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Art. I.-1. Aug. Twesteni Commentatio Critica de Hesiodi
Carmine quod inscribitur: Opera et Dies. Kiliæ. 1825. 2. Godof. Hermanni Epistola ad C. D. Ilgenum Hymnorum
Homericorum editioni Lips. præmissa. 1822. 3. Fr. Creuzers Symbolik und Mythologie der alten Völker,
besonders der Griechen. Darmstadt. 1828. 4. Gottfr. Hermanns und Fr. Creuzers Briefe über Homer und
Hesiodus, vorzüglich über die Theogonie. Heidelberg. 1829. IN N a late Number we offered some remarks upon that curious
and interesting point of classical scholarship,—the probable origin and mode of composition of the Homeric poems. With regard, however, to the subject of the present article, Hesiod, whose name was scarcely less celebrated in ancient times than that of the great poet of heroes himself, we do not know that even the Germans,—those immitigable tormentors of literary faith, have as yet conceived any doubt of his individual existence. The genuineness of the greater part of the verses at least, (if not of the present form and order,) of the Works and Days, has not, as we remember, been positively questioned; and in those verses the poet has distinctly related several particulars concerning himself, his brother, his father, the place of his residence, and apparently also of his birth.* What Hesiod has thus left written is all that we can be said to know concerning him. Lives, indeed, of this poet have been composed, and are still in existence, which seem to be only so much less minutely detailed than those of Homer as there were more recorded facts to control the invention of the biographers. As historical documents these productions are undeserving of any serious belief, whenever they wander beyond the warrant of Hesiod himself; and, in particular, when we bear in mind the uncertainty in which modern criticism has involved the date and the origination of the Iliad, we shall have little difficulty in esti
* Paterculus remarks—vitasse (Hesiodum) ne in id, quod Homerus, incideret, patriamque et parentes testatum esse.' There is no mention of Hesiod's mother in any part of the poems. May not this be considered as one of the earliest instances of that known corruption of the later Latin, derived from the camp and the Suburra (Borough?)-militari vulgarique sermone—the usage of parentes for relations generally, whence the French parens ? VOL. XLVII. NO, XCIII.
mating mating at their true value all those very conspicuous parts of these pretended narratives, in which the two primary poets of Greece are brought into contact with each other. And here we cannot help remarking, with some earnestness, that, however a familiarity with the copious supplement, which ancient invention delighted to forge out of ancient tradition, may be necessary to the scholar and amusing to every one, it never should be forgotten for a moment that this supplemental narrative may be safely pronounced, upon sound grounds of criticism, to be entirely, or all but entirely, fictitious. The evil consequences of disregarding the quality of ancient historical evidence are incalculable; and in this particular instance of biography the certain and the uncertain have been so mixed together, and form so complete and pleasing a whole, that a deep and vigilant sense of the importance of truth, everywhere, and in everything, can alone stimulate the critic to detect, or enable the student to remember, the line between Fact and Romance.
We learn, then, from sundry passages in the Works and Days the following leading particulars ;-that the father of the author was a native or citizen of Cuma, in Æolis, in Asia Minor, where he earned a scanty livelihood by maritime trading; that he subsequently abandoned his country in hopes of bettering his condition, and came to reside at Ascra, a village at the foot of Mount Helicon, in Bæotia ; that he had two sons, Hesiod and Perses; and that at his death he left to them jointly an undivided estate, on the partition of which Perses, by the corrupt adjudication of the arbitrators, succeeded in defrauding his brother of the priacipal part of his rightful share; that, nevertheless, like the Industrious and Idle Apprentices, Hesiod, in course of time, became opulent, and Perses so distressed as to be actually dependent for bread on his injured brother; that, beside bread, Hesiod bestowed on Perses the sound advice contained in the verses which now constitute the celebrated poem of the Works and Days ; that, upon one occasion, the poet took a trip from Aulis to Chalcis, in Euboea, for the purpose of attending a poetical contest at the funeral solemnity of Amphidamas; that, upon that occasion, although it seems to have been his first essay in verse, he carried off the prize, a tripod, and that he dedicated it to the Muses of Helicon.*
So much may be thought authentic, as coming from Hesiod himself. The principal event in what may be called his fabulous life is his contest with Homer, in which the prince of poets is said to have been unsuccessful. The whole of this elaborate fiction is built upon the simple fact of the before-mentioned poetical prize-coupled with an expression to be found in the Homeric * Op. et Di., 631-8, 37—9, 392–4, 648—57.
hymn hymn to Venus, in which the poet prays for victory in a certain contest of the same nature. Homer is not named by Hesiod. Plutarch, in one work,* seems to adopt the story; in another,t he speaks of it with contempt. Various other writers, subsequent to Plutarch, notice this adventure in the life and actions of Hesiod; but the most famous document upon the subject is the 'Ousipou και Ησίοδου αγών-which work could not have been written earlier than the first half of the second century, as the Emperor Adrian, who reigned from A.D. 117 to 138, is mentioned in it by name. It is a prose composition by some one duly impressed with the transcendant superiority of Homer; and the story is so told as to reflect exclusive honour upon him, although the ancient tradition is followed in assigning the prize to Hesiod. The latter began by putting several questions to Homer, which were answered chiefly out of the Iliad and Odyssey; and, in particular, when questioned as to the greatest happiness which men could enjoy on earth, Homer declared his opinion in a passage from the Odyssey, which savours something of the great poet's alleged jovial temperament:
“Οππόταν ευφροσύνη μεν έχη κατά δήμον άπαντα,
This the fair haven and the glory this! The assembly were so transported with the sweetness of the original of these lines, that they were from that time forward always called the golden verses, and were, for a thousand years afterwards, constantly pronounced as a sort of grace at all public sacrifices and festivals.
