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Works, Days, and Divine Influence in Hesiod’s Story World

Carman Romano
p. 9-31


Tout au long de son poème Les Travaux et les Jours, Hésiode réaffirme et soutient la croyance de son public dans la réalité du surnaturel, c’est-à-dire les dieux de l’Olympe, dont le poète prend clairement au sérieux le pouvoir, au vu des sombres avertissements qui scandent la dernière partie de l’œuvre, sous la forme d’un calendrier. En s’appuyant sur le récent ouvrage de S.I. Johnston, The Story of Myth, ainsi que sur les travaux des folkloristes K. Hänninen et G. Bennett, le présent article identifie les techniques employées par Hésiode pour rendre crédible l’influence du divin dans le passé et le présent. Hésiode construit un univers narratif familier à son public afin de renforcer la crédibilité des événements surnaturels qu’il rapporte, qu’ils soient mythiques ou contemporains. Quand il parle de l’influence des dieux à son époque, Hésiode n’affirme l’intervention continue des dieux que dans les événements concrets dont les membres de son auditoire font l’expérience. Pour le reste, le poète a tendance à utiliser un langage vague, laissant ses auditeurs en arriver à leurs propres conclusions sur l’influence du divin. Pour encourager une conclusion positive, Hésiode crée une analogie entre des concepts abstraits, comme la « Querelle », et les dieux anthropomorphes du mythe. En utilisant ces stratégies, Hésiode imprègne son poème de la croyance en l’influence divine dans le monde, passé et présent.

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  • 1 Hesiod, Works and Days 706–828.
  • 2 Hes., WD 724–726.
  • 3 Hes., WD 706, 717–718, 727–730, 737–741, 755–756.
  • 4 Hes., WD 826–827.

1The very end of WD, comprised of the poet’s terse injunctions and calendrical musings, imagines that the gods’ anger is always threatening to erupt, and so Hesiod enjoins his audience to take on an attitude of extreme caution.1 For instance, the poet warns against pouring a libation after dawn, lest Zeus and the gods not “listen to” (κλύουσιν) but “spit back” (ἀποπτύουσι) one’s prayers (ἀράς),2 and I count five other such pieces of advice before the end of Hesiod’s poem.3 He even closes by saying that the man is happy “who, knowing all these things, does his work blamelessly regarding the gods” (ἀναίτιος ἀθανάτοισιν).4 Hesiod’s constantly cautious attitude toward the divine, perhaps best illustrated in this calendar, only makes sense if the poet really believes that the gods wield immense power, and are more than willing to use it against human beings.

  • 5 For the didactic character of WD, see Clay (1993), Zhang (2009). Heath (1985), p. 253–256 argues (...)
  • 6 The phrase “create and sustain belief” is borrowed from Johnston (2018).

2In this article, I demonstrate that Hesiod aims to convince both Perses and the ancient Greek audience external to the poem that the gods did and still do affect the affairs of mortal men, and so to take the proper precautions, such as those outlined in the calendrical portion of WD.5 But whereas Hesiod’s agricultural instructions are explicit, Hesiod takes a more covert approach in promoting his audience’s belief in the gods’ influence on the world, past and present. Hesiod’s tacit goal in WD is, I demonstrate, to “create and sustain belief 6 in the often terrible reality of divine influence, both in the deep past — for instance, in the tale of Pandora — and in his contemporary world.

  • 7 Johnston (2018), p. 18–19.

3By “belief” — a notoriously slippery term — “in the reality of divine influence”, I mean the notion that gods (or “Invisible Others”) really did and do affect the world. “Invisible Others” is a term I borrow from social anthropology to refer to any entity whose existence cannot be verified by normal sense perception. We cannot know for certain what ancient peoples did or did not believe, but for this study, I take my cue from Sarah Iles Johnston, who points out that, although outright statements of belief or disbelief in the divine are few, the numerous examples of entreaties, votives, inscriptions of gratitude, and participation in rituals (among other evidence) recommend the view that the Greeks “believed that the recipients […] existed and were paying attention.”7 Hesiod’s WD, like the many public performances of myths analyzed by Johnston, helped to create and sustain belief in these divine agents.

4More specifically, I show that in order to promote belief in the idea that the gods intervened in the deep past and continue to intervene in the contemporary world (and often to the detriment of human beings) Hesiod makes use of several different, mutually supportive strategies. First, the poet presents himself as an authority on the content contained in WD, in terms of matters both mundane and divine; at the risk of banality, such a stance inspires confidence in his audience. Here, I will only briefly outline Hesiod’s authority-building mechanisms, as they have been discussed extensively by other scholars.

  • 8 By “world of WD” or “story world”, I mean that which Hesiod describes in WD. The world in which t (...)

5Second, Hesiod constructs a highly familiar story world within which the divine operates, both in the portions of WD that are set in the distant past and in the portion set in the Greece that was contemporary with Hesiod.8 Crucial to my argument is the notion propounded by both Claude Calame and Sarah Johnston that the realm of myth is not separate from but rather contiguous to the world inhabited by Hesiod and his contemporaries. Like Calame, Johnston, and other proponents of this view, I argue that by deploying certain narrative techniques, Hesiod identifies his own world as an extension of the world of myth, a realm that I term the “deep past” (ta palaia) to curb our modern tendency to delineate the “world of myth” from the “real world.”

6Next, Hesiod is careful to encourage his audience’s belief that the gods can influence that contemporary world, a belief evidenced by the closing calendar. First, Hesiod always stops short of insisting that indisputably supernatural — divinely-influenced — events occur in the contemporary period, leaving his audience plenty of room to arrive at their own (positive) conclusion. Instead, the poet remains firm only on the gods’ intervention in concrete, mundane phenomena, since all of his audience members have experienced the kind of rainstorm that Hesiod ascribes to Zeus’ power. Finally, Hesiod creates an analogy between gods and abstract divine concepts to bolster his audience’s belief in the former: rumor and famine, Φήμη and Λιμός, despite their invisibility, had probably affected the lives of many of Hesiod’s audience members, for better or worse, the latter option against which Hesiod prepares his audience. It is on these final strategies that I focus.

7All of them are mutually supportive in encouraging belief in the often terrible reality of divine influence, past and present. I formulate the second of these strategies (Hesiod’s construction of a familiar story world) by developing versions of the models pioneered by folklorists Gillian Bennett and Kirsi Hänninen, and by scholar of religion Johnston. Their methodologies in analyzing narratives of the supernatural (Bennett and Hänninen) and narrations of myths (Johnston) complement one another. Johnston, in her recent The Story of Myth, analyzes the narrative techniques deployed in public performances of mythic tales that created and sustained their audiences’ belief in gods and heroes. She herself makes use of Bennett and Hänninen, each of whose works dissect narratives related by modern individuals that tell of their experiences with the supernatural. Perhaps surprisingly, the narrative techniques teased out by these scholars of folklore appear likewise in WD, and can help us understand the methods by which Hesiod encourages his audience to believe in the supernatural — that is, in the intervention of the gods.

Building Authority

  • 9 Clay (2003), p. 140; Calame helpfully translates ἐτήτυμα as “factual reality” (Calame [2005], p.  (...)
  • 10 Commands accompanied by name or personal pronoun recur throughout WD; and imperatives or infiniti (...)
  • 11 West (1978), p. 3–30.

8Hesiod primes his audience to believe what he has to say about the gods’ intervention in both the distant past and in the contemporary world by establishing himself as an authoritative speaker, a topic well-studied by many scholars. For instance, Jenny Strauss Clay explains that the ἐτήτυμα that Hesiod promises to expound in line 10 “are those things he knows from lived experience, matters for which he does not need the Muses’ — that is, divine — help”.9 Farming, marrying, arguing — these are the ἐτήτυμα in which the poet, of his own accord, has gained knowledge. Ultimately, the knowledge that Hesiod claims in mundane matters implies the poet’s correct and realistic — and thus authoritative — view of the world.10 Beyond the imperious tone Hesiod takes with his audience, his use of traditional sources of authority — maxims, fables, and proverbs — ties the poet into the ancient genre of wisdom literature.11

  • 12 Fraser (2011), p. 12–13 concisely outlines Hesiod’s twin authority in matters mundane and divine.
  • 13 For instance, in line 448, West notices that φράζεσθαι, in the injunction, “Mark whenever you hea (...)
  • 14 For instance, at lines 280–285, Hesiod explicitly connects piety with justice, saying that the go (...)
  • 15 See Zhang (2009), p. 9–11, for Hesiod’s authority to speak on matters divine.

