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Works and Days: Tracing the Path to Arete

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Chapter Summary

The Works and Days offers a bewildering farrago of materials: mythological narratives, fables, allegories, a calendar of agricultural chores, proverbial adages, some apparently autobiographical tidbits about Hesiod, his brother, and father, religious prohibitions, and finally a list of lucky and unlucky days. This chapter focuses on the question of genre: what is the relation of the Works and Days to other kinds of early Greek hexameter epos, especially the heroic epics of Homer, as well as to Hesiod's own Theogony? Unlike the Theogony where Hesiod depended on the Muses for his knowledge of matters divine, remote from the ken of ordinary mortals, in the Works and Days Hesiod's theme focuses on the human sphere: how human beings should live and behave toward each other and the gods, and how they can prosper within the limits established by the laws of Zeus.

Keywords: God; laws of Zeus; mythological narratives; Theogony; Works and Days

10.1163/9789047440758_005
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