Hesiod’s Concerns About Economics and Polis During the Greek Dark Age

Hesiod’s Concerns About Economics and Polis During the Greek Dark Age

The Greek Dark Age fits between the Late Bronze Age Collapse - often alternately referred to as the Mycenaean Civilization Collapse, around 1200 BC - and the Greek Archaic Period, around 800 BC. The Late Dark Age’s catastrophic end was foreshown by the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, when all major Mycenaean provincial centers succumbed to a combination of destruction and abandonment. As a result, information regarding as to what happened, documented in the Linear B script - the Mycenaean writing system - was lost shortly after 1200 BC and therefore one cannot effectively find written material documenting this period.  The only recourse the historian has is to submit to the findings of archaeology to gain an understanding of the Greek Dark Age - a time when Greek culture almost disappeared. What kept the recollection of the Greek Dark Ages from completely slipping into the abyss, was the polis. However, another shining beacon of information in this dark era of history, is the poetry of Hesiod.

A Roman-era sculpture possibly representing Hesiod, believed by ancient readers to be the author of the Catalogue of Women (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A Roman-era sculpture possibly representing Hesiod, believed by ancient readers to be the author of the Catalogue of Women (CC BY-SA 2.0)

 Hesiod was born during the Greek Dark Ages circa 750 BC. He lived in Boeotia as he mentioned in his book Works and Days, where he states: “Ascra, which is bad in winter, sultry in summer, and good at no time.” He was a shepherd and was said have been blessed with the gift of song or poetry as described in the book Theogony (ll. 22-35). Hesiod had a brother named Perses, mentioned in Works and Days, to whom he offers advice. Hesiod tells his brother if he works hard, his character will also be strong: “Do not worry about others and focus on yourself in order to get ahead. To have envies and strife is good medicine, for it will drive one to achieve more and if so will gain more in wealth and build perspective”. Hesiod continues for some length in Works and Days on the topic of strife and envy.


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