9Further, the poet lends to himself the authority to speak on supernatural matters — not only on ἐτήτυμα — by affirming his special relationship to divinity.12 To recapitulate what has already been said by other scholars, in establishing his divinely-sanctioned authority, Hesiod performs several rhetorical maneuvers. First, Hesiod invokes the Muses and Zeus in the proem and in the section on Hesiod’s performance at Amphidamas’ funeral games. Next, Hesiod at times speaks with an oracular tone, as pointed out by West, lending divine importance to his words.13 Finally, Hesiod always seems to find himself on the side of δίκη, the special interest of Zeus, a stance that can only endear him to this Invisible Other.14 In both worldly ἐτήτυμα and divine matters, then, Hesiod’s authority is assured, with respect to his audience.15

10His authority now established, Hesiod is primed to speak not only on mundane ἐτήτυμα, but also on divine matters. Hesiod will thus construct a believable story world in which divine influence will be exerted, typically to the detriment of human beings. Next, to encourage belief in the gods’ influence over the contemporary world in particular, Hesiod will repeatedly indicate the reality of their influence in that world, yet leave enough room for his audience members to arrive at their own conclusions by remaining noncommittal regarding indisputably supernatural events. Having impressed upon his audience the reality of the divine, Hesiod embeds in his closing calendar careful instructions that promise to aid his audience in their dealings with the very real gods.

11His strategy of remaining noncommittal can in fact be glimpsed already in Hesiod’s first invocation of Zeus and the Muses.

ὅν τε διὰ βροτοὶ ἄνδρες ὁμῶς ἄφατοί τε φατοί τε
ῥητοί τ᾽ ἄρρητοί τε Διὸς μεγάλοιο ἕκητι.
ῥέα μὲν γὰρ βριάει, ῥέα δὲ βριάοντα χαλέπτει,
ῥεῖα δ᾽ ἀρίζηλον μινύθει καὶ ἄδηλον ἀέξει,
ῥεῖα δέ τ᾽ ἰθύνει σκολιὸν καὶ ἀγήνορα κάρφει
Ζεὺς ὑψιβρεμέτης ὃς ὑπέρτατα δώματα ναίει.

  • 16 Hes., WD 3–8.

[Zeus] through whom mortal men are either unspoken or spoken of, have a reputation or do not, by the will of great Zeus. For on the one hand, he gives strength easily, and on the other, he makes things difficult for someone strong, and easily he diminishes the proud and increases the obscure, and easily he straightens the crooked and makes the arrogant wither — Zeus the high-thunderer does, who lives in the highest halls.16

  • 17 Bennett (1999), p. 25–26.

12Who are the “men with reputation”? Why would Zeus make something difficult? Indeed, where is the “here” to which the Muses are supposed to come? By repeatedly refusing to be specific about the actions of these supernatural agents, the poet insulates himself from disbelief. In Alas, Poor Ghost!, in which Bennett explores how her informants (middle-class women from 1980s Manchester, England) use narrative to articulate their belief in the supernatural, some interviewees adopt a similar strategy when they claim that unknowable laws govern the universe. These universalizing truisms are easily accepted by listeners, as they suggest that order can be found in the apparent chaos of the world. For instance, one interviewee, Kathleen, states: “There is far more to know than we are ready for yet.” Or, taking a religious slant, Norah says: “When God wants you, you’ll go. He’ll take you and that’s it.”17 Neither Kathleen nor Norah offer specific evidence for their claim; rather, they rely on already widely-held beliefs for their appeal.

13Likewise, Hesiod refuses to commit to a specific instance of Zeus’ diminishing or straightening; rather, the σκολιὸν and ἀγήνορα could be anyone. The poet rather appeals to truisms, listing the “kind of things” that Zeus is believed to do: as the god most concerned with justice, Zeus “straightens the crooked and diminishes the proud.” By remaining noncommittal as to exactly who the objects of Zeus’ actions are, Hesiod is able to invoke the authority of the divine, of order within chaos, without over-stretching his audience’s capacity to believe in the supernatural agency of the gods and allowing them to arrive (with ample guidance) at their own conclusion.

Constructing a Familiar Story World

14Before discussing the other noncommittal maneuvers Hesiod employs in the contemporary portion of WD, I want to analyze the poem’s story world — that is, the realm constructed by Hesiod in which the supernatural events of WD, both ancient and contemporary, take place. In Bennett and Hänninen’s apt estimation, the more familiar the world constructed by an author, the more credible any supernatural events embedded in that world become.

  • 18 Bennett (1999), p. 132–136.
  • 19 Hänninen (2017), p. 130.

15Hesiod’s representation of both the distant past and the contemporary period would have seemed eminently credible to members of his ancient audience. Certainly, the story world set in present time described by Hesiod in WD is both “complete” and “accurate”, replete with details even of the weather.18 In Hänninen’s similar estimation, borrowed from Robin Wooffitt, Hesiod sets his “Y-factor” — the intervention of the gods — against a very strong “X-factor”: a realistic representation of the contemporary world.19 Wooffitt’s X/Y construction posits that the narrator of a supernatural event (Y) will surround that event with mundane narrative material (X) to sustain better the credibility of the story. I show likewise that the poet manages to render his representation of the distant past familiar to his audience by presenting the realm of the deep past as reflective of the contemporary world: for instance, Hesiod’s characterization of the first mythic woman, Pandora, largely agrees with the poet’s characterization of women contemporary to him. The everyday, visible world of contemporary Greece, however, is not the only one eminently familiar to Hesiod’s audience: the realm of myth, as Johnston demonstrates, was likewise extremely familiar to the ancient Greeks, and so Hesiod is sure to assimilate his own representation of the deep past to that realm.

  • 20 Calame (2004).
  • 21 Hes., WD 35–36.
  • 22 See also Hes., WD 635–652.
  • 23 Calame employs the term “oscillation” to describe Hesiod’s ability to refer sometimes to a partic (...)

16The contemporary world that WD represents is clearly meant to be identical to the one external to the poem, and this identity between the two provides an especially strong X-factor (to again adopt Wooffitt’s construction, as developed by Häninnen) for the divine influence that the poet depicts. First, Hesiod’s use of deictics and the first person emphasizes the equivalence between the world of the narrative audience and the contemporary world represented in WD.20 “But let’s decide our quarrel right here using correct judgements”, says Hesiod, employing the deictic αὖθι to collapse the physical and temporal space between the poet’s address to Perses and the kings, and the singer’s address to the narrative audience.21 The deictics in WD take on a double meaning, since when the rhapsode says “right here!” he refers at once to the actual spot in which he stands, as well as to the place where Hesiod had stood as he addressed Perses.22 Further, Hesiod (to re-purpose a term employed by Calame) “oscillates” and collapses the difference between Hesiod-the-poet, Hesiod-the-narrator, and the rhapsode performing WD by using the grammatical first person to take on the perspective of each one. Likewise, by addressing both the “extradiscursive” audience (to borrow another one of Calame’s phrasings) and Perses in the second person, Hesiod collapses the distance between the internal and external audiences of the poem.23

  • 24 West (1978), p. 33–34.
  • 25 Hes., WD 29, 519–524, 582–596. See Bershadsky (2011), p. 1–8 for an analysis of the “prescription (...)

