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Poetic Authority and the Utility of Reproduction in Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days

Citation with persistent identifier:

Hong, Yurie. “Poetic Authority and the Utility of Reproduction in Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days.” CHS Research Bulletin 3, no. 1 (2014). http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hlnc.essay:HongY.Poetic_Authority_and_the_Utility_of_Reproduction.2014

1§1 Between the Theogony’s pronouncement that women are a “beautiful evil,” who “consume other people’s labor into their bellies” (Theogony 585, 599), the Works and Days’ identification of Pandora as the releaser of “baneful evils for humans” (Works and Days 67, 95), and the warning that “whoever trusts women trusts swindlers” (Works and Days 375), it is unsurprising that these poems have become loci classici for archaic Greek attitudes toward women. The Theogony and Works and Days are the earliest Greek poems to explicitly articulate the well-documented notion in Greek literature that women are by nature deceptive, voracious, and irresistible. This negative portrayal is largely expressed through suspicion of women’s sexual allure and resentment at men’s dependence on women for the production of heirs.[1] In both poems, the motif of women’s destabilizing capacity to seduce and reproduce serves as a constant reminder of the limits of male power and the extent of human (i.e. male) vulnerability. Much important scholarly work has examined the ideological implications of such attitudes toward women in Hesiodic poetry,[2] yet the question remains: How do these representations contribute to each poem’s depictions of divine justice and human existence, and what does Hesiod, as a poet, stand to gain from them?

1§2 In this paper, I will focus on the rhetorical function of reproduction in the Theogony and the Works and Days. While there is a great deal of overlap in their dominant attitudes toward women and childbirth, the Theogony and Works and Days actually engage with strains of a far more complicated discourse about the nature of women and reproduction and their impact on men’s lives. Both poems are concerned with the theme of beginnings (of Zeus’ order; of Iron Age labor) and ontology (the distinction between gods and mortals and the poet’s privileged position as mediator). As such, reproduction is a usefully evocative concept.[3] I argue that Hesiod selectively activates and suppresses both positive and negative connotations of childbirth as a way to characterize the amount of control men do or do not have over their own existence. By manipulating notions of male agency that Hesiod is able to maximize his poetic authority within the generic constraints of each poem.[4]

1§3 In order to clarify how representations of childbirth are informed by each poem’s rhetorical needs, I will examine the Theogony and Works and Days in turn. Each section begins with a discussion of how the proem lays the conceptual groundwork for the theme of reproduction as it is developed in the course of the poem. I then discuss specific examples of the thematic of childbirth as a physical, social, and ideologically fraught phenomenon. I close each discussion with an analysis of how these representations of birth are pressed into the service of enhancing Hesiod’s authority to speak and be heard.

Theogony

Framing Poetic Authority

2§1 The Theogony is a poem about the origins of the cosmos and the birth of the gods. It also narrates the “birth” of Hesiod as a poet. In the proem, Hesiod claims that the Muses, encountering him herding sheep on the slopes of Mt. Helicon, addressed him with the following rebuke:

ποιμένες ἄγραυλοι, κακ’ ἐλέγχεα, γαστέρες οἷον,

ἴδμεν ψεύδεα πολλὰ λέγειν ἐτύμοισιν ὁμοῖα

ἴδμεν δ’εὖτε ἐθέλωμεν ἀληθέα γηρύσασθαι. (Theogony 26—28).[5]

 

Field-dwelling shepherds, ignoble disgraces, mere bellies:

We know how to say many false things similar to genuine ones,

but we know, when we wish, how to proclaim true things.

2§2 The epithet “mere bellies” (26) asserts the large gap that exists between gods and men and identifies the gaster as the site of mortal and immortal difference.[6] The gaster, it should be noted, is also a common term for ‘womb.’[7] While this meaning is not activated here, the reference to humans as gasteres sets the stage for articulating the ontological divide between gods and men. The language of reproductive anatomy will be developed in the rest of the poem.

