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Who's Who Ancient Greece: The Arts

Hesiod (mid 9th to early 8th centuries BC)

HesiodThough Hesiod was born in a village in Voitia (Boetia) in mainland Greece, his family came from Kymi in Asia Minor seeking better fortune after his father's failure in the shipping business.

Most likely they were of artistocratic origin, but the move to Voitia was to a small farm.

Hesiod, in contrast to Homer, wrote of simple people (also often poor) and their sufferings.

He saw the farmers around him unable to survive on their land, and caught in strife between neighbors and ununited by one king or master. He believed that only hard labor could free them from hunger and other forms of misery.

His most famous works are 'The Theogony', 'Works and Days', and 'The Shield of Heraklis', though he also wrote many other works.

'The Theogony' is a study of the origins of the universe, encompassing the gods, natural forces and elements, and also human passions.

'Works and Days' is the most representative of his works, and the source of his fame as originator of the didactic epic (as opposed to the heroic epics which Homer wrote), and also as an inspired poet.

In the 'Shield of Heraklis' he presents war as something horrific, believing in the power of peace through law and productive work. He was recognized by ancient Greeks as the voice of a new poetic genre and of the changing times, representing reason and science in contrast to the heroic concerns of the preceding age, which was in its decline.

His work was awarded the same esteem as that of Homer, with some of his views expressed by Solon, Pindar and Aeschylus, as well as by other writers. One of his sayings was, 'The earth is mother to us all,' and another, 'Peace upon the land feeds man'.