Rumour also divine.
Heed thou and declare duly unto thy thralls the days that come from Zeus: the thirtieth day of the month to be the best to inspect works and divide rations, when the people hold the true calendar. For these be the days that come of Zeus the Counsellor. Firstly, the first, the fourth, and the seventh is each a holy day: for on the seventh day Leto bare Apollo of the golden sword: also the eighth and the ninth. Two days are there of the waxing month beyond all others good for men’s work: even the eleventh and the twelfth: yea, both are good, whether for shearing sheep, or for reaping the glad fruit. But the twelfth is far better than the eleventh. For on the twelfth the soaring spider weaveth his web in the full day, when the Wise One gathereth her heap. On that day, too, should a woman set up her loom and lay the beginning of her work.
Avoid the thirteenth of the waxing month for the commencement of sowing. But it is a good day for planting plants.
The middle sixth is very bad for plants, but a good W783-808day for the birth of males: not good for a girl either to be born at the first or to hold her wedding.
Neither is the first sixth good for the birth of girls, but good for the gelding of kids and flocks of sheep, and for building a sheep-pen it is a kindly day. And good it is for the birth of males. Yet he that is that day born shall be prone to raillery and lies and cunning words and secret dalliance.
On the eighth of the month geld the boar and the bellowing bull, and on the twelfth the sturdy mules.
On the great twentieth at full day should a wise man be born. Verily such a one shall be of discreet mind.
The tenth day is a good day for the birth of males, the middle fourth for the birth of a girl. On that day tame thou by touch of hand sheep and horned trailing kine and sharp-toothed dog and sturdy mules. But beware in thy heart that griefs assail thee not on the fourth, whether of the waning or the waxing month. It is a very fateful day.
On the fourth of the month lead home thy bride, reading the omens that are best for this business.
The fifth days avoid since they are hard and dread. On the fifth day they say the Erinyes attended the birth of Horkos, whom Eris bare to be the bane of men that swear falsely.
On the middle seventh circumspectly cast the grain of Demeter on the rounded threshing-floor. And let the woodman cut wood for the house, and much timber for ship-building, even such timber as is meet for ships.
The middle ninth is a better day toward afternoon. The first ninth is utterly harmless for men. A good day is this to beget or to be born, whether for man or woman: and it is never a day of evil.
Few men, however, know that the twenty-seventh is best to broach the jar and to set the yoke on necks of oxen and of mules and swift-footed horses, and to draw down to the wine-dark sea the swift ship many-benched. Few men call it truly. On the fourth day open the jar. The middle fourth is above all a holy day. Few again know that the fourth which followeth the twentieth of the month is the best at dawn, but it is worse toward afternoon. These days are a great boon to men on earth. But the others are shifty and fateless, and bring naught. Another praiseth another day but few men know. Anon a day is a stepmother, anon a mother. Therein happy and blessed is he who, knowing all these things, worketh his work blameless before the deathless gods, reading omens and avoiding sin.[Back to Table of Contents]
Which also of old taught Hesiod sweet song what time he tended his sheep under holy Helikon. These words first spake to me the goddess Muses of Olympos, the daughters of Zeus the Lord of the Aegis: ‘Shepherds of the fields, evil things of shame, bellies only! T27-52We know to speak full many things that wear the guise of truth, and know also when we will to utter truth.’
So spake the eloquent daughters of mighty Zeus. And they gave me a staff, even a branch of lusty olive, wondrous to pluck, and breathed in me a voice divine that I might celebrate the things that shall be and the things that were aforetime. They bade me sing the race of the Blessed Ones which are for ever, but always to sing their own selves first and last. But wherefore this tale of stock or stone?
Come thou, with the Muses let us begin, who with their hymns delight the mighty mind of Father Zeus within Olympos, telling of things present and things to come and the things that were aforetime, with one voice together. Unwearying floweth their sweet voice from their lips, and the halls of Father Zeus the Lord of Thunder laugh as the lily voice of the goddesses is spread abroad, and the peak of snowy Olympos and the halls of the immortals echo in answer. And they, uttering their immortal voice, celebrate with their song, first the awful race of the gods even from the beginning—the children of Earth and wide Heaven (Uranus), and the gods that sprang from them, givers of good things.
Next in turn of Zeus, Father of gods and men, do the goddesses sing, both in the beginning of their song and in the end thereof; how he is most excellent of all gods and greatest in majesty. And again hymning the race of men and mighty giants, they delight the mind of Zeus within Olympos—the Muses of Olympos, T52-78daughters of Zeus, the Lord of the Aegis, whom in Pieria did Mnemosyne, Queen of the hills of Eleuther, bear in union with the Father the Son of Kronos to be forgetfulness of woes and a respite from cares. For nine nights did Zeus the Counsellor lie with her, entering her holy bed without the knowledge of the deathless gods. But when the year was accomplished and the seasons came round with the waning months, and many days were fulfilled, she bare nine daughters of one mind together, whose hearts are set on song, having a soul unknowing sorrow: a little space from the topmost peak of snowy Olympos, where are their bright dancing-places and mansions fair. And by them the Graces and Desire dwell in mirth; and, uttering through their lips their lovely voices, they sing and celebrate the sweet societies and goodly ways of all the deathless gods, in strain delectable.
They on that day went toward Olympos, glorying in their sweet speech, their song ambrosial: and the black earth rang around them as they sang, and a lovely noise arose from under their feet as they came unto their Sire. And He was king in heaven, himself holding the thunder and the smoking thunderbolt, having by his might overcome his father Kronos. And He duly appointed their portions unto all the deathless gods alike, and declared to them their honours.
Such was the song of the Muses who dwell in the halls of Olympos, the nine daughters born of mighty Zeus, even Kleo and Euterpe and Thalia and Melpomene and Terpsichore and Erato and Polymnia and T78-106Urania and Kalliope, who is of them all most excellent. For she attendeth on reverend kings: whomsoever among kings divine the daughters of mighty Zeus honour and look upon at his birth, on his tongue they shed sweet dew, and from his mouth flow honeyed words: and all the people look toward him as he decideth dooms with just judgements; and he, with speech unerring, swiftly and skilfully putteth an end even to a great quarrel. For this cause are kings wise, because when the people are being perverted in assembly they speedily work redress, persuading them with soft words. And as a king goeth through the city they greet him with sweet reverence, and when they are assembled together he is conspicuous among them: in such wise is the holy gift of the Muses unto men.
Yea, for by grace of the Muses and archer Apollo are men minstrels upon the earth and players of the lyre, and by grace of Zeus do kings reign, and blessed is he whom the Muses love, and sweet floweth the speech of his lips. Yea, even if one hath sorrow in his soul new wounded, and pineth in anguish of heart, yet if the minstrel, the squire of the Muses, sing the glories of men of old and the blessed gods who keep Olympos, straightway he forgetteth his heavy thoughts and remembereth his cares no more, and the gifts of the Muses speedily divert his pain.
Hail! children of Zeus, and grant delectable song. Sing ye the holy race of the deathless gods which are for ever: even them that were born of Earth, and T106-131starry Heaven, and dusky Night, and those whom the briny Sea brought forth. And declare ye how in the beginning Gods and Earth came into being, and Rivers and the infinite Sea with raging flood, and the shining Stars, and the wide Heaven above, and the gods which sprang from them, givers of good things: and how they divided their wealth, and how they apportioned their honours; yea, and how at the first they possessed them of many-folded Olympos. These things even from the beginning declare ye unto me, O Muses who dwell in the halls of Olympos, and tell me which of them was first created.
First verily was created Chaos, and then broad-bosomed Earth, the habitation unshaken for ever of all the deathless gods who keep the top of snowy Olympos, and misty Tartaros within the wide-wayed Earth, and Love (Eros) which is the fairest among the deathless gods: which looseth the limbs and overcometh within the breasts of all gods and all men their mind and counsel wise.
From Chaos sprang Erebos and black Night: and from Night in turn sprang Bright Sky (Ether) and Day whom Night conceived and bare after loving union with Erebos. And Earth first bare the starry Heaven, of equal stature to herself, that he might cover her utterly about, to the end that there might be for the blessed gods an habitation steadfast for ever. And she bare the lofty Hills, the pleasant haunts of the goddess Nymphs which dwell among the gladed Hills. Also she bare the unharvested deep with raging flood, T132-157even the Sea (Pontos), without the sweet rites of love. And then in the bed of Heaven (Uranus) she bare the deep-eddying Okeanos, and Koios, and Krios, and Hyperion, and Iapetos, and Theia, and Rhea, and Themis, and Mnemosyne, and Thebe of the golden crown, and lovely Tethys. And after these was born her youngest son, even Kronos of crooked counsels, of all her children most terrible, and he hated his lusty Sire.
And again she bare the Kyklopes of overweening heart—Brontes and Steropes, and stout-hearted Arges; which gave to Zeus thunder and fashioned for him the thunderbolt. Now they in all else were like unto the gods, but one only eye was set in the midst of their forehead. These were mortal sons of immortals, of human speech, and Kyklopes was the name whereby they were called, because one round eye was set in their forehead: strength and violence and craft were in their works.
And again there were born of Earth and Heaven three sons mighty and strong beyond naming, Kottos and Briareos and Gyes, children proud. These had a hundred arms shooting from their shoulders, unapproachable, and each fifty heads growing from their shoulders on stout limbs: and unapproachable was the mighty strength which clothed their giant stature. For of all the sons of Earth and Heaven these were the most terrible, and they were hated of their Sire from the beginning; and so soon as any of his sons were born, he would hide them every one in T157-184a covert of Earth and allow them not to rise up into light, and he rejoiced in his evil work. But giant Earth was straitened, and groaned within her, and she devised a crafty device. Straightway she created the breed of grey adamant, and fashioned a mighty sickle, and showed the matter unto her dear children, and spake enheartening them, though her own heart was smitten with anguish.
‘Sons mine, and of a sinful father, if ye will hearken to me, we would avenge the evil entreatment of your father: for he first devised unseemly deeds.’ So she spake: and fear seized them all, and none spake a word. But mighty Kronos of the crooked counsels took heart and answered his good mother, saying: ‘Mother, I would undertake and fulfil this deed, since I reck not of our father of evil name: for he first devised unseemly deeds.’
So he spake, and giant Earth rejoiced greatly in her heart, and she set and hid him in an ambush, and put in his hands a sickle of jagged teeth, and put in his heart all manner of guile. Now mighty Heaven came bringing on Night, and yearning for love he laid him about Earth and stretched him all about her. Then from his ambush his son reached forth his left hand, and in his right he took the jagged sickle, long, of jagged teeth, and speedily he shore away his own father’s privy parts, and cast them to the winds behind him. And not vainly did they fall from his hands. For all the bloody drops that were sped from his hand did Earth receive, and with the circling seasons she T185-210bare the strong Erinyes and the mighty Giants, shining in their armour and holding long spears in their hands, and the Nymphs whom men call the Meliai over the limitless earth. And even as at first he cut off the privy parts with the adamant and hurled them from the mainland into the foaming sea, even so were they borne over the sea for a long time, and from the flesh immortal a white foam arose around it, and therein a maiden grew. And first she came nigh unto holy Kythera, whence next she came to sea-girt Kypros. And she came forth as a reverend goddess beautiful, and around her the grass waxed under her tender feet. Her do gods and men call Aphrodite, the foam-born goddess and fair-crowned Kythereia; for that she was nurtured in foam: and Kythereia because she had chanced upon Kythera: and Kypros-born because she was born in sea-washed Kypros; also ϕιλομμηδής for that she was born of μήδεα. And with her followed Love (Eros), and fair Desire, both at her birth in the beginning, and when she entered into the company of the gods. And this honour she hath from the beginning, and this fate hath she allotted her among men, and among the deathless gods, even dalliance of maidens, and smiles, and deceits, and sweet delight, and love, and kindliness.
But those children, whom he had himself begotten, mighty Heaven called Titans, naming them reproachfully: for he said that by straining (τιταίνοντας) in their folly they had wrought an awful deed, wherefor there should be vengeance afterward.
And hateful Strife bare painful Toil, and Oblivion, and Famine, and tearful Griefs, and Wars, and Battles, and Murders, and Manslayings, and Quarrels, and False Speeches, and Disputes, and Lawlessness, and Ruin (Ate), of one character with one another, and Horkos, which most afflicteth men on Earth, when any of his will sweareth falsely.
And the Sea (Pontos) begat as the eldest of his children Nereus, who cannot lie and whose words are truth: and him men call the Old Man, for as much as he is soothspeaking, and is kind, and forgetteth not the judgements of righteousness, but knoweth counsels just and kind. Again mighty Thaumas did the Sea beget in union with Earth, and lordly Phorkys, and T238-269fair-cheeked Keto, and Eurybia, whose heart within her breast is of adamant.
And of Nereus and fair-tressed Doris, daughter of Okeanos, that perfect stream, were born in the unharvested sea Protho, and Eukrante, and Sao, and Amphitrite, and Eudora, and Thetis, and Galene, and Glauke, and Kymothea, and swift Speio, and lovely Thalia, and gracious Melite, and Eulimine, and Agave, and Pasithea, and Erato, and Eunike rosy-armed, and Doto, and Proto, and Pherusa, and Dynamene, and Nesaia, and Aktaia, and Protomedeia: Doris, and Panope, and fair Galatea, and lovely Hippothea, and rosyarmed Hipponoe, and Kymodoke, which, with Kymatolege and fair-ankled Amphitrite, lightly assuageth the waves upon the misty sea and the blasts of the raging winds; and Kymo, and Eione, and fair-crowned Halimede, and laughter-loving Glaukonome, and Pontoporea, and Leagore, and Evagore, and Laomedea, and Poulynoe, and Antonoe, and Lysianassa, and Evarne, lovely of form and fair of mien: and Psamathe, of gracious form, and divine Menippe, and Neso, and Eupompe, and Themisto, and Pronoe, and Nemertes, which hath the wisdom of her immortal sire. These were the fifty daughters of blameless Nereus, maidens skilled in noble handiwork.
And Thaumas wedded Elektra, daughter of deep-flowing Okeanos: and she bare swift Iris and the fair-tressed Harpies, Aello and Okypete, which follow on swift wings the winds and the birds: for swift as time they speed.
And Chrysaor begat three-headed Geryoneus in union with Kallirrhoe, daughter of glorious Okeanos. And him did mighty Herakles slay beside his kine of trailing gait, in sea-girt Erytheia, on that day when he drave his broad-browed kine unto holy Tiryns, crossing the stream of Okeanos, and slew Orthos and the herdsman Eurytion in their misty steading beyond glorious Okeanos.
And she (Kallirrhoe) bare yet another birth, huge, monstrous, no wise like to mortal men or to the deathless T296-319gods, within a hollow cave, even the divine Echidna, stubborn-hearted: half a fair-cheeked nymph of glancing eyes, and half a monstrous serpent terrible and great, spotted, ravenous, beneath the coverts of the holy earth. And there is her cave beneath, under a hollow rock, afar from deathless gods and mortal men, where the gods appointed her a glorious habitation wherein to dwell: and under earth she hath Einarima in her keeping—dread Echidna, a nymph deathless and ageless for evermore.
With her they say Typhaon met in loving union, a dread and blustering Wind with a bright-eyed maid. And she conceived, and bare stout-hearted children. First Orthos she bare to be the dog of Geryoneus: and next again she bare a monster unspeakable, even the ravenous Kerberos, the brazen-tongued hound of Hades, with fifty heads, shameless and strong. And third she bare the baleful Lernaean Hydra, which the goddess Hera of the white arms nurtured, in wrath insatiable against mighty Herakles. And her did the Son of Zeus, even Herakles of the house of Amphitryon, slay with the pitiless bronze, aided by Iolaos dear to Ares, by the devising of Athene, driver of the spoil.
But Echidna bare Chimaira, whose breath was raging fire, terrible and mighty, swift of foot and strong. And she had three heads: one the head of a fierce-eyed lion, the other of a goat, the other of a snake, even a mighty dragon. In front she was a lion, behind a dragon, in the midst a goat, breathing T319-351the terrible might of blazing fire. Her did Pegasos with goodly Bellerophon slay; and she bare the deadly Sphinx to be the bane of the Kadmeans, in union with Orthos; also the Nemean lion which Hera, the glorious spouse of Zeus, nurtured and established on the hills of Nemea to be the bane of men. There he preyed on the tribes of her own people, lording it over Tretos in the land of Nemea and over Apesas. But the might of strong Herakles overcame him.
And Keto, in loving union with Phorkys, bare as her youngest child the dread serpent who in the secret places of the dark earth guards in his mighty coils the all golden apples. Such is the race sprung from Keto and Phorkys.
And Tethys bare to Okeanos the eddying Rivers, Neilos and Alpheios and deep-eddying Eridanos and Strymon and Maiander, and fair-flowing Ister, and Phasis, and Rhesos, and silver-eddying Acheloos, and Nessos and Rhodios, and Haliakmon, and Heptaporos, and Granikos, and Aisepos, and Simois divine, and Peneus, and Hermos, and fair-flowing Kaikos, and mighty Sangarios, and Ladon, and Parthenios, and Evenos, and Ardeskos, and divine Skamander.
Also she bare the holy race of her daughters who over the earth, together with Prince Apollo and the Rivers, have young men in their keeping: this is their privilege appointed them of Zeus: even Peitho and Admete, and Ianthe, and Elektra, and Doris, and Prymno, and godlike Urania, and Hippo, and Klymene, T351-379and Rhodeia, and Kallirrhoe, and Zeuxo, and Klytia, and Eiduia, and Pasithoe, and Plexaura, and Galaxaura, and lovely Dione and Melobosis, and Thoe, and fair Polydora, and Kerkeis of lovely form, and large-eyed Plouto, and Perseis, and Ianeira, and Akaste, and Xanthe, and lovely Petraia, and Menesto, and Europa, and Metis, and Eurynome, and saffron-robed Telesto, and Kreneis, and Asia, and charming Kalypso, and Eudora, and Tyche, and Amphiro, and Okyrrhoe, and Styx, which is the most excellent of them all.
These were the eldest-born daughters of Okeanos and Tethys: yet there be many others. For thrice a thousand fine-ankled Ocean nymphs there be, who scattered abroad, everywhere alike, tend the earth and the depths of the mere, glorious children of goddesses. And as many rivers again there be that flow with gurgling din, sons of Okeanos, born of queenly Tethys: whose names it were hard for mortal man to tell: but those who dwell by each know them every one.
And Theia, in loving union with Hyperion, bare Helios, and bright Selene, and Eos, which giveth light to all men upon the earth and to the deathless gods who keep the wide heaven.
And Eurybia, that bright goddess, in loving union with Krios, bare to him mighty Astraios, and Pallas, and Perses, who was eminent among all men for understanding.
And to Astraios Dawn bare the strong-souled Winds, Argestes, Zephyros, and Boreas of the swift path, T380-405and Notos—a goddess joined in loving union with a god. And after them Dawn, the early born, bare the Morning Star, and the shining constellations wherewith the heaven is crowned.
And Styx, daughter of Okeanos, in union with Pallas, bare Zelos and fair-ankled Nike in his halls, and Kratos and Bia, glorious children: which have no house apart from Zeus, nor any habitation, neither any path save that wherein God guideth them: but evermore they are established in the house of Zeus the Thunderer. For so did immortal Styx, the daughter of Okeanos, devise on that day when the Olympian, the Lord of Lightning, summoned all the deathless gods to high Olympos, and declared that whosoever of the gods should fight with him against the Titans, him would he not eject from his rights, but each should have the honour he had aforetime amid the deathless gods: and whoso had been deprived of honour and of rights by Kronos, him would he establish in honour and rights even as is meet. And first came immortal Styx, the daughter of Okeanos, unto Olympos with her children, through the counsels of her dear father. And Zeus honoured her and gave her gifts exceeding great. For he made herself to be the mighty oath of the gods, and her children he made to dwell with himself for evermore. And even so, as he promised, so unto all he fulfilled utterly: and himself he greatly beareth sway and ruleth them.