2§3 Hesiod then goes on to describe the impact of Muse-inspired poetry:

εἰ γὰρ τις καὶ πένθος ἔχων νεοκηδέι θυμῷ

ἄζηται κραδίην ἀκαχήμενος, αὐτὰρ ἀοιδὸς

Μουσάων θεράπων κλεῖα προτέρων ἀνθρώπων

ὑμνήσει μάκαράς τε θεοὺς οἳ Ολυμπον ἔχουσιν,

αἶψ’ ὅ γε δυσφροσυνέων ἐπιλήθεται οὐδέ τι κηδέων

μέμνηται· ταχέως δὲ παρέτραπε δῶρα θεάων. (Theogony 98—104)

 

Even if someone who has unhappiness in his newly anguished spirit

is parched in his heart with grieving, yet when a poet,

servant of the Muses, sings of the glorious deeds of people of old

and of the blessed gods who possess Olympus,

he forgets his sorrows at once and does not remember his anguish at all;

for quickly the gifts of the goddess have turned it aside.

2§4 Together, these two passages characterize human life in terms of base physicality and helpless sorrow. The assymmetrical encounter between Hesiod and the Muses announces how the audience should view the relationship between mortals, poet, and gods, and how we are meant to experience Hesiod’s theogonic song—as a song whose contents soothes men’s souls and distracts their minds by narrating events that are inaccessible to humans.

The Theogony’s Reproducing Gods

2§5 As we move into the content of the Muses’ song, the poem alternates between genealogical catalogues and the succession myth, presenting two complementary and contrasting views of birth among the gods as the source of both harmony and conflict, continuity and change. The genealogical catalogues set forth idealizing images of unified, fruitful families,[8]  producing offspring who elaborate on their parents’ qualities, contribute to the forward momentum of the evolving cosmos, and provide increasing detail and structure to the world.[9] As such, these catalogues tap into positive notions of reproduction as the constructive means by which families, whether human or divine, may perpetuate themselves.

2§6 Meanwhile, the succession myth provides a corresponding negative model of reproduction. Here, reproduction serves as the catalyst for gendered and generational conflict. Childbirth triggers multiple configurations of conflict between male and female (Ouranos-Gaia, Kronos-Rhea, Zeus-Metis), father and son (Ouranos-Kronos, Kronos-Zeus, Zeus-hypothetical son of Metis). Birth also fosters collusions between genders across the generational divide (Gaia-Kronos against Ouranos, Gaia-Ouranos-Rhea-Zeus against Kronos) (Gaia-Typhoeus against Zeus). What is at stake is the question of how to control female reproductive energy and its potentially disruptive effects. Each stage of the myth traces the evolution of male gods’ increasingly sophisticated attempts to obstruct, contain, and ultimately appropriate birth:[10] Ouranos imprisons his children in Gaia’s “caverns” (157—159), Kronos swallows his children into his belly (nedus) as they are born from their mother’s womb (nedus) (459—60, 467, 487), and Zeus swallows the pregnant Metis into his belly (nedus) and births Athena from his own head (890, 899). Unlike his predecessors, Zeus recognizes the power of birth and uses it to his advantage by channeling it through his own body, thereby solving the problem of birth by incorporating it into himself. Apparently, even for the gods, female reproductive energy cannot be suppressed.

2§7 The gods’ capacity for responding to reproduction in this way is reflected in the semantic range of the term nedus, which is used to denote both the stomach and the womb. This empowered and empowering feature of the divine belly, which may consume and produce regardless of gender, is distinct from the limitations of the mortal gaster in the proem.[11] The proper, controlled release of reproductive energy, rather than the elimination or obstruction of it, is revealed to be the key to linking past, present, and future and establishing a stable, divine harmony that will last into eternity—evidence of which may be seen in the resuming of the catalogue form in Zeus’ subsequent matings at the end of poem.[12] Zeus’ success, then, represents, not so much a fantasy of a world without women, but a fantasy of male-controlled reproduction. It is in this political and familial model that the father figure, and those under his rule, may enjoy the benefits of procreation and the ability to establish links between past, present, and future without the risks of disruptive conflict.

The Theogony’s Non-Reproducing Humans

2§8 This ideal patriarchal model does not, however, trickle down to humans. Taken together, the succession myth and the genealogies represent exaggerated images of abundant reproduction among the gods in all its dynamically positive and negative forms. Although the members of Hesiod’s audience would, no doubt, have been able to draw connections between these multifaceted representations of birth and their own lives, the fact of human reproduction in the Theogony is significantly elided. At the center of the poem, after Zeus has defeated Kronos, Hesiod tells the story of how Prometheus stole fire and tried to deceive Zeus by hiding the sacrificial meat inside the belly of the ox. These transgressions are the basis for Zeus’ introduction of the first woman, the unnamed Pandora, from whom we get the “race of women.”

