Return to North Glen or Reading List or Credo
Hesiod's Theogony Or Hesiod's "Works and Days"
Perseus Classics collection and digital library

The Deep Roots of Modern Misogyny?

alternative translation

He made this lovely evil to balance the good,
Then led her off to the other gods and men
Gorgeous in the finery of the owl-eyed daughter
Sired in power. And they were stunned,
Immortal gods and mortal men, when they saw
The sheer deception, irresistible to men.
From her is the race of female women,
The deadly race and population of women,
A great infestation among mortal men,
At home with Wealth but not with Poverty.
lt's the same as with bees in their overhung hives
Feeding the drones, evil conspirators
'The bees work every day until the sun goes down,
Busy all day long making pale honeycombs,
While the drones stay inside, in the hollow hives,
Stuffing their stomachs with the work of others.
'That's just how Zeus, the high lord of thunder,
Made women as a curse for mortal men,

Hesiod, approx 750BCE;
Translated by Stanley Lombardo

Old Wine in Old Skins - A Visitor

Hesiod came to see me. I knew him on sight, but that was one of his gifts.

"You got my message, so I came."


"You might be able to deliver another for me."


He looked me over for a moment before beginning. "I gather you're a bit of a storyteller, a philosophiser, so it's not surprising you understood. You can imagine me back then, working for Kings, may they prosper," rolling his eyes, "Priests, and the lot. it was a good living, and I had high status, but their entertainment was my meat, if you know what I mean."

"Sometimes I could get out a bit into the provinces, and less often I could sit in on village fires, and slip in a bit of earthier humour, what with ploughing the furrows and livestock and gathering wild fruit and such. Ah, those are some of my best memories! My big mistake was getting scribes to write it down; it became holy writ, literally, but only the 'approved ' version, with all that bullshit about noble rulers and priestcraft. I had to put in the disclaimer, we all did it, you know, 'the muses came to me and told me all this stuff. If you disagree, it ain't with me.' You lot now just say 'the opinions expressed are not necessarily those of the editor, etc'."

"You can imagine the scene, the men all gathered around the campfire, perhaps some percussion or a string, me reciting a story. The story is strung together with bits of wisdom I've heard here and there, and the odd flash of my own, but humour is the key, and you've gotta play to your audience. You know that, and that's why I'm here."

"The surest ones for a good laugh have always been the Wimmin jokes. I've already profusely sung the praises of the very feminine muses, in deference to traditions far older than ours, and now the fun begins.

"You know, Mighty Zeus, Wind and Lightening,
He wanted to keep fire to hisself,
But Promethius was tricky, and slipped him a micky,
And kindled man's greatest adventure.

"But Zeus was so pissed, He had his blacksmiths,
Chain up the poor boy, forever,
And wise Ambidexter, (sic!) the unsurpassed Maker,
go fashion a bane for a blessing.

"Well, you know the rest. I felt you read it, particularily the second time. By this time, they're cracking up with every line, and a lot more that haven't come down in the bloody holy writ versions, and plenty on us guys as well, when I judged I could get away with it, but mostly they were rocking in their seats, shouting for the Wimmin to bring more soup or wine, you know the scene. And the Wimmin would be shouting stuff as well. They all already knew most of it anyway; there weren't that many acts around in those days, and we all used the same material with our own variations and timing. I was pretty good, I guess; I usually got well fed, watered, and sometimes bedded. Even in those days there were groupies....," a faraway look,...

"But that's not what I came about. I have to admit, you've got me remembering the good times, and I thank you for that. Marty West is a good translator; I've spent hours with him, but he's mostly indoors with no fire, and not really a feminist.

"Like I was saying, the problem seems to have begun with writing it down. It lost its fluidity; it was never the same again, because it was always the same, you know. And the jokes are getting awfully old by now, and the best ones, the ones meant to bring it all back round to the muses, and get us all laughing lovingly at ourselves?

'You mean to have a fire in front of us,
We've got to have the Wimmin on our backs?'

'You'll want us on our backs 'fore Dawn, I'll warrant!
A man can't keep a fire alive for long.'

'Just let me poke yer fire a bit.'

'With what you've got, you little shit?
You're all burned out in half a tick!'

"Those ones'r mostly lost, if they ever got written down properly. You've seen a few of them, I think?" I nod.

"Do you know what I want?" looking me directly in the eyes.

"To apologise?"

"Yeah," sighing, "especially to the lassies. I know I've done untold damage, but it wasn't meant, and I can't undo it, and I am sorry. It's the least I can do. And you've gotta grant I was spot on about the Iron Age, but that wasn't very funny, was it?"

