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on 2 March 2017
A good little read, as it's a small book. It gets you aquatinted with the genealogy of the Greek Gods, and also gives insight into day to day life of the ancient Greek world.
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on 21 September 2011
M.L West is one of the great classicists. His book on Indo-European traditions, and another on the influence of southwest Asia on Greek ideas, make him truly valuable, and the breadth and density of his work is aided by the fluency and clarity of his translations (whether in Greek or Avestan!). In this short volume, West translates Hesiod's famous works very neatly without trying to claim that they are anything other than what they are: curious, relatively simple poems (here in prose) about topics of importance to early Greeks. The poems are quaint rather than sublime, but it is important to note that they were very influential, and are still worth reading.

'Theogony' is about the gods and how they came to be; West notes in his introduction that the account appears to derive from southwest Asian influence rather than an Indo-European precedent, and was actually somewhat abhorrent to later Greeks of the classical period for its presentation of warfare between the gods. 'Works and Days' is advice given, ostensibly, to Hesiod's brother, Perses, about such matters as putting to sea, growing grain, and finding a wife. This is by far the more readable and interesting work for those who aren't 8th century BCE Boeotians. Economy, agriculture, astronomy - Hesiod can't be seen as the originator of all of these subjects by any means, but the germs of ideas are clearly present in this poem, germs that, through the fertilising effect of cross-cultural transmission, grew into the flowerings we now know as the classical and Hellenistic ages. There might perhaps have been no Empedocles or Democritus without Hesiod. Who can say how the history of Greece or the world, or even of philosophy, might have developed had Hesiod's poems not been present?

These are superb translations. Anyone interested in the early Greeks, or in the origins of philosophy in the region, should give them a read, and not expect more than startlingly familiar (because influential) poems on themes wantonly mixing the domestic and the theological. Anthropologists might also benefit from reading them, and seeing the fundamental similarities between the works and, for instance, Popol Vuh.
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on 5 September 2011
Theogony was really quite exciting! Hesiod goes to great length explaining all of the very many figures in Greek myth, and explaining how they are related and what they are Gods of. The war between the Titans and the Olympians is very exciting - particularly a highly colourful paragraph about Zeus' wrath that put the Titans in Tartarus. Very exciting, and very pro-Zeus!
Work and Days gives a clear insight into Hesiod's background and a sense of what 'ordinary', agricultural life was like. Hesiod is giving advice to his audience, who he seems familiar with, about how to live well - to be hardworking, efficient, and devoted to the Gods.
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on 1 July 2015
This is one of those books that are incredibly hard to ascribe a star rating to. Did I enjoy reading it? I mean, there were bits that I enjoyed - the list of superstitions at the end of Works and Days, for example - and there were bits that I had to trudge through like I was wading through soup. Of course, much of that is because I'm coming at this text as a modern reader, used to reading fast paced novels, with nuanced characters and intricate plots. Hesiod, being very much not a modern writer, writes in a style that we've now come to find incredibly dry and quite hard going in places.

However, the influence that this work has had, both on our knowledge of Ancient Greece (specifically the beginning of Archaic Greece, given the time frame of around 750BC in which Hesiod was likely writing) and indeed on Western literature as a whole mean that it feels a little like blasphemy to give this work a low rating.

It's thanks to Theogony that we know the widely accepted canonical genealogy of the gods, including the primordial deities, the Titans and the gods of Olympus, and it's thanks to Works and Days that we have an idea of some of the more ancient civilisations of Greece, described and mythologised by Hesiod as the Golden, Silver and Bronze ages, but widely believed to refer to previous civilisations. Works and Days also gives us an invaluable insight into the daily lives of Hesiod's contemporaries, including their livelihoods, their cultural practices, their beliefs and their rituals.

It shows us too the origins of some more unsavoury cultural practices that are still with us today - it's quite clear that women do not enjoy a particularly high status, with Hesiod using the myth of Pandora in Theogony to blame women for all of mankind's ills, and expanding upon this theme in Works and Days to describe how women are a bane on men, eating food and taking up resources that men could otherwise keep for themselves. I'm not saying that we still live in a culture that views women like this, but I'm also not saying that we're not.

Despite the difficulty of rating this work, I've given it a medium 3 stars - 2 stars for the archaic readability and for the chip on my shoulder I admittedly have about Hesiod's gnawing misogyny, and 4 stars for everything else.
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on 1 August 2012
As always with Oxford Classics a very good product. Not sure if this book will interest the general reader but a must have book for any student of the classical world.
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on 22 January 2011
I cannot for the life of me understand why the only reviewer to date here for this translation by Martin West has only given the translation four stars. The original is brilliant. The translation is brilliant. Wherefore the removal of one star?

Martin West is the outstanding classical scholar of his generation. If you are in the slightest bit interested in the classics then you need to buy a copy of all his translations, even if you already have translations by other translators, just so you can compare them.

Here's an example. Many today think themselves sage-like when they repeat unthinkingly in their posts the mantra of "All things in moderation". Little do they know that the original saying comes from Hesiod. Or that it's found in Hesiod's "Works and Days" - the second work by Hesiod in this compilation. But the English translation of "moderation" from the Greek is not quite right. Martin West deftly translates the term with the, on the surface, more cumbersome but much more appropriate and accurate "opportuneness". Context of course is everything - so here's the context and you will see what I mean:

"There is another time for men to sail in the spring. As soon as the size of the crow's footprint is matched by the aspect of the leaves on the end of the fig-branch, then the sea is suitable for embarcation. This is the spring sailing. I do not recommend it; it is not to my heart's liking. A snatched sailing: you would have difficulty in avoiding trouble. But men do even that in their folly, because property is as life to wretched mortals. But it is a fearful thing to die among the waves. I suggest you bear all this in mind, as I tell you it.

And do not put all your substance in ships' holds, but leave the greater part and ship the lesser; for it is a fearful thing to meet with disaster among the waves of the sea, and a fearful thing if you put too great a burden up on your cart and smash the axle and the cargo is spoiled. Observe due measure; opportuneness is best in everything."
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on 13 February 2017
The second of these two long poems "Works and Days" concerns agriculture, organic farming & pastoralism.
"Theogony" is a summary of 700bc ancient Greek pagan theology, myths about the origins of their Gods, the Universe and pre-Christian, pre-scientific ideas. How ancient Greeks attempted to make sense of the "natural" world around them and the obvious fact that it is the product of Creative Intelligence.
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on 21 July 2016
Not entirely convinced about the prose rendering with occasional snippets of verse. I suspect (with absolutely no knowledge on the subject) that Hesiod used verse to lend interest to what is often a fairly bald recital; and I suspect that this could work in English as well, even if it required some new invention. But I am glad to have read them at last, and the notes are mostly very helpful.
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on 13 July 2013
This publication is highly recommended. I bought it for "Theogony", but "Works and Days" is also recommended. And once again, I recommend it.
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Hesiod's Thegony is an archaic Greek epic from around the time of Homer, and gives us the creation and life stories of the Olympian gods, so is an interesting read alongside the Homeric Hymns. Full of sex and violence, these are the foundational stories of Greek myth and resonate throughout classical culture.
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