2§9 Hesiod then embarks on a diatribe against women and marriage, comparing women to all-consuming drones who “gather into their own stomachs (γαστέρ’) the toil of others” (598—602).[13] However, the man who does not marry “arrives at deadly old age deprived of eldercare (γηροκόμοιο)” and when he dies, his distant relatives divide up his estate (603—605).[14] What is missing here is any reference to children.[15] Instead of lamenting the fact that men must rely on women to perpetuate the household, Hesiod emphasizes what will happen if a man does not get married. The absence of childbirth is even more pointed when we consider the characterization of women as mere consuming bellies. As mentioned earlier, gaster is also the common term for ‘womb’ throughout Greek medical and literary texts. The dual meaning of gaster, however, is not activated here. In contrast to the abundant references to birth among the gods and in the natural world, the portions of the poem dealing with humans (e.g. Hecate 414—442 and diatribe against women 512—616) are silent, not only on the act of giving birth, but on the very notion of women’s reproductive capacity.[16]

Mortal Gaster, Immortal Nedus

2§10 This selective silence about childbirth cannot be purely ideological, however. Hesiod could easily have lamented that women produce more mouths to feed and that they give birth to trouble, as is suggested in the Pandora narrative of the Works and Days. Instead, the reproductive capacity of the female gaster is suppressed and aligns with the two other instances of the term gaster used to denote consumption rather than production: the concealing gaster of the sacrifical ox (539) and the mortal/bestial gaster of the Muses’ rebuke in the proem (26). All three usages refer only to the retentive capacities of the gaster, and all three refer to either humans or animals, beings who occupy the lower end of the ontological scale.

2§11 This elimination of birth from the human sphere accomplishes three things: 1) It rhetorically heightens women’s negative impact on men’s lives; 2) It sidesteps men’s own role in childbirth; and, most importantly, 3) It characterizes human existence as devoid of agency and lacking in any solutions of the sort of available to Zeus and his divine nedus.[17] Contrary to the divine realm, in which reproductive energy provides both the problem and the solution to order and stability, humans are left with no solutions to their cares other than poetry.

2§12 Zeus’ reproductive activity at the end of the poem seems to confirm this interpretation. Here, Hesiod draws together the thematic strands set forth in the proem and in the diatribe against women. After impregnating Metis, Zeus swallows her “so that she might advise him of good and evil” (ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε) (894—900). He then marries Themis, who births goddesses who “care for the works of mortal human beings” and who “gives to mortal human beings both good and evil (ἀγαθόν τε κακόν τε).” (903—906). Zeus’ first two marriages, thus, bring the mortal and immortal realms together and establish him as “father of gods and men.” Significantly, this soothing view of cosmic unification and orderly reproduction under Zeus is one that Hesiod himself has enacted. By the poem’s end, Hesiod has, in effect, metapoetically recreated the performative scenario with which the poem began. He “newly anguishes” the spirit of his audience members (98—99) by asserting mortal men’s inability to avoid women and marriage (603—605), only to distract their minds with the reassuring image of Zeus’ stable order (901—906), providing each listener with the opportunity to “forget his sorrows at once” (103). In essence, Hesiod has used reproduction to carve out a space in human society whereby only he, as the privileged poet, has the power to soften the lives of men, those gasteres, through the gifts of the Muses.

The Works and Days

The Programmatic Function of Good Eris

3§1 The motif of women and childbirth continues to play a role in solidifying Hesiod’s poetic authority in the Works and Days. However, in this poem, the thematic of reproduction is adapted to the poem’s advisory content and operates in the context of Hesiod’s identity as a didactic, rather than a theogonic, poet.[18] Framed as an admonition to his layabout brother, Perses, the Works and Days expounds on the need to reform and live a productive life. After a brief invocation to the Muses and Zeus, Hesiod announces that there was not just one birth of Strife, as had been narrated in the Theogony, but two—a “bad” Eris, which fosters war and conflict, and a “good” Eris, which was actually born first and is “much better for men” because it encourages positive competition (14—24).

3§2 This correction from one Eris to two, a good one and a bad one, is a significant rhetorical gesture. First, it signals that this poem is not the Theogony. The Works and Days belongs to a different genre. Correspondingly, it will subscribe to a different world view, have different aims, and will use different tools in order to accomplish those aims. Second, it signals the importance of readjusting one’s perspective and letting go of previously held ideas about, in this case, a specific goddess and the nature of human social dynamics.[19] Essentially, Hesiod is teaching the audience how to listen to his didactic poem. This programmatic nod to revision will be crucial to our understanding of the emerging pattern of reproduction as it unfolds over the course of the poem.

