Home 

About the Editor

Links

Resources

Then Again. . .

 

 

 

Hesiod

Theogony

 

 

Hesiod (ca. 700 BC) is, along with Homer, one of the founders of Greek literature.  He was a farmer, living in the region of Boeotia, but, aside from some asides in his writings, we know few details of his life.  Works and Days, one of the two for which he is best known, describes the life of a farmer as well as "the ages of Man."  His other great work, Theogony,  describes the generations of the Greek gods.  

I. The Birth of Zeus

(ll. 453-491) But Rhea was subject in love to Cronos and bare
splendid children, Hestia (18), Demeter, and gold-shod Hera and
strong Hades, pitiless in heart, who dwells under the earth, and
the loud-crashing Earth-Shaker, and wise Zeus, father of gods and
men, by whose thunder the wide earth is shaken. These great
Cronos swallowed as each came forth from the womb to his mother's
knees with this intent, that no other of the proud sons of Heaven
should hold the kingly office amongst the deathless gods. For he
learned from Earth and starry Heaven that he was destined to be
overcome by his own son, strong though he was, through the
contriving of great Zeus (19). Therefore he kept no blind
outlook, but watched and swallowed down his children: and
unceasing grief seized Rhea. But when she was about to bear
Zeus, the father of gods and men, then she besought her own dear
parents, Earth and starry Heaven, to devise some plan with her
that the birth of her dear child might be concealed, and that
retribution might overtake great, crafty Cronos for his own
father and also for the children whom he had swallowed down. And
they readily heard and obeyed their dear daughter, and told her
all that was destined to happen touching Cronos the king and his
stout-hearted son. So they sent her to Lyetus, to the rich land
of Crete, when she was ready to bear great Zeus, the youngest of
her children. Him did vast Earth receive from Rhea in wide Crete
to nourish and to bring up. Thither came Earth carrying him
swiftly through the black night to Lyctus first, and took him in
her arms and hid him in a remote cave beneath the secret places
of the holy earth on thick-wooded Mount Aegeum; but to the
mightily ruling son of Heaven, the earlier king of the gods, she
gave a great stone wrapped in swaddling clothes. Then he took it
in his hands and thrust it down into his belly: wretch! he knew
not in his heart that in place of the stone his son was left
behind, unconquered and untroubled, and that he was soon to
overcome him by force and might and drive him from his honours,
himself to reign over the deathless gods.

(ll. 492-506) After that, the strength and glorious limbs of the
prince increased quickly, and as the years rolled on, great
Cronos the wily was beguiled by the deep suggestions of Earth,
and brought up again his offspring, vanquished by the arts and
might of his own son, and he vomited up first the stone which he
had swallowed last. And Zeus set it fast in the wide-pathed
earth at goodly Pytho under the glens of Parnassus, to be a sign
thenceforth and a marvel to mortal men (20). And he set free
from their deadly bonds the brothers of his father, sons of
Heaven whom his father in his foolishness had bound. And they
remembered to be grateful to him for his kindness, and gave him
thunder and the glowing thunderbolt and lightening: for before
that, huge Earth had hidden these. In them he trusts and rules
over mortals and immortals.

II. The Creation of Women

Forthwith he made an evil thing for men as the price of fire; for
the very famous Limping God formed of earth the likeness of a shy
maiden as the son of Cronos willed. And the goddess bright-eyed
Athene girded and clothed her with silvery raiment, and down from
her head she spread with her hands a broidered veil, a wonder to
see; and she, Pallas Athene, put about her head lovely garlands,
flowers of new-grown herbs. Also she put upon her head a crown
of gold which the very famous Limping God made himself and worked
with his own hands as a favour to Zeus his father. On it was
much curious work, wonderful to see; for of the many creatures
which the land and sea rear up, he put most upon it, wonderful
things, like living beings with voices: and great beauty shone
out from it.

(ll. 585-589) But when he had made the beautiful evil to be the
price for the blessing, he brought her out, delighting in the
finery which the bright-eyed daughter of a mighty father had
given her, to the place where the other gods and men were. And
wonder took hold of the deathless gods and mortal men when they
saw that which was sheer guile, not to be withstood by men.

