Hesiod’s Works and Days: Moral or Practical Teaching?



by Panayiotis P. Mavrommatis
published on 04 June 2012

Hesiod’s Works and Days is undeniably a didactic poem. It is concerned with real problems of mankind. At a first glance it may seem as a practical guide to living and prospering in the Ancient Greek world. The title itself, along with the many parts of the poem that deal with practical issues can lead one to this conclusion. A more careful analysis, however, can show that Works and Days is more about morality. Undeniably it also deals with the practice of morality, but the main axis of the poem is not that; it is morality itself.

The first part of this paper attempts to present the abundance of moral elements in the poem. The occasion of the poem is injustice, but Hesiod does not stop there. He talks about war and peace, religion, family as well as society, all crucial issues both then and now. In the second part, I argue against the view that Works and Days is mostly a practical teaching poem. Instead, I trace the importance of practical instruction in the poem as being support to Hesiod’s main teaching goal, morality.

Written by , linked by Jan van der Crabben, published 04 June 2012. Source URL: http://ocw.mit.edu/courses/history/21h-301-the-ancient-world-greece-fall-2004/assignments/....

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