« PreviousContinue »
sionally trivial, should attract readers equally with the story of Achilles' wrath, or the wanderings of Ulysses. Nor is the Theogony more inviting in its subject matter, or more genial and elevated in its composition. On the contrary, it is certainly a dull poem, for it contains little more than a formal catalogue of names and pedigrees, relieved only by a few brief descriptive episodes,-in a word, it is a compendium of dogmatic theology, according to the earliest Greek notions of it, done into verse. It may be conceded too, that the genius of the two poets, Homer and Hesiod, is as different as are the merit and the object of their compositions and the style of their versification, which may be called respectively the heroic and the didactic, the object of the one being to amuse, of the other to instruct.3
It must be added as a further reason discouraging to the study of Hesiod, that considerable doubts have been raised as to the authenticity of the Theogony, at least in its present form. One of the ancients at least 4 did not believe Hesiod to be the author of it; yet Herodotus, in a well-known passage (ii. 53), appears specifically to recognise a Theogony by Hesiod, and to assign to it a date not later than Homer :-'Holodov
2 “ The fundamental feature of the Homeric school is an absorption of the author in his subject. He is the secret mover of the dramatic mechanism by which his heroes are exhibited, himself remaining invisible. The genius of Hesiod, on the other hand, is essentially personal, or subjective.' This is peculiarly the case with his two chief productions; and the more it is so, the more Hesiodic they are. In the Works, not only is the author never out of sight, but it is the author, at least as much as the subject, which imparts interest to the whole. Instead of an inspired being, transported beyond self into the regions of heroism and glory, a gifted rustic, impelled by his private feelings and necessities, dresses up his own affairs and opinions in that poetical garb which the taste of his age and country enjoined as the best passport to notice and popularity.”—Col. Mure, Hist. Gr. Lit. ii. p. 379.
3 “ Hesiodi carmina - non tam ad delectandos quam ad docendos auditores comparata sunt.”-Schoemann.
4 Pausanias, viii. 18. 1; ix. 27. 2; ib. 31. 4, who says the Boeotians themselves did not acknowledge the Theogony as Hesiod's. And G. F. Schoemann, in his “Commentatio Critica” on Hesiod (Berlin, 1869), p. 4, thinks they gave a right judgment, but not one founded on any ancient tradition ; they merely adopted the conclusions of the more recent critics,
γάρ και "Όμηρον ηλικίην τετρακοσίοισι έτεσι δοκέω μεν πρεσβυτέρους γενέσθαι, και ου πλέοσι ούτοι δέ εισι οι ποιήσαντες θεογονίην "Έλλησι, και τοϊσι θεοίσι τας επωνυμίας δόντες, και τιμάς τε και τέχνας διελόντες, και είδεα αυτών σημήναντες.
Now, though we cannot be at all sure that the present Theogony is the very one alluded to by Herodotus, or that it. forms a complete poem as we have it, or is wholly genuine, and that nothing has been lost and nothing interpolated; still there is every reason to think that at least it contains a great deal that has descended from a remote antiquity. The same indeed may be said of it as of the “Works ;" that it is possibly a patchwork of several scraps of antiquity,—a compilation rather than an entirely original production,--perhaps adapted by a poet or rhapsodist called Hesiod, perhaps conjecturally attributed to him in the absence of any certain authorship, perhaps put together, arranged, altered, interpolated by successive rhapsodists at a later period. The pure metal of the true epic age may still exist, though it has suffered alloy in passing through many crucibles in the hands of many different workmen 5
We say, all this is possible, thereby allowing the widest scope for the many theories respecting the Hesiodic poems that have been propounded. We by no means are driven to the necessity of admitting that it must be so, especially in the face of a remarkably uniform and very authentic testimony of great antiquity in favour of the genuineness of at least the two principal Hesiodic poems even as we now have them. To mention only a few of these :-Pindar cites from Hesiod by name 6 a
5 Mr. Mahaffy (Hist. Gr. Lit. i. p. 110) observes that “both poems agree in their piecemeal character, and seem to be the production of the same sort of poet,-a man of considerable taste for collecting what was old and picturesque, but without any genius for composing from his materials a large and uniform plan.” Schoemann (Comment. Crit. p. 8) thinks the poem in the main ancient and genuine, but adds, “ hoc ipsum quod nos hodie legimus carmen, eodem quo nunc est ambitu, iisdem partibus, eadem forma et dispositione ab Hesiodo profectum esse non adducor ut credam."
6 Isthm. v. 67. Thucydides mentions 'Holodos Ở Tointis as buried at Oeneon in Locris, iii. 96.
proverb now extant in the “Works.” Aeschylus, the contemporary of Pindar, has founded the play of the Prometheus Bound entirely upon the Theogony, and he has copied it so minutely, that it would take a considerable space to bring together the parallel passages from both poems. Aristophanes distinctly refers both to the Theogony and to the “Works ; to the latter under the name of Hesiod. Thus Av. 693,
Χάος ήν και Νυξ Έρεβος τε μέλαν πρώτον και Τάρταρος ευρύς,
Γη δ' ουδ' αήρ ουδ' ουρανός ήν, manifestly refers to v. 116—124 of the present Theogony. And in Ran. v. 1032,
'Ορφεύς μεν γαρ τελετάς θ' ημϊν κατέδειξε φόνων τ' απέχεσθαι,.
