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Works and Days

The Works and Days (Ancient Greek: Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι, Erga kai Hēmerai) is a didactic poem of some 800 lines written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod around 700 BCE. At its center, the Works and Days is a farmer's almanac in which Hesiod instructs his brother Perses in the agricultural arts. Scholars have seen this work against a background of agrarian crisis in mainland Greece, which inspired a wave of colonial expeditions in search of new land. In the poem Hesiod also offers his brother extensive moralizing advice on how he should live his life. The Works and Days is perhaps best known for its two mythological aetiologies for the toil and pain that define the human condition: the story of Prometheus and Pandora, and the so-called Myth of Five Ages.

In the Works and Days, Hesiod describes himself as the heir of a farm bequeathed to him and his brother Perses. However, Perses apparently squandered his wealth and came back for what is owned by Hesiod. Perses went to law and bribed the lords to judge in his favour. The poem contains a sharp attack against unjust judges like those who decided in favour of Perses; they are depicted as pocketing bribes as they render their unfair verdicts. Hesiod seems to have thought that instead of giving him money or property which he will again spend in no time, it is better to teach him the virtues of work and to impart his wisdom which can be used to generate an income.

Like the Theogony, the Works and Days begins with a hymnic invocation to the Muses, albeit much shorter (10 verses to the Theogony's 115) and with a different focus. The poet invokes the "Pierian Muses" to sing of their father Zeus and his control of the fates of mankind. Through the power of Zeus men might be famous or nameless; he easily strengthens and oppresses the strong, reduces the conspicuous and raises up the inconspicuous; easily he straightens the crooked and withers the many. Hesiod then appeals to Zeus to guide his undertaking: "Hearken, seeing and hearing, and through justice put straight the laws; and may I speak the truth to Perses."

καὶ κεραμεὺς κεραμεῖ κοτέει καὶ τέκτονι τέκτων,
καὶ πτωχὸς πτωχῷ φθονέει καὶ ἀοιδὸς ἀοιδῷ.


And potter is ill-disposed to potter, and carpenter to carpenter,
and the beggar is envious of the beggar, the singer of the singer.

δαιμονίη, τί λέληκας; ἔχει νύ σε πολλὸν ἀρείων·
τῇ δ' εἶς ᾗ σ' ἂν ἐγώ περ ἄγω καὶ ἀοιδὸν ἐοῦσαν·
δεῖπνον δ', αἴ κ' ἐθέλω, ποιήσομαι ἠὲ μεθήσω.
ἄφρων δ', ὅς κ' ἐθέλῃ πρὸς κρείσσονας ἀντιφερίζειν·
νίκης τε στέρεται πρός τ' αἴσχεσιν ἄλγεα πάσχει.


You fool, why do you scream? Someone much your better has you.
You go wherever I conduct you, songstress though you may be.
I shall make you my dinner, if I wish, or let you go.
Senseless is he who wishes to set himself against his betters:
he lacks victory and suffers grief upon grief.

  • Rzach, A. (1908), Hesiodi Carmina (2nd rev. ed.), Leipzig .  Link to text – Editio maior.
  • Rzach, A. (1913), Hesiodi Carmina (3rd rev. ed.), Leipzig, ISBN  . – Editio minor.
  • Wilamowitz-Moellendorf, U. von (1928), Hesiodos' Erga, Berlin . – With introduction and commentary (in German); omits the "Days".
  • Sinclair, T.A. (1932), Hesiod, Works and Days, London . – With introduction and commentary.
  • West, M.L. (1978), Hesiod: Works & Days, Oxford, ISBN  . – With introduction and commentary.
  • Solmsen, F. (1990), Hesiodi Theogonia, Opera et Dies, Scutum (3rd rev. ed.), Oxford, ISBN  . – 3rd edition of Solmsen's 1970 Oxford Classical Text.
  • Evelyn-White, H.G. (1936), Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica, Loeb Classical Library, no. 57 (3rd rev. ed.), Cambridge, MA, ISBN  . Link to the full text of the 1914 first edition.  – English translation with introduction and facing Greek text.
  • Lattimore, Richmond. (1959). Hesiod: The Works and Days, Thegony, and The Shield of Herakles. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. . [1]
  • Athanassakis, A. (1983), Hesiod: Theogony, Works and days, Shield, Baltimore, ISBN  .  Link to text – With introduction and notes. [2]
  • Frazer, R.M. (1983), The Poems of Hesiod, Norman, Oklahoma, ISBN  .
  • Lombardo, S. (1993), Hesiod: Works & Days, Theogony, Indianapolis, ISBN  . – With introduction, notes and glossary by Robert Lamberton. [3]
  • Tandy, D.W.; Neale, W.C. (1996), Works and Days: a translation and commentary for the social sciences, Berkeley, ISBN  . [4]
  • Most, G.W. (2006), Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia, Loeb Classical Library, no. 57, Cambridge, MA, ISBN  . – English translation with introduction and facing Greek text. [5]
  • Schlegel, C.M.; Weinfield, H. (2006), Hesiod: Theogony and Works and Days, Ann Arbor, ISBN  . – With introduction and notes. [6]
  • Caldwell, R.; Nelson, S. (2006), Theogony & Works and Days, Indianapolis, ISBN  . – Introductions by the translators are also included, as is an essay by Caldwell entitled “The Psychology of the Succession Myth". [7]
  • Barron, J.P.; Easterling, P.E. (1985), "Hesiod", in P.E. Easterling; B.M.W. Knox, The Cambridge History of Classical Literature: Greek Literature, Cambridge, pp. 92–105, ISBN  .
  • Bartlett, Robert C. "An Introduction to Hesiod's Works and Days", The Review of Politics 68 (2006), pp. 177–205, University of Notre Dame.
  • Beall, E.F., What Pandora let out and what she left in, paper read at the annual meeting of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States, October 6, 2006
  • Cingano, E. (2009), "The Hesiodic Corpus", in Montanari, Rengakos & Tsagalis (2009), pp. 91–130  Missing or empty |title= (help) .
  • Clay, Jenny Strauss, Hesiod's Cosmos, Cambridge, 2003.
  • Kenaan, Vered Lev, Pandora's Senses : The Feminine Character of the Ancient Text, Madison, Wisconsin, University of Wisconsin Press, 2008.
  • Lamberton, Robert, Hesiod, New Haven : Yale University Press, 1988. . Cf. Chapter III, The Works and Days, pp. 105–133.
  • Montanari, F.; Rengakos, A.; Tsagalis, C. (2009), Brill's Companion to Hesiod, Leiden, ISBN  .
  • Nelson, Stephanie A., God and the Land: The Metaphysics of Farming in Hesiod and Vergil, New York and Oxford, 1998
  • Nisbet, Gideon, Hesiod, Works and Days: A Didaxis of Deconstruction?, Greece and Rome 51 (2004), pp. 147–63.
  • Peabody, Berkley, The Winged Word: A Study in the Technique of Ancient Greek Oral Composition as Seen Principally Through Hesiod's Works and Days, State University of New York Press, 1975.
  • Sistakou, E. (2009), "Callimachus Hesiodicus Revisited", in Montanari, Rengakos & Tsagalis (2009), pp. 219–52  Missing or empty |title= (help) .
  • Verdenius, Willem Jacob, A Commentary on Hesiod Works and Days vv. 1–382 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1985).


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