Hesiod in the race of iron
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Hesiod in the Race of Iron. CLAS1631. Best of Times, Worst of Times. p. 37 Theognis complains of the disruption of society “Our former nobles are Rabble now” What does he mean by 'good' and 'bad'? Greek: kalos and kakos Wealth is ruining the city

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Hesiod in the race of iron

Hesiod in the Race of Iron


Best of times worst of times

Best of Times, Worst of Times

  • p. 37 Theognis complains of the disruption of society

    • “Our former nobles are Rabble now”

  • What does he mean by 'good' and 'bad'?

    • Greek: kalos and kakos

  • Wealth is ruining the city

  • Similar complaints about 'nouveau riche' in every age

Rule by the few

Rule by the Few

  • Aristo -cracy

    • > Greek aristoi, 'the best'

    • > Greek kratos 'power'

    • = 'power given to the best'

    • Who are 'the best'?

  • Oligo -archy

    • > Greek oligoi, 'the few'

    • > Greek arche, 'rule'

    • = 'rule of the few'

    • Who are 'the few'?

Commercial revolution

Commercial Revolution?

  • Most people are still small-lot farmers

  • Nevertheless rise of commercial activity

  • Still no cash at time of these authors, though

  • Difficulty of debt-in-person

    • Caused by new rich?



  • Shepherd and poet

  • Composed Theogony (birth of the gods) and Works and Days

  • In order, between Homer and Archilochus

  • Life story from poems is a harsh one

    • lives in “worthless village” of Askra

    • Brother, Perses, cheated him out of his inheritance by conspiring with 'bribe-swallowing princes'

Inspired poet

Inspired Poet

  • p. 39, Theogony 26-34

    • What is unusual to us here?

    • Why does he begin his poem with this?

The ideal of justice

The Ideal of Justice

  • p. 40 Theogony 81-96

  • Hesiod is not planning to tell you about his political system, but without some model of it, we can't proceed

    • What are the components of it? What does each do?

    • Why is 'king' in plural?

  • What creates a good political situation?

The iron age

The Iron Age

  • Some basis in archaeology:

    • working of iron was relatively recent

    • Proceeded by use of bronze (though not silver)‏

  • Age of Heroes is a nod to the myths that inspire Homer, seem more recent than other events

  • How is iron a good metaphor for an age in decline?

  • What qualities of iron is Hesiod overlooking?

The troubles of the iron age

The Troubles of the Iron Age

  • What better life does Hesiod's pessimism suggest?

  • What powers keep justice in place?

  • What powers ruin human life?

One solution law and writing

One Solution: Law and Writing

Another solution the tyrannos

Another Solution: The Tyrannos

  • Word drawn from Eastern powers, such as Lydians or Phrygians

  • First used of divinities, like Ares

  • Later means sole ruler without the backing of aristocratic tradition and not responsible to the people

  • Position through revolution, acclamation, ?election (C23)‏

  • Not a term, originally, connoting the nature of the rule

    • This is a Classical attitude (C25)‏

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