17Beyond his constant use of the first- and second-person, Hesiod’s realistic representation of everyday scenes and people likewise denies any difference between the constructed contemporary world of WD and the world of the narrative audience. Hesiod’s mimesis of Perses, for instance, is brilliant: most commentators believe that Perses is to be identified with a “real” individual, a belief facilitated no doubt by the everyday nature of the brothers’ quarrel.24 And to the ancient audience, Hesiod’s family quarrel likely recalled conflict in their own communities. The Greek audience, further, would have caught glimpses of their own lives among Hesiod’s advice and injunctions: a rubber-necker peering curiously into the marketplace, a maiden warm on a bitter winter day, a pleasant picnic in the sweltering heat of summer.25

18All these vignettes collapse any difference between the contemporary world represented in WD and the world external to it. Thus, by his use of deictics, the first- and second-person, and his vivid depiction of everyday scenes, Hesiod ensures that the X-factor of the contemporary portion of WD is very strong: Hesiod and Perses are just like the members of the narrative audience, and the work, relationships, and surroundings of the characters depicted in WD are just like those with which the narrative audience is familiar. According to the principles demonstrated by the work of Bennett and Hänninen, when Hesiod introduces the divine into his realistic story world, the groundwork will have been laid for the audience to accept what Hesiod subsequently says about divine influence (Y) in that world (X).

19But what of the tales set in the deep past? The story world in which Hesiod’s tales of Pandora and the Races take place would seem very familiar to Hesiod’s audience in part because that story world explains and reflects the (in Hesiod’s estimation) miserable conditions of the contemporary period, in which the divine continues to threaten the poet’s contemporaries. In fact, Hesiod signals throughout WD that the world of the distant past — and its miseries — and that of the present — and its own — are contingent upon each other, that they take place at different times in the same story world.

  • 26 Johnston (2018), p. 79–80.
  • 27 Calame (2011).

20In arguing this point, I follow scholars such as Johnston and Calame, the former of whom provides a list of techniques Greek poets tend to employ to sustain this continuity. In performing a mythic narrative, its teller might: mention the name of the place of a mythic narrative’s performance; imbue the world of the mythic narrative with the “same values, limitations, and advantages” of the teller’s own; or refer verbally or by physical gesture at once to the place of performance and the location of the mythic narrative’s action.26 In a similar vein, Calame argues that Euripides’ Erechtheus accrues its meaning in part by its performance hic et nunc, “here and now”: the story told by the drama is set in Athens, and the drama itself was performed in Athens. The distance between the world of myth and that of Euripides’ contemporaries is thus collapsed.27

  • 28 Zeitlin (2011).
  • 29 Hes., WD 372–377.
  • 30 For the strong link between the tale of Pandora and that of the Races (and the hawk and nightinga (...)
  • 31 Calame (2009), p. 63.
  • 32 This temporal continuity is evidenced subtly in Zeus’ direct speech to Prometheus, wherein the go (...)

21I demonstrate what I mean with a familiar example from WD: Hesiod’s description of the mythical Pandora makes clear, as Froma Zeitlin in particular has shown, that the first woman, the paradigmatic woman, is a mixed blessing — or perhaps better, a mixed curse.28 And Hesiod goes on to depict modern women as being, like Pandora, tricky and not immune to using their feminine wiles to peek in on men’s business.29 Even more explicitly than the Pandora story, the tale of the Races of Humanity continues to resonate in the present day. Like the Pandora story, it activates its audience’s confirmation bias by promising to fill in the background of what the members already know to be true: that they are distant from any kind of paradisiacal life, indicated especially by humankind’s need to labor.30 Further, the poet sings a specific contemporary person into the story: Hesiod, Calame notes, forcefully inserts himself into the narrative, wishing that he had not been born into the iron race but before or after its demise.31 The story world of WD is thus imagined to be cohesive, the events of the deep past reflecting and seamlessly merging with the poet’s contemporary world, whose largely terrible state is explained by the poet’s narration of early times.32

  • 33 e.g. Beall (1991), p. 357.
  • 34 For the relationship between WD’s “narrated time” and “time of narration” of the Races of Humanit (...)

22In saying this, I argue against the notion that the Greeks conceived of “historical time” as distinct from “mythical time”.33 Following Calame and Johnston, I maintain that, rather, Hesiod’s depiction of so-called “mythical time” is continuous with so-called “historical time”; assuming any division between the two is contradictory to Hesiod’s representation of the world (and especially with his own wish to have been born before the iron race’s generation).34 But the tales of Pandora and the Races are rendered familiar by their close association with another realm beyond that of the contemporary world: the network of mythology, into which Hesiod weaves his stories of the distant past. As Johnston demonstrates in The Story of Myth, Greek mythology comprises a

  • 35 Johnston (2018), p. 122.

tightly woven story world that was cumulatively created, on a continuous basis, by the myths that were narrated. This story world validated not only each individual myth that was part of it, but also ta palaia more generally — all the stories about what had happened in the mythic past, the characters who had lived then and the entire world view on which the stories rested.35

  • 36 There are several other Archaic (seventh- and sixth-century) representations of the Pandora story (...)

23Following Johnston, I argue here that Hesiod weaves WD into the network of Greek myth to render familiar to his audience — and thus credible — the stories of Pandora and Prometheus and of the Races of Humanity, stories whose originality is up for debate.36 Whether or not Hesiod invented the tales out of whole cloth, the poet incorporates them into the network of Greek myth so that they appear to have always been there, and thus credible to his ancient audience.

24First, the Pandora story agrees with such widely-known poems as the Iliad and Odyssey when it comes to the arrangement of the cosmos. For instance, it is clear from his ability to give commands that Zeus rules Olympus, and maintains power over the other gods and the Titans. Next, when the gods fashion the first woman, they use their normative skill-sets: for example, Hephaestus creates Pandora from clay, a skill demonstrated likewise by this god’s creation of the robot-maidens in the Iliad. Hesiod thus draws on familiar characters and their typical traits to orient the Pandora story. Although this specific narration may be new, its points of reference are not. The tale is thus linked firmly to the familiar network of Greek myth.

  • 37 According to Timothy Gantz, “most editors” take lines 173a–c, in which Zeus assigns Cronus to rul (...)
  • 38 West (1978), p. 193 (Hes., WD 152–155, 168).
  • 39 Gantz (1993), p. 132 (Homer, Odyssey IV, 561–569).

25The Races of Humanity story likewise must demonstrate that it takes place within the mythological network familiar to its audience. Zeus is set again in the foremost place in the pantheon: he is the sole creator of the bronze, heroic, and iron races; he gives the heroic race a blessed afterlife and frees Cronus to rule it; and he is promised to be the destruction of the iron race.37 Further, when the bronze race perishes, it descends to Hades, the destination in the Greek imagination of the dead; and Hesiod locates the heroes “at the ends of the earth”, a space typical of gods and other wondrous beings.38 This blessed afterlife, further, appears already in the Odyssey, when Proteus foretells that Menelaus will dwell in the Elysian plain and at the borders of the earth, ruled by Rhadamanthus.39

26Finally, Hesiod refers, again obliquely, to the Theban and Trojan cycles, wherein most of the heroic race perished. These were ἡμίθεοι, genetic “half-gods”, as listeners would surely know. Of these ἡμίθεοι, the poet says:

  • 40 Hes., WD 160–165.

And evil war and the dread battle-cry destroyed some of these at seven-gated Thebes, the land of Cadmus, while they were fighting over the flocks of Oedipus, and others too, when it drew them on ships over the great depth of the sea for beautiful-haired Helen’s sake.40

  • 41 Audience members familiar with the Cypria might even supply Zeus as the instigator of these wars (...)
  • 42 Even in the contemporary portion of WD, Hesiod invokes the mythic network. When Hesiod tells of h (...)

