Dependence and self-sufficiency in Hesiod's "Works and Days"

Maria Suzanne Marsilio, University of Pennsylvania


Although the theme of self-sufficiency in the second half of the Works and Days (286-828) has often been recognized by scholars, a through examination of Hesiod's definition and treatment of self-sufficiency in the poem is needed. This dissertation demonstrates how Hesiod exploits the tension between dependence and self-sufficiency, and discusses this tension in the behavior of the poet's brother, Perses, and in that of the ideal farmer whom Perses must emulate. Hesiod warns Perses that he must stop depending on others for livelihood and must achieve the farmer's distinctive personal qualities--perception, industry, and self-sufficiency--which are shared by Hesiod as $\pi\alpha\nu\acute\alpha\rho\iota\sigma\tau o\varsigma$. This study involves a detailed analysis of the diction expressing Hesiod's view of dependence and self-sufficiency in the Works and Days. Much of the diction of the farmer's year (383-617) is un-Homeric and has associations with poetry and poetic activity. Specifically, the farmer's activities are closely allied with the work of craftsmen--carpenter, sewer, weaver--who in Indo-European tradition and in later poetry commonly appear as metaphorical representations of the poet. Indeed, recent studies on the Works and Days have argued that Hesiod was a skilled poet whose work addressed issues of poetics. I argue that Hesiod's prudent farmer who works to achieve his ideal of total self-sufficiency metaphorically represents Hesiod the poet, who in the Works and Days defines his individual poetic style. The farmer's year functions as Hesiod's poetic program in which he states his relationship to the tradition of hexameter poetry represented chiefly by the Iliad and Odyssey. Hesiod instructs Perses that the desired method of gaining livelihood is not by using his malleable rhetoric while begging at others' homes, but by devoting his life to "farming" (i.e., composing poetry in the style of the Works and Days).

Subject Area

Classical studies|Ancient languages

Recommended Citation

Marsilio, Maria Suzanne, "Dependence and self-sufficiency in Hesiod's "Works and Days"" (1992). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9308624.