"No, but amazingly accurate and still germane. What shall I say to us menfolk?"

"We should all listen to our better instincts. There's a lot of good advice on mundane matters in the 'works and days' collection, and you can use any of it and modify it as you see fit. It wouldn't do to try a straight translation, you've got no bloody Greek, and Marty West has done a pretty good job."

"Aye, The humour is obvious, but I was certain only a woman could be writing the introduction. She would feel that to make any comment on such blatant masculism would be redundant. West has to be grinning, but he's subtle, perhaps too subtle for some of my female colleagues."

And he vanished. But I got the clear feeling we could be friends, and I desperately hoped he liked me (No, not that way!) He left me the last word; that's a troubling sign. Was it that remark about our Sisters? I hope I didn't bore him. Oh my God, there I go again; was I dreaming?

Hesiod, "Theogony", "Works and Days"; a new translation by M L West,1999.
£6.99 Oxford World's Classics; ISBN 0-19-283941-1

Ed Iglehart is a student at the centre for Human Ecology, Edinburgh.

A bit of background, an extended frame to the tale, ...
From Betty Roszak, in "The Spirit of the Goddess", based on a colloquia lecture from 1990 collected in "Ecopsychology," Roszak et al. :

"Ecofeminists and ecopsychologists together can move past such dubious dualistic notions, can go beyond the questionable cultural overvaluation of dominance, competition, and separation into a new vision of human identity. What we seek is wholeness and the creation of a kind of knowing that cultivates rationality, self-confidence, intellect, power alongside the nurturing, healing, compassionate, intuitive components of personality. Both ecofeminism and ecopsychology want to break free of the bonds of patriarchal inheritance, to become grounded in a new reality, aware of the sacred nature of each person and each being on the Earth. There is no Goddess in the sky; we are all the Goddess. Our saints and heroines are not dead; they live within us and, like phoenix, are renewed each day."

After reading Betty Roszak's "Spirit of the Goddess" for the second time, I came indoors, thinking I could show it to my daughter and wife, in the hope that they might find it resonant, and that it might help them to understand some part of the things wrestling in my mind. Annabel said she was unlikely to have time as she had to read Hesiod before returning to Edinburgh. I asked what that was, could I have a look? She continued to read sunday papers while watching/listening to TV; I was immediately drawn in and submerged in the introduction, devoured it and a good part of the translated text. Hesiod is the oldest Greek Poet, before Homer, and more peaceful and domestic and I had never heard of him! A couple of bits which may be of interest:

(Editor)"...the story of Prometheus. This is a myth designed to explain the origins of certain institutions and features of the world as we know it. The practice of eating the meat of the sacrificed animal and dedicating the inedible parts to the gods is explained as the consequence of a trick which Prometheus once played on Zeus. Hesiod's piety will not allow it that Zeus was really deceived, but the story presupposes that he was. Zeus then tried to withhold fire from men so that they could not cook their meat, but Prometheus stole it and delivered it to them: that is how we acquired that unearthly commodity. Finally Zeus decided to contrive a punishment for mankind from which there would be no escape. And so we have women."

(Translation) "When he had made the pretty bane to set against a blessing, he led her out where the other gods and men were, resplendent in the finery of the pale-eyed one whose father is stern. Both immortal gods and mortal men were seized with wonder then they saw that precipitous trap, more than mankind can manage. For from her is descended the female sex, a great affliction to mortals as they dwell with their husbands—no fit partners for accursed Poverty, but only for Plenty. As the bees in their sheltered nests feed the drones, those conspirators in badness, and while they busy themselves all day and every day till sundown making the white honeycomb, the drones stay inside in the sheltered cells and pile the toil of others into their own bellies, even so as a bane for mortal men has high-thundering Zeus created women, conspirators in causing difficulty."

return to top

Describing the creation of the races of men by the immortals who dwell on Olympus, first of gold, then of silver and bronze, each to be covered up by the earth in turn, and the Heroes (demigods), settled at the ends of the earth, "with carefree heart in the Isles of the Blessed Ones, beside deep-swirling Oceanus: fortunate Heroes, for whom the grain-giving soil bears its honey-sweet fruits thrice a year."