3§3 As mentioned earlier, the Works and Days begins by using negative images of reproduction to paint a bleak picture of human existence, one that looks at first very similar to that in the Theogony. Over the course of the poem, however, this pessimistic representation gives way to a more benign view of reproduction as a core component of human life, one which mortal men are fully capable of managing. There are three phases in this progression.

1. Pandora and Images of Birth as Aetiology

3§4 In the first phase, conventional analogies for the reproducing female body are used to explain why men must work. The gods (later revealed to be Zeus) hid bios from human beings in retaliation for Prometheus’ theft of fire. “Otherwise you would easily be able to work just one day so as to have enough for a whole year” (4—47). Bios, here, stands for ‘livelihood,’ the agricultural means to sustain life, but it also simply denotes ‘life’ itself. Zeus’ hiding it away calls to mind the hidden nature of fertility—that of the earth and of the pregnant woman.[20]

3§5 The other explanation, Zeus’ introduction of Pandora (and women) to the world, deepens the symbolic connection between birth and mortal privation.

πρὶν μὲν γὰρ ζώεσκον ἐπὶ χθονὶ φῦλ’ ἀνθρώπων

νόσφιν ἄτερ τε κακῶν καὶ ἄτερ χαλεποῖο πόνοιο

νούσων τ’ ἀργαλέων αἵ τ’ ἀνδράσι κῆρας ἔδωκαν.

ἀλλὰ γυνὴ χείρεσσι πίθου μέγα πῶμ’ ἀφελοῦσα

ἐσκέδασ’· ἀνθρώποισι δ’ ἐμήσσατο κήδεα λυγρά.

μούνη δ’ αὐτόθι Ἐλπίς ἐν ἀρρήκτοισι δόμοισιν

ἔνδον ἔμιμνε πίθου ὑπὸ χείλεισιν, οὐδὲ θύραζε

ἐξέπτη· πρόσθεν γὰρ ἐπέμβαλε πῶμα πίθοιο. (90-98)

 

Previously the tribes of men used to live upon the earth

entirely apart from evils, and without grievous toil

and distressful diseases, which give death to men.

But the woman removed the great lid from the storage jar with her hands

and scattered all its contents abroad—she wrought baneful evils for human beings.

Only Anticipation remained there in its unbreakable home

under the mouth of the storage jar, and did not fly out;

for before that could happen she closed the lid of the storage jar

3§6 In medical and literary texts, the pithos and other containers function as common metaphors for the womb.[21] Pandora’s womb-jar releases troubles and then retains Elpis (Anticipation)[22] inside, rendering women perpetually pregnant with both positive and negative potential. Women, then, by nature of their anatomy and social role as producers of children, are depicted as constantly on the verge of generating the conditions that create hardship for men, subjecting them to sickness and death. Women’s reproductive capacity is thus associated with the ambiguity and fragility of human (specifically male) existence and provides an apt metaphor for the origins of these conditions.

2. The Just and Unjust Cities: Birth as an Index

3§7 As the poem continues, the uses of the thematic of reproduction shifts. In the description of the Just City, birth is no longer characterized as a cause of misery for men, but an index of or consequence of just and unjust behavior. For the men of the Just City, “the earth bears the means of life in abundance and their wives give birth to children who resemble their parents (332—237).[23] These are traditional markers of a just king and society.[24] As a correlate, in the Unjust City, the crops fail, the population withers, and households diminish (238—247). Here, reproductive outcomes are the consequence of people’s behavior and it is implicitly men, more than women, who are primarily held responsible. This revision of the role of reproduction in society neutralizes, or at least complicates, the view initially put forth in the Pandora narrative of women as the source of toil, disease, and death.

3. Managing Fertility in the Life of the Farmer

3§8 Finally, as we move into the advisory portion of the Works and Days, the tone shifts from one of negative to positive motivation, implying that men can, in fact, exercise some control over the conditions of their lives. On the subject of rationing household stores, Hesiod advises, “Take your fill when the storage–jar (πίθου) is just opened or nearly empty, do not let a fancy-assed woman deceive your mind …whoever trusts a woman trusts swindlers“ (368—369, 372—375). It is the man’s responsibility to keep track of the storage jars, know whom to trust, and how to resist distraction, which implies that he now has the agency to do so.