And Phoibe in turn came into the lovely bed of Koios. And the goddess, in loving union with a god, T405-434conceived and bare dark-robed Leto, gentle evermore, kind to men and to the deathless gods, gentle even from the beginning, gentlest of all gods within Olympos.
And she bare fair-named Asteria, whom on a day Perses led to his great home to be called his dear bride. And she conceived and bare Hekate, whom Zeus the Son of Kronos honoured above all others, and he gave her splendid gifts, to have her share of earth and of the unharvested sea. Yea, she got honour beneath the starry heaven, and among the deathless gods she is honoured in the highest: yea, for even now when any among men on earth doeth fair sacrifice and prayeth duly, he calleth upon Hekate: and much honour lightly followeth him whose prayer the goddess will heartily receive. Yea, and she vouchsafeth him prosperity since she hath the power. For of all them that were born of Earth and Heaven, and gat honour, of all those hath she the lot, and the Son of Kronos did her no violence nor took away aught that she had obtained among the elder Titan gods, but even as things were divided at first from the beginning, she keepeth her right on earth and in heaven and in the sea. Neither had the goddess less honour because she was an only child, but far more, since Zeus doth honour her. Whom she will, she greatly helpeth and greatly profiteth: and whom she will, eminent is he among the people in assembly. And when men are arming them for destroying war, then the goddess cometh graciously to grant victory unto whom she will, and to give them glory. Also in judgement she T434-460sitteth by reverend kings. Good, too, is she when men contend in games: there also is the goddess very present unto men and blesseth them. And he who by his might and his strength winneth the fair prize, lightly carrieth it away, and with his own joy bringeth honour to his parents. And good, too, is she to stand by horsemen, by whom she will, and to them who labour the stormy grey sea and pray to Hekate and the loudrumbling Shaker of the Earth, the glorious goddess lightly vouchsafeth much prey and lightly taketh it from before their eyes, if so she will. Good, too, is she in a steading to bless the flocks along with Hermes. The herds of cattle and the droves of sheep, and the wide-ranging flocks of goats, and the flocks of fleecy sheep, if so she will, she maketh strong from being small or small from being great. So, albeit she is her mother’s only child, she is honoured with privileges amid all the immortals. And the Son of Kronos made her a nurse of children, even of all who after her beheld with their eyes the light of Eos, who seeth many things. So from the beginning she is a nurse of children, and these are her honours.
And Rhea, in union with Kronos, bare glorious children, Hestia, and Demeter, and golden-sandalled Hera, and strong Hades, who dwelleth under earth, whose heart is pitiless; and the loud-rumbling Shaker of the Earth, and Zeus the Counsellor, Father of gods and men, by whose thunder the broad earth is shaken. And these did mighty Kronos swallow, even as each came forth from the holy womb to his mother’s knees, T461-487with this design, that none other of the glorious sons of Heaven should hold the kingly honour among the immortals. For he learned from Earth and starry Heaven that it was fated him to be overcome by his own son, for all his strength, through the decrees of mighty Zeus. Wherefore he kept no blind ward, but watched and swallowed his own children. And unforgettable sorrow gat hold of Rhea. But when she was about to bring forth Zeus, the Father of gods and men, then she besought her dear parents, even Earth and starry Heaven, to devise counsel with her, how she might privily bring forth her dear son, and avenge herself on the Erinyes of his father, for the children whom mighty Kronos of the crooked counsels had devoured. And they hearkened eagerly to their dear daughter and obeyed her, and they told her all that was fated to happen in regard to Kronos the king and his stout-hearted son. And they conveyed her unto Lyktos, unto the rich land of Krete, when she was about to bring forth the youngest of her children, even mighty Zeus. And him did mighty Earth take from her hands to rear him and foster him in broad Krete. Thither came she bearing him through the swift black night, unto Lyktos first. And she took him in her arms and hid him in a lofty cave, under the secret places of the earth divine, even on the hill Aigaion, sheltered and wooded. And when she had swaddled a great stone, she gave it unto him, even to the mighty king, the son of Heaven, the former king of the gods. And he took it in his hands and put it in his belly, T488-514wretch who knew not in his breast that in place of the stone his son was left behind, unmoved and unvexed, who should anon overcome him by might and violent hands, and drive him from his office, and himself bear sway amid the deathless gods.
And the spirit and glorious limbs of that prince waxed speedily. And as the seasons revolved, mighty Kronos of crooked counsels was beguiled by the cunning suggestions of Earth to render up again his own offspring, overcome by the might and craft of his own son. And first he vomited forth the stone which he had swallowed last. And that stone Zeus set in the wide-wayed earth in goodly Pytho, in the glens of Parnassos, to be a sign in the aftertime, a marvel to mortal men.
And he loosed his father’s brethren from their deadly bonds, even the sons of Heaven, whom his father had bound in his foolishness. And they remembered to be grateful for his good services, and gave him thunder and the smoking thunderbolt and lightning: but hitherto mighty Earth had hidden them: trusting in these he ruleth mortals and immortals.
And Iapetos wedded the maiden Klymene, the fairankled daughter of Okeanos, and entered one bed with her. And she bare him a stout-hearted son, even Atlas, and she bare Menoitios of exceeding glory, and crafty Prometheus of shifty counsels, and Epimetheus of erring wits, who was the origin of evil for men who live by bread. For he it was who first received from Zeus the woman he had fashioned. But Menoitios T514-540was a man of insolence, and Zeus of the far-seeing eyes smote him with a smoking thunderbolt, and sent him down to Erebos by reason of his foolishness and overweening pride. And Atlas by dire constraint keepeth the broad heaven, at the ends of the earth, before the clear-voiced Hesperides, standing upright, with head and hands unwearied. For this doom did Zeus the Counsellor appoint unto him. And he bound Prometheus of cunning counsel in fetters unescapeable, even in grievous bonds driven through the middle of a pillar, and sent against him a long-winged eagle. And the eagle devoured his liver evermore, and by night his liver grew in all wise as much as the long-winged bird devoured all day. It did the valiant son of fair-ankled Alkmene slay, even Herakles, and warded off the dread plague from the son of Iapetos, and loosed him from his agony, not without the will of Olympian Zeus who ruleth on high, to the end that the honour of the Theban-born Herakles might be yet greater than aforetime over the bounteous earth. Having regard unto these things did Zeus honour his glorious son. Wroth though he was, he ceased from the anger which before possessed him because he had matched his counsel against the mighty Son of Kronos. For what time the gods and mortal men were contending at Mekone, he with willing heart cut up a mighty ox and set it before them, deceiving the mind of Zeus. For he set for them the flesh and the inmeats with rich fat upon a hide, and covered them with an ox paunch; but for Zeus he set the white T540-565bones, craftily arraying them, and covering them with glistening fat.
Then the Father of gods and men spake unto him: ‘Son of Iapetos, most notable of all princes, how unfairly, O fond! hast thou divided the portions!’
So spake Zeus, who knoweth counsels imperishable, and mocked him. Then spake to him in turn Prometheus of crooked counsels, smiling quietly, but forgetting not his crafty guile: ‘Zeus, most glorious, mightiest of the everlasting gods, of these portions choose whichever thy soul within thy breast biddeth thee.’
So spake he with crafty intent. But Zeus, who knoweth counsels imperishable, knew and failed not to remark the guile; and in his heart he boded evil things for mortal men, which were destined to be fulfilled. With both his hands he lifted up the white fat. And he was angered in his heart and wrath came about his soul when he beheld the white bones of the ox given him in crafty guile. And thenceforth do the tribes of men on earth burn white bones to the immortals upon fragrant altars. Then heavily moved, Zeus the Cloud Gatherer spake unto him: ‘Son of Iapetos, who knowest counsels beyond all others, O fond! thou hast not yet forgotten thy crafty guile.’
So in anger spake Zeus, who knoweth counsels imperishable. And thenceforward, remembering ever more that guile, he gave not the might of blazing fire to wretched mortals who dwell upon the earth. But T565-590the good son of Iapetos deceived him and stole the far-seen gleam of unwearied fire in a hollow fennel stalk, and stung to the depths the heart of Zeus who thundereth on high, and angered his dear heart when he beheld among men the far-shining gleam of fire. And straightway for fire he devised evil for men. The glorious Lame One fashioned of earth the likeness of a modest maiden as the Son of Kronos devised. And the goddess grey-eyed Athene girdled her and arrayed her in shining raiment: and over her head she cast with her hands a cunningly-fashioned veil, a marvel to behold; and about her head Pallas Athene set lovely garlands, even wreaths of fresh grass and green. And about her head she set a diadem of gold, which the glorious Lame God wrought himself and fashioned with his hands, doing pleasure unto Father Zeus. And therein were wrought many cunningly-fashioned beasts, a marvel to behold, even all the beasts that the land nurtures, full many as they be, and all the creatures of the sea. Thereof he set therein a great multitude—and grace abounding gleamed from it—marvellous, like unto voiced living things.
Now when he had fashioned the beautiful bane in the place of a blessing, he led her forth where were the other gods and men, glorying in the bravery of the grey-eyed daughter of a mighty sire. And amazement held immortal gods and mortal men, when they beheld the sheer delusion unescapeable for men.
For from her cometh the race of woman-kind. T591-618Yea, of her is the deadly race and the tribes of women. A great bane are they to dwell among mortal men, no help-meet for ruinous poverty, but for abundance. And as in roofed hives bees feed the drones which are conversant with the deeds of evil: all day long unto the going down of the sun the bees busy them in the daytime, and store the white honeycomb, while the drones abide within the roofed hives and gather the labour of others into their own bellies; even so Zeus, who thundereth on high, made women to be the bane of men, to be conversant with the deeds of evil: and in place of a good thing he gave them a second evil. Whose fleeth marriage and the woeful works of women, and willeth not to marry, and cometh unto deadly old with lack of one to tend his old age, he hath no lack of livelihood while he liveth: but when he dieth, his kinsmen divide his possessions. But whose partaketh of the lot of marriage, and getteth a good wife congenial to his mind, for him evermore evil contendeth with good. For whosoever hath gotten an evil family, he hath unabating grief within his breast in heart and soul while he liveth; and it is an evil thing beyond remede.
So surely is it not possible to deceive or outwit the mind of Zeus. For not even the son of Iapetos, kindly Prometheus, escaped his heavy anger, but perforce strong bondage stayed him for all his great cunning.
And when first the Father was angered in his heart against Briareos and Kottos and Gyes, he bound T618-647them in strong bondage, being jealous of their overweening manhood and beauty and stature, and made them to dwell under the wide-wayed earth. There they were set in the uttermost parts, at the bounds of the great earth, dwelling underground, in great tribulation, for a long space, in dire grief, having great sorrow in their hearts. But the Son of Kronos and the other deathless gods whom fair-tressed Rhea bare in wedlock with Kronos brought them by the devising of Earth back again into light. For Earth herself declared all things unto them, even that with those to help they should win victory and glorious success. For long time were they fighting with grievous toil, the Titan gods and the gods that were sprung from Kronos, against each other in grievous war, the proud Titans from lofty Othrys and the gods from Olympos, givers of good things, whom fair-tressed Rhea bare in the bed of Kronos. These then in grievous battle fought against each other for ten full years continually, and there was no resolving of their bitter strife, nor any end for either, but the issue of war hung in the balance. But when the son of Kronos had given them all things meet, even nectar and ambrosia which the gods themselves eat, the lordly spirit of them all waxed in their breasts. And when they had tasted ambrosia and lovely nectar, then the father of men and gods spake amongst them: ‘Hear me, glorious children of Earth and Heaven, that I may tell the things which my heart in my breast biddeth me. Already for a very long time we have fought against each other every day for T647-676victory and mastery, we the sons of Kronos and the Titan gods. Shew ye your mighty strength and hands invincible to the Titans face to face in grievous battle, remembering our lovingkindness—even after what sufferings ye came back again into light from grievous bondage, out of the misty darkness, through our devising.’
So he spake, and noble Kottos answered him again: ‘Lord, things not unknown to us dost thou declare. Nay, we ourselves know that thy mind and thy thoughts are beyond all others, and thou didst ward off from the deathless gods chilly doom; and it was by thy devising that we came back again from unkindly bondage beneath the misty darkness, O King, son of Kronos, when we had suffered things beyond hope. Wherefore also now, with steadfast mind and wise counsel, we shall succour your Majesty in dread battle, fighting with the Titans in stout strife.’
So he spake; and the gods, givers of good things, applauded, when they heard his words. And their souls yearned for war yet more than afore. And battle unenviable did they all arouse, male and female alike, on that day: both the Titan gods and the children of Kronos, and those whom Zeus brought into light from Erebos beneath the earth, terrible and strong, of exceeding might, who all alike had a hundred hands shooting from their shoulders and each fifty heads growing from their shoulders on stout frames. And when they stood against the Titans in baleful strife, with sheer rocks in their stout hands, and the T676-703Titans on the other side eagerly strengthened their ranks, and these and those together showed forth the work of their hands and their might, the boundless sea roared terribly around them, and the earth crashed aloud, and the wide heaven groaned as it was shaken, and high Olympos was shaken from its foundations at the onset of the immortals, and a grievous convulsion came on misty Tartaros, and the sheer din of their feet in onset unspeakable and noise of mighty blows: so they hurled against one another their grievous shafts. And the voices of either side came unto the starry heaven as they shouted. And they came together with a mighty din. Nor did Zeus any longer restrain his soul, but straightway his mind was filled with fury and he showed forth all his might. And from heaven and from Olympos he came to join them, lightening as he came. And his bolts flew near at hand with thunder and with lightning, thick bolts from his strong hand rolling a holy flame; and around the life-giving earth crashed as it burned, and the infinite wood cried aloud with fire. And the whole earth boiled, and the streams of Okeanos, and the unharvested sea: and the hot breath beset the Titans from under earth, and infinite flame came unto the holy ether, and the flashing glare of thunderbolt and lightning robbed their eyes of sight, albeit they were strong. And a wondrous heat beset Chaos. And it seemed, to see with the eyes and to hear the din with the ears, as if Earth and the wide Heaven above drew nigh to one another. For such a mighty din would have arisen if T704-731earth were ruining and heaven above hurling it to ruin. Such was the din when the gods met in strife.
And the winds stirred up convulsion and dust, and thunder and lightning and smoking thunderbolt, the shafts of mighty Zeus, and they carried the war-cry and the shouting into the midst of the two hosts, and din insatiable of terrible strife arose, and mighty deeds were displayed, and the battle inclined. Hitherto they had held at one another and fought unceasingly in stout battle.
And amid the foremost Kottos and Briareos and Gyes, insatiate of war, awoke bitter battle: who hurled in quick succession three hundred rocks from their stout hands, and overshadowed the Titans with their shafts, and sent them beneath the wide-wayed earth, and bound them in grievous bonds, overcoming them with their hands for all that their spirit was exceeding proud: as far beneath the earth as the heaven is high above the earth: for even so far is it from earth to misty Tartaros. If an anvil of bronze were to fall from heaven for nine nights and nine days, on the tenth day it would come to earth: and again if an anvil of bronze were to descend from earth for nine days and nine nights, on the tenth it would come to Tartaros, round which is drawn a fence of bronze. And about it round the neck thereof Night is spread in three lines, while above grow the roots of earth and the unharvested sea. There the Titan gods are hidden under the misty darkness by the decrees of Zeus the Cloud Gatherer, in a dank place, at the verge of the giant T731-759earth. And they may not come forth: for Poseidon hath set thereto gates of bronze, and a wall runs round on either side. There Gyes, and Kottos, and greathearted Briareos dwell, the faithful watchers of Aegisbearing Zeus. And there are the springs and the ends of dusky earth, and of misty Tartaros, and of the unharvested sea, and of starry heaven, all in order, dank and terrible, which even the gods abhor: a mighty chasm: if a man once came within the gates thereof, not till the end of a whole year would he reach the ground, but this way and that grievous whirlwind on grievous whirlwind would carry him. A dread portent is this even to the deathless gods. And there stand the terrible habitations of murky Night, shrouded in dark clouds.
In front of these the son of Iapetos stands, holding steadfastly the wide heaven with head and hands unwearied, where Night and Day meet and greet one another as they pass the great threshold of bronze. One goeth down within, the other cometh forth, and at no time doth their habitation have them both within, but evermore one of them is forth of the house and wheeleth over earth, while the other abideth within the house and awaiteth the coming of her time for going forth: the one holding in her hands all-seeing light for men on earth; the other, even baleful Night, shrouded in misty cloud, holding in her hands Sleep, the brother of Death.
And there the children of dusky Night have their habitations: even the dread gods, Sleep and Death; T759-787on them the bright Sun never looketh with his rays, either when he goeth up into the heavens or when he cometh down. Of them the one fareth over earth and the broad back of the sea, peaceful and kindly unto men. But the other hath a heart of iron, and brazen and pitiless is the soul within his breast. Whomsoever among men he once hath seized, he keepeth: and he is hated even of the deathless gods.
There in front stand the echoing halls of the god of the underworld, of strong Hades and dread Persephone. And a dread dog keepeth watch before them; pitiless is he and he hath an evil guile. On them who enter he fawneth with his tail and with both his ears: but to come forth again he alloweth none, but keepeth watch and devoureth whomsoever he catcheth coming forth from the gates of strong Hades and dread Persephone.
And there dwelleth a goddess hated of the deathless gods, even dread Styx, eldest daughter of backward-flowing Okeanos. Apart from the gods she hath her glorious habitation, roofed with great rocks, and reared to heaven with silver pillars all around. Seldom doth swift-footed Iris, the daughter of Thaumas, fare thither with a message over the broad back of the sea, even what time strife and quarrel arise among the immortals. And if any of the dwellers in the halls of Olympos speaketh falsely, then Zeus sendeth Iris to bring from afar in a golden ewer the great Oath of the Gods, that famous water chill, which floweth from a sheer high rock. Far under the wide-wayed earth it T788-815floweth through black night, a horn of the holy river of Okeanos, whereof a tenth part is allotted to Styx. In nine silver eddying streams he coileth about earth and the broad back of the sea, and falleth into the deep; but this one floweth forth from a rock to be a great bane to the gods. Whosoever of the immortals who hold the top of snowy Olympos maketh libation and sweareth falsely, lieth breathless till a year be fulfilled. And he never draweth nigh to eat of ambrosia and nectar, but breathless and speechless he lieth on a strewnbed, and an evil stupor covereth him. But when he hath fulfilled his disease for a great year, another and another more grievous ideal awaiteth him, and for nine years he is separated from the everlasting gods, and never cometh to their councils or their feasts for nine whole years: but in the tenth year he entereth again the assemblies of the immortals who hold the halls of Olympos. Such an oath did the gods appoint the water of the Styx to be, the water imperishable, primeval, which poureth through a rugged place.
And there are the springs and ends of dusky earth, and of misty Tartaros and of the unharvested sea, and of starry heaven, all in order, dank and terrible, which even the gods abhor. And there are the shining gates and threshold of bronze unshakeable, of natural growth, fitted with roots which pierce right through the earth. And in front, apart from all the gods, dwell the Titans, on the further side of darksome Chaos.
But the glorious allies of Zeus the Thunderer have T816-843their homes beside the foundations of Okeanos, even Kottos and Gyes: but Briareos, a goodly wight, did the deep-voiced Shaker of the Earth make his son-by-marriage, and gave him Kymopoleia to wife, even his own daughter.