27Just these brief references would have sufficed to call to mind Eteocles and Iocasta on the one hand, and Achilles, Agamemnon, and Hector on the other. The Theban and Trojan epics, summed up in a few lines, serve to orient the Races of Humanity, an otherwise obscure or perhaps totally new story, within the ancient Greek imagination.41 Whether or not Hesiod is wholly or partially original in constructing these tales is beside the point; by their association with the “tightly woven” — and very familiar — complex of Greek mythology, the poet renders the tales of Pandora and the Races familiar to his audience, irrelevant of whether they actually were.42

28Hesiod’s strategy in constructing a familiar story world is thus two-pronged. First, and most simply, he is accurate and detailed in describing the largely unpleasant quality of life in the modern period (“women are troublesome, labor is difficult”) and he collapses the difference between the world beyond WD and that described within its confines. Next, and with much more nuance, the poet describes a deep past familiar to his audience by rendering the past explanatory of and resonant with the miserable present and by linking the tale of Pandora and the Races of Humanity to the realm of myth. Hesiod’s story world, past and present, is a familiar one, and that familiarity better sustains believability. The supernatural events (Y) that occur against this eminently familiar backdrop (X) thus become quite credible to WD’s audience, as does Hesiod’s stern religious advice: if Zeus had been all too pleased to use his power to unleash Pandora upon man, why not take precautions against divine power by heeding Hesiod’s warning against urinating in a river?

29As for the stories of Pandora and of the Races, their continued resonance with the modern state of man (and woman, unfortunately for man), their link to the network of myth, and Hesiod’s authoritative stance might be enough to render them credible to Hesiod’s audience. After all, who can say what really happened in the deep past? Convincing his audience that the supernatural erupts into the modern world, wherein the divine do not typically create races of human beings or fashion women from clay, is a more strenuous task. In the remainder of this study, I will turn my attention to the contemporary portion of WD, and examine the strategies that Hesiod employs to encourage his audience’s belief that the gods could continue to influence the modern world, a stance most clearly evidenced by the closing calendar.

The Gods in the Contemporary Period

30Hesiod needs to maneuver even further if he wants to encourage his audience to believe that the gods continue to influence the contemporary period. First, I show the ways in which the poet remains noncommittal as to the gods’ operations, leaving out specifics or using hypotheticals to insist not so much on the definite fact of the gods’ continued influence in his audience members’ lives as on its possibility or probability. Such a maneuver allows Hesiod’s audience members to draw their own (positive) conclusion as to the influence of the divine.

31Finally, to encourage such a positive conclusion, Hesiod employs two further techniques. First, I demonstrate that Hesiod is sure to be firm on the gods’ manifestations in concrete, mundane phenomena (for instance, in the weather), as these events are undeniable and have been witnessed by all of his audience members. Second, to tacitly buttress the influence of Invisible Others, Hesiod emphasizes throughout WD the influence of abstract concepts on human life: what we would call abstract concepts, such as rumor or hunger, are the Invisible Others Rumor and Hunger. The very real effect that these concepts have on human life prevents the audience form taking their existence as purely figurative. These concepts’ constant presence in the poem, in addition to Hesiod’s insistence that the Olympian gods manifest themselves in mundane phenomena, implicitly affirms that the divine should be perfectly able to influence the contemporary human world.

  • 43 Hänninen (2017), p. 128.

32At first read, it seems that Hesiod always boldly ascribes influence to the gods, leaving no room for audience members to draw their own conclusion about the gods’ operation. And indeed Hesiod does, but only in the narratives he tells of the deep past, wherein the gods are assumed to act boldly; a cursory read of the Homeric epics is illustrative of this expectation. Hänninen, drawing on Kaarina Koski, notes that the teller of a supernatural tale can distance that tale’s supernatural events from the quotidian realm by relegating them to the past, and indeed, Hesiod takes advantage of this strategy.43 In the contemporary world, however, Zeus’ explicit influence on the world was less obvious. Hesiod cleverly insulates himself from audience disbelief by often remaining noncommittal in his descriptions of the gods’ influence in the modern period, usually employing vague and hypothetical language when singing of instances of divine action in the contemporary world.

  • 44 In the second iteration of the adornment scene, wherein the gods perform the actions ordered by Z (...)
  • 45 In the Races tale, Zeus and “the immortal gods” (not otherwise specified) again perform supernatu (...)

33Hesiod’s typically noncommittal stance toward the gods’ influence on the modern world becomes apparent when his descriptions of contemporary divine influence are compared to his descriptions of the gods’ influence in the deep past. In a pre-Pandora, golden-age world Hesiod is free to describe the gods’ influence in literal terms. First, Prometheus steals fire from the gods, and nothing in the text suggests that the audience is to take this in any way but literally. Next, Zeus speaks directly through Hesiod — the only time he does so in the largely contemporary WD and orders Hephaestus to give Pandora a form like that of the “immortal goddesses”, implying the gods’ anthropomorphic form (and Zeus’ ability to speak and laugh suggests likewise). Further, Hephaestus, Athena, Aphrodite, and Hermes are named and described performing actions twice, the repetition emphasizing the fact of the deeds’ performance.44 Hermes then brings Pandora to Epimetheus. Never again do named gods besides Zeus perform any definite actions, not even in the Races of Humanity tale.45

  • 46 Hes., WD 303–308.
  • 47 For two other excellent examples of noncommittal language, see Hes., WD 267–273, 321–334.

34In stark contrast, Hesiod often uses vague and hypothetical language to describe the nature of the gods’ actions in the modern world, appealing to widely-held beliefs via universalizing statements. This technique again mirrors that deployed by Bennett’s interviewees, who were likely to appeal to the unknowable yet assumedly orderly manner in which the universe or God operates. For example, at lines 225–251, Hesiod describes the fate of just and unjust men: the just man’s city is blessed, while “wide-seeing Zeus son of Cronus ordains a punishment for those to whom hubris and wicked deeds are a care.” Here, Hesiod lends to Zeus great power, both to define universally what is just, and to punish those who refuse to abide by that ordinance. And yet, Hesiod does not give his audience a specific, contemporary example of Zeus’ power; rather, he speaks of “people” in the most general sense possible. Again, Hesiod relies on hypotheticals when he repeats the gnome, “And the gods and men both feel resentment toward him, the man who would live lazily […] but by working, men become more dear to the immortals.”46 Which man?47 Each of these warnings promise the gods’ intervention in the contemporary world, emphasizing their power and relevance, yet their hypothetical nature leaves a very wide margin of error indeed. Audience members are left to draw their own conclusions about the gods’ influence, filling in the details that Hesiod leaves out.

  • 48 Pausanias II, 27, 3. For a text and translation of the iamata, see E.J. Edelstein, L. Edelstein ((...)
  • 49 Johnston (2018), p. 103.

35Not everyone, however, ascribed bold divine intervention exclusively to the deep past, suggesting that Hesiod might have been able to get away with less careful insulation. A cursory examination of the iamata stories of patients’ miraculous healing upon sleeping in the sanctuary of Asclepius in Epidaurus — demonstrates that belief in the gods’ direct intervention in the world was alive and well even in the last half of the fourth century BCE when these brief accounts were inscribed.48 In one account, Asclepius removes an arrow from a man’s lung; in another, the god cuts a man open to remove an abscess from his abdomen. Johnston argues that hopeful patients would have read these inscriptions, displayed in the sanctuary, before entering the abaton to receive their own cure, and that these testimonies bolstered their own belief that Asclepius would act boldly on their behalf as well.49 The iamata as well as any number of curse tablets, vows, and oracle consultations — illustrate that at least some ancient Greeks cultivated a culture of belief, and that Hesiod’s warnings and promises of possible divine intervention in their contemporary world would not have gone unheeded. If Hesiod had had such a credible audience in mind, perhaps he would have been more definite in ascribing specific interventions, rather than tending to allow its members to make up their own minds about the details carefully left out by the poet.

  • 50 Beall (2004), p. 179.