3§9 While the image of the beguiling, deceptive woman prone to opening jars retains elements of the Pandora story, she is no longer characterized as having any real power.[25] The hostility toward women and reproduction is, thus, accordingly readjusted as we can see in the following piece of advice on family planning. Hesiod advises having “a single-born son” to keep the household intact, but then he quickly adds that “yet Zeus could easily bestow immense wealth upon more people: more hands, more work, and the surplus is bigger” (376—380). Following, as it does, upon the warning about women as swindlers, this piece of advice is surprisingly optimistic.[26] Despite the poems’ earlier depictions of the harshness of Iron Age life and its toils, there is no lament over the need to reproduce or the economic pressures that come with a larger household. Indeed, just twenty lines later, Hesiod summarizes his three-step program for getting rid of debts and preventing famine: set up a household, get a wife, and procure oxen and a slavewoman to help with plowing (405). Here, women are characterized as a necessary component of the household and part of the defense against economic instability and hunger. We have come a long way from Pandora who brought death-bearing disease into men’s lives.

3§10 The closing vignette of the Works and Days, brings together key images and themes that have appeared throughout the poem and represents the final stage of the domestication of women and reproduction.

πρώτιστη δ’ εἰνας παναπήμων ἀνθρώποισιν·

ἐσθλὴ μὲν γάρ θ’ ἥ γε φυτευέμεν ἠδὲ γενέσθαι

ἀνέρι τ’ ἠδὲ γυναικί, καὶ οὔ ποτε πάγκακον ἦμαρ.

παῦροι δ’ αὖτε ἴσασι τρισεινάδα μηνὸς ἀρίστην

ἄρξασθαί τε πίθου καὶ ἐπὶ ζυγὸν αὐχένι θεῖναι

βουσὶ καὶ ἠμιόνοισι καὶ ἵπποις ὠκυπόδεσσι

παῦροι δέ τ’ ἀληθέα κικλήσκουσιν.

τετράδι δ’ οἶγε πίθον – περὶ πάντων ἱερὸν ἦμαρ—

μέσσῃ· παῦροι δ’ αὗτε μετεικάδα μηνὸς ἀρίστην… (811-820)

 

The first ninth is entirely harmless for human beings:

it is a fine day for both a man and a woman to be conceived

and to be born, and never is that day entirely evil.”

Few know that the thrice-ninth day is the best of the month

for starting in on a storage-jar and for placing a yoke on the neck

of oxen and mules and swift-footed horses…

few call things truthfully.

On the middle fourth, open a storage-jar—beyond all others it is a holy day.

Then again, few know that the twenty-first is the best of the month.

3§11 Hesiod’s comment that the first ninth day is said to be good for both men and women to be conceived or born, and that day is never evil (813) is significant. Earlier, the days prescribed for begetting boys or girls used the terms ἁνδρόγονος and κούρη.[27] Here, the terms ἀνέρι τ’ ἠδὲ γυναικί (813), man and woman, are juxtaposed with advice on opening the storage jar (815) and yoking draft animals (815—816), both of which are conventional analogies for marriage, sex, and birth, calling to mind images of a cohesive household comprised of husband and wife and the now neutral storage jar. On these days, balance, it is suggested, has finally been achieved.

3§12 At this point, however, Hesiod introduces a note of caution as he emphasizes the difficulty of discerning which are actually the good days: One time one of these days is a stepmother (μητρυιὴ), another time a mother (μήτηρ).” (825). This stereotypical opposition between the “true” mother and the wicked stepmother masquerading in her place constitutes the final revision of the image of reproduction. The mother figure is now the symbol of days that are “a great boon for those on earth” (822), a correlate to the unqualified statement with which this section began that “nothing is better than a good wife” (703). We have come a long way from the frightening specter of Pandora opening her womb-jar and birthing evils. The initially negative attitude toward women has softened as we come to realize that the wife and mother figure is, like the Eris, perhaps not so bad after all so long as we can tell the difference.