Now when Zeus had driven the Titans from heaven, great Earth bare her youngest son, Typhoeus, in loving union with Tartaros, by grace of golden Aphrodite: his hands are busy with the works of strength, and unwearied are the mighty god’s feet: and from his shoulders grew a hundred serpent heads, heads of a dread dragon that licked with dusky tongues, and from the eyes of his wondrous heads fire flashed beneath his brows, and from all his heads fire burned as he glared. And in all his terrible heads were voices that uttered all manner of cries unspeakable. Sometimes they uttered such sounds as the gods might understand: anon the roar of a bellowing bull, proud and untameable of spirit: sometimes, again, the roaring of a lion of dauntless heart: sometimes noises as of whelps, wondrous to hear: and anon he would hiss, and the high hills echoed to the sound. And now would a work beyond remede have been wrought on that day, and he would have been king of mortals and immortals, had not the Father of men and gods been swift to mark. Hard and strongly he thundered, and the earth around rang terribly, and the wide heaven above, and the sea and the streams of Okeanos and Tartaros under earth. And under the immortal feet of the King in his onset great Olympos was shaken, and the earth groaned. T844-870And by reason of them both heat possessed the violet sea, even the heat of the thunder and the lightning and the fire from that monster, of lightnings and winds and flaming thunderbolt. And the whole earth seethed, and the heavens, and the sea: and round and about the shores the long waves raged at the onset of the immortals, and unquenchable convulsion arose. Hades trembled, the lord of the dead below, and the Titans under Tartaros, who dwell beside Kronos, at the unquenchable din and dread strife. But when Zeus had arrayed his might, and seized his arms, the thunder and the lightning and the smoking thunderbolt, he leapt upon him from Olympos and smote him, and all around he scorched the wondrous heads of the dread monster. But when he had scourged him with stripes and overcome him, Typhoeus fell lamed, and the mighty earth groaned. And as that prince was stricken with the thunderbolt, the flame spread abroad in the dim rocky mountain glens as he was smitten; and great space of the giant earth was burnt by the awful breath, and melted even as tin melteth when heated by the craft of men and the well-bored crucible, or as iron, which is the strongest of metals, is overcome by blazing fire in the mountain glens, and melted in the holy earth by the hands of Hephaistos: even so the earth was melted by the blaze of burning fire. And in the vexation of his heart he hurled him into broad Tartaros.
And from Typhoeus springeth the fury of the moistblowing Winds, save Notos and Boreas and Argestes T870-899and Zephyros. These are of the race of the gods, a great boon to mortal men. But the others are random winds blowing fitfully upon the sea: they fall upon the misty deep, a great bane to mortal men, and rage with evil tempest. Different at different times they blow, and scatter ships and destroy sailors. And there is no defence against woe for men who meet those winds upon the deep. And those again over the infinite flowery earth destroy the pleasant works of earth-born men, filling them with dust and grievous turmoil.
Now when the gods had made an end of their toil, and had decided the issue of honours with the Titans, then, by suggestion of Earth, they urged Zeus of the wide-seeing eyes, the Lord of Olympos, to be King and Ruler of the immortals. And he apportioned unto them their honours.
And Zeus the king of the gods first took to wife Metis, who of all gods and mortal men knoweth most. But when she was about to bear the goddess grey-eyed Athene, then he craftily deceived her mind with cunning words, and by the advising of Earth and starry Heaven he put her in his own belly. For so they told him to do, that none other should have the kingship of the everlasting gods instead of Zeus. For of her it was destined that children of exceeding wisdom should be born: first the maiden grey-eyed Tritogeneia, peer of her father in spirit and wise counsel; and next she was destined to bear a son to be king of gods and men, one with overweening heart. But ere T899-925that Zeus put her in his belly that the goddess might devise good and evil.
Next he wedded bright Themis, who bare the Hours (Horai), even Good Government (Eunomia), and Justice (Dike), and blooming Peace (Eirene), who care for the works of mortal men, and the Fates (Moirai), unto whom Zeus the Counsellor hath given honour in the highest, Klotho, and Lachesis, and Atropos, which give mortal men to have good or evil.
And Eurynome, the lovely daughter of Okeanos, bare to him the three fair-cheeked Graces, Aglaia and Euphrosyne and lovely Thalia, from whose eyes as they looked flowed love, which looseth the limbs, and beautifully they glance beneath their brows.
And he came into the bed of bountiful Demeter, who bare white-armed Persephone, whom Aidoneus snatched from her mother: for Zeus the Counsellor gave her unto him.
And again he loved fair-tressed Mnemosyne, of whom were born unto him the nine Muses golden crowned, with whom mirth and the delight of song have found favour.
And Leto bare Apollo and archer Artemis, a birth lovely beyond all the Sons of Heaven, in loving union with Zeus, the Lord of the Aegis.
Lastly, Hera did he make his blooming bride. And she bare Hebe, and Ares, and Eileithuia, in loving union with the king of gods and men.
And himself from his own head brought forth greyeyed Tritogeneia, a dread goddess, wakener of battle T925-949din and driver of the host, the unwearied one, sovereign lady, whose pleasure is in din, and war, and battle.
And Hera, without the union of love, bare glorious Hephaistos—(and was wroth and quarrelled with her own lord)—excellent in craft beyond all the Sons of Heaven.
And of Amphitrite and the loud-rumbling Shaker of the Earth was born mighty Triton, who keepeth the bottom of the sea, beside his dear mother and his kingly father, and dwelleth in halls of gold, a dread god. And to Ares, who pierceth shields, Kythereia bare Rout and Fear, awful gods who drive in confusion the thronging ranks of men in chilly war, along with Ares, the sacker of cities; also Harmonia, whom proud Kadmos made his bride.
And unto Zeus did Maia, daughter of Atlas, bear glorious Hermes, the herald of the deathless gods, when she had entered into his holy bed.
And Semele, daughter of Kadmos, in loving union bare to him a glorious son, even joyful Dionysos, mortal mother bearing an immortal son: howbeit now both are divine.
And Alkmene bare mighty Herakles in loving union with Zeus, the Gatherer of the Clouds.
And the glorious Lame One made Aglaia, youngest of the Graces, his blooming bride.
And Dionysos of the golden hair made fair-tressed Ariadne, daughter of Minos, his blooming bride: and her the Son of Kronos made for him deathless and ageless.
And to unwearied Helios did Perseis, glorious daughter of Okeanos, bear Kirke and King Aietes. And Aietes, son of Helios, who giveth light to men, wedded, by devising of the gods, fair-cheeked Iduia, daughter of Okeanos, that perfect stream; and she, in loving union by grace of golden Aphrodite, bare to him fair-ankled Medeia.
Farewell now, ye Dwellers in Olympian halls, and ye Islands and Continents and the briny Sea within.
And now the race of goddesses sing ye, sweet-voiced Muses of Olympos, daughters of Zeus the Lord of the Aegis: even all them that being immortal entered the bed of mortal men and bare children like unto the gods.
Demeter, that bright goddess, lay in loving union with the hero Iasios in a thrice-plowed fallow field, in the fertile land of Krete, and bare goodly Ploutos, who fareth everywhere over the earth and the broad back of the sea; and whom it chanceth, and into whosoever’s hands he cometh, that man he maketh rich, and giveth him much prosperity.
And Harmonia, daughter of golden Aphrodite, bare to Kadmos Ino, and Semele, and fair-cheeked Agave, and Autonoe, whom long-haired Aristaios wedded, and Polydoros, in fair crowned Thebes.
And Eos bare to Tithonos the brazen-mailed warrior, Memnon, King of the Aithiopians, and the prince Emathion. And to Kephalos she bare a glorious son, strong Phaithon, a man like unto the gods: whom while yet a child with childish thoughts, newly come to the fresh, tender flower of glorious youth, laughter-loving Aphrodite caught up and flew away with, and made him keeper by night in her holy shrines, a spirit divine.
And the daughter of Aietes, fosterling of Zeus, did the Son of Aison, by devising of the everlasting gods, lead from the house of Aietes, when he had fulfilled the grievous labours which full many the mighty King laid upon him—even overweening Pelias, insolent, sinful, and of violent deeds. When the Son of Aison had fulfilled these labours, after much tribulation, he came to Iolkos, carrying on a swift ship the bright-eyed maiden, and made her his blooming bride. And she, in wedlock with Iason, the shepherd of the hosts, bare a son Medeios, whom Chiron the son of Philyra reared in the hills: and the purpose of mighty Zeus was fulfilled.
And of the daughters of Nereus, the Old Man of the Sea, Psamathe, that bright goddess, bare Phokos in loving wedlock with Aiakos, by grace of golden T1005-1022Aphrodite; and the goddess Thetis of the silver feet, in wedlock with Peleus, bare Achilles, the breaker of the ranks of men, the lion-hearted.
And fair-crowned Kythereia bare Aineias in sweet wedlock with the hero Anchises, among the peaks of many-folded wooded Ida.
And Kirke, daughter of Helios Hyperion, in loving union with Odysseus of enduring soul, bare Agrios, and Latinos, blameless and strong: also she bare Telegonos, by grace of golden Aphrodite. These, very far away within the holy isles, ruled over all the glorious Tyrrhenians.
And Kalypso, that bright goddess, in loving union, bare to Odysseus Nausithoos and Nausinoos.
These are the immortals who entered the beds of mortal men, and bare children like unto the gods.
And now, sweet-voiced Muses of Olympos, daughters of Zeus the Lord of the Aegis, sing ye the race of women.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE SHIELD OF HERAKLES
‘O hero Iolaos, far dearest of all mortal men, surely Amphitryon sinned greatly against the Blest Immortals, who keep Olympos, when he went to fair-crowned Thebes, leaving Tirynthos, that well-builded city, when he had slain Elektryon on account of his widebrowed oxen. And he came unto Kreon and long-robed S83-111Henioche, who welcomed him and gave him all things as were meet, which is the due of suppliants, and honoured him in their hearts yet more. He lived in glory with the fair-ankled daughter of Electryon, his wife. And soon with the rolling seasons we in turn were born, alike neither in body nor in mind, even thy father and I. From him Zeus took away his wits, who left his home and his parents, and went to do honour to sinful Eurystheus, fool that he was: surely in after days he groaned much in lamentation of his infatuate deed: but that cannot be taken back. Howbeit on me God imposed hard labours. O my friend, but do thou quickly take the crimson reins of the swift-footed steeds, and, nursing high courage in thy heart, hold straight on the swift car and strength of swift-footed steeds, and fear not at all the din of murderous Ares, who now with shouting rageth round the holy grove of Phoibos Apollo, the archer prince. Verily, strong though he be, he is like to have his fill of war.’
Then spake to him in turn blameless Iolaos: ‘Friend, verily the Father of men and gods honoureth thy head, even as also the lord of bulls, the Earth Shaker, who keepeth the coronal of Troy and guardeth the city, so strong and mighty a man is this whom they lead into thy hands, that thou mayst win fair renown. But come, do on thine armour of war, that with all speed we may bring close the car of Ares and our own and do battle, since verily he shall not put to flight the dauntless son of Zeus, nor the son of S111-140Iphikles: rather methinketh will he flee from the two children of the son of Alkaius, who are nigh unto him, and yearn to array the strife of war, which things are dearer far to them than is the banquet.’
So he spake, and mighty Herakles smiled, exulting in his soul, for he spake words well pleasing unto him. And he answered and spake to him winged words:
‘O hero Iolaos, fosterling of Zeus, not far off now is rough battle. And as thou wert aforetime wise, even so now wheel everywhere the mighty dark-maned horse Areion, and help as thou mayst.’
So he spake, and set about his legs his greaves of gleaming orichalc, the glorious gifts of Hephaistos. Next about his breast he did on his breastplate fair and golden and of cunning work, which Pallas Athene, daughter of Zeus, had given him when first he was about to essay his dolorous labours. And about his shoulders the terrible warrior put him the sword of iron that should ward off destruction, and athwart his breast he cast behind him a hollow quiver, and within it were many arrows, chilly givers of speech-forgotten death. Their tips were charged with death, and flowed with tears: their midst was polished, exceeding long: their butts were covered with the black eagle’s plume. And he took him his mighty spear, edged with gleaming bronze: and on his valiant head set his shapely helm, carven of adamant, fitted to his temples, which guarded the head of Herakles divine.
In his hands he took his flashing shield, and it did none ever rend with bolt nor crush, a marvel to behold. S141-170All round it shone again with gypsum and white ivory and electrum, and shone with gleaming gold, and folds of cyanus were drawn athwart it. In the midst was a dragon terror unspeakable, looking backward with eyes that shone with fire. Whose mouth also was filled with rows of white teeth, terrible, unapproachable; and on his shaggy brow hovered dread Strife, marshalling the throng of men, ruthless Strife, which took mind and wits from men who carried war against the son of Zeus. Their souls go down beneath the earth within the house of Hades, but their bones, when the skin has decayed round them, rot on the black earth under scorching Sirios. On it, too, were fashioned Charge and Retreat, and Din, and Rout, and Slaughter of Men: and Strife and Riot busied them thereon, and deadly Fate, with one man in her clutch new-wounded, another without wound: yet another dead she haled by the feet through the mellay. And the raiment upon her shoulders was red with the blood of men: terrible her glance and the din of her bellowing. Heads of dread serpents, too, were there, unspeakable, twelve serpent heads that terrified the tribes of men on earth, whoso bore war against the son of Zeus: and their teeth rattled when the son of Amphitryon fought, and brightly shone those wondrous works. And there showed as it were spots on the dread dragons: azure were their backs and blackened their jaws. Moreover, there were on the shield herds of wild boars and of lions, that glared at one another in anger and rage, whereof the ranks advanced together, neither S171-199did they tremble these or those, but bristled their manes alike. For already had they laid low a mighty lion, and by him lay two boars that had given up the ghost, and their dark blood flowed to earth while they, with outstretched necks, lay dead beneath the fierce lions. And both troops were yet the more roused to fight in their wrath, the wild boars and the fierce-eyed lions. Also there was upon the shield the battle of the warrior Lapithai, around prince Kaineus, and Dryas, and Peirithoos, and Hopleus, and Exadios, and Phaleros, and Prolochos, and Mopsos, son of Ampyke of Titaresia, scion of Ares, and Theseus son of Aigeus, like unto the deathless gods, silvern men with golden armour on their bodies. And over against them gathered the Kentauroi round mighty Petraios, and the seer Asbolos, and Arktos, and Oureios, and dark-haired Mimas, and the two sons of Peukeus, even Perimedes and Dryalos, silvern men with golden pine trees in their hands. And rushing together, even as living men, they lunged at one another with spear and pine.
Thereon, too, stood the swift-footed steeds of fierce Ares, wrought in gold, and himself withal, even murderous Ares, bearer of spoils, spear in hand, urging on the van: crimson with blood, as if it were living men he slew, he stood upon his car. And by him stood Fear and Rout, fain to enter the war of men.
Thereon, too, was the Driver of the Spoil, Tritogeneia, daughter of Zeus: like to her, even as if she were fain to array battle, with her spear in her hand, and S199-224her golden helmet and her Aegis about her shoulders, she ranged through the dread strife.
Thereon, also, was the holy choir of the deathless gods, and in the midst the son of Zeus and Leto made sweet minstrelsy on a golden lyre: also the habitation of the gods, sacred Olympos, and the assembly of the gods withal, and round them was wreathed infinite bliss in the meeting place of the immortals; and the goddess Muses of Pieria led the song, like unto clear-voiced singers.
Withal, there was a haven of the raging sea, with fair anchorage wrought in a circle of fined tin, like as it were agitated by waves: and many dolphins in the midst thereof were dashing hither and thither in pursuit of fish, like as if they were swimming, and two dolphins wrought in silver were blowing as they feasted on the voiceless fish. And before them trembled the fishes wrought in bronze. And on the shore sat a fisherman on the look-out. In his hands he held a net for fishes, and he looked like one about to cast it.
Thereon, also, was the son of fair-tressed Danae, knightly Perseus, neither touching the shield with his feet nor far from it, a great marvel to remark, since he was supported nowhere. For so the glorious Lame God with his cunning hands had wrought him in gold, and about his feet he had winged sandals. And athwart his shoulders a blackbound sword of gold hung from a baldrick; and he flitted quick as thought. All his back did the head of a dread monster keep, even the Gorgon’s head, and round it ran a silver wallet, S224-255a marvel to behold, and fringes of shining gold hung down. And about the prince’s temples was set the dread helmet of Hades, that had the awful darkness of night. And the son of Danae, even Perseus himself, was straining like as one hasting and chill with fear, while after him sped the Gorgons unapproachable, unspeakable, fain to seize him. And as they moved on the pale adamant, the shield rang with a mighty din, shrill and clear, and on their girdles two dragons were hanging with arched heads: and these were licking with their tongues, and in fury whetted their teeth, while their eyes glared fiercely. But over their dread Gorgon heads was wreathed great Terror, and the men above them were fighting in armour of war, these warding doom from their city and their parents, those fain to sack them. Many lay low while more yet strove and fought, and on the well-built towers they cried with shrill brazen cry and tore their cheeks, like unto living women, the works of glorious Hephaistos. But the men that were old and whom age had seized were gathered outside the gates; and they lifted up their hands to the blessed gods, fearing for their children, while those again engaged in battle. Behind them the dark Fates, with white, rattling teeth, dread of visage and terrible, bloody and unapproachable, contended for them that fell, and all were fain to drink dark blood. And whomso first they found lying low or falling new wounded, about him would a Fate cast her mighty talons, and his soul would go down to the house of Hades, even to chilly Tartaros. And when S255-285they had sated their souls with human blood, they would cast him behind them and hasten again into the din and tumult of the fray. Klotho and Lachesis stood behind them, and Atropos, of less stature, no wise divinely tall, yet was she of them all most excellent and eldest. Around one man they all arrayed bitter battle, and in their rage glared terribly one at the other, and matched them with talons and bold hands. And by them stood Woe, gloomy and dread: pale, squalid, shrunken with hunger, swollen-kneed, while her finger-nails were long. From her nostrils rheum flowed, and from her cheeks the blood trickled to the ground: unapproachably grinning she stood, and much dust, dank with tears, covered her shoulders.
Hard by was a city with fair towers: seven gates of gold, fitted with lintels, guarded it. And the men took their pleasure in festival and dance.
Some on a car with goodly tyres were leading home a bride, and loud arose the marriage song, and far from the blazing torches in the hands of the servants the gleam was rolled. And they in festal brightness marched in front, and sportive choirs followed them, uttering from soft lips their voice to the shrill music of the pipes, and the echo was broken around them, while they to the music of the lyre led on the lovely choir.
Then again, on the other side, young men were holding revel procession to the music of the flute: those sporting with dance and song, those laughing to the fluteplayer, they one and all moved forward; and joy and dance and festal mirth held all the city.
Others, ploughmen, were breaking up the goodly earth, and were equipped with tunics girt high.
And there was a deep corn land. And some were mowing with sharp blades the curved stalks laden with ears of corn, as it were the grain of Demeter. Others were binding the grain in bands, and filling a threshing-floor. Others with hooks in hand were gathering the vintage, while others again were gathering into baskets from the vintagers grapes white and dark from the great rows, laden with leaves and silver tendrils. Others again were gathering them into baskets. And by them was a vinerow wrought in gold, the glorious work of wise Hephaistos, quivering with leaves and stakes of gold, laden with grapes, and these last were wrought in black. And some were treading the grapes, some were drawing off the juice. Others were contending with the fists, or in wrestling. Others as hunters were pursuing swift-footed hares, and in front of them were two dogs of jagged teeth, fain to seize the hares, while they were fain to escape. By them were horsemen labouring; for a prize they strove and toiled, and on the well-pleated cars were mounted charioteers who urged on the swift steeds with slackened reins, while the jointed cars flew rattling on, and therewithal the wheel-naves cried aloud. Unendingly they toiled, and victory for them was never won, the issue of their contest was evermore unsettled. And for them was set within the ring a great tripod of gold, S313-338the glorious work of wise Hephaistos. Round the shield-rim flowed Okeanos, seeming as if full, and it bound the whole cunningly wrought shield. About the stream of Okeanos the flying swans were crying, swimming full many on the surface of the water, and by them the fishes were thronging, a marvellous sight even to Zeus, lord of the hollow thunder, through whose counsels Hephaistos wrought the shield mighty and strong and fitted it with his hands. That shield the valiant son of Zeus wielded masterfully. And he leapt upon his horse-car, even as the lightning of his father Zeus, the lord of the Aegis, moving with light feet: and his charioteer, strong Iolaos, mounted on the car, guided the carved chariot.