36To lead his audience members to a positive conclusion about the gods’ contemporary interventions, Hesiod employs two further techniques, the first involving concrete phenomena and the second, what we would call abstract concepts. First, I will show that Hesiod is always absolutely firm on the gods’ contemporary influence on everyday events, the workings of the mundane world experienced by every member of the poet’s audience. Scholars such as E.F. Beall, Richard Hamilton, and Seth Benardete have observed that Zeus, although represented as an anthropomorphic chief deity in the “primeval narratives” in WD, does not act as such in the latter portion of the poem. In Benardete’s estimation, he becomes a weather god; in Hamilton’s, “the random factor in the worker’s routine”.50 I agree that Zeus’ role in the contemporary portion is altered, but in contrast to these scholars, I will argue that this change serves to bolster the audience’s belief in Zeus’ efficacy rather than diminish it. His epiphanies may not be anthropomorphic, but if storms are literally real, then so is Zeus, to whom they are credited.

  • 51 Hes., WD 32, 597, 805; 393.
  • 52 Hes., WD 145–146, 430.
  • 53 Hes., WD 614.
  • 54 Beall accepts these descriptors as more than figurative, and reluctantly takes that the religious (...)

37Hesiod inserts the Olympian gods into the everyday by re-casting them as genitive descriptors pertaining to their special areas of influence. For instance, Demeter appears repeatedly in WD as a genitive modifying ἀκτήν, “grain” or ἔργα.51 Ares and Athena each appear once, as a genitive with “works” and “worker”, respectively.52 Dionysus likewise appears in the genitive with “gifts” to signify wine.53 Like women and the miserable state of humanity, each of these genitives is a confirmation and reminder of the reality of the gods’ influence. Perhaps upon hearing the phrase ἀκτὴν Δημήτερος (“grain of Demeter”) the listener recalls the story of Persephone and her mother, who threatened to hide that very same “grain” forever. Or the “gifts of Dionysus” trigger another’s memory of the performance of the Bacchae he had recently seen, where an actor dressed as the god himself graced the stage. The “works of Ares” recall the Trojan or Theban cycles, and “Athena’s worker” the crafts and craftiness granted by Athena to her legion of favorite mortals, such as Heracles and Odysseus.54 These brief genitive phrases assure Hesiod’s audience that the gods do still reveal themselves to contemporary people. Their epiphanies, however subtle, are as real as grain and wine.

  • 55 Beall (2004), p. 179.
  • 56 Hes., fr. 1.
  • 57 West (1978), p. 302.
  • 58 Hes., WD 618–620.
  • 59 Gantz hypothesizes that the seven mythical women known as the “Pleiades” were “originally dispara (...)

38Beyond linking the gods to human endeavors, Hesiod “naturalizes” the divine by re-casting figures of myth and worship as everyday elements of the natural landscape. For instance, at line 383, Hesiod makes his first mention of an Invisible Other made visible by their form in the natural world. Here, the poet mentions the constellation of the Pleiades, the “daughters of Atlas”, in the context of his advice on harvesting crops, reminding the audience of these nymphs’ Titanic origins.55 These nymphs are described in a fragment of the Astronomy as the daughters of Atlas, and Maia is numbered among them.56 The Pleiades, then, are Others, but their “epiphany” is not only palpable to all, but even predictable and frequent; in fact, WD demystifies their appearances by describing the timing of their risings and settings. At 571–572, the Pleiades appear again, this time more personified than in their first reference. Here, they are followed by the rising “house-bearer”, the snail.57 At 609, Orion, another constellation with a mythic background, arrives at mid-heaven, only to set again with the Pleiades and Hyades at 614–616. A few lines later, Hesiod notes that sailing is rough “when the Pleiades, fleeing the brute strength of Orion, fall into the cloudy ocean”.58 Here, Hesiod inserts the myth of Orion’s attempted rape of these nymphs into the contemporary world by naturalizing it: forever enshrined in the sky, the residue of the ancient past plays out predictably and visibly; it is a myth that everyone in his audience has seen.59 By weaving the Pleiades and their fellow constellations into his advice, Hesiod naturalizes these Others, reminding his audience that they are, in fact, very real — and very visible — indeed.

  • 60 West (1978), p. 258.
  • 61 West (1978), p. 262.
  • 62 In describing the cycle of the seasons, Hesiod says: “But after [Arcturus] the shrill-voiced daug (...)

39After the Pleiades’ first appearance, the next hint of the gods’ naturalization comes at line 398, when Hesiod advises Perses to “work the work which the gods marked out to humans”, using the verb διατεκμαίρομαι, the very same term, West notes, used of the seasons elsewhere in WD.60 Next, at lines 414–419, Hesiod equates Zeus with the sky for the first time. Sings the poet, “When the strength of the sweaty heat of the piercing sun abates, when mighty Zeus rains in autumn, a mortal’s body becomes far more nimble.” Like the Pleiades’ epiphany, Zeus’ is predictable and not at all described in supernatural terms. Every year, at the end of summer, after the star Sirius has released men from its fiery grip, Zeus will surely rain.61 By assimilating Zeus to the sky, Hesiod renders him and his influence on the contemporary world palpable, expected, and highly credible. At 488, 626, and 676, Hesiod repeatedly assimilates Zeus to the sky and states that this god “rains”, to the exact same effect.62 To equate Zeus to a passing rain shower confirms the audience members’ belief that they have experienced Zeus — sometimes several times in one day, weather permitting. Hesiod continually encourages the members of his audience to believe that they, no less than the golden race, “dear to the gods”, have experienced the influence of the divine.

  • 63 Hawes (2014), p. 24.
  • 64 Morgan (2000), p. 63.

40Taken apart from the rest of WD, it could be tempting to read Hesiod’s naturalization of the divine as an early attempt at allegoresis. Greta Hawes, in Rationalizing Myth in Antiquity, defines allegoresis as an interpretative strategy that attempts a “philosophical rehabilitation” of myth.63 That is, an allegorist reads a mythic narrative looking for the underlying truths purposefully “hidden” in the weeds of that narrative. Kathryn Morgan, in Myth and Philosophy from the Presocratics to Plato, provides a similar definition. She tracks the practice back to the end of the sixth century BCE, to the work of the grammarian Theagenes of Rhegion, and specifies that allegorists perceived mythological tales as comprising a genre unto themselves, “a genre with its own rules, and one which stands for something else”.64 Given these criteria, it seems possible to take Hesiod’s identification of Zeus with sky or rain as allegorical; after all, he is making the god “stand for” something else entirely.

  • 65 Morgan (2000), p. 65.

41There are two reasons, however, that argue against this reading of Hesiod. First, and most simply, allegoresis requires a mythic narrative. When Hesiod identifies Dionysus with wine, he is not relating a myth; rather, he is assuring his audience that Dionysus, a figure of myth, has a role in the quotidian world. There is no story here for Hesiod to allegorize. Second, we cannot take Hesiod’s “reading” of Zeus or any of the other gods in the natural world as allegorical because elsewhere, it is clear that the poet does take the existence of the gods and their abilities literally. To put it another way, if we were to take Zeus’ appearance as rain allegorically, we would need to assume that every time Hesiod refers to “Zeus”, he really means “rain”. This simply cannot be the case. For instance, when Hesiod says that Zeus punishes wicked men, or destroys the city of unjust kings, there is no sign he “really means” that those people will be caught in a heavy downpour without an umbrella. Hesiod means exactly what he says: Zeus will punish evil people — literally, even if Hesiod avoids the specifics of who those people are exactly. As Morgan puts it: “An allegorical reading presupposes a prior discounting of literal meaning”, and Hesiod never discounts the literal influence of literal divinities on the contemporary world — in fact, he encourages belief in just the same.65

42To this end, Hesiod employs a second technique, beyond insisting upon the gods’ influence by attributing to them roles in mundane phenomena: he creates an analogy between abstract concepts and the gods of myth. This analogy predisposes the poet’s audience to the possibility that they have experienced the influence of Invisible Others, since these other Invisible Others, Hesiod reminds them, are so present in human lives. Like the gods, concepts such as Hunger and Strife are surely invisible; crucially, unlike the gods, the existence of such concepts is undeniable. Perses’ current engagement with strife, incidentally, is the very occasion for Hesiod’s poetry. By reinforcing the power of concepts, Hesiod tacitly reinforces the reality of the influence of the gods, whose effect on the contemporary world might not be so obvious as that of famine. Here, I will focus on S/strife and J/justice, as these two receive some of the most thorough personification.

