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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 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 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 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 27 June 2010
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.

Like the other Penguins, this is a fairly loose translation of the original Greek which makes it very readable but no good as a crib.
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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 24 May 2018
Essential reading
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on 10 April 2016
A lovely translation with interesting notes on each of the works included. I would highly recommend this.
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on 6 June 2015
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on 19 May 2015
Great, thanks.
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