And the goddess grey-eyed Athene drew nigh unto them, and encouraged them with winged words, and said:
‘Hail, offspring of far-famed Lynkeus! Now unto you doth Zeus, the lord of the Blessed Ones, vouchsafe victory, even to slay Kyknos and to strip him of his glorious arms. And another thing will I say unto thee, thou noblest of the host. When thou hast bereft Kyknos of sweet life, then leave him where he falleth, and leave his arms, but do thou thyself watch the onset of murderous Ares, and where thou shalt see him uncovered by his cunningly wrought shield, there wound him with the sharp bronze. But then retire, since it is not allotted thee to take either his horses or his glorious armour.’
So spake the bright goddess, and mounted the car S339-367in haste, holding victory and glory in her immortal hands. Then Iolaos of the seed of Zeus called terribly to his horses, and at his shout they swiftly carried the swift car, raising dust over the plain. For the goddess grey-eyed Athene shook her Aegis and put spirit in their breasts; and the Earth groaned about them.
And those others came on together, like whirlwind or fire, even horse-taming Kyknos and Ares insatiate of battle. Then their horses neighed shrilly face to face, and the echo broke around them. First mighty Herakles spake unto him:
‘Fond Kyknos, why now do ye direct your swift horses against us twain, who are experienced in toil and travail? Nay, drive aside your polished car, and yield to go aside from the way. Lo! I drive past unto Trachis unto King Keyx: for he excels all Trachis in might and in majesty, as thou thyself well knowest, since thou hast Themistonoe, his dark-eyed daughter, to wife. O fond! for lo! Ares will not keep from thee the end of death if we twain meet thee in battle. Ere now methinketh he hath had other experience of my spear, what time in defence of sandy Pylos he stood against me, eagerly yearning for battle. Three times smitten by my spear he pressed the dust, his shield being pierced, and the fourth time I smote his thigh with all my might and main, and greatly tore his flesh; and prone in the dust upon the ground he fell by the impulse of my spear. There would he have been disgraced among the deathless gods, if by my hands he had left behind the gory spoils.’
And even as in a mountain glen a tusked boar, terrible to look on, is minded in his heart to fight with hunters, and swerving aside whetteth his white tusk, and the foam floweth about his mouth as he gnasheth his jaws, and his eyes are like unto blazing fire, and he erecteth his bristles on mane and neck,—even in such wise leapt the son of Zeus from his horse-car. And what time the dark-winged chattering cicala perched upon a green branch beginneth to sing to men of summer—the cicala whose meat and drink is the fresh dew, and all day long and in the morning he poureth S396-423forth his voice in the time of fiercest heat, when Sirios parcheth the flesh of men,—in that season the beards grow round the millet, which men sow in summer, when the unripe grapes are turning, which Dionysos hath given to be at once a boon and a bane to men: in that season they fought, and loud arose the battle din. And as two lions in rage rush on one another about a slain deer, and terrible is their roaring, and terrible withal the gnashing of their teeth, and even as vultures of crooked talons and hooked beaks on a lofty rock fight with loud yelping about a mountain-ranging goat or fat deer of the wilds, which some lusty man hath shot and slain with an arrow from the string, and himself hath wandered otherwhere, not knowing the country; and the vultures quickly remark it, and array bitter battle about the beast: even so they cried and rushed on one another.
Then Kyknos, fain to slay the son of mighty Zeus, hurled his brazen spear against his shield, but he brake not the shield of bronze: the gifts of the god protected him. But the son of Amphitryon, valiant Herakles, smote Kyknos with his long spear beneath the chin, where his neck was exposed between helm and shield: with a swift and mighty blow he smote him, and the murderous ashen spear cut away both tendons: for great was the hero’s strength that fell upon him. And he fell as falls an oak or a beetling rock when smitten by the smoking thunderbolt of Zeus. So he fell, and about him rattled his cunning armour of bronze.
‘Ares, stay thy strong might and hands invincible. For it is not lawful that thou shouldst slay Herakles, the stout-hearted son of Zeus, and strip him of his glorious armour. Nay come, make an end of fighting, and stand not up against me.’
So she spake, but she persuaded not the great-hearted spirit of Ares; but with a great cry, and brandishing his arms like fire, he swiftly rushed on S452-480the mighty Herakles, fain to slay him, and hurled his brazen spear on the mighty shield, keenly angered for his son dead. But grey-eyed Athene reached from the car and turned aside the impulse of the spear. And bitter grief seized Ares, and he drew his sharp sword, and rushed upon stout-hearted Herakles. But as he came on, the son of Amphitryon, insatiate of dread battle, smote him strongly where his thigh was bared of the carven shield, and with the thrust of his spear he greatly rent his flesh, and cast him full upon the earth; and Fear and Rout swiftly drove nigh to him his well-wheeled car and steeds, and from the wide-wayed earth placed him in the carven car, and swiftly lashed their horses and came to high Olympos.
But the son of Alkmene and glorious Iolaos stripped from the shoulders of Kyknos his fair armour, and went their way, and speedily thereafter came with swift steeds unto the city of Trachis. But grey-eyed Athene arrived unto high Olympos and her Father’s halls, while Kyknos on the other hand did Keyx bury, himself and a countless host, even they who dwelled nigh the city of the renowned King in Anthe, and the city of the Myrmidons, and glorious Iolkos, and Arne, and Helike, and a great host gathered them in honour of Keyx, that was dear to the blessed gods. But his tomb and cairn did the Anauros sweep from sight in a flood of winter rain. For so did Apollo the son of Leto ordain, for as much as he had been wont to lie in wait and violently despoil every one who led glorious hecatombs unto Pytho.[Back to Table of Contents]
But there was no work of deceit with the sons of Tyndareos. And from Ithaka the sacred might of Odysseus wooed her, even the son of Laertes, who knew cunning counsels. Gifts he never sent for the sake of the fair-ankled maiden; for he knew in his heart that golden-haired Menelaos would win, for he was strongest in possessions of all the Achaeans. But ever more he sent messages unto Lakedaimon to Kastor, tamer of horses, and athlete Polydeukes. . . . . . . . . . . yearning to be the husband of fair-tressed Helen, not that he had ever seen her beauty, but he had heard the report of others. And from Phylake two men that were by far most excellent, even Podarkes, the son of Iphiklos, the son of Phylakos, and the goodly son of Aktor, even proud Protesilaos. And both sent messages unto Lakedaimon to the house of Tyndareos, the wise son of Oibalos, and offered many gifts of wooing: for great was the lady’s renown. . . . . . . . . . . to be the husband of Helen of Argos. And from Athens Menestheus, the son of Peteoos, wooed her, and offered many gifts of wooing. For full many possessions did he possess, gold and cauldrons and tripods—fair possessions which the house of King Peteoos held within, wherewith his soul urged him to endow his bride, giving more gifts than any; for he deemed not that any among all the heroes would surpass him in possessions. . . .
THE GREAT EOIAE
And Thero entered the arms of Apollo, and bare the strong and valorous Chairon, tamer of horses.
THE MARRIAGE OF KEYX
‘Their number is ten thousand: their measure is a bushel, but there is one over, which thou couldst not include therein.’
So he [Mopsos] spake: and it proved the true reckoning of their measure.
And then the end of death enshrouded Kalchas.
THE ADVICES OF CHIRON
THE GREAT WORKS
. . . . . . . . . .
If one suffer what he wrought, straight justice shall be done.
FROM UNCERTAIN POEMS[Back to Table of Contents]
ADDENDA[Back to Table of Contents]
ON W. 113 sqq.
‘Neither were they subject to miserable eld, but ever the same’ (or ‘alike’) ‘in hand and foot they took their pleasure in festival apart from all evil. And they died as overcome of sleep.’ The meaning is that the men of the Golden Age never grew old; hand and foot, on which old age shows its most obvious effects, remained as vigorous as in youth; they did not die by a slow process of decay, but ‘God’s finger touched them and they slept’. Sleep is not here a mere metaphor for death: that is a later metaphor; the earliest approach to it in Greek literature is probably Pindar, Istbmians iii. 40, where, speaking of the Kleonymidai, he says that Poseidon ‘now giveth to this house this hymn of wonder, and leadeth up out of her bed (ἐκ λεχέων ἀνάγει) the ancient glory of the famous deeds thereof; for she was fallen on sleep (ἐν ὕπνῳ γὰρ πέσεν); but she awaketh and her body shineth preeminent, as among stars the Morning-star’ (Myers). The same metaphor occurs also in Istbm. vi. 16, ‘the grace of the old time sleepeth, and men are unmindful thereof’; but in the first quotation the language is extremely suggestive of death: λεχέων can mean both ‘bed’ and ‘bier’, while ἀνάγω also suggests resurrection from the dead, as in Aischylos, Ag. 1023 (ϕθιμένων ἀνάγειν). Already in Homer, Il. xvi. 672, &c., as in Hesiod, Theog. 212 (Children of Night), Sleep and Death are brothers. In Aischylos, Ag. 1451, ‘endless sleep’ means ‘death’, as so frequently elsewhere. In Aisch. Eumen. 68, ὕπνῳ πεσονˆσαι is simply ‘fallen asleep’ in the literal sense.
Dr. James Adam, Religious Teachers of Greece (Gifford Lectures, T. & T. Clark, 1908), p. 76, has a curious mistranslation of our passage. He writes, ‘nor did pitiable old age come upon them, but with bands like feet and feet like hands they had joy in banquets evermore.’ And he proceeds to say, ‘the obscure words which I have italicized receive perhaps some light from the burlesque account in Plato’s Symposium (189 E) of the structure of the human frame before the creation of women: in those days man, we are told, was androgynous and round, with four hands and four feet constructed, it would seem, on the same plan, and rendering it easy to travel rapidly from place to place by a series of somersaults.’
Now in the first place it may be doubted whether Hesiod’s words could bear the interpretation here put upon them; in any case, such a wonderful phenomenon would not have been introduced in an unemphatic parenthesis between αἰεί and its verb—as it is if αἰεί belongs to τέρποντο, and not, as I take it, to ὁμοɩ̂οι mainly (of course it also in a way affects τέρποντο, because on this interpretation the sense expressed by πόδας καὶ χεɩ̂ρας ὁμοɩ̂οι and that expressed by τέρποντο are homogeneous elements of perpetual felicity. So long as the two things are homogeneous it makes no difference whether, as here, they form a combination, or a contrast). Moreover, Plato’s words in no way imply that the Androgyni had hands like feet or feet like hands; indeed, he rather emphasizes the opposite by repetition: ‘he had four hands and four feet . . . turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all.’ To the modern mind an interpretation which rather suggests the notion of primitive man going ‘on all fours’, as it were, might seem plausible, but so far as I know is quite un-Greek; there is nothing in Aischylos’s account of the state of the primitive men whom Prometheus rescued—‘who lived like ants in sunless caves’—to suggest that they did not walk erect.
Finally it is easy to show how frequently the ‘hands and feet’ are referred to as tests of age or identity: e.g. Homer, Od. xi. 494 sqq. Achilles in Hades says to Odysseus, ‘Tell me if thou hast heard aught of noble Peleus, whether he still hath honour amid many Myrmidons, or if they dishonour him throughout Hellas and Phthia, because old age is come upon his hands and feet’; so Od. xix. 357 sqq. Penelope says to Eurykleia, ‘Come, rise now, prudent Eurykleia, wash the agefellow of thy lord; yea, even Odysseus, I ween, by now is such as he in feet and such as he in hands: for in the day of evil men speedily wax old’; so, verse 380 sqq., Eurykleia declares, ‘never yet have I seen any one so like to look on, as thou art like to Odysseus in form and in voice, and in feet’; Od. iv. 149 sqq., Helen had remarked how like Telemachos was to Odysseus. Menelaos agrees, ‘for such were his feet and such as these his hands, the flashing of his eyes, his head and his hair withal.’ The type of expression was indeed proverbial, and there can be no slightest doubt as to Hesiod’s meaning here.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE FARMER’S YEAR IN HESIOD.
Works and Days, 383 sqq.
1. For the right understanding of the Hesiodic Calendar it is necessary to remember the immense significance for primitive man of a careful observation of the phenomena of the natural world. In a very real sense primitive man lived in close communion with Nature. Night by night his eyes scanned the vault of heaven and marked the position of the stars. By them the sailor steered his path across the perilous sea; by them the farmer knew in what season he must sow and when he should withhold his hand; by them, too, the homeless wanderer guided his steps, as did Oedipus when the Pythian priestess told him at Delphi of the terrible fate that awaited him if he returned to his home in Korinth: ‘And I, when I had listened to this, turned to flight from the land of Korinth, thenceforth wotting of its region by the stars alone, to some spot where I should never see fulfilment of the infamies foretold in mine evil doom’ (Sophocles, Oedipus Tyrannus, 794 sqq.); the shepherd, too, when, for the first time in the year, he saw Arkturos twinkling on the castern horizon at dawn, knew that in the plains the vintagers were busy gathering the vintage, and that it was time for him to drive his flocks home from their six-month summer pasture on the hills to their winter fold, just as did the shepherds of Laios and Polybos after their sojourn on Kithairon ‘from spring to Arkturos, a six-month space’ (Soph. O. T. 1137).
Or again he noted the annual migration of the birds. The gathering of the cranes preparatory to their southward flight to Libya—‘bearing death and doom to Pygmaean men’—at the approach of winter warned the farmer that the sowing season was at hand; the note of the cuckoo, or the twittering swallow told him of the approach of Spring; the sailor by that same gathering of the cranes in late autumn knew that the sailing season was over for the year, that it was time to draw up his boat upon the beach and hang up the rudder where the smoke would keep it dry, till in another year the swallow and the cuckoo should tell him that the seas were open. Even the lowly shell snail brought its message of coming summer. The chattering of the cicala in the noontide heat, the blooming of this plant or that, the flowering of the scolymus, the leaf upon the fig-tree (St. Matthew xxiv. 32, ‘Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh’; cf. W. 679); each had their particular significance in the rustic calendar.
2. The Rising and Setting of the fixed stars. Four epochs in the visibility of the fixed stars were distinguished by the ancients.
(1) Heliacal Rising: this is the first perceptible appearance of a star on the eastern horizon in the morning just before sunrise. This first brief glimpse will become daily longer as the star increases its apparent distance from the sun, the star gaining about four minutes daily on the sun, and thus being visible every night for a longer period before it is extinguished by the rising sun.
(2) Acronychal Rising: this is the last visible ascent from the eastern horizon after sunset; the star is now an evening star, and is visible all night.
(3) Cosmical Setting: this is the term applied to a star when for the first time each year it reached the horizon long enough before sunrise to be still visible.
(4) Heliacal Setting: this is the term applied to a star on the last evening when it can still be seen on the western horizon after sunset, before it follows the sun below the horizon.
Of these four epochs, the first three are those most commonly referred to; and of these three again the first and third are the most important. In Greek, it should be understood, the Rising of a Star means the Heliacal Rising or first appearance on the eastern horizon as a morning star; the Setting of a Star means the Cosmical Setting, or first reaching of the western horizon before sunrise. When the third or Acronychal Rising is referred to it is either specified by an adjective (such as ἀκρόνυχος, ἀκροκνέϕαιος) or the meaning is made obvious by the context.
Besides the phenomena of the rising and setting of the stars, we find reference to the Turnings of the Sun, i.e. the Summer and Winter Solstice or Sunstead. In Homer there is but one mention of the Turnings of the Sun, and in that passage (Od. xv. 403 seq., ‘There is an Isle called Syria, if haply thou hast heard, beyond Ortygia, where are the turnings of the Sun’) it seems to denote the western limits of the Sun’s path. But in Hesiod the expression occurs three times in the sense of Solstice, the context defining whether the reference is to Summer or Winter. The three passages are W. 479 and 564—both of the Winter Solstice—and W. 663 of the Summer Solstice. Another early reference to the Solstice (apparently Winter) is in a fragment of Alkman quoted by Athenaios, x. 416.
The most significant stars in the time of Homer are enumerated in Iliad, xviii. 483 seqq., where we are told that when Hephaistos made the Shield of Achilles, ‘he wrought thereon Earth and Heaven and Sea, and the unwearied sun and the full moon and all the signs (τείρεα) wherewith the Heaven is crowned, the Pleiades and the Hyades and the might of Orion and the Bear (Arktos), which also men call the Wain (ἄμαξα), which turneth in her place and keepeth watch upon Orion, and alone hath no part in the baths of Ocean.’ We have a similar list in Odyssey, v. 270 seqq.: Odysseus sailing from Ogygia ‘steered with the rudder skilfully, and sleep never fell upon his eyes as he looked on the Pleiades and late-setting Bootes and Arktos, which also men call the Wain, which turneth in her place and keepeth watch upon Orion and alone hath no part in the baths of Ocean; that star did Kalypso the bright goddess bid him keep on his left hand as he fared over the sea’ (i.e. to steer east).
Besides these stars Homer knows also the Dog Star. In Iliad v. 4 seq. we are told that Athene gave might and courage to Diomedes: ‘she kindled flame unwearied from his helmet and shield, like to the star of summer (ἀστέρ’ ὀπωρινῷ ἐναλίγκιον) which shineth brightest, when he hath bathed in Ocean.’ The season denoted by Opora is the fruit season, roughly August-September. Hence at the first blush it would seem natural to think that Arkturos was referred to, and so Schol. B. interpreted. But that the reference is to the Dog Star is definitely shown by the similar passage in Iliad xxii. 25 seqq.: ‘And aged Priam was the first to mark him (Achilles) as he sped over the plain, blazing as the star that cometh in the fruit-season’ (L.L.M. ‘at harvest time’ is rather misleading, as it naturally suggests the grain harvest, which was over before the rising of the Dog Star), ‘and conspicuous shine forth his rays amid the host of stars in the darkness of night; whom men name Orion’s Dog. Brightest of all is he, yet an evil sign he is, and bringeth much fever upon hapless men.’
Lastly Homer knows the Evening Star, Hesperos, Il. xxii. 317 seqq.: the gleam from the spear of Achilles was ‘even as the star Hesperos which cometh amid the stars in the darkness of night, fairest of all stars set in Heaven’; and the Morning Star, Heosphoros (Ἑωσϕόρος), Il. xxiii. 226 seq., ‘what time the Morning Star cometh to herald light upon the earth, the star that saffron-robed Dawn cometh after and spreadeth over the salt sea, then,’ &c. The Morning Star is referred to again without a name in Od. xiii. 93 seqq., ‘what time the brightest star ariseth, which chiefly cometh to announce the light of Dawn the early-born, at that hour the sea-faring ship drew nigh to the island.’ As Miss Agnes Clerke (Familiar Studies in Homer, pp. 38-39) rightly remarks, neither Homer nor Hesiod show any faintest knowledge or suspicion either that the Evening Star is only another aspect of the Morning Star or of any distinction at all between planets and fixed stars. The statement (made, e.g., in the Harmsworth Encyclopaedia) s.v. Hesperus, that ‘Hesperus, the Greek name of Venus as the evening star, was identified with the morning star both by Homer and Hesiod, under the name of Phosphorus’ has no foundation in fact. Indeed the name Phosphorus is not found in either poet.
Coming now to Hesiod, we find the same stars mentioned as in Homer. We have the Pleiades, W. 383 (where they are called Atlas-born, or daughters of Atlas), 572, 615, 619: called also Peleiades in F. 177 (9), 178 (10), 179 (11). We have the Hyades and Orion coupled with the Pleiades in W. 615 (the Pleiades and the Hyades and the might of Orion); Orion and the Pleiades, W. 619; Orion coupled with Sirios, W. 609; and Orion by himself in W. 598.