(ll. 590-612) For from her is the race of women and female kind:
of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst
mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful
poverty, but only in wealth. And as in thatched hives bees feed
the drones whose nature is to do mischief -- by day and
throughout the day until the sun goes down the bees are busy and
lay the white combs, while the drones stay at home in the covered
skeps and reap the toil of others into their own bellies -- even
so Zeus who thunders on high made women to be an evil to mortal
men, with a nature to do evil. And he gave them a second evil to
be the price for the good they had: whoever avoids marriage and
the sorrows that women cause, and will not wed, reaches deadly
old age without anyone to tend his years, and though he at least
has no lack of livelihood while he lives, yet, when he is dead,
his kinsfolk divide his possessions amongst them. And as for the
man who chooses the lot of marriage and takes a good wife suited
to his mind, evil continually contends with good; for whoever
happens to have mischievous children, lives always with unceasing
grief in his spirit and heart within him; and this evil cannot be
healed.

III. The Children of Zeus

(ll. 886-900) Now Zeus, king of the gods, made Metis his wife
first, and she was wisest among gods and mortal men. But when
she was about to bring forth the goddess bright-eyed Athene, Zeus
craftily deceived her with cunning words and put her in his own
belly, as Earth and starry Heaven advised. For they advised him
so, to the end that no other should hold royal sway over the
eternal gods in place of Zeus; for very wise children were
destined to be born of her, first the maiden bright-eyed
Tritogeneia, equal to her father in strength and in wise
understanding; but afterwards she was to bear a son of
overbearing spirit, king of gods and men. But Zeus put her into
his own belly first, that the goddess might devise for him both
good and evil.

(ll. 901-906) Next he married bright Themis who bare the Horae
(Hours), and Eunomia (Order), Dike (Justice), and blooming Eirene
(Peace), who mind the works of mortal men, and the Moerae (Fates)
to whom wise Zeus gave the greatest honour, Clotho, and Lachesis,
and Atropos who give mortal men evil and good to have.

(ll. 907-911) And Eurynome, the daughter of Ocean, beautiful in
form, bare him three fair-cheeked Charites (Graces), Aglaea, and
Euphrosyne, and lovely Thaleia, from whose eyes as they glanced
flowed love that unnerves the limbs: and beautiful is their
glance beneath their brows.

(ll. 912-914) Also he came to the bed of all-nourishing Demeter,
and she bare white-armed Persephone whom Aidoneus carried off
from her mother; but wise Zeus gave her to him.

(ll. 915-917) And again, he loved Mnemosyne with the beautiful
hair: and of her the nine gold-crowned Muses were born who
delight in feasts and the pleasures of song.

(ll. 918-920) And Leto was joined in love with Zeus who holds the
aegis and bare Apollo and Artemis delighting in arrows, children
lovely above all the sons of Heaven.

(ll. 921-923) Lastly, he made Hera his blooming wife, and she was
joined in love with the king of gods and men, and brought forth
Hebe and Ares and Eileithyia.

(ll. 924-929) But Zeus himself gave birth from his own head to
bright-eyed Tritogeneia (29), the awful, the strife-stirring, the
host-leader, the unwearying, the queen, who delights in tumults
and wars and battles. But Hera without union with Zeus -- for
she was very angry and quarrelled with her mate -- bare famous
Hephaestus, who is skilled in crafts more than all the sons of
Heaven.

(ll. 929a-929t) (30) But Hera was very angry and quarrelled with
her mate. And because of this strife she bare without union with
Zeus who holds the aegis a glorious son, Hephaestus, who excelled
all the sons of Heaven in crafts. But Zeus lay with the fair-
cheeked daughter of Ocean and Tethys apart from Hera....
((LACUNA))
....deceiving Metis (Thought) although she was full wise. But he
seized her with his hands and put her in his belly, for fear that
she might bring forth something stronger than his thunderbolt:
therefore did Zeus, who sits on high and dwells in the aether,
swallow her down suddenly. But she straightway conceived Pallas
Athene: and the father of men and gods gave her birth by way of
his head on the banks of the river Trito. And she remained
hidden beneath the inward parts of Zeus, even Metis, Athena's
mother, worker of righteousness, who was wiser than gods and
mortal men. There the goddess (Athena) received that (31)
whereby she excelled in strength all the deathless ones who dwell
in Olympus, she who made the host-scaring weapon of Athena. And
with it (Zeus) gave her birth, arrayed in arms of war.


From: The On-Line Medieval and Classical Library The original e-text is copyright 1995 by Sunsite. Used by permission. The original text has been modified for classroom use.

 

Introduction and e-text copyright 2005 by David W. Koeller dkoeller@sbcglobal.net. All rights reserved.