Cid Hamet goes on to state, that Hesiod, getting vexed at the manifest popularity of his rival, proceeded to ask him the meaning of sundry crabbed riddles, and then recited a certain number of unconnected lines, with a requisition that Homer should immediately answer each of them by a verse corresponding with and com
• Con. sept. Sap:
Sympos. This work is undoubtedly genuine, and the discrepancy of opinion to be found in it and the Con, sept. Sap. is one amongst the many reasons for condemning the latter.
pleting it. In these, and other equally unfair trials of skill, success still attended Homer, and all the Greeks present loudly demanded that he should be crowned victor. However, Panoides ordered each competitor to recite the passage esteemed by himself as the most beautiful in his own works ; upon which Hesiod is very unwarrantably made to stake his fame as a poet upon the smooth, but, otherwise, not remarkable, commencement of the georgic, or husbandry part of his works and Days. After him, Homer recited the famous passage * about the two Ajaces and their conflict with Hector at the ships ; at the conclusion of which, the bystanders called again for a declaration of victory in favour of Homer. But the judge awarded the prize to Hesiod, with a remark, that it was more just to pronounce him superior who exhorted men to agriculture and peace than one who celebrated, and must, naturally, stimulate his audience to wars and bloodshed. This decision, which, if the question had been whether Homer or Hesiod taught the better political economy, might not have been amiss, became, under the expression of Πάνιδος or Πανοίδου ψήφος, universally proverbial for an absurd and perverse judgment. Hesiod, however, took the compliment on the score of his poetry, and dedicated his tripod to his native patrons with the following inscription :
Ησίοδος Μούσαις “Ελικωνίσι τόνδ' ανέθηκεν,
Conquering at Chalcis Homer the divine. As to Hesiod's age, (for it is not necessary to pursue the veracious biographer any further,) it is involved in the same general obscurity with that of Homer. Newton places it B.C. 870; the Arundelian Marble B.C. 944.1 Herodotus, as is well known, limits the age
of Hesiod and Homer to not more than 400 years before his own time, which computation supports the chronology of Newton. In addition to historical tes ony, recourse has been had to astronomy for the purpose of fixing the age of Hesiod. Scaliger,I Vossius,s and others have undertaken to determine the point upon a calculation of the rising of Arcturus, and from one or two other celestial phenomena noted by the poet in designating different seasons for certain agricultural operations. If any one has the patient curiosity to examine this matter, it inay be found stated and discussed at great length by Robinson, in the dissertation prefixed to his instructive edition of Hesiod. It looks as like learned folly as anything we ever remember to have seen in the course of our reading. The date founded on the opinion of Herodotus is probable, and there is certainly nothing in such date in Hesiod's case inconsistent with history or the internal evidence of the poems themselves. We have, indeed, no doubt of the great comparative recency even of the Works and Days; yet, long subsequent as that poem seems to us to have been to the date of the Homeric epics, Homer and Hesiod are to us, as they were to Herodotus himself, the two primary poets of Greece, and the sole representatives of the ancient and, if we may so speak, rhapsodic verse. More than this we can have no grounds for assuming, and the results of such conjectural computations as we have noticed above, may serve to amuse the very leisurely scholar, but can be of little use to the industrious inquirer after the fact. Ignotum, per ignotius seems the fitting motto for such learned lumber.
* Il. N'. xiii. 126-33; 339-44.
+ This is upon the faith of Selden's reading; but the difference would not be material without his suggestion. Animad, ad Euscb. 1255.
De Græc. Poet, ii, sub fine.
learned * In Bæot.
The poem of the Works and Days (Έργα και Ημέραι) is the most ancient, the most celebrated, and, as we believe, the only remaining production of Hesiod's muse. Pausanias says,* that the Baotians resident in the neighbourhood of Mount Helicon acknowledged this alone as genuine among the numerous works attributed to their famous countryman. The same Bæotians rejected the first ten introductory verses, and Pausanias adds, that he had himself seen in that district a very ancient copy of the Works and Days engraved on leaden plates ; in which copy these lines were not contained. Upon the whole, we are disposed to agree with the majority of the old critics in their belief that these lines were composed in a subsequent age, as a proemium, in order to smooth away the abruptness of the genuine commencement of the poem. A separation has frequently been made at v. 764, between the two portions of the poem called, respectively, the Works and the Days; and sometimes a triple division may be found, in which the first 382 lines are considered as an introductory exhortation to industry and a moral life. Twesten, adopting the spirit and groundwork of the Wolfian theory, in the very ingenious essay named at the head of this article, has conjectured that this poem of the Works and Days never came, in its present form, from the hand of Hesiod, but that it has been compiled from passages recited by the rhapsodists, to whom the genuine or supposed works of Hesiod were as familiar as those of Homer; and he points out, in the following manner, the parts which, according to him, were originally distinct: I. v. 42-105, an epopea, or narrative poem, on the subject of Prometheus, Epimetheus, and Pandora's box. II. v. 108-201, a poem of the same sort on the traditional degeneration of the human race.