43Strife enters the poem early, at line 11, in her personified form, capitalized by West, and reappears later in the work. Hesiod introduces her by singing,

ἡ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλει,
σχετλίη· οὔ τις τήν γε φιλεῖ βροτός, ἀλλ᾽ ὑπ᾽ ἀνάγκης
ἀθανάτων βουλῇσιν Ἔριν τιμῶσι βαρεῖαν.
τὴν δ᾽ ἑτέρην προτέρην μὲν ἐγείνατο Νὺξ ἐρεβεννή,
θῆκε δέ μιν Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος αἰθέρι ναίων
γαίης τ᾽ ἐν ῥίζῃσι καὶ ἀνδράσι πολλὸν ἀμείνω·
ἥ τε καὶ ἀπάλαμόν περ ὅμως ἐπὶ ἔργον ἔγειρεν.
εἰς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἰδὼν ἔργοιο χατίζων
πλούσιον, ὃς σπεύδει μὲν ἀρώμεναι ἠδὲ φυτεύειν
οἶκόν τ᾽ εὖ θέσθαι, ζηλοῖ δέ τε γείτονα γείτων
εἰς ἄφενος σπεύδοντ᾽· ἀγαθὴ δ᾽ Ἔρις ἥδε βροτοῖσιν.

  • 66 Hes., WD 14–24.

For the one Strife is wicked, she prepares evil war and battle: no mortal at any rate loves her, but by necessity by the will of the immortals, people honor Eris. But on the other hand, dark Night indeed produced the other one first, and the son of Cronus who sits high, living in the aether, placed her in the roots of the earth, and she is better by far for men: and this one was rousing even a lazy man likewise to work. For someone, upon looking at a wealthy person, someone who is eager both to plow and to plant and to set his household in order, craves work: and a neighbor is jealous of a neighbor who hastens toward wealth: but this Strife is good for mortals.66

  • 67 Hes., WD 802–804. Oath is elsewhere not personified by West, as in the description of the iron ra (...)

44Eris appears again in the calendrical portion of poem when Hesiod explains that the fifth day is unlucky, since on that day, “they say” that the Erinyes helped Eris give birth to Oath, again linking this concept to the divine and personifying her again.67

45Immediately upon introducing Strife, Hesiod makes clear that she is a potent and indeed complex force, despite her invisible nature. Much like Zeus, who may or may not grant the prayers of his worshipers, Strife can be either creative or destructive. And, again like the gods, she must be honored despite her mercurial nature. Most crucially for Hesiod’s encouragement of belief, however, Strife has a tangible effect on the human world. In fact, Hesiod’s point in introducing the two Strifes is precisely to argue that they do palpably affect humanity, in order to persuade Perses to do his best to disengage from the destructive Strife. Thus, even if Hesiod means Zeus’ placement of Strife in the “roots of the earth” to be metaphorical (which I do not believe he does), the effects of that Strife are still very real. Further, and again crucially for Hesiod’s implicit argument, despite her lack of visible form, humans encounter Strife every day: in the marketplace, in court, or in conversation with a neighbor.

  • 68 Hes., WD 724–726.

46Justice, unlike Strife, has one side only, but like Strife, her effect on the human world is potent. Whether or not human beings engage correctly with Justice impacts both their own quality of life and that of other people: the “gift-devouring kings”, for instance, in their refusal to use right judgements, threaten their communities by abusing justice. Similarly, engaging with the gods correctly is crucial for success: “Never pour a libation of shining wine to Zeus after dawn with unwashed hands, nor to the other deathless gods”, warns Hesiod, “for they do not hear your prayers, but spit them back.”68 With these personifications, the poet prepares his audience for such advice, found in high density in WD’s calendrical portion.

47Even further, like both the gods and like Strife, Justice is highly personified. Hesiod advises,

ὦ Πέρση, σὺ δ᾽ ἄκουε ∆ίκης, μηδ᾽ ὕβριν ὄφελλε·
ὕβρις γάρ τε κακὴ δειλῷ βροτῷ: οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλὸς
ῥηιδίως φερέμεν δύναται, βαρύθει δέ θ᾽ ὑπ᾽ αὐτῆς
ἐγκύρσας Ἄτῃσιν· ὁδὸς δ᾽ ἑτέρηφι παρελθεῖν
κρείσσων ἐς τὰ δίκαια· δίκη δ᾽ ὑπὲρ ὕβριος ἴσχει
ἐς τέλος ἐξελθοῦσα· παθὼν δέ τε νήπιος ἔγνω:
αὐτίκα γὰρ τρέχει Ὅρκος ἅμα σκολιῇσι δίκῃσιν,
τῆς δὲ Δίκης ῥόθος ἑλκομένης ᾗ κ᾽ ἄνδρες ἄγωσιν
δωροφάγοι, σκολιῇς δὲ δίκῃς κρίνωσι θέμιστας.
ἣ δ᾽ ἕπεται κλαίουσα πόλιν καὶ ἤθεα λαῶν,
ἠέρα ἑσσαμένη, κακὸν ἀνθρώποισι φέρουσα
οἵ τε μιν ἐξελάσουσι καὶ οὐκ ἰθεῖαν ἔνειμαν.

  • 69 Hes., WD 212–224.

Perses, listen to Justice, do not heed Hubris: for Hubris is bad for a wretched mortal: not even the noble man is able to bear it easily, but rather he is weighed down under it when he meets with Ruin; the road in the other direction, toward just things, proceeds better, and Justice overcomes hubris when it crosses the finish line; but the fool only learns this through suffering: for immediately Oath keeps pace with poor judgements, and there is a crash when Justice is being dragged away where gift-devouring men lead her, and they judge laws with poor judgements. But she goes through the city and among the races of humanity crying out, clothed in mist, bringing evil to men, the sort who drove her out and did not deal straight [justice?].69

  • 70 West (1978), p. 211–212.
  • 71 West (1978), p. 221.

48Hesiod here portrays Justice as if she were a physical being, someone whom it is possible to “listen to”. Moreover, she is here contrasted with Hubris, which is likewise portrayed as a physical being, something that can weigh someone down. Justice and Hubris are further characterized — joined by Oath, Eris’ offspring — in the vignette that follows, then Justice appears alone in a further comment. Hesiod here elaborately mixes imagery to create a sort of “super-vignette”. Justice “overcomes” Hubris in a running race, then is “dragged away”, as if raped.70 She then roams the city “crying out” and somehow brings “evil” upon those who did not heed her. The poet thus invites his audience to engage with the concept of Justice, to imagine her as a female figure — perhaps even one like the beseeching Thetis of the Iliad, to whom the comparison is natural in Hesiod’s next personification of the concept.71 After he describes the golden-age existence of the just communities and the miserable fate of their unjust counterparts, Hesiod again imagines Justice:

ἡ δέ τε παρθένος ἐστὶ Δίκη, Διὸς ἐκγεγαυῖα,
κυδρή τ᾽ αἰδοίη τε θεοῖς οἳ Ὄλυμπον ἔχουσιν·
καί ῥ᾽ ὁπότ᾽ ἄν τίς μιν βλάπτῃ σκολιῶς ὀνοτάζων,
αὐτίκα πὰρ Διὶ πατρὶ καθεζομένη Κρονίωνι
γηρύετ᾽ ἀνθρώπων ἄδικον νόον, ὄφρ᾽ ἀποτείσῃ
δῆμος ἀτασθαλίας βασιλέων, οἳ λυγρὰ νοέοντες
ἄλλῃ παρκλίνωσι δίκας σκολιῶς ἐνέποντες.

  • 72 Hes., WD 256–262.