Hesiod’s Didactic Authority

3§13 It is in this closing section of the poem that Hesiod’s agenda in the Works and Days comes into full view. The repeated insistence, four times within ten lines, that “few know” “παῦροι ἴσασι” (814, 818, 820, 824) which days are which implies that, actually, men’s ability to direct the course of their lives—whether in the arena of family planning or agriculture—depends on Hesiod’s special knowledge of proper days. For without it, regardless of the “works” one undertakes to safeguard one’s livelihood and household, doing so on the wrong days will leave one subject to the harsh whims of the cruel stepmother. All throughout the poem, then, reproduction and images of the reproducing female body have played an important role in Hesiod’s careful transition from bleak pessimism to the cautious optimism, upon which his didactic authority depends.

Conclusion

4§1 Both the Theogony and the Works and Days, then, use the topoi of women and childbirth to enhance Hesiod’s poetic authority by strategically asserting or denying men’s ability to control reproduction. In the Theogony, Hesiod presents the full range of problems, solutions, and benefits of reproduction among the gods while excising it almost entirely from the human realm. Reproduction is used to widen the gap between men and gods so that Hesiod himself may bridge that gap and intensify the impact of his poetry. The Works and Days, on the other hand, begins by deploying threatening images of reproduction as part of a scare tactic to attract the audience’s attention. Gradually, however, the poem moves toward themes of male accountability and agency, presenting increasingly benign references to reproduction as an integral component of life that men may learn to manage as long as they recognize the authority of Hesiod’s wise advice. The use of reproduction to denote the potential for both familial continuity and harmony as well as cross-gender suspicion and resentment demonstrates the multivocal nature of discourses surrounding women and childbirth.

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Zeitlin, F. 1996. Playing the Other: Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature. Chicago.


[1] See esp. Zeitlin 1996:58—59 on the dangers of female sexuality in Hesiodic poetry.On the dangers of female beauty generally, see Blondell 2013:1—26.

[2] The vast majority of work has focused on Pandora and ideologies of gender in divine and human society. See esp. Zeitlin 1996, Vernant 1979, 1980; Loraux 1981, [Arthur] Katz 1982, 1983. Others examine attitudes toward women in the context of Iron Age life. See esp. Sussman 1978, Scheidel 1995, 1996, and Canevaro 2013.

[3] Angier 1964:329 observes that the most important category of repetitions in the Theogony contains birth and origin words.

[4] See Tsagalis 2006 on the poetological techniques by which the Hesiodic narrator seeks to assert his authority and make his presence felt within the poem’s generic constraints. See Nagy 1992 on the way that Hesiodic poetry lays claim to panhellenic status and, thus, greater poetic authority.

[5] See West 1966:160. As West observes, the rebuke κάκ’ ἐλέγχεα is a standard term of epic abuse and also appears in Iliad. II 235, 5.787 and 8.228. Arthur 1983:102 notes that the epithet “points to the shepherds’ state of moral ambiguity, a correlate to the geographical intermediacy of the fields they inhabit.”

[6] On this passage, see esp. Stoddard 2004:74—85. As the source of hunger and, therefore, desperation, the belly is associated with lying deception. cf. Svenbro 1976:50—59, Murnaghan 2006:10—13. Arthur 1983:103—104 also notes that in the Iliad, blows to the belly are always fatal. LeClerc 1993:169 observes that gaster is only used for humans and animals.

[7] For the gaster as womb, see Arthur 1983:101—107.

[8] See West 1966:35—36 for a detailed explication for the logic of parentage in the genealogies and the ways in which parent and offspring are mutually reflective. The notion of children resembling their parents (fathers, in particular) is a traditional index that all is right in society. See the description of the Just City at Works and Days 235 and West 1978:215 on this traditional trope.

[9] Zeitlin 1996:82.

[10] Arthur 1982:72 “the right to rule is identified with control over procreation.” See also Muellner 1996:65­­­­­­—80, 92—93 on the evolution of male gods’ appropriation of reproduction.

[11] It should be noted that elsewhere in Greek literature, both terms are used for human stomachs and wombs, but it is very rare for either term to be applied to the gods. In Homer, neither term is ever used to refer to the gods. In classical texts, both terms refer equally to the womb and the stomach and tend to be used primarily in reference to humans and animals. Nedus is the less common and more marked term, occurring primarily in poetry. In the Hippocratic corpus, it only appears 17 times, in contrast to gaster’s 434. Hesiod’s restriction of the elevated term nedus to the gods further heightens the ontological divide between gods and humans.

[12] Zeitlin 1996:72—73.

[13] Women are the source and cause of labor, which will be picked up in the Works and Days, but there it will be as the “birther” of evils, not as the consumers of labor.