alternative translation

"Would that I were not then among the fifth men, but either dead earlier or born later! For now it is a race of iron; and they will never cease from toil and misery by day or night, in constant distress, and the gods will give them harsh troubles. Nevertheless, even they shall have good mixed with ill. Yet Zeus will destroy this race of men also, when at birth they turn out grey at the temples. Nor will father be like children nor children to father, nor guest to host or comrade to comrade, nor will a brother be friendly as in former times. Soon they will cease to respect their ageing parents, and will rail at them with harsh words, the ruffians, in ignorance of the gods' punishment; nor are they likely to repay their ageing parents for their nurture. Fist-law men; one will sack another's town, and there will be no thanks for the man who abides by his oath or for the righteous or worthy man, but instead they will honour the miscreant and the criminal. Law and decency will be in fists. The villain will do his better down by telling crooked tales, and will swear his oath upon it. Men in their misery will everywhere be dogged by the evil commotions of that Envy who exults in misfortune with a face full of hate. Then verily off to Olympus from the wide-pathed earth, veiling their fair faces with white robes, Decency and Moral Disapproval will go to join the family of the immortals, abandoning mankind; those grim woes will remain for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil."

Well, well, well! 2800 years and counting. The triumph of individualism.

Hesiod, "Theogony", "Works and Days"; a new translation by M L West, Oxford World's Classics; ISBN 0-19-283941-1

alternative translation

"Look, kid," he said, staring me straight in the eye, "I know these visits are a gas to you, and inflate your ego, but I've got plenty of others I can spend time with, if you can't be bothered to do the homework. Now order the fucking book!"
And he vanished. I connected to the internet to order the bloody book.
(and send this to you)
Ed Iglehart 11/07/2001

The book arrives, but it's not ML West's translation I thought I was ordering (although the
translator pays elaborate respect to West, who, it appears is the major living authority on
Hesiod.), but another from some professor in Kansas who has rendered
Hesiod into midwestern American English.: (see below)
Stanley Lombardo at Univ of Kansas: http://
(Hesiod: Works & Days, Theogony, Translated by Stanley Lombardo with introduction and notes by
Robert Lamberton. 1993, Hackett Publishing Co. ISBN 0-87220-179-1)

from the translator's preface
The poet Jared Carter compares the art of oral poetry practiced by Hesiod to the art of early New Orleans jazz musicians, live performers who played not by rote but by heart, improvising from their common store melodies, riffs, and chord changes, developing out of the shared tradition their personal styles, and transmitting the art to the next generation This is a wonderfully apt comparison for what it suggests about the poetic process in archaic Greece. Hesiod composed without writing, in a tradition of oral composition and performance whose origins are lost us but which has parallels in Vedic and other ancient cultures....

(From the invocation to the muses:)

And they once taught Hesiod the art of singing verse,
While he pastured his lambs on holy Helikon's slopes.
And this was the very first thing they told me,
The Olympian Muses, daughters of Zeus Aegisholder.

"Hillbillies and bellies, poor excuses for shepherds:
We know how to tell many believable lies,
But also, when we want to, how to speak the plain truth."
So spoke the daughters of great Zeus, mincing their words.
And they gave me a staff, a branch of good sappy laurel,
Plucking it off, spectacular. And they breathed into me
A voice divine, so I might celebrate past and future.
And they told me to hymn the generation of thc eternal gods,
But always to sing of themselves, the Muses, first and last.

But why all this about oak tree or stone?

Start from the Muses: when they sing for Zeus father
They thrill the great mind deep in Olympos,
Telling what is, what will be, and what has been,

The famous Lame God plastered up some clay
To look like a shy virgin, just like Zeus wanted,
And Athena, the Owl-Eyed Goddess,
Got her all dressed up in silvery clothes
And with her hands draped a veil from her head,
An intricate thing, wonderful to look at.
And Pallas Athena circled her head
With a wreath of luscious springtime flowers
And crowned her with a golden tiara
That the famous Lame God had made himself,
Shaped it by hand to please father Zeus,
Intricately designed and a wonder to look at.
Sea monsters and other fabulous beasts
Crowded the surface, and it sighed with beauty,
And you could almost hear the animals' voices.

He made this lovely evil to balance the good,
Then led her off to the other gods and men
Gorgeous in the finery of the owl-eyed daughter
Sired in power. And they were stunned,
Immortal gods and mortal men, when they saw
The sheer deception, irresistible to men.
From her is the race of female women,
The deadly race and population of women,
A great infestation among mortal men,
At home with Wealth but not with Poverty.
lt's the same as with bees in their overhung hives
Feeding the drones, evil conspirators
'The bees work every day until the sun goes down,
Busy all day long making pale honeycombs,
While the drones stay inside, in the hollow hives,
Stuffing their stomachs with the work of others.
'That's just how Zeus, the high lord of thunder,
Made women as a curse for mortal men,
Evil conspirators. And he added another evil
To offset the good. Whoever escapes marriage
And women's harm, comes to deadly old age
Without any son to support him. He has no lack
While he lives but when he dies distant relatives
Divide up his estate. Then again, whoever marries
As fated, and gets a good wife, compatible,
Has a life that is balanced between evil and good,
A constant struggle. But if he marries the abusive kind,
He lives with pain in his heart all down the line,
Pain in spirit and mind, incurable evil.
There's no way to get around the mind of Zeus.
Not even Prometheus, that fine son of Iapetos
Escaped his heavy anger. He knows many things,
But he is caught in the crimp of ineluctable bonds.