And there is the maiden Justice, the daughter of Zeus, who is glorified and revered among the gods who hold Olympus. And whenever anyone hurts her by falsely slandering her, she immediately, seated beside her father, Zeus the son of Cronus, announces to him the unjust mind of men, until the people pay for the wickedness of their kings who, conceiving of evils, twist judgements by speaking crookedly.72

49After concluding his speech, Hesiod enjoins Perses to “listen to”, ἐπάκουε, Justice again at line 275. At 277, justice shrinks back to her non-personified form when Hesiod states that there is no justice among animals.

50Like the personification of Eris, Justice here is an invisible force with immense power, similar to the gods yet distinct from them because of their largely conceptual nature. Much like the two Strifes, depending on her treatment by human beings, Justice can punish or reward their communities. Like the gods, her will is changeable, and not necessarily “fair”: their community must pay, for instance, for the transgressions of the kings — neither Zeus nor Justice need answer to human quibbles. Both Justice and Eris receive, like the gods do, an anthropomorphic form at least sometimes. They are given human form, for instance when Justice is “dragged” and when Eris gives birth to Oath, despite their necessary invisibility. In terms of their invisibility, potency, and personification, then, Eris and Justice resemble strongly the gods as portrayed by Hesiod. Most importantly, no one would argue that he has never encountered Justice or her abuse, or Eris, whether beneficial or destructive, despite their lack of physicality, or incorporation into metaphors or allegories. Thus, because of the analogy Hesiod sets up between concepts and gods, the influential concepts in WD tacitly encourage belief in the gods’ continued intervention in the contemporary period.

  • 73 Hes., WD 73–75.
  • 74 Hes., WD 73, 256–262 (West [1978], p. 221).

51Hesiod’s treatment of the influential abstracts that populate not only WD, but also the Theogony, consistently blurs the line, constructed by modern scholars, between “god” and “concept”. The analogy between gods and concepts, for instance, is strengthened by Hesiod’s description of the Hours and Persuasion decking out Pandora alongside other fully-personified gods, and prevent his audience from taking Hesiod’s presentation of influential concepts as pure metaphor.73 Justice’s ability to beseech her father Zeus, in the manner of Thetis in the Iliad, we should likewise take literally.74 There is no hint that these scenes ought to be taken figuratively just because their actors are concepts and not “real gods”.

  • 75 Hes., WD 17, 764.
  • 76 Hes., Theogony 211–232.

52Hesiod’s decision to incorporate abstract concepts into divine lineages further suggests the analogy between these beings whom we too often mistake as belonging to different categories. In WD, not only Justice, but Strife too is built into the divine family, as the daughter of Night, while Rumor is explicitly termed θεός by the poet.75 In the Theogony, meanwhile, among Night’s children number, in addition to Dreams, the Fates, and the Hesperides, Fate, Doom, Death, Sleep, Blame, Woe, Nemesis, Deceit, Passion, Old Age, and Strife. Strife herself gives birth (τέκε) to Work, Forgetfulness, Hunger (Λιμός), Sorrows, Fights, Battles, Murders, Homicides, Quarrels, Lies, Arguments, Lawlessness, Ruin, and Oath.76 Here, as in WD, Hesiod anthropomorphizes abstract concepts, even to the point that one of them, Strife, can “give birth” to other concepts. There is no sign in the Theogony that Hesiod intends the generation of these abstracts as metaphor; rather, just like their less abstract counterparts, such as the Hesperides or Fates, these are born from other divine elements (here, Night), and are numbered among them. If we take the Theogony and WD to be a diptych, then perhaps it is best to take the abstracts in WD as literally as they are meant in the Theogony.

  • 77 Nelson (1998), p. 108.

53Hesiod, then, to encourage his audience toward a positive conclusion regarding the continued influence of the divine, invokes physical and abstract entities. First, he assimilates the gods to physical phenomena, like wine or storms, to democratize the experience of the divine in contemporary times, and to render human contact with the divine indisputable: if Zeus is rain, then all people have surely experienced Zeus, and Hesiod need not maneuver gingerly around the topic (“it might rain or could rain”) as he is prone to do. As Stephanie Nelson so eloquently puts it, Hesiod’s gods, in the agricultural portion of WD, “are immediate, omnipresent, and, above all, part of a divine order, the order which creates the dramatic arrangement of the farmer’s year.”77 The gods are not figurative, but real, affecting the lives of Hesiod’s contemporaries. Second, Hesiod tacitly nods to the influence of Invisible Others by introducing other Invisible Others, ones whose influence on the modern world is as indisputable as the rain. Hesiod subtly provokes his audience to conclude that, if the invisible Strife and Justice can influence the contemporary world so profoundly, then the gods, despite their invisibility, should likewise be able to do so.

  • 78 Hes., WD 737–41.

54WD, then, proves itself to be both an explicitly and tacitly didactic poem, teaching its audience not only how to build a plow or take a wife, but even how to believe in the reality of the divine and its power in the past and present. Once he has adequately encouraged his audience to believe in the continued (and past) power of the gods, Hesiod can be sure that the advice he embeds in the closing calendar of WD will not go unheeded. The audience can take comfort, at least, in the predictability of the divine anger Hesiod advises against provoking. Much like the calendar, which proceeds always forward in time at a regular pace, so too does Hesiod characterize the potential wrath of the gods. When Hesiod begs, for example, his listeners not to cross a river with unwashed hands, there is no sense that the subsequent divine punishment would come on a whim, or be able to be avoided.78 Rather, the gods of the calendrical portion, unlike their counterparts that feature in the stories set in the deep past, act like clockwork, their likes and dislikes as transparent to Hesiod, a poet inspired by the Muses, as the ill- or well-omened days. His audience, then, convinced of divine power by the narrative techniques woven throughout WD, need not fear it so long as, of course, they take Hesiod’s well-placed and authoritative advice.

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M.L. West, Hesiod. Theogony, Oxford, 1966.

—, Hesiod. Works and Days, Oxford, 1978.

B.M. Wolkow, “The Mind of a Bitch: Pandora’s Motive and Intent in the Erga”, Hermes 135.3 (2007), p. 247–262.

F. Zeitlin, Playing the Other. Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature. Chicago, 1996.

W. Zhang, “The Poet as Educator in the Works and Days”, CJ 105.1 (2009), p. 1–17.

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1 Hesiod, Works and Days 706–828.

2 Hes., WD 724–726.

3 Hes., WD 706, 717–718, 727–730, 737–741, 755–756.

4 Hes., WD 826–827.

5 For the didactic character of WD, see Clay (1993), Zhang (2009). Heath (1985), p. 253–256 argues against the “actually” didactic nature of WD and ultimately reaffirms the “formally” didactic quality of the text.

6 The phrase “create and sustain belief” is borrowed from Johnston (2018).

7 Johnston (2018), p. 18–19.

8 By “world of WD” or “story world”, I mean that which Hesiod describes in WD. The world in which the Prometheus and Pandora story, the Races of Humanity tale, and the technical instruction and exhortations take place is the same.

9 Clay (2003), p. 140; Calame helpfully translates ἐτήτυμα as “factual reality” (Calame [2005], p. 43). It is no small matter that Bennett’s findings suggest that a rational and realistic person is more likely to be believed or cited when it comes to matters of the supernatural (Bennett [1999], p. 36–38).

10 Commands accompanied by name or personal pronoun recur throughout WD; and imperatives or infinitives accompanying an implied “you”, referring to Perses and/or the narrative audience, are even more common. For a specific instance of how Hesiod’s use of deictics, person, and mood establish the poetic “I” ’s authority, see Calame on WD’s “double introduction” (spanning lines 11–41) (Calame [2005], p. 42–47). Especially in its use of the vocative and imperative, WD presents itself, in terms of Émile Benveniste’s story types as adopted by Bennett, as a discourse rather than a history, a format more conducive to encouraging audience belief (Bennett [1999], p. 121).

