Hesiod Biography

(Ancient Greek Poet and Philosopher)

Born: 750

Born In: Aliağa, İzmir, Turkey

Hesiod was an early Greek poet and who flourished around 700 BC. Scholars suggest that he lived during the time of Homer, and their works have often been compared to each other. He is known as the first poet ever in the Western tradition to have written poems. He is also known as the father of didactic poetry, and his lyrics often had morals and instructions for his audience. He, along with Homer, is credited for initiating Greek religious customs, which were followed by his people. Hesiod's works have been regarded as a source of insight into traditional Greek mythology, Greek astronomy, agriculture, and ancient time-keeping. He is also considered to be the first economist. The only two complete works that remain are ‘Theogony’ and ‘Works and Days’. Some of his other works include ‘Shield of Heracles’, the ‘Catalogue of Women’, ‘Precepts of Chiron’, and the ‘Melampodia; these works are fragmented and incomplete. However, scholars have difference of opinion about Hesiod's authorship of these works.

Quick Facts


father: Dios

mother: Pykimede

siblings: Perses

Born Country: Turkey

Quotes By Hesiod Poets

Childhood & Early Life
Hesiod was active around the years 750 BC to 650 BC and wrote around the same time as Homer, according to some scholars.
There are no direct resources that mention his life in detail. However, several scholars have derived references from his works ‘Works and Days’ and ‘Theogony’.
In his poem, he described that his father came from Cyme in Aeolis, which was on the coast of Asia Minor and settled in a village near Thespiae in Boeotia. The town was called Ascra, and he defined Ascra as "a cursed place, cruel in winter, hard in summer, never pleasant."
He also mentions his brother Perses and the land disputes he had with him.
Hesiod learned the art of reciting poetry and became a rhapsodist. He indicates that his poetic gifts were endowed upon him by Muses, who appeared to him while he was grazing his sheep.
It is also mentioned that he participated in singing contests at the funeral games of Amphidamas on the island of Euboea and perhaps the only time he crossed the sea.
Hesiod lamented of a mediocre life, but despite his complaints, his life on his father's farm portrays a comfortable and prosperous life as depicted in ‘Works and Days’.
He had a plethora of workers surrounding him on the farm. These include servants, ploughman of mature years, a slave boy responsible for sowing, female servants to maintain the house and farm animals like oxen and mules.
One historian believes that Hesiod's father was probably a merchant, and he learned about world geography, especially about the rivers in ‘Theogony’ from his father's sea voyages.
His father is presumed to have spoken in the Aeolian dialect of Cyme, but Hesiod is assumed to have grown up speaking the local Boeotian. However, his works depict the influence of the Aeolian dialect but showed no words that were Boeotian.
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Hesiod is most famously known for three extant works: ‘Works and Days’, ‘Theogony’ and ‘Shield of Heracles’. There are other works attributed to him but they remain only in fragments.
All his poems were written in the conventional meter and language of epic. However, ‘Shield of Heracles’ is not considered his authentic work by many scholars and is assumed to be written during the sixth century BC.
Several ancient critics like Pausanias rejected ‘Theogony’ even though Hesoid mentioned himself by name in that poem.
There are several similarities between ‘Theogony’ and ‘Works and Days’, although their subject matter was entirely different. Both the works were written in the same meter, a particular language, poetic rhythm, and inflection, which distinguished itself from Homer's work and also ‘Shield of Heracles’.
Moreover, both his works have mentioned the same legend of Prometheus. However, Pausanias suggested that the first ten verses of ‘Works and Days’ were derived from an Orphic hymn to Zeus.
Hesiod is also regarded as the father of gnomic poetry where he discussed philosophical issues in an organized and systematic fashion.
Aristotle believed that the question of first causes began with Hesiod and Homer.
Hesiod changed his poetry styles according to his audience and often talked about the injustices suffered by the poor at the hands of aristocratic rulers. His tone has been described as having a "grumpy quality redeemed by a gaunt dignity."
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The Theogony is regarded as Hesiod's earliest work, and scholars suggest that even if the subject matter between ‘Theogony’ and ‘Works and Days’ is notably different, both works were written by the same person.
The Theogony depicts the beginning of the world, cosmology, and the genealogy of gods. It begins with Chaos, Gaia, Tartarus, and Eros.
It revolves around Greek myth, which portrayed the wide variety of stories and legends, but eventually, Hesiod's version of the folklores became the accepted among the ancient Greeks.
Hesiod's work showed strong Eastern influences like ‘Hittite Song of Kumarbi’ and the ‘Babylonian Enuma Elis’. There was a cultural crossover which probably occurred because of the Greek trading colonies during the eighth and ninth century.
Works and Days
Works and Days is one of the most famous works attributed to Hesiod. The poem is a lengthy piece of over 800 lines.
The two main recurring themes of the poem are "labour is the universal lot of Man, but he who is willing to work will get by”. Some historians have suggested that Greece was going through an agrarian crisis that resulted in colonisations and searches for new land. It is also regarded as one of the earliest works that discuss economic thought.
This poem talks about the five Ages of Man and the importance of honest labour. It contains an idea of an ideal life and dismisses the idleness and exploitation of people.
It narrates how the immortals roam around and watch over all the justice and injustices prevalent in the society. It puts labour at the highest pedestal and describes it as a source of all good. It also explains how the gods despise the one who is idle and is equivalent to drones in a hive.
The ‘Golden Age’ chapter of the poem guides one to live a life of nonviolent diet and importance of agriculture, fruit-culture to live sustainably, and sufficiently.
There are no records of Hesiod's personal life and his death; however, there are two different records of his death.
Thucydides, Plutarch, the Suda, and John Tzetzes, have mentioned that there was a prophecy around his death. The Delphic oracle had predicted that Hesiod would die in Nemea and warned him.
Upon hearing this, he fled to Locris, where he was killed in a temple of Nemean Zeus and buried in the same place.
The other record of his death was found on an epigram written by Chersias of Orchomenus around the 7th century, which is assumed to be within the century of his death.
The aphorism claimed that Hesiod was buried in the town Orchomenus in Boeotia.
Aristotle's Constitution of Orchomenus, reveals another tale that the Thespians' invasion of Ascra, resulted in the villagers moving to Orchomenus. After an oracle advised them, they gathered the ashes of Hesiod and placed them in their 'agora' beside the tomb of their founder Minyas.
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