(from Works & Days):

Invite your friend to a feast, leave your enemy alone,
And be sure to invite the fellow who lives close by.
If you've got some kind of emergency on your hands,
Neighbors come lickety-split, kinfolk take a while.
A bad neighbor's as much a curse as a good one' s a Blessing.
You've got a real prize if you've got a good neighbor.
Nary an ox would be lost if it weren't for bad neighbors.
Get good measure from a neighbor and give back as good,
Measure for measure, or better if you're able,
So when you need something later you can count on him then.

Now I'm speaking sense to you, Perses you fool.
It's easy to get all of Wickedness you want.
She lives just down the road a piece, and it's a smooth road too.
But the gods put Goodness where we have to sweat
To get at her. It's a long, uphill pull
And rough going at first. But once you reach the top
She's as easy to have as she was hard at first


Marry at the right age. Bring home a wife
When you're just about thirty, give or take
A few years. That's marrying in season.

A woman ought to wed when she's five years a woman.
Marry her virgin so you can teach her prudent ways.
The best girl to marry is the girl next door,
But have a good look around and make sure first
That marrying her won't make you a joke to your neighbors

A man couldn't steal anything better than a good wife,
Just as nothing is more horrible than a bad one,
Some freeloader who roasts her man without a fire
And serves him up to a raw old age.

(translator's notes:)769-80 [695-705] The misogyny of the poem down to this point is, if anything, somewhat mitigated in the advice on marriage. It is generally characteristic of the poem to put everything in a bad light, to focus on the dangers and threats inherent in all the aspects of life it gives advice on, and clearly women are viewed as a necessary evil and marriage a reluctant concession to the need to produce an heir. The observation that "a man couldn't steal anything better than a good wife" nevertheless goes some way toward restoring balance.
(I would ask the Sisters about that before commenting further! -- Ed (still sounds a lot like property to me...))

Don't throw a man's poverty up in his face.
He's already hurting, and it comes from the gods.
The best treasure in the world is a tongue
That knows when to stop, the greatest pleasure
Is when it goes as it should. Say bad things
And you're sure to hear worse yourself.

Don't be tiresome at a potluck dinner:
It's good entertainment and cheap at that.

Don't pour a libation of wine at dawn
To Zeus or any other immortal god
Without first washing your hands:
They'll spit your prayers out.

Don't piss standing up while facing the sun.
Between sunset and sunrise, remember,
Don't piss on the road or on the roadside,
Or naked. The blessed gods own the night.
A religious man sits down, if he's got any sense,
Or he goes by the wall of an enclosed courtyard.

Don't let your privates be seen smeared with semen
Near the hearth at home. Be careful to avoid this.

Don't beget children after coming home From a burial.
Wait until after a feast of the gods.

Don't ever set foot in a river you're fording
Without saying your prayers first. Gaze deep
Into the current as you wash your hands
In the precious white water Whoever crosses
A river unwashed (I mean hands and wickedness)
The gods visit with nemesis and suffering later.

Don't trim the dry from the five-branched quick
Using honed flashing steel at a feast of the gods.

Don't ever put a jug on top of the mixing bowl
When folks are drinking It's deadly bad luck.

Don't leave the wood rough on a house you're building
Or a chattering crow might perch on it and croak.

Don't eat from impure pots, nor wash from them
Either. There's a terrible vengeance in them.

Don't let a boy of twelve sit on gravestones and such.
It's a bad thing to do. Makes a man unmanly.
Nor a twelve month old, it comes to the same thing.

Don't wash in a woman's bath-water,
Which for a time has a bitter vengeance in it.

Don't, if you come across a sacrifice burning,
Find fault with what the fire consumes.
The god will visit you with nemesis for sure.

Don't piss in the mouth of a river that flows to the sea,
Nor in springs either. And don't ever shit in them.

