Discuss about the Incorporative Poetics in Theogony and Contradictions.
The Five Ages of Humankind's Progress
Hesiod evoked this idea of an epic when he was tending his sheep in the Boeotian region and he met with the Nine Greek Muses. They were the daughters of Zeus and they inspired Hesiod to write the epic Works and Days that explains these five ages in depth. The passage comes from Hesiod’s “The Five Ages” an epic poem that reflects in the verse of 109 and 201. This passage gives us a deeper understanding of human nature and its consequences. After discussing the story of Prometheus, Pandora and the godly fire, Hesiod explains the why there was no alternatives for human as well as Prometheus to be deceit from the will of the Zeus (Mythicspiral.blogspot.com. The Promethean Fire and Pandora's' Revenge. 4-9. 1). Through this medium, Hesiod explains the five ages that followed. The first passage explains the Golden Age when the gods created the race of men. According to Hesiod, it was time for peace and harmony where there was not violence amongst the living. Even animals could speak to humans and none would grow old or get ill. Death would still exist but it would be painless as it came during sleep when their time was done.
However, when the Titan Cronus overpowered and dethroned his father Uranus to take control of the current age, instead of keeping peace he started chaos. After hearing the prophecy from Gaia that his own children would dethrone him, this made Cronus swallow his children except for Zeus who survived due to Gaia and later on came back to set his brothers and sisters free. This would lead to a ten-year war known as Titanomachy, amongst the Olympian Gods and the Titans (Shean. Spiteful Zeus. 58-70. 6). This war led to the end of the golden age. After the end of the first age, the race still existed as benevolent spirit who roamed the earth. Zeus wanted to create a new generation. Therefore, he created the second age or the Silver Age of mankind. However, they were inferior to that of the golden age from all aspects. The human were not only immature, but they lived short lives because of their mistakes and they did not honor the gods. Zeus lost his patience and he destroyed the silver age.
According to Slater (2014) when the silver age ended, the humans of that age were sent to the underworld where they became a part of Hades. Zeus though of creating a third generation and he created the Bronze Age where the human were strong and warlike. The people who lived during this age had weapon, armors and even houses made of bronze Management. Instead of having normal food, they ate the heart of their enemies, as they were barbaric in nature. These humans worshipped the god of war, Ares and in the end due to their destructive nature, they ended up destroying themselves and their souls went to the underworld (Scully. Hesiod's Theogony. 47-56. 54). Hesiod explains that after the end of the Bronze Age, Zeus thought of creating a new race that would be honorable and noble. Therefore, he created the Age of Heroes where the humans respected the gods and had many some special individuals called the demi-gods who possessed some divine qualities. The demi-gods were the direct offspring of Zeus and other Gods consummated with humans. According to Park (2014) it was not long that the demi-gods met their end in wars such as the Seven against Thebes and the Trojan War. The ones who passed went to the Elysian Fields where divine souls live a happy life. These fields were a small part of the underworld where Zeus’s brother Hades ruled.
Contradictions in Greek Mythological Tradition
In the end, Zeus made the last race of the last age of men known as the Iron Age. Hesiod is a part of this age as he has explained this age represents a time of constant stress and labour. Humans do not posses morality anymore and they lie and oppose each other to rise on top. In this age the human grow old quickly and they are beset with constant troubles and pressure (Hunter. Hesiodic voices. 10-15. 13). Hesiod also explains that this age would make people remorseless and there would be no help against evil. It is also been mentioned that just like the previous ages; Zeus would return and destroy this age to create a new one. The extract also explains us the views of Anaxagoras who avoided the literal view of myths. These ideas present that the gods were actually cruel. Some instances include when Zeus raped the virgin Io, Hera persecuted her children, Hermes stole Apollo’s cattle and there are many more instances (Harris and Platzner.Classical mythology.1-6.39). According to them, many divine misdemeanors make the deeds of the Gods endless. Many miraculous events made issues for many intellects those who have tried to rationalize the impossibilities with that of the realties. According to Hamilton (2017) many classical authors have exploited the way poets have represented the Gods, rather than the existence of the Gods themselves. One of the biggest examples is the play Bacchae, where Dionysus was born from the thigh of Zeus. These interpretations question the facts from the fictions. There is the part when Zeus had to carry Dionysus in his body after he saved the embryo from the fiery Semele, who is the child’s mother (Lamberton. Theogony and Works and Days by Hesiod. 16-24. 47). A popular theory from Theagenes is considered one of the first modern efforts in order to establish a comprehension towards myth. This theory directed towards many mythic characters actually represents human actions through their action. This holds the essentially awe-inspiring characteristics of physical nature. By continuing, the different cycles of life and death, or light and darkness or even day and night, this phenomenon affects the human life (Guillaume. Hesiod’s Heroic Age and the biblical Period of the Judges. 13-15. 63).
