Hesiod – in Greek Ἡσίοδος, Hēsiodos – was a Greek poet who probably lived towards the end of the eighth century BCE. Born in Cyme in the northwest of Asia Minor, he travelled, with his father and his brother Perses, to Ascra in Central Greece, where the family settled. After their father’s death the brothers quarrelled bitterly over the division of the estate, Hesiod maintaining that Perses had received more than his fair share, Perses claiming he was entitled to even more According to the historian Thucydides (Histories 3.96) Hesiod met with a violent death.
Of the many works ascribed to Hesiod (some spuriously) two have survived: Works and Days (Ἔργα καὶ ἡμέραι, Erga kai hemerai), and Theogony (Θεογονία, Theogonia). Both are long poems – of about 800 and 1000 lines, respectively - and both are in hexameters.
Works and Days is a didactic poem about farming. It opens by addressing Perses on the contentious issue of the division of their father’s estate, and defends the principle that everyone should work for their living. It continues with a synoptic history of the world which represents the present age (the Iron Age) as one in which human life is nothing but toil and suffering, a far cry from the Golden Age when humans lived idyllic lives in the company of the gods. (See further The Five Ages). What follows (383-617) is the heart of the poem: a description of the farming year, the annual cycle of tasks which farmers must undertake. Hesiod places particular emphasis on the need for each activity to be undertaken at the right time, and the poem concludes with an account of the days which are propitious or unpropitious for various agricultural activities.
Theogony, the first work in Greek literature about Greek religious beliefs, has for its subject the familial relationships between the various, very numerous Greek gods. The poem is particularly concerned with Zeus, the chief of the gods: it tells how Ouranos, the first god was overthrown by his son, Kronos, who in turn, along with his brothers, the Titans, was overthrown by his son Zeus, who thereby acquired supreme power.