Arkturos is mentioned twice, W. 566 and 610. By Arkturos Hesiod means the same as Homer by Bootes; in later Greek he is also called Arktophylax, and Aratus seems to use Arktophylax for the Constellation, and Arkturos, just as we do, for its brightest star; Arat. Phen. 91 seqq., ‘Behind Helike moves, like to one driving, Arktophylax, whom men also call Bootes, since he appears to lay his hands on the wain-like Bear; all of him is very conspicuous, but under his belt rolls brightly the star Arkturos himself.’ The Schol. on this passage says that Arktophylax was an Arkadian, son of Zeus and Kallisto, and that he was brought up by a goatherd on Mount Lykaion, and being with his mother in danger of his life, Zeus in pity turned him into a star. He adds, ‘This is said to be Arktophylax, Bootes, Orion, . . . and also he is called Trugetes (Vintager). Theon and Hesychios also call Bootes Orion, and it has been suggested that there were two Orions, Bootes being one. This and the identification of the stars mentioned in Job ix. 9, xxxviii. 31-32, Amos, v. 8, cannot be discussed here.
Sirios, as we have seen above, is mentioned by Homer as Orion’s Dog, the Star which cometh in the season of Opora; the name Sirios occurs for the first time in Hesiod, W. 417, 587, 609, S. 153, 397.
Lastly Hesiod mentions the Morning Star, but only as a mythological personification, in T. 381, where we are told that Dawn bare to Astraios ‘the Morning Star (Ἑωσϕόρος) and the shining constellations wherewith the heaven is crowned’.
3. It would be easy, as it might be interesting, to give numerous illustrations of the manner in which the year was mapped out by the Star Calendar. I shall content myself here by giving two illustrations, one ancient, the other modern.
(1) The first is from the collection called Geoponica, a Greek compilation of extracts on agriculture, largely from Roman writers, by Cassianus Bassus, and generally ascribed to a date about a.d. 900-1000. The following Calendar forms chap. 9 of Book I, and is entitled ‘The Rising and Setting of the visible stars. From the Quintilii’. It proceeds thus:
Whereas it is essential that farmers should know the risings and settings of the visible stars, so have I written of them in such manner that even those that are quite unlettered might easily understand the seasons of their rising and setting.
1. On the New Moon in January the Dolphin rises (i.e. heliacally).
2. On 26th February Arkturos rises in the evening (i.e. acronychal rising).
3. On the New Moon in April, the Pleiades suffer acronychal occultation (ἀκρόνυχοι κρύπτονται, cf. Hesiod, W. 385 seqq.: Forty days and nights are they hidden and shine again with the revolving year, when first the sickle is sharpened. That is, the Pleiades are now too near the sun to be visible after nightfall, although above the horizon. They will remain invisible until they arrive sufficiently far in front of the sun to be again visible as a morning constellation at their heliacal rising).
4. On 16th April the Pleiades are occulted in the evening (i.e. the Pleiades are too near the sun to be visible even in the twilight).
5. On 23rd April the Pleiades rise with the sun (i.e. the Pleiades are now in conjunction with the sun; they rise with him and set with him, and are consequently completely invisible).
6. On 29th April Orion is occulted in the evening (see 4).
7. On 30th April the Hyades rise with the sun (see 5).
8. On 7th May the Pleiades become visible in the morning (this is their heliacal rising).
9. On 19th May the Hyades become visible in the morning (heliacal rising).
10. On 7th June Arkturos sets in the morning (Cosmical Setting, as explained above).
11. On 23rd June Orion begins to rise.
12. On 10th July Orion rises in the morning.
13. On 13th July Prokyon rises in the morning.
14. On 24th July the Dog rises in the morning.
15. On 26th July the Etesian winds begin to blow.
16. On 30th July the bright star in the breast of the lion rises.
17. On 25th August the Arrow sets.
18. On 15th September Arkturos rises (heliacal).
19. On 4th October the Crown rises in the morning.
20. On 24th October the Pleiades set with sunrise.
21. On 11th November, the Pleiades set in the morning, and Orion begins to set.
22. On 22nd November the Dog sets in the morning.
(2) As a second illustration of the Star Calendar I take a Rustic Calendar published in an English treatise on agriculture in 1669. The Calendar is of course the Old Style or Julian Calendar, as, though the New Style or Gregorian Calendar was promulgated in 1582, it was not adopted in England till 1752. It is entitled ‘Kalendarium Rusticum, or The Husbandman’s Monethly Directions’. To each month is appended the agricultural operations suitable to the month, but these I shall only give in so far as they illustrate ancient agriculture. As the Calendar is a rustic Calendar, it of course does not enumerate all the days of the month, but only those marked by some particular event. The hours of sunrise and sunset are given, and I have thought it worth while to retain these here. The author of the Calendar in an interesting preface remarks that:
There are two sorts of Times and Seasons prescribed by the Ancients to be observed in Agriculture, viz. of the year, being onely the motion of the Sun through the twelve signes of the Zodiaque, which begets the different seasons and temperatures of the Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter; And of the Aspects and State of the Moon and Stars, whereof, and also of several Prognosticks of the Mutability, state, and condition of the several Seasons, and their natural inclinations, I shall give you at the end of this Kalendar a Breviat, and of such observations as I have found in several ancient and modern Authors, treating of that subject.
This Breviat of Prognosticks is duly appended to the Calendar and corresponds to the Days part of Hesiod’s Works and Days, the Diosemeia of Aratos, or the ‘certa signa’ enumerated by Vergil, Georg. i. 351 seqq. The writer gives warning further that every year is not alike, nor every place, but ‘some years, or at least some seasons of the year, prove more forward by two or three weaks or more, at one time than at another, also the scituation of places either better defended from, or more obvious to the intemperature of the Air begets some alterations; in these and such like cases the subsequent Rules are to be seasonably applyed, by the judicious Husbandman, according as the season happens to be earlier or later, or the different scituation of places requires.’ He refers to his predecessors in writing of Agriculture as ‘Hesiod, Columella, Palladius, de Serres, Augustino, Gallo, Tusser, Markham, Stevenson, and others, and last of all Mr. Evelin, his excellent Kalendarium Hortense, at the end of his Sylva.’
In 1669 the legal and ecclesiastical year in England still began on 25th March (Lady Day), although the popular reckoning was from 1st January. The 1st of January was not adopted as the beginning of the legal year until the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar in 1752. The writer concludes his preface with a reference to this fact:—
I shall endeavour herein to be as brief as I can, I shall add nothing more than what is necessary, and shall leave out such things that are but little to our purpose, and shall begin with the major part of our Presidents in the like case, although the year in respect of the Suns entrance into Aries, and the commencement of the year, begins in March, yet Tusser declines both and begins at Michaelmas (i.e. 29th September), it being the usual time for the Farmer to enter on his Farm, the ground being then more easily cleered of its former stock, than at any other time; but seeing that it is no very matterial thing when we begin, our labour having no end, we will tread the most usual Path, decline both extreams, and begin when our days do sensibly lengthen, our hopes revive of an approaching Summer, and our Almanacks gives us a New-Years-day.
Mensis difficillimus hic Hybernus, difficilis ovibus difficilisque hominibus. [= Hesiod, W. 557 sq.]
This moneth is the rich Mans charge, and the poor Mans misery, the cold like the days increase, yet qualified with the hopes and expectations of the approaching Spring; the Trees, Meadows, and Fields are now naked, unless cloathed in white whilest the countreyman sits at home, and enjoyes the Fruit of his past labours, and contemplates on his intended Enterprises, now is welcom a cup of good Cider or other excellent Liquors, such that you prepared the Autumn before, moderately taken it proves the best Physick.
A cold January is seasonable: Plough up or fallow the Ground you intend for Pease.
Sow oats if you will have of the best, says old Tusser:
Prune . . . Vines, so that it be not too frosty.
‘Ut sementem feceris ita et metes’ [= N. T. Galat. vi. 7, δ γὰρ ἂν σπείρῃ ἄνθρωπος, τονˆτο καὶ θερίσει]: This is a principal Seed-Moneth for such they usually call Lenten Grain; this Moneth is usually subject to much Rain or Snow, if it prove either it is not to be accounted unseasonable, the Proverb being, February fill Dike, with either black or white.
Sow Fitches [= Vetches: cf. e.g. Isaiah xxviii. 25, ‘When he hath made plain the face thereof, doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin, and cast in the principal wheat and the appointed barley and the rie in their place?’], Beans and Oats, Carry out Dung and spread it before the Plough, and also on Pasture Ground, this being the principal Moneth for that purpose. . . .
Soyl Meadows that you cannot overflow or water . . .
You may yet prune and trim Fruit-trees.
The beginning of March usually concludes the nipping Winter, the end initiates the subsequent welcome Spring, according to the Proverb, March comes in like a Lyon, and goes out like a lamb. If it prove cold, it is seasonable to check the pregnant Buds, and forbid them till a more safe and opportune season, near approaching. If this moneth prove dry, the Countrey-man counts it ominous of a happy year for Corn.
Diluculo surgere saluberrimum est. The Mornings now seem pleasant, the days long. The Nymphs of the Woods in consort welcome in Aurora.
If April prove dry, fallowing is good. Gather up Worms and Snails after evening showers.
This Moneth ushers in the most welcome Season of the Year. Now gentle Zephirus fans the sweet Buds, and the Celestial Drops water fair Flora’s Garden.
The Countrey-man’s heart is revived (if this moneth prove seasonable) with the hopes of a happy Autumn; if it be cold it is an Omen of good for health, and promises fair for a full Barn.
If your Corn be too rank, now you may mow it, or feed it with Sheep before it be two forward. Weed corn. In some places Barley may be sown in this Moneth.
Twifallow your Land, carry out Soyl or Compost, gather stones from the Fallows.
A Shower at this time of the year is generally welcome, now Phoebus ascends the utmost limits of the Zodiaque towards the Pole-Artick, and illuminates our most Northern Climes, and makes those Countreys that within a few moneths seemed to be wholly bereft of Pleasure, now to resemble a Terrestrial Paradise, and gives unto them the full proportion of his presence which in the Winter past was withdrawn, that they partake equally of his light with the more Southern Countryes; the glorious Sun glads the Spirit of Nature, and the sweet flowers now refresh the thirsty Earth, the Grain and Fruits now shew themselves to the joy of the Husbandman; the Trees are all in their rich Aray, and the Earth itself laden with the Countreymans wealth, if the weather be calm it makes the Farmer smile on his hopeful Crop.
Fallow your Wheat-land in hot weather, it kills the Weeds. Arationes eo fructuosiores sunt, quo calidiore terra aratur itaque inter solstitium et caniculam absolvendae, saith Varro.
Carry Marle, Lime, and Manure, of what kind soever to your Land, bring home your Coals and other necessary Fewel fetcht far off, before the Teams are busied at the Hay-harvest.
In thirsty July would the parched Earth be glad of a moistening Shower, to refresh and revive the scorched Vegetable. Now is there an equal care taken to avoid Phoebus his bright and burning beams, as in the Winter the furious blasts of cold Boreas. Tempests now injure much the laden Fruit-trees and standing Corn, to the great detriment of the Husbandman.
Now is the universal time for Hay making. Mow your Head-lands, thryfallow where the land requires it.
At the latter end of this Moneth Corn-harvest begins in most places in a forward year.
Now bright Phoebus, after he hath warmed our Northern Hemisphere, retires nimbly towards the Southern, and the fresh Gales of Zephirus begins to refrigerate the scorching Sun-beams. The Earth now yields to the patient Husbandman the fruits of his Labours; This Moneth returns the Countrey-mans expences into his Coffers with increase, and encourages him to another years adventure. If this moneth prove dry, warm, and free from high Windes, it rejoyceth the Country-mans heart, increaseth his gains, and abates a great part of his Disbursements.
It is now the Equinoctial that bids adieu to the pleasant Summer past, and summons us to prepare for the approaching Winter, the Beauty and Lustre of the Earth is generally decaying. Our Country-men and Ladies do now lament the loss of those beautiful Objects, Ceres, Flora, and Pomona, in their Fields, Gardens, and Orchards, so lately presented them withal; But that their minds and hands are busied in preparing for another return, in hopes of a better Crop: gentle Showers now glad the Ploughman’s heart, makes the Earth mellow, and better prepares it for the Wheat, which delights in a moist receptacle: still weather and dry is most seasonable for the Fruits yet on the Trees, the Salmon and Trout in most Rivers go now out of season till Christmas.
This moneth is the most universal time for the Farmer to take possession of his new Farm; get good Seed, and sow Wheat in the dirt and Rye in the dust.
Amend the Fences about the new sown Corn, skare away Crowes, Pigeons, &c., gather Mast and put Swine into the Woods.
Carry home Brakes, saw Timber and Boards, manure your Wheatlands before the Plough.
Now enters October, which many times gives us earnest of what we are to expect the Winter succeeding; that I may say,
If it prove Windy as it usually doth, it finishes the fall of the Leaf, and also shatters down the Mast and other Fruits, leaving neither Leaf nor Fruit.
Lay up Barly-land as dry as you can, Seedtime yet continues, and especially for Wheat.
Well water, furrow, and drain the new sown Corn Land.
November generally proves a dirty moneth, the Earth and Trees wholly uncloathed. Sowing of Wheat and Rye on a conclusion, the Countrey-man generally forsakes the Fields, and spends his time at the Barn, and at the Market. A good fire begins to be welcome.
Wheat may be sown on very warm and rich Lands, especially on burn-baited Land.
Thrash not Wheat to keep until March, lest it prove foisty.
Lay straw or other waste Stuff in moist places to rot for Dung; also lay Dung on heaps.
Fell Coppice-woods, and plant all sorts of Timber, or other Trees; fell Trees for Mechanick uses, as Plough-boot, Cart-boot &c.
Prune Trees, mingle your rich Compost with the Earth in your Orchards against the Spring.
Phoebus now leaves us the shortest days and longest nights, is newly entred Capricornus, the most Southern Celestial Sign, and begins his Annual Return, which very much rejoyceth the Countreyman’s heart, to see a lengthening of the day, although accompanied by an increase of Cold. The Earth is generally fast locked up under its frozen Coat, that the Husbandman hath leisure to sit and spend what Store he hath before-hand provided.
Now is it time to house old Cattel; cut all sorts of Timber and other Trees for Building or other Utensils.
Plant all sort of Trees that shed their Leaf, and are natural to our English Clime, and not too tender.
Let horses blood. Fat swine and kill them. Plough up the Land for Beans, drain Corn-fields where Water offends, and water or overflow your Meadows.
4. Before examining the Hesiodic Calendar in detail it will be well to consider the agricultural system of the heroic age in general. That system seems to have been as follows. It is a sort of two-shift rotation. Rotation of crops, in the sense of taking different kinds of crops from a given piece of land in different years, was unknown. Hence the only means by which the land could recuperate its vigour was to leave it untilled in alternate years. This system, once universal, has furnished Pindar with two fine similes: Nem. vi. 8 sqq., in honour of Alkimidas of Aigina, in whose family athletic prowess displayed itself in alternate generations: ‘Now doth Alkimidas evince his breeding, like to the fruitful fields which, alternately, now yield to man his yearly bread from the plains, and now again, they rest and recover their strength.’ So again Nem. xi. 37, in honour of Aristagoras of Tenedos, whose father had not been a distinguished athlete: ‘Ancient deeds of prowess repeat their vigour in alternate generations of men. Neither doth the dark fields yield their fruit continuously, nor will the trees with every circling year bear their fragrant flowers in equal wealth, but in their turns only: thus also doth Fate guide the race of men.’
I have said the land was left idle in alternate years, and so Vergil advises: Georg. i. 71 sq. ‘Alternis idem tonsas cessare novales, Et segnem patiere situ durescere campum’; and Pliny, N. H. xviii. 19, 176, defines novale in the same way: novale est quod alternis annis seritur. But the system need not have been always so definite as this, and even alternis annis might be taken somewhat less strictly, as a simple opposite to ‘continuously’. Thus in Palestine to-day, where the same procedure is still followed, the leaving of the land fallow is more or less haphazard, depending on the abundance or lack of rain, or the supply of human and animal labour. Only they at least take care to vary the land for the winter and the summer sowing. For the latter the land requires careful preparation, and after the first breaking-up is ploughed two or three times.
A similarly haphazard system of fallowing prevailed in the North of Scotland, at least up to the beginning of last century. Here is a description by the Hon. John Johnston (in an address to the Wisconsin Farmers’ Institute, Illinois, in 1897) of the system of agriculture which obtained in Aberdeenshire in the days of his grandfather, who farmed from 1782-1832: ‘The farms in our neighbourhood in my grandfather’s time were divided into the “intown” and the “outfields”. The former was about a third of the farm around the houses. All the manure was placed upon it, and it, of course, was the richest land, but that is not saying much, for the manure amounted to but little. They would always plough the land in the same direction, and in time the ridges became like small hills with valleys between them. There was no such thing as rotation of crops, and turnips, clover, and potatoes were unknown. Oats, peas, and barley were the chief crops; and after the “intown” had been cropped for years and would not produce more than about twice the seed, part of it was given a rest—that is, was not ploughed. Thereupon, it produced a bountiful crop of wild grasses, thistles, “skellochs,” sorrel, rushes, and tansies. If this was the treatment of the “intown”, you can imagine how the “outfields” looked. I remember that our “outfields” on the hill were largely covered with heather, and on the low and wet ground with rushes, for drains were not thought of. I need hardly say that the use of artificial manure was wholly unknown, although they did treat the soil once in a while to a little taste of lime.’
The land then thus left unsown becomes to all intents and purposes uncultivated land. It has, so to speak, to be ‘taken in’ afresh: it is new land. Hence, I think, the Greek term νειός, if that be connected with νέος, ‘new,’ as the Latin novalis suggests. If, however, we separate νείατος (= lowest), νειόθεν (= from the bottom) from νέος, then νειός might conceivably mean simply ‘soil’ generally, and this we might parallel with English ‘bottom’, Scots ‘boddum’ (so frequently used of soil), Latin fundus, Greek πυθμήν. But, after all, for our present purpose it is not necessary to dogmatize about the derivation of the word.
Now, assuming the two-shift system, let us call one A, the other B. Towards the end of April the grain harvest on A is ripening. After harvest A will normally lie untouched until the following spring. It will then be turned up (ἔαρι πολεɩ̂ν, W. 462) just before harvest, and will undergo several similar operations, until finally, at the cosmical setting of the Pleiades about the end of October or beginning of November, it will be ploughed and sown, and will again bear a crop of grain in the following year, after an interval of two years from the previous crop. Meanwhile B, which had carried a crop the year previous to A’s first crop, provides the crop in the intermediate year, i.e. in A’s blank year; and so on in rotation. Nothing could be simpler, and this with slight modifications was the universal system of primitive agriculture.
The turning of the fallow was done either by the plough or by the mattock. Aratus, Phaen. 5 sqq., says that ‘Zeus is kindly unto men and sheweth them favourable signs and stirreth the people to work, reminding them of livelihood: he telleth them when the soil is best for oxen’ (i.e. for the plough) ‘and for the mattock: he telleth when the seasons are favourable for trenching about plants and for casting all manner of seeds.’ So also Xenophon, Oec. xvi, refers to ‘making the fallow’ with the mattock (σκάπτοντες τὴν νεὸν ποιοɩ̂εν).
The first turning took place in spring, and the verb used is πολεɩ̂ν. The corresponding Latin word is proscindere, which means not to plough early, but to break up by straight furrows (rectis sulcis), the adverb pro having the same force here as in prosa oratio, i.e. prorsa ‘gerade oder schlicht vor sich hingehende’, as opposed to cross ploughing (sulcis obliquis vel transversis). The land then lay exposed to wind and weather till harvest, when it was turned a second time (θέρεος νεωμένη, W. 462). Then in early September, or late August, as we may infer from the known later practice (cf. Geopon. iii. 12, 6; Verg. Georg. i. 67 sq., &c.), it was turned a third time. It is to this ‘thrice-turned field’, or ‘thryfallow’ in old English phrase, that Homer refers, Il. xviii. 541 sq. (typical field on Shield of Achilles) ἐν δ’ ἐτίθει νειὸν μαλακήν, πίειραν ἄρουραν, | εὐρεɩ̂αν τρίπολον—the scene being not a spring scene, as the commentators interpret, but an autumn (winter) scene; cf. also Od. v. 127, νειῷ ἐνὶ τριπόλῳ, and the name of Demeter’s foster-son Triptolemos, i. e. Τριπόλεμος. There is of course no reference to three crops a year. The term πολεɩ̂ν (cf. πολεύειν, Soph. Antig. 340 sq., ἰλλομένων ἀρότρων ἔτος εἰς ἔτος | ἱππείῳ γένει πολεύων) of itself merely means turning the surface (cf. ἐπιπολη̂ς). νεονˆν, Lat. novare, seems to express the same thing by a different metaphor. It is interesting to note that our own ‘fallow’ means literally ‘harrowed’, from A.-S. fealb = harrow. And just as ‘fallow’ of colour in ‘fallow deer’ is related, I imagine, to Greek πολιός, so I fancy is ‘fallow’ as applied to land related to Greek πολεɩ̂ν.