According to Harris and Platzner (2011), it can be said that Greek myth are not traditional fairy tales where there is a successful or happy ending. The heroes or the main characters of the tales undergo many immobile tasks that reflect human mortality. The life of the hero is represented through a upwards progression as he or she fights impossible deeds. This is more included towards folklore rather than a fairy tale. It is also very common in such tales that the hero dies, popular example include Achilles from the Trojan War. There are also instances when the hero traveled to the underworld to revive the souls of their loved ones. In Greek myths, nothing was too impossible for the heroes or the Gods to do.
Incorporation of Poetics in Theogony
Many theories also suggest that the Olympian are direct representation of or identification of astronomical objects. The son of Helios, Hyperion is the sun while Selene is the moon. There have been many indications that can be directed east pediment to the birth of many Greek mythical figures (Loney. Hesiod's Incorporative Poetics in the Theogony and the Contradictions of Prometheus. 38-40. 119). For example, Eos also known as Aurora that is an astronomical sign, even Zeus who goes by the name of Jupiter and Hades by the name of Pluto. There are also mythical and ritual based theory that is associated with religious ceremonies that is followed by a series of actions, this is similar to that in Work and Days (Ancient-literature.com. The Journal of Hellenic Studies. 8-11. 1). There is also repetition of phrases related to tradition that is observed. In relation to ritualism that is promoted by leading several scholars from the ninetieth to the early twentieth century. Some stories are created just for the reason of explaining the origins of ceremonies that no one knows how it started in the first place (López?Ruiz. Greek and Canaanite mythologies. 27-35. 75). Many poets and writers of later generations from the Victorian era who used examples from Hesiod’s epic use these examples. European myth draws many of its story and its characters from ancient Greece. These are not just related in terms of ritual but also showing a similar connection by making a connection in real life with myth.
Therefore, from the above discussion it can be concluded that, the theories that are related to Greek mythology has a connection to Hesiod’s “The Five Ages”. This can be seen from the works of Hesiod as well as the Roman poet, Ovid that the accounts related to the successive ages of humankind’s progress. Many vivid similarities explain human conditions that can be related even today. Work and Days not only explains the five ages though which humanity has evolved but also the reason behind it. Zeus’s actions from the Golden age to the present Iron age shows that humanity was never perfect yet the theories represent their value.
Ancient-literature.com. "The Journal of Hellenic Studies”. Accessed on - 09/10/2018) https://www.ancient-literature.com/greece_hesiod_works.html
Classical mythology : Images and insights. Stephen L. Harris, Gloria Platzner. 2011.
Guillaume, Philippe. "Hesiod’s Heroic Age and the biblical Period of the Judges." In The Bible and Hellenism, pp. 156-174. Routledge, 2014.
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless tales of gods and heroes. Hachette UK, 2017.
Hunter, Richard. Hesiodic voices: Studies in the ancient reception of Hesiod's Works and Days. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Lamberton, Robert. "Theogony and Works and Days by Hesiod." University of Toronto Quarterly 83, no. 2 (2014): 539-541.
Loney, Alexander C. "Hesiod's Incorporative Poetics in the Theogony and the Contradictions of Prometheus." American Journal of Philology 135, no. 4 (2014): 503-531.
López?Ruiz, Carolina. "Greek and Canaanite mythologies: Zeus, Baal, and their rivals." Religion Compass 8, no. 1 (2014): 1-10.
Mythicspiral.blogspot.com. “The Promethean Fire and Pandora's' Revenge”. Accessed on – 09/10/2018) https://mythicspiral.blogspot.com/2013/04/the-promethean-fire-and-pandoras-revenge.html
Park, Arum. "Parthenogenesis in Hesiod's Theogony." Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural 3, no. 2 (2014): 261-283.
Scully, Stephen. Hesiod's Theogony: From Near Eastern Creation Myths to Paradise Lost. Oxford University Press, 2015.
Shean, John F. "Spiteful Zeus: The Religious Background to Axial Age Greece." Revue internationale de philosophie 2 (2016): 151-170..
Slater, Philip Elliot. The glory of Hera: Greek mythology and the Greek family. Vol. 99. Princeton University Press, 2014.
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