BMCR 2007.03.31

Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia. Loeb Classical Library 57

, , , Hesiod. The Loeb classical library ; 57, 503. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006. 2 volumes ; 17 cm.. ISBN 0674996224. $21.50.

This book is a vital part of the project to replace the miserable and totally outdated Loeb edition of Hesiod and the Homeric Hymns by H. G. Evelyn-White (1914). Anything would have been better than that volume, but Most (M.) does a superior job. I particularly admired the prose translations of Hesiod’s verse, since they are accurate and readable while at the same time serving as a crutch for students; whether scholars like it or not, this one of the essential functions of the Loeb series. This book will constitute the standard text and translation of Hesiod for general use for many years to come. Despite one major and several smaller lapses, it deserves high praise; everyone will need to own a copy.

This volume consists of an introduction with a bibliography of basic works in English (xi-lxxvii), the Theogony and Works and Days (2-153) and a selection of Testimonia (154-282), with a concordance to these last and an index. It is odd to have the Testimonia at the back. A second volume will contain the Shield of Heracles, Catalogue of Women and other fragments.1 Unfortunately the fragments will have a new numeration; scholars of early Greek epic are already drowning in numbers, but M. promises us a concordance as a flotation-device.

The introduction covers Hesiod’s life and times, his poetry, his influence and reception, the transmission of his poetry and the principles of this edition. The style is clear, elegant, sophisticated and often witty: thus the contest of Homer and Hesiod is a ‘shoot-out at the oral poetry corral’ (xix). The English is neither over-anglicized nor aggressively American, and the structure is limpid. M.’s views on the nature of Hesiod’s poetry will seem delightfully perceptive and instructive even to established scholars. He regards Hesiod as a real person who tells us some facts about his life, insisting that we consider what rhetorical and poetic purposes those facts fulfil in their context (‘the poet’s self-representation is always in the service of his self-legitimation’, xxii). His position should not be controversial, save among those who hold that early Greek poems were composed at no particular time or place by editorial committees which ascribed them to non-existent authors. Hesiod’s name, he correctly holds, derives from ὁδός. But its prior element ἡσι‐ comes from ἵημι (cf. T28) rather than ἥδομαι, as he thinks (xiv). Presumably Hesiod’s father named his son ‘Way-sender’ because the latter was born when he was setting off on a journey, perhaps even the one that ended at Ascra; compare the name Prexiodos ‘Wayfarer’.2

M. thinks Hesiod, and Homer too, were poets who exploited the new technology of writing to create poems that transcended the oral tradition from which they arose, including ‘far more material than could ever have been presented continuously in a purely oral format’ (xx). It is disappointing to see neglected in a book from Harvard the proof by Milman Parry and Albert Lord that oral poets can create long and complex poems, but luckily the evidence still exists in Widener Library, and their argument is readily available in Lord’s three books.3 Even if M. is only making the weaker claim that the fixing of the texts by dictation enabled the poets, who were still oral composers, to refer to their own prior fixed texts, he may not convince: for when Hesiod says ‘there was not, after all, only one strife’ (WD 11), he can be taken as correcting the tradition rather than as referring to a fixed text of the Theogony. One can compare Od. 24. 76-9, where Homer notes that Achilles’ bones were mingled with those of Patroclus, giving the version of the Iliad, rather than with those of Antilochus, which was the traditional story. This is, for me, a sign that the Iliad and Odyssey are by one single poet, who was capable of insisting on his own version of the tradition; but it does not prove that he wrote rather than dictated.

M. holds that Hesiod’s date relative to Homer is ‘probably undecidable’ (xxv). This is his major lapse. Following Eratosthenes (Strabo I 2.14, I 2.22), Aristarchus marshalled much evidence, principally from geography, that Hesiod was later than Homer, since Hesiod knew of more remote places in the Mediterranean and named them more accurately, e.g. the Nile.4 These arguments are missing from M.’s Testimonia, perhaps because they are transmitted in scholia to Homer that rarely contain Hesiod’s name. In addition, M. L. West mentioned neither these scholia nor Aristarchus when he so influentially argued that Hesiod antedates Homer; the omission is curious, since West knew of Aristarchus’ arguments and conclusion.5 C. M. Schroeder has now shown that Aristarchus wrote a whole monograph entitled Περὶ ἡλικίας Ἡσιόδου, ‘On the Date of Hesiod’, to which these scholia refer.6 Eratosthenes and Aristarchus were among the best philologists of antiquity; do their observations not merit inclusion?