‘Fallow’ is by some, but I think wrongly, supposed here also to refer merely ‘to the prevailing colour’ of fallow fields. This might seem to derive some plausibility from Milton’s ‘Russet lawns and fallows gray, Where the nibbling flocks do stray’. But probably the other derivation could be proved to be correct.
Any one of those ‘turnings’ or ‘fallowings’ might be duplicated: Xenophon, Oeconom. xvi, εἰ ἐν τῷ θέρει ὅτι πλειστάκις μεταβάλοι τις τὴν γη̂ν; Theocritus, xxv. 25 sq., τριπόλοις σπόρον ἐν νειοɩ̂σιν | ἔσθ’ ὅτε βάλλοντες καὶ τετραπόλοισιν ὁμοίως. Columella, ii. 4, ‘igitur uliginosi campi proscindi debent post idus mensis Aprilis. Quo tempore cum arati fuerint, viginti diebus interpositis circa solstitium, quod est ix. vel viii. Kal. Iulias, iteratos esse oportebit, ac deinde circa Septembres tertiatos.’ Finally at the setting of the Pleiades at the beginning of November the ‘thrice-ploughed’ field is ploughed and sown, this last ploughing being merely an integral part of the sowing operation, as described, W. 467 sqq. Hence ἄροτος, though one may translate it ‘ploughing’, regularly means also ‘sowing’ as in, e.g., Theophrast. H. P. viii. 6, 1, σπείρειν δὲ συμϕέρει πάντα μάλιστα μὲν ἐν τοɩ̂ς ὡραίοις ἀρότοις, and Arat. Phaen. 1051 sqq.
The imaginary conversation in Xenophon’s Oeconomicus, chap. xvi. sqq., so well illustrates the whole subject of ploughing and sowing that it seems worth while to give a summary of it here:—
Isch. First, Socrates, I wish to show you that what is described by theorists as the most difficult point of agriculture—the knowledge of the nature of the soil—is not really difficult.
Soc. I think the experts are right. A man who does not know what the soil can produce, cannot know what to sow or what to plant.
I. Then one can learn by observation of another man’s land what it is capable or incapable of producing, in the way of crops or trees; knowing this, there is no good in tempting Providence (οὐκέτι συμϕέρει θεομαχεɩ̂ν). There is no advantage to a man in sowing or planting what he would like, rather than what the ground pleases to produce or nurture. If the land, owing to the sloth of its tenants, is not able to show its nature, one can learn a truer account of it from [the observation of] any neighbouring place often than from a neighbouring man (i.e. tenant). At the same time land left untilled (χερσεύ[Editor: illegible character]υσα) exhibits its nature. If it produces a fine crop of wild plants, then with cultivation it will produce a fine crop of cultivated plants. Even those inexperienced in farming are able to distinguish the nature of land.
S. Yes, even seamen, passing hurriedly along the coast, do not hesitate to characterize land as good or bad according to the crops they see, agreeing in general with experts in agriculture.
I. Where then shall I begin my precepts in agriculture—you know a great deal.
S. I want to know—being a philosopher—by what method of culture I can, if I will, get the best crop of barley or of wheat.
I. Well, you know, first of all, that one must prepare the fallow for sowing (τῷ σπόρῳ νεὸν δεɩ̂ ὑπεργάζεσθαι).
I. Suppose then we commenced ploughing (ἀρονˆν) the land in winter?
S. Nay, it would be mud.
I. Well, summer?
S. The ground will be hard for a team to stir (σκληρὰ . . . κινεɩ̂ν τῷ ζεύγει).
I. I dare say then we must begin this operation in spring.
S. Yes, for it is natural that the ground when stirred at that season should most of all be loosened.
I. And also the grass (πόαν), being turned up at that season, will furnish manure (κόπρον) for the land, and at the same time it will not shed seed so as to grow. You know, I fancy, that if the fallow (ἡ νεός) is to be good, it must be free from weeds (ὕλης δεɩ̂ καθαρὰν . . . εἰ̂να[Editor: illegible character]) and, as much as possible, baked in the sun (ὀπτὴν ὅτι μάλιστα πρὸς τὸν ἥλιον).
S. I agree.
I. Do you think these objects could be better achieved than by turning the ground as often as possible in summer (εἰ ἐν τῷ θέρει ὅτι πλειστάκις μεταβάλοι τις τὴν γη̂ν).
S. I am quite assured that there is no better means of having the weeds on the surface (ἡ ὕλη ἐπιπολάζοι) and withered by the heat (αὐαίνοιτο ὑπὸ τονˆ καύματος) and the land baked (ὀπτῷτο) by the sun, than stirring it in midsummer and at midday by the team [i.e. by the plough].
I. But if men were to make the fallow by digging (σκάπτοντες τὴν νεὺν ποιοɩ̂εν), is it not clear that they also would separate the soil and the weeds?
S. Yes, and they would cast down the weeds on the surface so as to wither, and turn the earth, so that the raw soil [cf. Latin crudus = undigested] should be baked.
I. You see, then, Socrates, we are agreed about the fallow.
S. Yes, we are.
I. Now about sowing, have you any other opinion than that we should sow at that season which is universally recognized to be best—by the men of old through experience, by men of the present day by tradition? When the autumn time comes (ὁ μετοπωρινὸς χρόνος), all men look to God for the time when He will rain on the earth and let them sow.
S. All men recognize that, Ischomachos, and that they must not, if it can be helped, sow while the land is dry, obviously because they had grievous disasters to wrestle with (πολλαɩ̂ς ζημίαις παλαίσαντες) who sowed before they were bidden by God to sow.
I. Then we are all agreed upon these things.
S. Yes, as God teaches, so men agree; as, for instance, all men think it better to wear thick cloaks in winter, if they can, and to burn fire, if they have wood.
I. But in this particular many differ about sowing, whether the early sowing is the best, or the middle, or the last.
S. Nay, God guides not the year according to a fixed rule: one year is best for the early sowing, another for the middle, another for the latest.
I. Do you think, Socrates, it is the better policy to select one of the sowing times and use it—whether one is sowing much seed or little—or to begin with the earliest sowing and continue sowing till the latest?
S. I think, Ischomachos, it is better to share in the whole sowing season. For I consider it much better to get always a sufficient crop of corn, than to get sometimes abundance, sometimes not even an adequate supply.
I. In this point then also you the pupil agree with me the teacher—and that though you declare your opinion before me.
S. Why, is there any subtle art in casting seed?
I. Assuredly, Socrates, let us consider this point too. You know that the seed must be cast from the hand.
S. Yes, I have seen it done.
I. And some can cast the seed evenly, some cannot.
S. Then in this point the hand wants practice, as a harper’s does, so as to obey the will.
I. Certainly. But what if the land be rather thin, or rather rich?
S. How do you mean? By thin do you mean weak, by rich do you mean strong?
I. I do; and my question is—would you give both kinds of land the same quantity of seed, or to which of them would you give the greater quantity?
S. I think that the stronger a wine is, the more water one should add: if a burden is to be carried, I would put the greater weight on the stronger man: if a certain number of persons have to be supported, I would make the more affluent support the greater number. But whether weak land becomes stronger the more seed you put in it—like cattle,—as to that you must instruct me.
I. (smiling) You are jesting, Socrates. You may be sure that if you put seed in the ground, and then, at the period when the ground receives abundant nourishment from the air and the green braird has sprung up from the seed, you then plough it in, this forms food for the ground, which receives strength from it as from manure. If, however, you allow the earth to nurture the seed right on till harvest, then it is difficult for a weak soil to bring a large crop to maturity.
S. I understand you to mean that the weaker the soil the smaller quantity of seed you would put in it?
I. I do, and you agree with me when you say that the weaker the person the smaller the burden you would put on them.
S. Now, why do you turn the hoers (σκαλέας) on to the corn?
I. You know that in winter there are frequent rains?
I. Suppose then some of the corn gets covered up by a deposit of mud owing to the rains, while on the other hand some roots are laid bare by a flood: often too the rains cause weeds to spring up along with the corn and choke it.
S. All this is natural.
I. Then just here the corn needs some assistance?
I. How then shall we assist that part of the corn which is covered with mud?
S. By loosening the soil (ἐπικουϕίσαντες τὴν γη̂ν).
I. And how assist that which has its roots laid bare?
S. By the contrary process of gathering the earth about it (ἀντιπροσαμησάμενοι τὴν γη̂ν).
I. What if the corn is choked by weeds springing up with it and robbing it of its sustenance—like the drones which, themselves useless, rob the bees of the sustenance which they have stored up by their labour?
S. The weeds would have to be rooted out—just as we take the drones out of the hives.
I. Don’t you think then that we are justified in turning on the hoers?
S. Certainly. And I am thinking how good a thing is the introduction of an apt simile. Your mention of drones has made me quite angry with weeds—much more than your simple mention of weeds.
5. We are now in a position to examine the Farmer’s Year as expounded in W. 383-617, which I am confident we shall find a much more lucid and orderly document than appears to be commonly supposed.
The reader should of course remember that the dates of the rising and setting of stars depend on the date at which we suppose Hesiod to have lived. Owing to the precession of equinoxes the rising of a star becomes progressively later, about one day in seventy years. Also there is a certain ambiguity about ‘rising’ and ‘setting’, due to the fact that a star, although really above the horizon, may yet be invisible owing to the presence of mist on the horizon. This of course in a clear atmosphere like that of Greece will be relatively less important than in this country. Further, the reader should be warned that there is a natural tendency among writers to assume a fixed date for the rising and setting of stars, without taking account of the effect of precession. If we could be sure that Hesiod was speaking strictly of his own day, and if we could be quite sure of his definition of rising and setting, we could fix his date by the well-known passage in W. 564 sqq., where he says that Arkturos rises acronychally sixty days after the Winter Solstice. Thus De Morgan on The Use of the Globes (1845) says: ‘Hesiod distinctly states that Arkturos rose at sunset sixty days after the Winter Solstice. Assuming that Hesiod lived b.c. 900 in latitude 38° . . . we find this is exactly true, though the agreement to one day is doubtless accidental.’
In the following remarks the latitude assumed is that of Athens, 38°, and the date 800 b.c. As the precession of the equinoxes completes its cycle in 25,868 years, say 26,000 years, the precession in 2,600 years is 360/10°, and in 2,700 years (i. e. the period from 800 b. c. to the present time) the amount of precession is 37½.
Hesiod, then, begins his exposition by defining the two critical epochs in the farmer’s year—sowing and harvest. The former (the word used is ‘ploughing’, but I need not further insist that ‘ploughing’ here has nothing whatever to do with following the νειὸς τρίπολος, but is merely an integral part of the operation of sowing, cf. Euripid. Electra, 78 sq., where Electra’s peasant (αὐτουργός) protector says, ‘But I with break of day will turn my oxen on to the land and sow the fields’) is defined as taking place at the setting of the Pleiades, i. e. the cosmical setting of the Pleiades twenty-five days after the autumnal equinox. The harvest is to take place at the rising (heliacal) of the Pleiades, i. e. twenty-seven days after the vernal equinox. Hesiod then adds the remark that the Pleiades are invisible (κεκρύϕαται) for forty days and forty nights, i. e. owing to their proximity to the sun they are invisible, though really above the horizon, for a certain period before conjunction and for a certain period after conjunction, but ‘shine again with the revolving year, when first the sickle is sharpened’, i. e. they now arrive sufficiently in front of the sun to be visible on the eastern horizon just before sunrise, i. e. they now rise heliacally.
It should be observed that at the present day the Pleiades are invisible in this country for more than sixty days, from the end of April to the beginning of July, being in conjunction about May 18.
It would perhaps merely confuse matters to illustrate here the immense significance of the Pleiades for the early observer, as for primitive communities all over the world at the present day. Neither need we discuss here the origin of the name Pleiades, which some derive from πλεɩ̂ν, to sail, in reference to their significance for the early sailor; others from root of Πλείονες, as if meaning ‘many’: neither of which derivations seems convincing. In England they used to be known as the ‘Clocke Henne and Chickens’ or the ‘Brood-henne’, &c. In Latin of course they were called Vergiliae, or poetically Atlantides, as in Vergil, Georg. i. 221, ‘Ante tibi Eoae1 Atlantides abscondantur, | . . . Debita quam sulcis committas semina’; or by their Greek name, as Verg. Georg. i. 138, Propert. ii. 16, 51, iii, 5, 36, &c. Every English reader is familiar with the passages in the Old Testament which have been supposed to refer to the Pleiades: Job ix. 9, ‘Which maketh Arkturos, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south’; xxxviii. 31 sq., ‘Canst thou bind the sweet influences of Pleiades, or loose the bands of Orion? Canst thou bring forth Mazzaroth in his season? or canst thou guide Arkturos with his sons?’ The word here translated Pleiades is in Hebrew Kīmah (בִּיםָה), and occurs again in Amos v. 8, where the O. V. has ‘the seven stars’. The identification is not certain, but is thought to be supported by Assyrian kimtu, ‘family’, Arab. kumat, ‘heap’, Ath-thurayya, ‘the little ones’. The word translated ‘sweet influences’ (םַעַדַ[Editor: illegible character]וֹח) is now generally rendered ‘bands’ or ‘knots’. G. Hoffman (as quoted by Cheyne) identifies Kīma with Sirios, while ’Ayish (עַיִשׁ), generally taken to be Arkturos, he identifies with Pleiades.
One other reference to the Pleiades may be referred to here, because it so clearly indicates the association of ploughing and sowing: it is from the Phaenomena of Aratos, 264 sqq.: ‘Small and dim though they be, yet notable they wheel at morn and eventide, thanks to Zeus, who hath commanded them to give the signal both of harvest (θέρεος) and of winter’s beginning and impending ploughing,’ where the Scholiast’s note is perhaps worth translating:—
He calls them ‘small’ because they consist of faint stars. But ‘notable’ nevertheless and famous because both their rising and their setting are of essential import to men, since at their rising harvest should be begun, and at their setting, ploughing. By ‘at morn’ (ἡρι) he means dawn or their rising. For they rise with the sun at dawn when he is in Tauros, from the 25th of the month Pharmouthi [Barmoodeh] which with the Romans is April, which date also is the harvesting season among the Egyptians; ‘at eventide’: they rise in the evening [Acronychal Rising] when the sun is in Scorpio, in the month of Athur [Hátoor], which among the Romans is November, which is the ploughing season. For they are evening stars when they rise toward evening. The succeeding words mean ‘notable at morn and eventide they wheel and are carried round with the heavens. And of this Zeus is the cause, who placed them among the stars, who made them bring the signals alike of the beginning of harvest and the beginning of winter.’ Understand then, they rise in the morning in Pharmouthi at the beginning of harvest: they set in the morning in the month of Athur at the beginning of winter.
Hesiod, then, after defining the dates of those two important epochs, subjoins to them some subsidiary precepts with which we need not concern ourselves here, as they are of general application.
Next, in 405-47 he discusses the indispensable preliminaries to farming: First in 405-13 he gives what is clearly a kind of proverbial list of three essentials—a house, a woman, a ploughing ox. We need not trouble ourselves here as to whether line 406 is genuine or not, i. e. whether the ‘woman’ is to be understood as wife or female slave. These three essentials must be got, and of course this does not depend on the weather and so no date needs to be assigned.
Secondly in 414-47 Hesiod gives a list of farm implements which must be provided. All of them are of wood, and hence Hesiod defines the proper time for cutting wood, namely when the annual growth of the tree ceases and the leaves fall. In very similar words Theophrastos, H. P. V. i. 1, says:—
As a general rule, every sort of wood is most seasonable for strength not merely when it ceases to put forth shoots but still more when it has ripened its fruit.’
Hesiod defines this time by saying that it is when ‘the might of the keen sun abateth sweltering heat, when Zeus Almighty raineth in the autumn and the flesh of men turneth lighter far—for then the star Sirios goeth over the heads of men born to death [or in Chapman’s phrase, ‘hard-fate-foster’d man’], but for a brief space in the daytime, and taketh a greater space of the night’. Now the heliacal rising of Sirios in 800 b.c. was about twenty days after the Summer Solstice, i. e. about July 12. The time now referred to is after the vintage season, i. e. about October, when the dog-days are long past and Sirios is sufficiently in advance of the Sun to be visible for a large part of the night. It is in fact what our ancestors called the ‘Shake-time’, when the ‘autumnal leaves’ strew the brooks in Vallombrosa, the time of the ‘wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being, Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red, Pestilence-stricken multitudes.’
It is enough to compare what Cato says, De Agri Cultura, xvii, ‘Robus materies, item ridica, ubi solstitium fuerit ad brumam (mid-winter), semper tempestiva est. . . . Ulmus, cum folia cadunt, tum iterum tempestiva est.’
The implements enumerated by Hesiod are discussed elsewhere.
All is now in readiness for the approach of the sowing season. This might be defined in various ways. Xenophon, as we have seen, in the Oeconomicus tells us how ‘all men, when the autumn time comes, look to God for the time when he will rain on the earth and let them sow’. The tremendous significance of the coming of rain at the right time and in the right amount in a dry country can hardly be fully appreciated by the inhabitants of a country with a climate like ours. Readers of Rolf Boldrewood or Rudyard Kipling will remember vivid pictures of the agony of the rainless season, the weary waiting for the rain. So in Palestine all depends on the coming of rain at the right time. On November 16, in Lydda, north-west of Jerusalem, a festival is celebrated—by the Jews in honour of Elias, by the Moslems in honour of Chidr, by the Christians as the feast of St. George. This festival signifies for the Palestine farmer of every confession the commencement of field-work. Before this time the ‘early rain’, which marks the end of the five-months rainless period, must have fallen: otherwise it is bad. The rainy season falls into three periods: that of the ‘early rain’ in October: that of the ‘winter rain’ from the beginning or middle of November until March: and that of the ‘latter rain in April. ‘In the course of October,’ says a recent German writer, ‘the clouds gather in the West. One afternoon a strong wind springs up: all is in expectation. After darkness comes on, faint thunder is heard, a few scanty drops fall, and then all at once there is a downpour. A general jubilation prevails, for the early rain is come. For some days it continues, yet not a drop runs into the cisterns, all is absorbed by the parched earth. Then once more blue sky and laughing sunshine: the ground is soaked and already the first green peeps forth.’ Hence the frequent reference in the Old Testament to rain: Lev. xxvi. 4 sqq., ‘Then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.’ Deut. xi. 14 sqq., ‘I will give you the rain of your land in his due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that thou mayest gather in thy corn and thy wine and thine oil; and I will send grass in thy fields for thy cattle, that thou mayest eat and be full’; and elsewhere. So in the New Testament, Acts xiv. 17, ‘Nevertheless he left not himself without witness, in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness.’
