Hesiod: Theogony

(ca. 700 BCE)

Explanation and Analysis of the Document

The poem begins with the Heliconian Muses, who “taught Hesiod glorious song while he was shepherding his lambs under holy Helicon.” The Muses say they know “how to speak many false things as though they were true” but that they also know how “to utter true things.” This connects Hesiod's art with what would become rhetoric and fiction (especially concerned with making things appear true) and with what would become philosophy and science (concerned not only with appearance and persuasion but also with truth as such).

The Muses give Hesiod a laurel rod (a symbol of authority) and inspire him. They tell him to sing of the gods. The Muses “celebrate in song first of all the reverend race of the gods from the beginning,” then “sing of Zeus” (who overthrew them), and then sing of men and giants. The sequence is important—from a pantheon of gods associated with the forces of nature to a second generation of gods that begins a long march...

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Euterpe, the Muse of lyric poetry and song (Library of Congress)

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