It is also, regrettably, my prerogative to point out that modern statistical study of the poets’ diction has put Homer’s chronological priority to Hesiod beyond reasonable doubt—a fact that M. does not report even as a claim.7 Other methods can readily surpass philology when it comes to understanding certain aspects of reality. Thus Eratosthenes used mathematics, not philology, to establish the diameter of the earth. Once mathematical proofs have been derived from verifiable and repeatable measurements and calculations, no other type of argument can make it likely either that Homer postdates Hesiod or that the earth is flat.

One result of M.’s lapse is that he adopts West’s hypothesis that the Catalogue of Women is spurious and of sixth-century date. This view is increasingly shaky, since its main prop, the alleged reference to the colonization of Cyrene in c. 631 B.C.E., is unfounded.8 Another result is that M. follows West in athetizing the end of the Theogony, where linguistic and other arguments strongly support Hesiod’s authorship.9 Incidentally, the ‘Descent of Peirithous to Hades’ was not by Hesiod, as M. indicates (lx with T42), but was falsely ascribed to him, since it was the same poem as the ‘Minyas’ by the epic poet Prodicus.10

M.’s text of Hesiod, blessedly free of misprints, is based on West’s, whose sigla he uses ( Δ and Φ ought to have been explained). M. wisely eschews some of West’s bolder emendations, and generally makes good choices among readings; he should not have followed West at Th. 900 and WD 288 in printing ancient misquotations rather than the paradosis. He prints some transpositions, none of which convince. He rightly reacts against past over-indulgence in athetesis. However, rather than continue to report arbitrary deletions by editors from the school of Wolf, he should have put more weight on the weak attestation of verses in the paradosis, since, as in the case of Homer, the trend was toward accretion. In at least a dozen places lines that are missing in papyri or part of the medieval transmission should have been printed between (curly and not square) brackets, since they are demonstrably spurious. Their inclusion materially changes the sense, and few users of a basic Loeb will know enough to eject them.11

The translation, in prose, is fluent and accurate. The English is neither too archaic nor too modern. M. brilliantly replicates Hesiod’s adding-style, often conserving his word-order, and has taken pains to use the same wording to render terms where possible. This is especially good for the fixed epithets and for reproducing the effect of Hesiod’s verbal repetitions (but it goes too far to leave out ‘is’ in WD 210). Divine names are glossed where appropriate, and Chaos is well rendered ‘Chasm’. I noticed few minor errors. Some aorists are not taken as pluperfects where English requires this, e.g. in Th. 642. For ‘Cyprogenea’ read ‘Cyprogenes’ (19). γλαυκή is not ‘bright’ (39); φραδμοσύναι are not ‘prophecies’ but ‘advice’ (53). A πρηστήρ is a tornado (Th 846), ἀγήνωρ means ‘proud’ (WD 7), ἤθεα κεδνά are ‘good habits’ (WD 699), and μητρυιή means ‘stepmother’ (WD 825).