In the present instance, however, the sign of the sowing season selected by Hesiod, 448 sqq., is the crane. The crane nested in Thrace, Scythia, and Macedonia—as it once did in England—but was in Greece only a bird of passage. It passed through Greece about October in the course of its migration to the South—Egypt, Libya, Ethiopia. Hence its constant association with sowing, much as of the rook with us. It is needless here to quote many examples: Theognis, 1197 sqq., in language very like Hesiod’s, speaks of the crane coming as the ‘herald of sowing in its season’ (ἀρότου ὡραίου,—once again of the ploughing which is also sowing); Aristoph. Av. 709 sqq., the signal to sow (σπείρειν) is the departure of the crane to Libya; Arat. Phaen. 1075 sq., the seasonable ploughman rejoices in the flocks of cranes when they arrive in season; Theoc. xi. 30, ‘the wolf follows the goat, the crane follows the plough’—language very reminiscent of R. L. Stevenson’s account of the feelings of the invalid in Ordered South: ‘He knows that already in England the sower follows the ploughman up the face of the field, and the rooks follow the sower’: hence Porphyrios, de Abstinent. iii. 5, calls the crane ‘Demeter’s herald’, and Antipater Sid., in A. P. vii. 172, calls it a ‘thief of seed’; hence too the quaint etymology in E. M. s.v., γέρανος, ἀπὸ τονˆ τὰ τη̂ς γη̂ς ἐρευνα̂ν σπέρματα. In the Old Testament, Jeremiah viii. 7, we have a reference to the migration of the crane: ‘Yea, the stork in heaven knoweth her appointed times; and the turtle and the crane and the swallow observe the time of their coming.’
The coming of the crane then is the sign of the proper time to sow, and he who sows then will have a good harvest. On the other hand, says Hesiod, W. 479, if you delay sowing till the turning of the Sun, i.e. the Winter Solstice, you will have a poor harvest which ‘thou shalt carry home in a basket, and few there be that shall admire thee’ [or ‘look on with envy’]; language curiously like that of Psalm cxxix. 6 sqq., ‘Let them be as the grass upon the housetops, which withereth afore it groweth up: Wherewith the mower filleth not his hand; nor he that bindeth sheaves his bosom: Neither do they which go by say, The blessing of the Lord be upon you: we bless you in the name of the Lord.’ Similarly the Geopon. ii. 14, 3, lays down the rule that the sowing of both wheat and barley should be finished before the Winter Solstice.
If, however, says Hesiod, you do sow at the Winter Solstice your one hope of a good crop will be a heavy rain on the third day after the arrival of the cuckoo: W. 486 sq., ‘When first the cuckoo uttereth his note amid the leaves of the oak and rejoiceth men over the limitless earth, then may Zeus rain on the third day and cease not, neither overpassing the hoof of an ox nor falling short thereof: so shall the late plower vie with the earliest.’ Now the cuckoo is first heard in Attica about March. Aristotle tells us, H. A. ix, 49 B, 13, that it is heard from spring to the rising of the Dog-star. In the Birds of Aristophanes, 504 sqq., Peisthetairos says that in Egypt and Phoenicia the coming of the cuckoo was the signal for the wheat and barley harvest. The time, then, here referred to is sometime in March.
Pliny, N. H. x. 9, says, ‘As touching the Cuckow, it seemeth that he cometh of some hawk changed into his shape at one certain time of the yeere: for then those other hawks are not to be seene, unless some very few days. Hee sheweth himself also but for a small season in summer time and afterwards appeareth no more. . . . In the spring he commeth abroad, and by the beginning of the dog daies hideth himself.’ Again, xviii. 26, ‘Thus you see how these fixed stars and signes above rehearsed doe ordinarily keep their courses, ruling and governing the time betweene, to wit, from the spring Aequinox in March, unto the sixth day before the Ides of May, which is the nineth of the said moneth. During the first fifteen daies of which half quarter, the husbandman must make hast and take in hand that work which he was not able to goe through with and dispatch before the Aequinox; knowing full well, that upon neglect of this businesse arose first the opprobrious reproches that vine pruners and cutters doe hear on both sides of their eares, from passengers and wayfaring men, by way of counterfeiting the song of that summer bird which they call the Cuckow: for it is counted so foule a shame, worthie a checke and rebuke, that the said bird should come and find a pruning hook or bill in a vine at that time of the yeare, that folk therefore stick not to let flie at them bold taunts and broad biting scoffes, even in the first beginning of the Spring.’ The belief that the cuckoo ‘commeth of some hawke chaunged into his shape at one certaine time of the yeare’ was very common in antiquity, cf. Aristotle, H. A. vi. 7. The ‘cowardliness’ of the cuckoo was proverbial, De Gen. Anim. iii. 1; hence the point of Latin cuculus as term of abuse; also ‘cuckold’ in Old English. Hence, too, the modern ‘all fools’ day’ on April 1, i.e. the day of the coming of the cuckoo, cf. the old rhyme, ‘The first of April, Hunt the gowk (= cuckoo) another mile.’ So the ‘gowk’s storm’ in Scotland is a storm at the beginning of April, just as the frothy matter seen on plants in summer is popularly called gowk’s spittle, and supposed to be deposited by the gowk or cuckoo; and of course ‘gowk’ in Scotland is a regular word for ‘fool’.
In the above passage of Hesiod the words which I have rendered ‘on the third day’ are generally rendered ‘for three days’. The matter need not be discussed here. But the supposed difficulty, which first suggested that translation, viz. that the third day should be fixed on and the coming of the cuckoo thus made so definite a date, is no difficulty at all to any one acquainted with the nature of popular rustic proverbs. Moreover the migration of birds is extraordinarily consistent. Here, for example, are the dates given by a Scottish observer in a letter to the Glasgow Herald, May 1, 1907; the place of observation being, I think, Argyleshire:—
Sowing, then, being completed before the Winter Solstice, there ensues the period of mid-winter which Hesiod next discusses, W. 493-563. Here, for the first time in Greek poetry, we find a month named Lenaion, which seems clearly to correspond to part of December and part of January. During this period, ‘when the Boneless One gnaweth his own foot within his fireless house and cheerless home; for the sun showeth him no pasture whereto to go, but wheeleth over the land and city of swarthy men and shineth more slowly on the Panhellenes’, little outdoor work is possible, and no definite farm operations are prescribed. Yet the farmer must not waste his time in idle loitering about the smith’s forge and the like. There are many things which the diligent farmer can do indoors. The rest of this passage is taken up with advice to the farmer about winter clothing, feeding of man and beast, &c.
The allusion to the Boneless One, or cuttlefish, has reference to the popular notion that in the winter the cuttlefish feeds on its own suckers.
Then we arrive at the next stage in our Calendar which is marked by the acronychal rising of Arkturos sixty days after the Winter Solstice. This implies an earlier date than we have assumed; in 800 b.c. Arkturos rose about fifty-eight days after the Winter Solstice. This is followed by the coming of the swallow—the harbinger of spring. The coming of the swallow is remarkably consistent, the Scottish observer before quoted giving the following dates: April 25, 1897; May 3, 1903; April 28, 1904; May 2, 1905; April 25, 1906; April 25, 1907.
The swallow’s coming, then, is the signal for pruning vines. The time is about the end of February or early March.
Next the shell-snail crawls up the plants, fleeing the Pleiades, i.e. the rising of the Pleiades is at hand, and then, says Hesiod—the time is April—trenching about the vines should be over and the farmer must prepare for the grain harvest. Then follow some precepts about harvesting.
Harvest being over, the hot time of the Dog Days ensues, the time when ‘Sirios parcheth head and knees, and the skin is dry for heat’—when the cicala chatters, when goats are fattest and wine is best—when the scolymus blooms (this being, as Theophrastos tells us, June). For this season no work is prescribed. It is the time for a picnic in the shade.
Next follows the time for threshing, defined by the rising of Orion, i.e. in July. Threshing being over and the corn stored, fodder and litter must be gathered in, and so on.
Next comes the time of vintaging, defined thus: ‘What time Orion and Sirios come into mid-heaven and rosy-fingered Morning looketh upon Arkturos, then pluck thy grapes.’ In other words, Arkturos now rises heliacally, while Orion and Sirios, which rose about, say, beginning and middle of July respectively, are now near the zenith in the morning. The time is roughly September.
Then again, towards the end of October, ‘the Pleiades and the Hyades and the might of Orion set’ (i.e. cosmically), and the farmer must bethink himself of ploughing (i.e. sowing), and the farmer’s year is ended and again begun.
To this farmer’s year Hesiod appends a brief note on Seafaring (W. 618-94). Here we need only concern ourselves with the dates given. First, sailing is impracticable when ‘the Pleiades fleeing the mighty strength of Orion plunge into the misty deep’, i.e. when the Pleiades set cosmically, i.e. about the end of October or beginning of November. They are said to flee from the might of Orion because they set before him.
The setting of the Pleiades regularly marked the end of the sailing season, just as it marked the beginning of the farmer’s year. It is enough to quote the epigram attributed to Theocritos: ‘O man, be careful of life and be not a sailor untimely: man’s life is short. Hapless Kleonikos thou didst task to go unto bright Thasos, a merchant from hollow Syria; a merchant, O Kleonikos, and seafaring at the very setting of Pleias with Pleias didst thou set.’
Two epochs are given as suitable for sailing. The first is a period of about fifty days from the Summer Solstice onward—say July-August: ‘for fifty days after the turning of the sun, when summer (i.e. harvest, θέρος), the weary season, hath come to an end, sailing is seasonable for men.’ One needs to remember the nationality of the writer to appreciate the humour of Professor Bury’s translation of these words in his History of Greece, p. 109, ‘For fifty days after the solstice till the end of harvest is the time for sailing’! Seeing that harvest was over before the solstice (as indeed Hesiod says, ἐς τέλος ἐλθόντος θέμεος), it is hard to find a period of fifty days between the solstice and the end of harvest!
This period is terminated by the rising (of course, ‘heliacal’) of Arkturos, which marked the commencement of vintaging: ‘And haste with all speed to return home again; neither await the new wine and autumn rain, and winter’s onset and the dread blasts of the South Wind, which, coming with the heavy autumn rain of Zeus, stirreth the sea and maketh the deep perilous’ (W. 673 sqq.).
The other sailing season is in spring, defined by the appearance of leaves on the fig-tree. Hesiod, however, does not commend this season: ‘Also in the spring may men sail; when first on the topmost spray of the fig-tree leaves appear, as the footprint of a crow for size, then is the sea navigable. This is the spring sailing, which I commend not, for it is not pleasing to my mind, snatched sailing that it is. Hardly shalt thou escape doom. Yet even this men do in ignorance of mind’ (W. 678 sqq.).[Back to Table of Contents]
The Mortar and pestle
W. 423. Cut a mortar (ὅλμος) of three feet, a pestle (ὕπερος) of three cubits.
The most primitive of all methods of grinding corn would seem to have been the method here referred to—that of beating with a pestle in a mortar. Even when the other and more satisfactory method was invented of grinding between two stones the other method still survived for particular purposes, and particularly for the peeling of barley, &c. The grain was first parched and then put in the mortar and beaten with a pestle: quia apud maiores nostros molarum usus non-erat, frumenta torrebant et ea in pilas missa pinsebant, et hoc erat genus molendi unde et pinsitores dicti sunt, qui nunc pistores vocantur (Serv. ad Aen. i. 179).
We have an interesting reference to the use of the mortar in the Old Testament, Numbers xi. 8, when the manna came down from heaven for the children of Israel: ‘And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it’; here we have the mill and the mortar side by side. It furnishes a parable in Proverbs xxvii. 22: ‘Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.’ The reader may remember a passage in Robinson Crusoe:—
My next concern was to get a stone mortar to stamp or beat some corn in; for as to the mill, there was no thought of arriving to that perfection of art, with one pair of hands. To supply this want I was at a great loss; for of all trades in the world, I was as perfectly unqualified for a stone-cutter as for any whatever; neither had I any tools to go about it with. I spent many a day to find out a great stone big enough to cut hollow, and make fit for a mortar, and could find none at all; except what was in the solid rock, and which I had no way to dig or cut out; nor indeed were the rocks in the island of hardness sufficient, but were all of a sandy crumbling stone, which neither would bear the weight of a heavy pestle, or would break the corn without filling it with sand; so, after a great deal of time lost in searching for a stone, I gave it over, and resolved to look out for a great block of hard wood [how like Hesiod’s κατ’ ὄρος διζήμενος ἢ κατ’ ἄρουραν, W. 428!], which I found indeed much easier; and getting one as big as I had strength to stir, I rounded it, and formed it in the outside with my axe and hatchet, and then with the help of the fire, and infinite labour, made a hollow place in it, as the Indians in Brazil make their canoes. After this I made a great heavy pestle, or beater, of the wood called ironwood, and this I prepared and laid by against I had my next crop of corn, when I proposed to myself to grind, or rather pound, my corn into meal to make my bread.
The ὅλμος then is the Latin pila or moriarium, a hollow vessel of wood (as in Hesiod) or of stone, in which grain, barley especially, after being parched, was beaten with the pestle (ὕπερος, pilum, pistillum). It was sometimes set upon a stand (Poll. x. 114, referring to Aristophanes ἐν Ἀναγύρῳ), ὑϕόλμιον, just as the ἄκμων on the ἀκμόθετον. The cavity was sometimes of a more elaborate shape with pestle to correspond, as described by Pliny, N. H. xviii. 97, &c., but we are not concerned with that here.
Homer, who frequently refers to the mill, has but one reference to the ὅλμος: it occurs in a simile, Iliad xi. 147, ‘Him too (Hippolochos) did he (Agamemnon) smite to earth, and cut off his hands and severed his neck, and cast it (i.e. the trunk) like a mortar to roll through the throng.’ The verb κυλίνδεσθαι reminds us of the epithet κυλινδροειδής applied to the mortar by Eustath. ad Il. xi. 147. It may be that Dr. Leaf and L. L. M. are right in translating ‘tossed him’. The similar passage, Il. xiii. 202 sq. κεϕαλὴν δ’ ἁπαλη̂ς ἀπὸ δειρη̂ς | κόψεν Ὀιλιάδης, κεχολωμένος Ἀμϕιμάχοιο, | ἧκε δέ μιν σϕαιρηδὸν ἑλιξάμενος δι’ ὁμίλου, seems, however, in favour of ‘head’, rather than ‘trunk’. Il. xiv. 413, ατρόμβον δ’ ὣς ἔσσευε βαλών—‘made him spin like a top—’ is hardly in point; the blow was not even fatal. It is one thing to make a man spin like a top: another to roll a dead body like a mortar. The ὅλμος occurs again in Aristophanes, Wasps, 238, where the Chorus tell of a youthful exploit ‘when at Byzantium we were fellow soldiers keeping guard, you and I. And then we two, while taking our rounds by night, stole unobserved the baker-woman’s mortar, and then split it up and cooked some pimpernel.’ I know not why Mr. Starkie, ad loc., and Leaf on Il. xi, loc. cit., should translate ὅλμος here as ‘kneading trough’. The word undoubtedly bears its ordinary sense of ‘mortar’. The Schol., &c., explain it as μαγειρικὸν ἐργαλεɩ̂ον, in a sense rightly, since the grinding and the baking were equally done at home.
The working of the pestle and mortar is well figured on p. 22, vol. i, of Blumner’s Technologie und Terminologie der Gewerbe, &c., where we see two women each with a pestle working at the same mortar, which rests on a stand.
The ὅλμος corresponds exactly to the Scotch ‘knockin’ stane’—‘a stone mortar in which the hulls were beaten off barley with a wooden mallet. The hole in the stone was like an inverted hollow cone, and the mallet was made to fit it loosely’ (Jamieson). The ‘knockin’ stane’ is figured in Sir A. Mitchell’s The Past in the Present, p. 44; also on p. 293 of G. Goudie’s Antiquities of Shetland, from which I take the following note:—
In travelling through country districts in Scotland we not infrequently see at old farm-steadings a big lump of stone with a deep cup-like cavity excavated in its upper side. A first impression is apt to be that this is a font, or a ‘stoup’ for holy water from an ancient church, but the only information obtainable regarding it is usually that it is a dish for the feeding of pigs. In reality, however, this is the ‘knockin’ stane’ of other days, the contrivance for the preparation of barley for the broth-pot of the household. In Shetland the use of the ‘knockin’ stane’ continued much longer than in Scottish districts, and I have myself seen it frequently in use. The ‘bere’, or native barley, is first carefully prepared by drying, when it is placed in the cavity of the stone and hammered upon by the ‘mell’ or mallet until the husks are bruised off, when the grain is sifted and ready for the pot, or for being ground on the quern.
There is a very interesting chapter in Mr. Goudie’s book on ‘The Shetland Mill’. See also John Mair (Major), De Gestis Scotorum, Book I, chap. ii.
The ὕπερος (more usually ὕπερον) was of various shapes according to the shape of the mortar. The usual shape apparently in Greece was that figured in Blumner, loc. cit.—a long wooden stick, thin in the middle, thicker towards the ends. This explains the advice of Aeneas Tacticus, xxxiii. 2: among methods of setting fire to the tortoises (χελώναις) of besiegers one is this:—
Let there be prepared a piece of wood like a pestle (ξύλον οἧον ὕπερον), only much larger, and in the extremities of the wood nail iron spikes, smearing the rest of it up and down with a highly inflammable preparation, and let its form be like that of the thunder-bolt as represented in paintings. Let this be discharged on the approaching machine in such a manner as to impale upon it and the fire will spread over it.
The resemblance in shape to the thunderbolt will be realized on looking at any ancient representation of the thunderbolt of Zeus, e. g. Hill’s Illustrations of School Classics, p. 6, No. 9. The curious shape is referred to also in a Latin riddle quoted by Blumner, to which the answer is pistillus:
The method of holding it was sometimes with two hands, either both gripping the thin middle part, or one holding the middle, the other guiding the lower end; sometimes with one hand only, as Simylus in Vergil’s Moretum, 98 sq. ‘laeva vestem . . . fulcit; | dextera pistillo primum fragrantia mollit | Allia’; though the pestle here employed was probably differently shaped from the ancient Greek, and was rotated rather than moved vertically, as we see by ‘It manus in gyrum’ in line 102.
The pestle corresponds to the Scotch ‘knockin’ mell’ as mentioned above, which is figured in Goudie, loc. cit. It is quite differently shaped from the Greek and Roman pestle, and resembles an ordinary hammer or mallet.
As to the measurements given for the ὅλμος and the ὕπερος, the former is to be 3 feet, i.e. doubtless in diameter, though that seems very large. The mallet is to be 3 cubits, i.e. in length = 3 times the distance from the point of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger = 3 × 24, or 72 fingers, while the diameter of the mortar (doubtless measured right across and not merely the diameter of the cavity) = 3 × 16 fingers = 48 fingers.
The Mallet: σϕνˆρα, malleus
W. 425: ‘cut an axle of seven feet—. . . but if thou dost cut it of eight feet, thou canst cut therefrom a mallet.’ The mallet, σϕνˆρα, here referred to was used for various purposes. The measurement of one foot given here refers doubtless to the mallet-head, shaft and head alike being of wood; the head in later times, possibly in Hesiod’s time, was sometimes bound with iron.
The length of the shaft would vary with the purpose for which it was intended. It was used sometimes for driving a chisel; for driving stakes—I have seen it often used in Scotland for driving paling posts and the like.
The particular mallet here referred to was probably that used for breaking clods in the field. This is the instrument mentioned by Trygaios in Aristophanes, Peace, 566, ‘Yea, by Zeus, the mallet (σϕνˆρα) is brightly equipped’ (λαμπρὸν ἐξωπλισμένη), which seems to suggest a metal mallet, but may well refer to its being iron-bound. It is mentioned again in two epigrams in the Anth. Pal. vi. 104, 1, ‘the clod-destroying mallet’; 297, 3-4, ‘mallet that destroys the clods of the field’ (ὠλεσίβωλον ἀρούρης σϕνˆραν). It is the same, too, as the Scotch clod-mell, ‘a large mallet for breaking the clods of the field, especially on clayey ground before harrowing it.’ In general then the σϕνˆρα corresponds to the English mallet or beetle (anciently sometimes spelled ‘boytle’), and was used for a similar variety of purposes, breaking clods, driving chisels, wedges, stakes, piles, &c.1 It would correspond, too, to the Irish forcca or farcha, a mallet with wooden handle and wooden head, which was used for breaking clods in a ploughed field.