11 West (1978), p. 3–30.

12 Fraser (2011), p. 12–13 concisely outlines Hesiod’s twin authority in matters mundane and divine.

13 For instance, in line 448, West notices that φράζεσθαι, in the injunction, “Mark whenever you hear the voice of the crane who, from the clouds high above, cries every year[…]” is reminiscent of oracles (West [1978], p. 272; for two other examples, see West [1978], p. 361, 371). Interestingly, this oracular turn of phrase introduces rather mundane advice. In this way, these oracular markers overstate the divinely-acquired foresight necessary to know when harvest is to begin or the best day to open a new jar of wine. Similarly, early in WD, Hesiod “foresees” events — events which are already happening, that is. In the story of the Races of Humanity, Hesiod uses the future tense to describe the plight of the iron race which, according to the logic of Hesiod’s own tale, is contemporary. See Beall (2005/2006), p. 171–172; Beye (1972), p. 28.

14 For instance, at lines 280–285, Hesiod explicitly connects piety with justice, saying that the god blesses the just but not the unjust; or at 274, Hesiod enjoins Perses to follow Justice and cast out force. See Beall (2005/2006); Dickie (1978), p. 98–99; Zhang (2009), p. 7–9.

15 See Zhang (2009), p. 9–11, for Hesiod’s authority to speak on matters divine.

16 Hes., WD 3–8.

17 Bennett (1999), p. 25–26.

18 Bennett (1999), p. 132–136.

19 Hänninen (2017), p. 130.

20 Calame (2004).

21 Hes., WD 35–36.

22 See also Hes., WD 635–652.

23 Calame employs the term “oscillation” to describe Hesiod’s ability to refer sometimes to a particular concrete situation (e.g., that Perses and Hesiod dispute over their inheritance) and at others, to “a general fictional situation” (e.g., that “one would praise” the good strife [12]): Calame (2005), p. 42–47.

24 West (1978), p. 33–34.

25 Hes., WD 29, 519–524, 582–596. See Bershadsky (2011), p. 1–8 for an analysis of the “prescription for the perfect picnic”, especially her comparison of Hesiod’s picnic scene to other idyllic settings in this poet and others, all of which happen to be set in the after-life or in the Golden Age.

26 Johnston (2018), p. 79–80.

27 Calame (2011).

28 Zeitlin (2011).

29 Hes., WD 372–377.

30 For the strong link between the tale of Pandora and that of the Races (and the hawk and nightingale fable), see Calame (2009), p. 67.

31 Calame (2009), p. 63.

32 This temporal continuity is evidenced subtly in Zeus’ direct speech to Prometheus, wherein the god says: “You rejoice (χαίρεις) having stolen fire […] but for you yourself and for men who will exist (ἀνδράσιν ἐσσομένοισιν) [there will be] great pain. But I will give (δώσω) to them, in exchange for the fire, an evil thing, in which they all might take pleasure, embracing their own evil” (Hes., WD 55–56). Here, Zeus predicts, internal to Hesiod’s story, that in the future — that is, in Hesiod’s day — men will suffer.

33 e.g. Beall (1991), p. 357.

34 For the relationship between WD’s “narrated time” and “time of narration” of the Races of Humanity story, see Calame (2009), p. 59–103.

35 Johnston (2018), p. 122.

36 There are several other Archaic (seventh- and sixth-century) representations of the Pandora story; see Gantz (1993), p. 157–158, 163–164 for a catalogue.

37 According to Timothy Gantz, “most editors” take lines 173a–c, in which Zeus assigns Cronus to rule over the Isles, as an interpolation: Gantz (1993), p. 47.

38 West (1978), p. 193 (Hes., WD 152–155, 168).

39 Gantz (1993), p. 132 (Homer, Odyssey IV, 561–569).

40 Hes., WD 160–165.

41 Audience members familiar with the Cypria might even supply Zeus as the instigator of these wars (Cypr. fr. 1 West, with schol. A Il. 1.5–6).

42 Even in the contemporary portion of WD, Hesiod invokes the mythic network. When Hesiod tells of his short sailing trip to Chalcis, he says: “But not ever did I sail over the wide sea, except for when I sailed to Euboea from Aulis, where once the Achaeans — waiting — gathered together a great host from holy Hellas [to sail] to Troy with its beautiful women” (Hes., WD 650–653). The narrative then immediately resumes. Each of these references, however brief, conflates the world of the deep past with the contemporary world, suggesting that, in the Greek imagination, these worlds were in fact the same: the very Aulis visited by Hesiod is literally equivalent to the city visited by Agamemnon and his armies. The mythic network, interestingly, can apparently legitimate not only mythic material but also material set in the contemporary world.

43 Hänninen (2017), p. 128.

44 In the second iteration of the adornment scene, wherein the gods perform the actions ordered by Zeus in the first iteration, Aphrodite is replaced by the Hours, Graces, and Persuasion.

45 In the Races tale, Zeus and “the immortal gods” (not otherwise specified) again perform supernatural actions that are unheard of in the contemporary period. As in the Pandora story, Zeus or the collective gods create human beings five times; unlike the Pandora story, however, the means by which they are created is left vague. Already then, as we edge closer to the contemporary portion of WD, Hesiod begins to become less committal regarding the actions of the gods.

46 Hes., WD 303–308.

47 For two other excellent examples of noncommittal language, see Hes., WD 267–273, 321–334.

48 Pausanias II, 27, 3. For a text and translation of the iamata, see E.J. Edelstein, L. Edelstein (1945).

49 Johnston (2018), p. 103.

50 Beall (2004), p. 179.

51 Hes., WD 32, 597, 805; 393.

52 Hes., WD 145–146, 430.

53 Hes., WD 614.

54 Beall accepts these descriptors as more than figurative, and reluctantly takes that the religious belief behind them is earnest: “Thus, while to me at least it would be attractive to portray Hesiod as a precursor of secular humanism, only needing to remove ‘theist metaphors’ from his treatment of farming, the facts will not support this hope” (Beall [2004], p. 184–187).

55 Beall (2004), p. 179.

56 Hes., fr. 1.

57 West (1978), p. 302.

58 Hes., WD 618–620.

59 Gantz hypothesizes that the seven mythical women known as the “Pleiades” were “originally disparate figures”. Nonetheless, the group appears as a constellation in the Iliad and Odyssey, appearing on the shield of Achilles in the former (Homer, Iliad XV, 486), and in the sky observed by Odysseus in the latter (Homer, Odyssey V, 272). That they were women is attested first “by an unattributed hexameter fragment, most likely from the Hesiodic Corpus, which assigns names to them […] (Hes. fr. 169 MW) […] though, the citer, not the preserved lines, identifies these sisters as the Pleiades; Simonides (555 PMG) is the first datable source to specifically link that term with daughters of Atlas” (Gantz [1993], p. 212–213).

60 West (1978), p. 258.

61 West (1978), p. 262.

62 In describing the cycle of the seasons, Hesiod says: “But after [Arcturus] the shrill-voiced daughter of Pandion rises, the swallow, to the light for men, when spring is newly beginning” (Hes., WD 568–569). Here, Hesiod refers obliquely to the story of Pandion’s daughters Procne and Philomela, the one married by the Thracian king Tereus, the other abducted and violated by the same man, unbeknownst to her sister. Procne subsequently transforms into a swallow, after she and her sister feed Tereus and Procne’s son, Itys, to the evil king.

63 Hawes (2014), p. 24.

64 Morgan (2000), p. 63.

65 Morgan (2000), p. 65.

66 Hes., WD 14–24.

67 Hes., WD 802–804. Oath is elsewhere not personified by West, as in the description of the iron race (Hes., WD 170–201).

68 Hes., WD 724–726.

69 Hes., WD 212–224.

70 West (1978), p. 211–212.

71 West (1978), p. 221.

72 Hes., WD 256–262.

73 Hes., WD 73–75.

74 Hes., WD 73, 256–262 (West [1978], p. 221).

75 Hes., WD 17, 764.

76 Hes., Theogony 211–232.

77 Nelson (1998), p. 108.

78 Hes., WD 737–41.

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Carman Romano

The Ohio State University

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