The well-organized and valuable selection of testimonia replaces that of Jacoby. M. has been less diligent here and has left some obvious textual corruptions uncorrected. Thus T1 mentions the ‘grandfather of the founding father Homer’, who was long dead by 1776. The old word for ‘grandfather’, προπάτωρ, has been glossed with the new one πάππος (cf. Hesychius s.v.): for Ὁμήρου προπάτορος εἶναι πάππον read Ὁμήρου προπάτορα εἶναι {πάππον}. In T2 Μοῦσαι should be deleted as a gloss (M. omits it in translation); so too τῇ Μολυκρίᾳ in T31. The translation of T13, echoed by the index, makes Acastus a (non-existent) king of Chios, when the basileus of Athens is meant (cf. T2): read ‘Homer was born on Chios during the reign of Acastus’. M.’s rendering of T17 (Hippias fr. B 6 D.-K.) shows that we must emend ἄλλῳ ἀλλαχοῦ to ἄλλα ἀλλαχοῦ. In T20 square, not angled, brackets are needed. To explain why Lesches appears in a report of Hesiod’s contest with Homer at the games of Amphidamas (T38), we may suspect that the words Ὁμήρου καὶ Ἡσιόδου entered the text as a gloss on τῶν ἀνταγωνιστῶν; the gloss would have been added by a reader who supposed Plutarch meant the canonical ‘Contest of Homer and Hesiod’, whereas the historian knew a version involving Lesches instead. In Manilius 2.19 Housman rightly read ‘legesque’, which M. translates, not ‘legesve’ (T47). Latin appears in Greek script in T69. In T114 ἐξειλεγμένα is not translated; nor is ὥς τε καὶ ὥς in T120. ὑπόμνημα means ‘commentary’ not ‘treatise’, which would be σύγγραμμα (T145, 146, 148). In T154 one must correct θεᾶν to θεῶν; the same error is in the TLG.

In the index ‘Acharne’ is Acharnae (289), Messene is not Messina (290, also T88), Apesas is a mountain near Nemea, Cythera is not a ‘town in Cyprus’, the relevant Locris is not in Italy, ‘Mallus’ is Mallos (293, also T50, T139) and Naupactus is not on the Isthmus. Eratosthenes and Aristarchus would have noticed.


1. M. was able to take account of M. Hirschberger, Gynaikon Katalogos und Megalai Ehoiai, Munich and Leipzig 2004, which I will review in Exemplaria Classica, but not of R. L. Hunter (ed.), The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women, Cambridge 2005. Regrettably, the bibliography omits J. Strauss Clay, Hesiod’s Cosmos, Cambridge 2003.

2. P. M. Fraser and E. Matthews, A Lexicon of Greek Personal Names I, Oxford 1987, 387.

3. The Singer of Tales, Cambridge MA 1960; Epic Singers and Oral Tradition, Ithaca 1991; The Singer Resumes the Tale, ed. M. L. Lord, Ithaca 1995.

4. It accords with this volume’s errors of geography that the rivers mentioned by Hesiod are not given their modern names, even in the index.

5. Hesiod: Theogony, Oxford 1966, 40-8, cf. 260-1.

6. ‘A New Monograph of Aristarchus?’, JHS 127 (2007), to appear. See for instance schol. A on Il. 10.430, which M. omits even though Aristonicus transmits the title in full.

7. See R. Janko, Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns: Diachronic Development in Epic Diction, Cambridge 1982. M. also passes over my arguments for the date of the Shield ( CQ 36 (1986) 38-59).

8. So A. Köhnken ‘”Meilichos orga”: Liebesthematik und aktueller Sieg in der Neunten Pythischen Ode Pindars’, in A. Hurst (ed.), Pindare (Entretiens pour l’étude de l’antiquité classique), Geneva 1985, 71-111, at 101, 103; C. Dougherty, The Poetics of Colonization, New York and Oxford 1993, 147; P. Dräger, Argo pasimelousa, Stuttgart 1993, 221-8; G. B. D’Alessio, ‘The Megalai Ehoiai : a survey of the fragments’, in Hunter 2005 (above n. 1), 206-7.

9. E.g. P. Dräger, Untersuchungen zu den Frauenkatalogen Hesiods, Stuttgart 1997, 1-26; G. Arrighetti, Esiodo: Opere, Turin 1998, 445-7.

10. R. Janko, Philodemus: On Poems Book 1, Oxford 2000, 336 n. 1, followed by M. L. West, Greek Epic Fragments, Cambridge MA 2003, 268-75.

11. The spurious verses are Th. 19, 111, 288, 434, 630, 768, 774 and perhaps 148, 218-19; WD 120, 124-5, 310, 370-2, 700 and perhaps 244-5, 406.