[14] The concern about not producing a caregiver and heir is described in a curiously periphrastic way. As Zeitlin 1996:58 notes, Hesiod must resort to the hapax “γηροκόμοιο” to avoid making reference to a child who would be responsible for his parents’ care. Similarly, Hesiod must focus on distant relatives dividing the estate in order to avoid making reference to a child as heir who would preserve it.

[15] See Menander, fragment 720 “I give this girl to you for the production of legitimate children.”

[16] See Zeitlin 1996:73—81 on the hymn to Hecate and 59—62 on the omission of reproduction more generally.

[17] Scholars have noted how Hesiod’s obfuscation of the gaster as “womb” denies women’s reproductive contribution to the household, e.g. Arthur 1982:75, Zeitlin 1996:85, Clay 2003:119. None, however, has fully examined how the distinction between gaster and nedus contributes to the dominant themes of the poem or what role it plays in Hesiod’s overarching poetic program.

[18] See Martin 2004:32 on the problematic nature of the term “didactic.” For the sake of expediency, however, this is the term I will use here.

[19] See Martin 2004: 36—38 on the “pre-didactic rhetoric” of the two Erides as a call to listen and realize that “things are not as simple as they might have seemed.” Gagarin 1990:181 argues that this statement implies that the poem will be more complex than traditional modes of thinking and will pay greater attention to the tension the arbitrariness and ambiguity of divine justice.

[20] Recall that, in the Theogony 158—159, Ouranos imprisons the Titans “in the a hiding place in Earth and did not let them come up into the light…but huge Earth groaned (στοναχίζετο) within.” “Coming into the light” is a common periphrasis for birth, and στοναχίζετο is frequently used of women groaning in childbirth.

[21] Hanson 1990:318 “the anatomical terms employed by both Hippokratics and sophisticated anatomists show that they position the uterus in women as an upside-down jug: σταθμός or πυθμήν, fundus, “bottom,” is on top; στόμα, os, “mouth,” lies at the bottom; αὐχήν, cervix, “neck,” opens in a downward direction.” Zeitlin 1995:65—66 argues that Pandora’s opening and closing of the jar amounts to the breaching of her virginity and conceiving a child, acts that will always be occupy a position of ambiguity and uncertainty.

[22] “Elpis” is frequently translated as “Hope.” Most 2006:95n7, however, notes that “Elpis” refers to anticipation of both bad and good.

[23] See also the Golden Age (καρπὸν δὲ φέρει ζείδωρος ἄρουρα) (Works and Days 117) and the Heroic Age (ζείδωρος ἄρουρα…μελιηδέα καρπὸν…θάλλοντα φέρει) (Works and Days 172-173).

[24] See Homer Odyssey ixx 109f for the fertility of the earth and flocks cited as evidence of a just king. In Aeschylus Suppliant Women 625—709, the Danaids pray for Argos to be fertile in women, earth, and flocks and free from war, civil strife, and plague. In Aeschylus Eumenides 937—87, the Eumenides will ensure Athens’ fertility for women, earth, flocks, and freedom from civil strife. Herodotus III 65.7 observes that, for free men, the earth is bountiful and the women and flocks reproduce. For the opposite, see Herodotus VI 139.1, Sophocles Oedipus the King 269—71, Aristophanes Peace 1320—1328.

[25] See Fraser 2011:17—24 for the way that Hesiod exploits tensions within traditional concepts and realities by alluding to their competing meanings and consequences.

[26] Zeitlin 1996:67f. views this injunction in somewhat more pessimistic terms—a man with more than two sons is in dangerous waters and must rely on Zeus’ good will. Gagarin 1990:178 interprets it more neutrally, arguing that, “[Hesiod] is quite firm in urging adherence to the primary rules for success in agriculture and elsewhere. But however much a man may follow these rules, success is to some extent out of his hands. This is not a message of despair, however, for the exceptions do not invalidate the rules and a man will still do better in the long run if he follows these rules.” The important thing here is that this possibility lies open, in contrast with the earlier portions of the poem; the audience must be disempowered (fully feel their lack of power) in order to adjust, embrace, and feel empowered to work.

[27] Canevaro 2013:197—201 identifies twin currents of acceptance and suspicion running through the Works and Days, which she attributes to Hesiod’s construction of Iron Age conditions as something to be managed but never truly solved. She notes that Hesiod emphasizes that boys are better than girls and that the window for beneficial boys is bigger (four days as opposed to one).

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