The sickle or reaping-hook is mentioned several times in Hesiod. Three times he refers to it under the name ἅρπη, W. 573, T. 175, 179: it is called δρέπανον in T. 162 (where the same instrument is referred to as in T. 175, 179): δρεπάνη in S. 292 is a specialized form of the same instrument used for pruning vines (the Roman falx putatoria), but in Hom. Il. xviii. 551 it is a reaping-hook. The word ἅρπη does not occur in Homer except as the name of a bird (Il. xix. 350), apparently a species of hawk (cf. falcon and falx). Homer has δρέπανον = sickle in Od. xviii. 368.
The reaping sickle is essentially a curved iron blade attached to a wooden handle. To the curved blade Homer refers in Od., loc. cit., where he calls the sickle εὐκαμπές, well-curved. The blade had sometimes apparently an ordinary plain edge. But characteristically the blade had a serrated edge. Hence Hesiod applies to it the epithet καρχαρόδους, T. 175, and to sharpen the sickle is χαρασσέμεναι, W. 573 (cf. ἐχάρασσον ὀδόντας of dragons, S. 235), χαρασσομένοιο σιδήρου, W. 387. The same epithet καρχαρόδους is applied also to the dog, W. 604, S. 303, in reference to its saw-like teeth (the opposite epithet being χαυλιόδους, e.g. Herodot. ii. 68 of the crocodile, ii. 71 of the hippopotamus; Aristotle, H. A. passim). Similarly Herrick in the famous Hock-Cart speaks of the ‘rough Sickle and crookt Sythe’. Homer, Il. xviii, loc. cit., applies the epithet ‘sharp’ to the sickle. But it does not necessarily follow that he was thinking of a plain sharp edge, any more than one would insist that χαράσσειν must always mean ‘to put a serrated edge’ on the sickle. But it seems likely that at a time when it was found difficult to put a sufficiently fine edge on a plain tool, the same end was attained by serrating: and for some purposes the serrated type would continue to possess advantages—like our modern rough-edged bread-knife. I remember an old farmer in Killearn—at the birthplace, by the way, of George Buchanan—telling me that in his younger days the rough-edged hook was used, while the plain edge came later. The serrated type accounts for the old Irish name for a reaping-hook, serr (the modern name being carrán). So, in Welsh, ser means ‘hook’, and while llif means ‘saw’, llifgryman means sickle.
No measurements are given by Hesiod for the sickle. The reader will find a convenient illustration of apparently the plain-edged variety in Hill, p. 133 (No. 161).
There is a fine example of an old Irish bronze reaping-hook figured in Joyce’s Social History of Ireland, p. 426 (small ed.).
The modern scythe is a simple evolution from the old reaping-hook. The hook was worked with one hand. The scythe with its longer shaft and heavier blade requires two: just as the early plough had but a single stilt and was guided with one hand, whereas the modern plough has two stilts and requires the use of both hands. A transition type is the Shetland scythe with a very long handle, enabling the reaper to stand erect, and its second grip in embryo.
The introduction of the scythe in place of the sickle in reaping corn is comparatively recent. Women shearers, i.e. with the hook, used in the earlier half of last century to go from the North of Scotland to the Lothians to shear the corn. The following is from the Aberdeen Magazine of September, 1797:—
We hear that Mr. Cumine, of Auchry, has introduced into the farming system the practice of cutting down all kinds of corn by the Sithe. He is convinced, by repeated experiments, that he can perform thereby as much harvest work with six servants as could be performed in the same space by eight servants in the ordinary way. His stubble is equally and closely cut; his fields are fully gathered, his sheaves are sufficiently neat, and his shocks are prepared by the drought of a very few days for the stackyard. A practice by which much time and expense may be saved in the busiest season of the year seems in these times to deserve due consideration from the intelligent farmer.
The Country Cart
W. 424-26: ‘Cut an axle of seven feet: . . . Cut a felloe (ἁψίς) of three spans (τρισπίθαμος) for a wagon of ten palms’ (δεκάδωρος ἅμαξα).
The traditional interpretation of this passage is as follows. It is assumed with the Scholiasts that the first of the measurements here given refers to the circumference of the wagon-wheel, the second to its diameter. The rim of the wheel is supposed to be made up of four segments or ἁψɩ̂δες, each of which measures three spans or σπιθαμαί, while the diameter measures ten palms or δωˆρα. Assuming this hypothesis to be correct, we have next to consider these measurements.
The student may find a table of Greek lineal measures useful: 4 fingers (δάκτυλοι) = 1 handbreadth or palm (παλαιστή or δωˆρον); 1 span (σπιθαμή) = ½ cubit; 1 foot (πούς) = 16 fingers; 1 short cubit (πυγών—being the distance from the point of the elbow to the knuckles) = 20 fingers: 1 standard cubit (πη̂χυς or πη̂χυς δίκαιος being the distance from the point of the elbow to the tip of the middle finger) = 24 fingers; 6 feet = 1 fathom (ὄργυια, distance from finger-tips to finger-tips when both arms are outstretched). There are of course other measures, but they do not concern us here. Neither need we concern ourselves with the exact relation of the ‘foot’ in Homer or Hesiod to the English foot.
In the above list I have adopted the usual assumption of the identity of δωˆρον and παλαιστή. δωˆρον first occurs in Hom. Il. iv. 109, in the compound ἑκκαιδεκάδωρα, where Leaf strangely says ‘δωˆρον in this sense seems not to recur’. It is there defined by the scholiast as =4 fingers and equivalent to παλαιστής. The diameter then of Hesiod’s wheel will be 10 × 4 = 40.
Now the span is = half a cubit. If then we take the standard cubit, the σπιθαμή will be = 12 fingers, and thus the total circumference will be 3 × 12 × 4 = 144 fingers, giving us a ratio of circumference to diameter of 144/40, which makes the circumference too large for the diameter. On this assumption we might suppose a certain amount of wood was absorbed in fitting the segments together. If, on the other hand, we take the short cubit of 20 fingers, the σπιθαμή will be 10 fingers (as it is given by Professor Ridgeway in the Cambridge Companion to Greek Studies, p. 439, where, however, by a curious oversight he writes, ‘πη̂χυς does not occur as the name of a measure in Homer.’ But see Iliad vi. 319 ἑνδεκάπηχυ (v. l. δεκάπηχυ), viii. 494 ἑνδεκάπηχυ, xv. 678 δυωκαιεικοσίπηχυ, xxiv. 270 ἐννεάπηχυ; Od. xi. 311 ἐννεαπήχεες; Hom. Hymn. Ap. 104 ἐνν[Editor: illegible character]άπηχυν), and thus the circumference will be 4 × 3 × 10 = 120, giving us 120/40 or a ratio of circumference to diameter of 3:1, which is a sufficiently accurate approximation to the usual formula π = 22/7. Of course we do not know in any case exactly how Hesiod’s measurements were intended to be taken.
It must be confessed, however, that the above interpretation involves two considerably bold assumptions; first, that the word ἁψίς here means, not, as it usually does, the whole wheel, but only a segment of it, and secondly that it normally consisted of four segments. The latter is by far the more difficult assumption of the two, because one is quite willing to admit that ἁψίς from ἅπτειν, ‘join,’ might easily be applied first to a single segment and thence transferred to the whole circumference. Indeed, our own felloe or felly shows an exactly similar history. Derived from A.-S. feolan, ‘to stick,’ O.H.G. felahan, ‘to put together,’ it denoted first one of the curved pieces of wood which were dowelled together to form the circumference, and afterwards came to denote the entire circumference.
An entirely different explanation has been proposed by E. Thraemer. He takes ἁψίς to mean the whole wheel, and τρισπίθαμος the measure of the wheel diameter. He takes ἅμαξα in its ordinary sense as = wagon, and he is then confronted with the difficulty of explaining δεκάδωρος. This he takes to refer to the frame or body of the wagon. Then arises the question, Is it the breadth, or the height, or is it the depth (i.e. the length measurement) of the frame? Now as the axle is defined as seven feet, if we allow 1 foot for the portions of the axle projecting from the wheel on either side, we get about 6 feet for the breadth of the frame or body of the wagon. It follows then that the measurement now given must refer either to the height or the depth. Now, says Thraemer—and here I confess a plain Scot finds the reasoning hard to follow—since in the case of the wheel it is the height that is given, it is most natural to assume that it is the height also which is given in the case of the body! Thus we have a frame 6 feet (roughly, two metres) in breadth and 83 centimetres high.
The Hesiodic cart was doubtless a two-wheeled vehicle. But a full discussion of its probable character and construction would lead us too far afield.
W. 427 sqq.: ‘Cut therewithal many bent planks. And bring home a plowbeam (γύης), when thou findest it by search on hill or field—of holm-oak (πρɩ̂νος); for this is the strongest to plow with, when Athene’s servant (i.e. the carpenter) fasteneth it in the share-beam ([Editor: illegible character]λυμα) and fixeth it with dowels (γόμϕοι) to the pole (ἱστοβοεύς). Get thee two plows, fashioning them at home, one of the natural wood (αὐτόγυον), the other jointed (πηκτόν), since it is far better to do so. If thou break the one, thou canst yoke the oxen to the other. Freest of worms are poles of bay or elm. Get thee then sharebeam of oak, plowbeam of holm-oak.’
The simplest form of the primitive plough is merely a tree-branch so forked or bent naturally as to form a suitable implement for scratching the surface of the ground. A good example of this is the Scottish caschrom (Mitchell, Past in the Present, p. 95), though the latter was usually composite, being essentially a wooden spade with a projecting end-piece on which the foot was pressed to drive it into the ground. This implement continued in use among the poorer crofters in the West Highlands of Scotland up to a very recent period (Statistical Account of Scotland, Ross, and Cromarty). A similarly primitive plough is found in most countries. Thus Volney, Travels through Syria and Egypt, 1783-85 (Eng. trans., p. 413), in speaking of the Syrian peasant says: ‘The husbandman is destitute of instruments or has very bad ones; his plough is frequently no more than the branch of a tree, cut below a bifurcation, and used without wheels.’ With such a plough cf. that figured in Rich, p. 48, s.v. Arator.
Here the part which the left hand holds is the plough stilt or handle; the part projecting between the oxen and attached to the yoke is the pole; the central part is the plough-beam; and the part which pierces the earth is the share. In the primitive plough the whole consists of a single piece of wood, even the pole being merely a projecting portion of the beam, just as in the primitive cart the pole is simply a projection of the central plank of the bottom of the cart-body.
Here then we have in germ all the main parts of the later plough, and it is quite easy to follow the course of its evolution. The first stage, which we find already in Homer and Hesiod, is that the different parts of the plough are no longer formed of a single piece of wood, but of a number of separate pieces dowelled or lashed together. Obviously this enabled the various parts of the plough to be more carefully adapted to the particular end which each was meant to serve. Nay more, it made it possible to construct a much larger plough, and also to choose different kinds of wood in accordance with their special merits for particular purposes. Thus Hesiod, we observe, advises that the γύης or plough-beam (Latin, buris) should be made of holmoak (πρɩ̂νος): now why? Simply because the γύης was the critical part of the plough on which the chief stress fell, and the holm-oak was famous for its toughness. ‘Strong as holm-oak’ was proverbial, and the wood was used accordingly for purposes requiring a strong wood, e.g. it was used, Theophrastos tells us, for making axles and lyre ‘bridges’. Every reader of Aristophanes will recall such uses of the word, as of the sturdy Acharnians (Ach. 180)—στιπτοὶ γέροντες πρίνινοι, like our ‘hearts of oak’. Again the pole (Latin, temo) is to be made of bay or elm, while the share-beam (Latin vomer) is to be of oak: now why? Again we find our answer in Theophrastos, who tells us (C. P. v. 9, 4) that ‘wood of a bitter taste is least liable to be worm-eaten (ἥκιστα σκωληκονˆται), not merely because they do not rot, but also because their bitterness prevents them from breeding worms (ζωογονεɩ̂ν). A proof of this is the case of the bay (δάϕνη), which rots rapidly [in the case of the pole, being above ground, this would be a secondary consideration] but is not so liable to be worm-eaten.’ Again in H. P. v. 4, 3, he tells us: ‘The immunity of woods from rotting varies according to the purpose for which and the element in which they are employed; for instance, the elm (πτελέα) is comparatively immune when used above ground [lit., in the air, as would be the case with the pole], the oak when buried in the earth [as would be the case with the sharebeam].’
The general type of the plough which Hesiod calls πηκτόν, jointed or compacted, can be gathered from various ancient representations. The reader may be referred to Baumeister, p. 10 sqq.; Rich, s.v. Aratrum; Hill’s Illustrations, pp. 306 and 310; Cambridge Companion, p. 539 (where, however, the Hesiodic plough is provided with an iron share or ὕννις, which has no Hesiodic authority. Also, p. 540, αὐτογύες should be αὐτόγυον). In this the plough consists of several pieces dowelled or lashed together. As I have said, Hesiod makes no mention of the iron ὕννις or share (the point of which was called νύμϕη), but that in itself is not conclusive evidence. I do not remember any reference in Greek literature to the shoeing of oxen; yet in Scotland certainly oxen when employed on the roads were sometimes shod. Thus about 1900 there was found at Cairnhill in Aberdeenshire an ox-hoof with a shoe on it, consisting of a thin plate of sheet iron covering half the sole of the foot, and attached to the outer edge of the hoof by square-headed nails neatly clinched. It may be noted further that the ploughman usually grasped the plough-handle or stilt with the right hand, while in his left he carried a whip sometimes, but more often a goad. The curious broad point which the goad has in some ancient representations is owing to the fact that it was used, like the Scottish ‘pattle’ (English paddle, paddle-staff), for clearing off wet earth adhering to the share. This is the implement referred to by Burns in his poem to the mouse whose ‘wee bit housie’ he had disturbed with the plough: ‘I wad be laith to rin and chase thee | Wi’ murd’ring pattle.’ In ploughing it was usual to press the left foot1 on the projecting hinder part of the share-beam so as to drive the share into the ground, exactly as was done with the caschrom and the ordinary spade. So in Scotland in the eighteenth century a man in some places attended the plough whose whole duty was to keep the plough in the ground, by pressing on the end of the beam with his whole weight. In the Geoponica it is recommended (2, 2, 3) that the ploughman be rather tall in stature (cf. Hesiod’s ‘stout man of forty years’); ‘for such a man pressing strongly on the plough-handle weighs down the whole share (ὕννις), so that the furrow will not be a superficial one.’ Hesiod makes no mention of mould boards and the early plough had none.
Exactly what is meant by the αὐτύγυον ἄροτρον is more difficult to determine. Some have thought it means a plough made entirely of a single piece of wood; others take it to mean that γύης and ἱστοβοεύς, i.e. beam and pole, were of one piece. From Hesiod’s words, W. 430, ‘fastening it (i.e. the γύης) in the sharebeam’ (ἐν ἐλύματι πήξας), I strongly suspect that the αὐτόγυον had these pieces, i.e. beam and share-beam, of one piece, and thus differed from the πηκτόν. Clearly the reference to breaking the plough refers to some serious breakdown. Now if the disaster referred to the junction of beam and pole, that would have been comparatively easily repaired.
The reader will note that the ancient plough had only one stilt. So in Shetland the one-stilted plough obtained up to a comparatively recent time.[Back to Table of Contents]
THE CALENDAR OF LUCKY AND UNLUCKY DAYS
W. 765 to end.
‘To every thing there is a season,’ says the Preacher (Eccles. iii. 1 sq.), ‘and a time to every purpose under the heaven: a time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.’ The fearful observance of times and the attribution of peculiar quality to particular seasons is a familiar and probably universal phenomenon, which hardly requires illustration. The reason for the distinction of particular times as lucky or unlucky, whether altogether or only for particular purposes, is usually quite obscure, and even when a reason is given, it is probably as a rule an explanation after the event.
We are not here concerned with years or months, as Hesiod makes no distinction of months as lucky or unlucky, mentioning indeed but one month-name, viz. Lenaion, nor of years. Among the Hebrews in Old Testament times we have, of course, the Seventh Year as one of peculiar significance—The Year of Release, e.g. Exod. xxi. 2, ‘If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing’; cf. Deut. xv. 1 sqq., ‘At the end of every seven years thou shalt make a release. And this is the manner of the release: Every creditor that lendeth ought unto his neighbour shall release it; he shall not exact it of his neighbour, or of his brother, because it is called the Lord’s release. . . . And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee.’ So every seventh year the land is to be allowed to lie fallow, Exod. xxiii. 10 sq., and Lev. xxv. 3 sqq. Then also we have the Great Sabbath or Jubilee at the end of seven times seven years, i.e. every fiftieth year, Lev. xxv. 8 sqq., when ‘ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof; it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family. A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed.’
Hesiod’s lucky and unlucky days are apparently the same for every month. There is no trace of any distinction between one month and another, such as is implied in our superstition which, like the Roman, considers the month of May as unlucky for marriage. Ovid, Fasti, v. 489 sq.:
refers to the superstition which he connects with the celebration of the Lemuria, or Feast of the Dead, in May. How hardly the idea dies in our own day can be realized from the length of the marriage column in a morning newspaper in the early days of June.
In Scotland it is not only held to be unlucky to marry in May, but similarly it is—or recently was—considered unlucky to wean a child in May. So it was unlucky to be proclaimed, or in Scots phrase ‘cried’, in one year and married in the next.
Hesiod’s Calendar does not take the days in order, and there is a good deal of cross classification. Moreover the nomenclature of the days is somewhat ambiguous, so that there is some uncertainty occasionally as to the particular day referred to. It may assist the reader if I give here a Calendar of the month arranged in numerical order, according to what appears perhaps the most probable interpretation:—
The difficulties of the interpretation of Hesiod’s lines cannot be discussed here. The crux of the whole seems to me to be the meaning assigned to the words εἰκάδι ἐν μεγάλῃ, πλέῳ ἤματι, in 792, and to ἤματος ἐκ πλείου in 778.
For the rest it need only be remarked that Hesiod appears to assume a month of thirty days, divided into three periods of ten days each. Thus we have ‘the first sixth’, meaning the sixth day of the month, the full title of which was ἕκτη μηνὸς ἱσταμένου (poetically ἀεξομένου), i.e. the sixth of the waxing month; again, we have ‘the first ninth’, ‘the fourth of the waxing [month].’ The days of the middle decade are indicated either by the epithet ‘middle’: thus ‘middle fourth’ = 14th, ‘middle sixth’ = 16th, and so on: or they are reckoned from the first day of the month: thus ‘the eleventh and twelfth of the waxing month’, ‘the thirteenth of the waxing month.’ That is to say, the thirteenth is either ‘the middle third’ or the thirteenth. Lastly, the concluding ten days are indicated by the addition of ϕθίνοντος (sc. μηνός), just as in later Greek, but we do not know whether in Hesiod’s time, as at Athens after the time of Solon, the days of the last decade were reckoned backwards (thus 28th = τρίτη ϕνίνοντος), but I think it likely that they were not. Another way of indicating the days of the last decade is by reckoning from the 20th; thus τετάρτη μετ’ εἰκάδα = 24th. There are some minor points which cannot conveniently be dealt with here.
As I have said, no reason, as a rule, is given for the attribution of luckiness or unluckiness. There are, however, some traces of a rationalizing process. Thus the ‘fifths’ (presumably 5, 15, 25) are unlucky ‘because on the fifth men say the Erinyes attended the birth of Oath (Horkos), whom Strife bare to punish perjurers’: while the seventh is lucky, ‘for on that day Leto bare Apollo of the Golden Sword.’
OXFORD PRINTED AT THE CLARENDON PRESS BY HORACE HART, M.A. PRINTER TO THE UNIVERSITY
[1 ]Better eoae, i.e. in the morning.
[1 ]The beetle with a long head was also used to beat clothes in washing. From the bluntness of the head arose the proverb ‘As blunt as a beetle’.
[1 ]In Apollonius, Argonaut. III., 1335, where MSS. give λαɩ̂ον or βαθμόν, I imagine the correct reading is λαιῷ ἐπὶ στιβαρῷ πιέσας ποδί—βαθμόν (the projecting foot-rest) being a gloss.