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C O U R S E 
The Ancient Greeks
Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Wesleyan University
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Hesiod's Creation Myth: Theogony
Notes taken on July 26, 2013 by Edward Tanguay
Hesiod (750BC-660BC)
around the same time as Homer
one of the first European poets to regard himself as a topic
Hesiod and Homer established Greek religious customs
major source on Greek mythology, farming techniques, early economic thought, archaic Greek astronomy, and ancient time-keeping
Homer composed heroic epic, Hesiod composed didactic epic (emphasizing instructional and informative qualities)
unlike Homer, Hesiod tells us a bit about himself
from Ascra
an awful place in the winter, miserable in the summer, nice never
his father emigrated there because of poverty
creation myth
shares a great deal with similar stories from the Near East
process of disorder to order
out of chaos emerges Gaea [GUY-ah] (Earth) who in turn produces Uranus [UR-in-us] (the sky), these two have sex, but then Uranus stuffs the offspring back into Gaea because he is scared of being overthrown. Gaea conspires with her youngest son, Kronos, and once when Gaea comes down with romance in his mind, Kronos takes the sickle given to him and castrates his father Uranus, the severed genitals are tossed into the sea and out of the foam that surrounds them comes the Goddess of Love, Aphrodite. Now Kronos starts reproducing and devours his own children (Goya's painting in Madrid). The youngest child now Zeus, assisted by Gaea, has a conflict with his father Kronos, and Zeus finally triumphs, his weapon of choice being the thunderbolt. Violence, betrayal, illicit sexuality and generational conflict characterize this creation myth.
Zeus has to fight for supremacy, has to overcome the Titans: Atlas and his brother Prometheus
Prometheus story: he is a trickster, he tricks Zeus, were going to have a sacrifice, take slaughtered animal, Prometheus hides the good meat and wraps the bones in glistening white fat, then Zeus finds there is only bones inside and is very angry, in retaliation, Zeus withdraws fire from men (when Gods quarrel, we suffer). Prometheus steals the fire back, gives it to men, Zeus has Prometheus tied to a crag, where an eagle comes down and devours his liver everyday and it regenerates by night, and for a punishment gives mankind women in the form of Pandora, she gets gifts from all the gods, she is very beautiful, Prometheus' half-wit brother Epimetheus accepts her, bad mistake, Pandora then releases from a jar all of the evils in the world. This myth explains why we sacrifice the way we do, why we have fire, why we have women, and why we have hope (it was left in the jar from which the evils sprang).
Zeus then sets about reproducing
with Metis
challenges her to a game of changing shapes, he says I bet you can't turn into a fly, she does, and when she's in mid-air he grabs her and swallows her, and then gives birth himself, to the goddess Athena, who is born fully armed out of his head
genuine polytheism
a number of gods with Zeus very much at the top
each with various areas of expertise
after triumphing by force, Zeus comes to be identifying with the principle of justice
The Works and Days
one great subject of this work is justice
Hesiod has a brother, Perses, frequently called by Hesiod a nitwit, because he has cheated Hesiod from his inheritance
the control of property by a family was a topic of enormous importance to the Greeks all the way through the Greek ages
Hesiod tries to tell his brother that there are two kinds of strife: good kind that makes you want to excel, and then the bad kind which leads to quarreling
much general advice of agriculture, what is appropriate to the various seasons, and folk beliefs of what you should or should not do in the fields