Γης εργασίας, καρπών ώρας, αρότους:
Plato more than twenty times refers to Hesiod; it will suffice to cite a single passage, Symp. p. 178, B:'Holodos πρώτον μεν Χάος φησί γενέσθαι, Γήν τε και "Έρωτα» – Ησιόδω δε και 'Ακουσίλεως ομολογεί. Which alludes to Theog. v. 116—8,
ήτοι μεν πρώτιστα Χάος γένετο, αυταρ έπειτα
"H8' "Epos. And surely the testimony of a writer 400 years before Christ should outweigh the opinion of Pausanias, nearly 200 years after that era, against the genuineness of the Theogony.
? Compare especially Prom. 785 with Theog. 894, where see the note.
8 Colonel Mure (Hist. Gr. Lit. vol. ii. p. 418 seqq.) inclines to the opinion, though not very decidedly, that Pausanias' statement is correct; and yet, he observes, there appears to be no trace of scepticism as to the authorship of the Theogony either among the Alexandrian grammarians, or their predecessors of the early Attic school. Of the authorship, integrity, and great antiquity of the “Works,” he entertains no doubt; the Theogony he thinks is, in the main, equally ancient, but that it was really written by a poet not even a Boeotian by birth (ii. p. 430).—The opinion of Schoemann is that the Theogony was composed by some poet about the time of Peisistratus; that he adopted the name of Hesiod because this peculiar school of poetry was generally known as 'Hesiodic' (Comment. Crit. p. 6), and that he designed the Theogony to form an introduction to an older poem attributed to Hesiod, the Katároyos yuvalk@v.
Nevertheless, it may perhaps be granted, and rather as a matter of regret than as materially invalidating the claim to great antiquity which in the main the Hesiodic poems clearly possess, that considerable alterations have been introduced into them in later times. Such are, in all probability, the prefixing of a short proeme or introduction to the “Works,” and of a much longer one (or rather, a combination of several proemes °) to the Theogony, and possibly, the addition of a good many verses at the ends of both poems, not to mention the occasional introduction of Homeric verses. The expansion, so to say, or amplification of many passages by a somewhat tiresome repetition, or by the addition of feeble and merely supplementary lines, and lastly, the insertion of episodes more in the descriptive style than was congenial to the Muse of Hesiod, are indications that the original work has been tampered with by the inferîor genius of rhapsodists, or by the hands of literary compilers and revisers. Such is, perhaps, the account of the storm in v. 505 seqq. of the “Works," and of the battle of the Titans in v. 675 seqq. of the Theogony. Such liberties were more easily taken with the text of Hesiod than with that of Homer, because no authentic edition of the former poet is known to have been issued and generally received, as was the recension of Homer, said to have been made (whatever may be the value of the story) by the command of Peisistratus. It is not improbable that some such attempt was made, not by promulgating an authorised written text, but by instructions given to rhapsodists, in order to rescue as far as possible the true Homeric poems, as they were then believed to be recognisable, from the accretions which the genius or ambition of Homerids and feebler imitators, was continually adding to them.”
9. According to K. O. Müller, of an original proeme, a hymn to the Muses, and an epilogue.
? Dr. Flack, in his edition of the Theogony (Berlin, 1873), nearly always agrees with the criticism in this work, in the rejection of spurious passages.
? There seems to have been a tradition that Hesiod was revised by order of Peisistratus; see fragm. cxiii. ed. Goettling. But this is doubtless a part
At a time when the ancient epic poems were handed down orally, as the most precious national properties, by professional reciters called rhapsodists, - men undoubtedly, in the earlier ages, often of high genius, and quite capable of appreciating and (even when they added to it) of sustaining the unity of a great epic composition, though in Xenophon’s time they had become a degenerate race whom he speaks of as έθνος ηλιθιώτατον 3,- there were likely to exist several more or less local versions or recensions of Homer and Hesiod, the collation and adaptation of which occupied the critical skill of the compilers and collectors at a time when all Greek literature was regularly committed to writing. And it was perhaps
* hardly avoidable but that the earliest transcribers should have sometimes so combined these different recensions as to cause occasional repetition, abruptness, and tautology. Internal evidence strongly confirms a theory highly probable in itself, and one that satisfactorily accounts for many phenomena in our present text of Hesiod, which on any other supposition would be very difficult to explain.”
Still, with all these defects, there is much in the curious and unique poem called the “Works and Days,” much also even in the inferior Theogony, that deserves a more careful and critical study than it commonly obtains. Besides many legends, evidently derived from the remotest antiquity, and now largely
of the later story, which made Hesiod to be not only the contemporary but the rival of Homer. It is curious that the ancients themselves identified the "cyclic” with the Homeric poems and even hymns. Pindar does not hesitate to call Homer himself a rhapsodist; Isthm. jii. 55—7. In fact, Homer and Hesiod were names representing sometimes a school, sometimes the individual poet.
3 Conviv, iii, 6.
* This appears, from the evidence we possess, to be much later than has commonly been supposed. See the editor's pamphlet, “Bibliographia Graeca” (Bell and Sons).
5 Professor Jebb observes (Primer, p. 43), “The Theogony has come to us in a confused and corrupt state, but is probably Hesiod's in the main, as the ancients generally held.” Schoemann, Comment. Crit. p. 65, non omnes Theogoniae partes unius aut auctoris aut aetatis esse nemo hodie diffitetur.”