The Story of Hesiod

Once upon a time, in ancient Boeotia, there was a man named Hesiod. He lived with his father in the town of Askra, which Hesiod hated. Originally, Hesiod’s father was from Cyme, a city in Aeolis once claimed to be Aeolis’ largest and most important city — so I can see why Hesiod hated it in Askra, which was small, rural, and largely insignificant. In fact, there was very little that Hesiod didn’t hate. He hated Askra. He hated his brother. He hated women — and just wasn’t too fond of people, as a general rule, as well.

Hesiod did, though, seem to get enjoyment in some form from the things most people disliked, if only because it gave him a smug sense of superiority. He liked work, especially hard manual labour. Actually, I think that was about it. Then one day, he realised that, even more than work, he loved the Theoi. One day, Hesiod’s up on Mount Helikon, tending sheep and hating everything, and a Moisa visited him, as he was out being perfectly happy, with his own little cloud of hateful feelings hoovering above him (as one does, when one’s first, middle, last, or only name is Hesiod), and the Goddess whispered beautiful metres into his ear. “Could it be?” He thought. “Is there truly something more wonderful in life than misery?”

“Indeed,” said the Moisa with a nod, before commanding Hesiod to write it all down.

First Hesiod wrote the Theogony, a grand epic poem of no fewer than 1022 lines, detailing the geneology of the Theoi and the universe They brought together — from Everything’s humble origins as little more than a speck within the great vast tendrils of Khaos’ formless tresses (yes, She is like a Lovecraftian Old One) to the woman Pandora. Pandora was likely inspired by Hesiod’s now long-forgotten ex-wife, Synthykhe1 — she was one of those educated bitches from Thespiai and was the youngest of her family, with three other sisters, so her dowry was, like, two chickens and a used featherbed, and she didn’t dig Askra too well, so she took off one day when Hesiod and his brother were being weiners at each-other, leaving ol’ Hesiod even more broken and joyless than he was before — and that’s a mighty accomplishment. Now she’s a famous hetaera, and making fat cash. Basically, all those “educated Thespian bitches” stereotypes that Hesiod could think of, he put into Pandora so that he could use her as a literary device to support his notion that women can’t be trusted. Or something. Hesiod’s got issues.

Hesiod’s also got family problems. After his father died, he and his brother ended up in a dispute over the estate, and so Hesiod put a big chunk of that (also thinly-veiled) into one of the longest asides ever in his next major poem, Works & Days, and tried to make it some kind of morality lesson. On the good side, we all can rest easy now knowing that whatever family issues we’ve got, people won’t be reading our brother’s side of things for the next 2800 years. Serious, man: Hesiod’s got subscriptions.

He also wrote Ehoiai, or The Catalogue of Women, another geneology — but that only survives in fragments. Another complete work often ascribed to Hesiod is Shield of Herakles, but modern scholars dispute its authorship, some believing it’s about two centuries too new, and too imitative of Homer’s style. Still, some disagree with this modern notion and continue to attribute this one to Hesiod, even though it isn’t that good, when compared to the other two that survive intact.

Some people then claim that Hesiod and Homer competed in a poetry contest, but aside from the fact that Homeric Greek is an Aeolian dialect, there really isn’t much to support that, aside from local tradition, which had a bronze tripod at the shrine to the Moisai at Mt. Helikon that was claimed to have been won by Hesiod in the contest — local traditions also claimed dinosaur bones as those of griffons and demigods, so clearly oral traditions are no more reliable than journalism. Still, it’s possible.

In Hesiod’s later life, we don’t know much from him, but we have a few accounts claiming he was murdered for adultery. I think it was actually cos people finally got tired of listening to how much he hates everything. Hesiod’s got issues, and some people are just prone to snapping like that, put in such close proximity to that kinda pressure. Like, one day, Hesiod’s neighbour is out doing his thing, minding his own business, and then here comes Hesiod, with his moralising, and his prizes, and going on about the economy like he did — and his neighbour knows it’s never gonna end because why? Because Hesiod’s got issues. It was bound to happen.

Then legend has it that Hesiod’s body was cast into the sea and returned to the shores by dolphins (probably after the dolphins did unspeakable things to his corpse — a dolphin will totally perv on you, if you let him, sometimes even if you don’t). Then, his body was put upon a pyre and his ashes entombed with honour at Askra, even though he clearly hated the place, but I guess they figure no better-fitting sentence for being a total wenus than to give him a place of honour in the place he despised most of all. Either way, the hamlet loved him, and so they interred his ashes with honour. Then the Thespians showed up some time later, probably cos of a war or maybe just because Thespiai is wicked-awesome, and the Askrans moved to Orchomenus on the advice of an oracle, and took Hesiod’s ashes with them, and interred them in the town’s agora and was honoured as a heros of Orchomenus’ town hearth, as well. This is Hesiod’s last known resting spot, but clearly the spot isn’t there anymore —thanks, Christians2— and thus ends the story of Hesiod, The Heros Who Hated Everything (and Had to Tell the World About It).

1: I may have just made her up.
2: most likely.

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4 thoughts on “The Story of Hesiod

  1. Pingback: Adonis & The Phoenix | Of Thespiae

  2. Pingback: The Story of Hesiod « WiccanWeb

  3. Pingback: Boeotian Theoi: Hekate | Of Thespiae

  4. Pingback: Before I get to work on the calendar…. | Of Thespiae

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