That's the way to behave. And try to avoid being
The object of talk. A bad reputation is easy to get,
Difficult to endure, and hard to get rid of.
Talk never really dies, not when so many folks
Are busy with her. Talk too is some kind of a god.

all from: Hesiod: Works & Days, Theogony, Translated by Stanley Lombardo with introduction and notes by
Robert Lamberton. 1993, Hackett Publishing Co. ISBN 0-87220-179-1
for which grateful thanks to Waterston's and any other conspirators...
Stanley Lombardo at Univ of Kansas: Stanley

Ed Iglehart 18/07/2001

Return to North Glen or Reading List or Credo
Hesiod's Theogony Or Hesiod's "Works and Days"
Perseus Classics collection and digital library

Some extracts from The Spell of the Sensuous, David Abrams

WHEN THE HOMERIC EPICS WERE RECORDED IN WRITINGS THEN THE art of the rhapsodes began to lose its preservative and instructive function. The knowledge embedded in the epic stories and myths was now captured for the first time in a visible and fixed form, which could be returned to, examined, and even questioned. Indeed, it was only then, under the slowly spreading influence of alphabetic technology, that "language" was beginning to separate itself from the animate flux of the world, and so becoming a ponderable presence in its own right.

(Ed: This is what pisses me off! I had already put similar words into the mouth of my antique visitor, and thought it to be a unique and wonderfully humourous stroke on the part of my ineffable genius! Now I discover - not for the first time - that we can never tread virgin paths.... DAMN!)

"It is only as language is written down that it becomes possible to think about it. The acoustic medium, being incapable of visualization, did not achieve recognition as a phenomenon wholly separable from the person who used it. But in the alphabetized document the medium became objectified. There it was, reproduced perfectly in the alphabet . . . no longer just a function "me" the speaker but a document with an independent existence"

P. 113
"If men learn this, it will implant forgetfulness in their souls; they will cease to exercise memory because they rely on that which is written, calling things to remembrance no longer from within themselves, but by means of external marks." (from Plato's Phaedrus)

It is remarkable that none of the major twentieth-century scholars who have directed their attention to the changes wrought by literacy have seriously considered the impact of writing and, in particular, phonetic writing—upon the human experience of the wider natural World. Their focus has generally centered upon the influence of phonetic writing on the structure and deployment of human language, on patterns of cognition and thought, or upon the internal organization of human societies. Most of the major research, in ther words, has focused upon the alphabet's impact on processes either internal to human society or presumably "internal ' to the human mind. Yet the limitation of such research—its restriction Within the bounds of human social interaction and personal interiority—itself reflects an anthropocentric bias wholly endemic to alphabetic culture. In the absence of phonetic literacy, neither society, nor language, nor even the experience of "thought" or consciousness, can be pondered in isolation from the multiple nonhuman shapes and powers that lend their influence to all our activities (We need think only of our ceaseless involvement with the ground underfoot, with the air that swirls around us, with the plants and animals that we consume, with the daily warmth of the sun and the cyclic pull of the moon). Indeed, in the absence of formal writing systems, human communities come to know themselves primarily as they are reflected back by the animals and the animate landscapes wlth which they are directly engaged. This epistemological dependence is readily evidenced, on every continent, by the diverse modes of identification commonly categorized under the single term "totemism"

Although Merleau-Ponty himself never attempted a phenomenology of reading or writing, his recognition of the importance of synaesthesia—the overlap and intertwining of the senses—resulted in a number of experiential analyses directly pertinent to the phenomenon of reading. For reading, as soon as we attend to its sensorial texture, discloses itself as a profoundly synaesthetic encounter. Our eyes converge upon a visible mark, or a series of marks, yet what they find there is a sequence not of images but of sounds, something heard; the visible letters, as we have said, trade our eyes for our ears. Or, rather, the eye and the ear are brought together at the surface the text—a new linkage has been forged between seeing and hearing which ensures that a phenomenon apprehended by one sense is is instantly transposed into the other. Further, we should note that the Sensory transposition is mediated by the human mouth and tongue; it is not just any kind of sound that is experienced in the act of reading. but specifically human, vocal sounds—those which issue from the human mouth. It is important to realize that the now common experience of "silent" reading is a late development in the story of the alphabet, emerging only during the Middle Ages, when spaces were first inserted between the words in a written manuscript (along with various forms of punctuation), enabling readers to distinguish the words of a written sentence without necessarily sounding them out audibly. Before this innovation, to read was necessarily to read aloud, or at the very least to mumble quietly; after the twelfth century it became increasingly possible to internalize the sounds, to listen inwardly to phantom words (or the inward echo of words once uttered)

Alphabetic reading, then, proceeds by way of a new synaesthetic collaboration between the eye and the ear, between seeing and hearing. To discern the consequences of this new synaesthesia, we need to examine the centrality of synaesthesia in our perception of other nd of the earth.

Ed Again:
My first glimpse of these matters was in a book by Alan Watts: Tao - The Watercourse Way (four copies given/lent so far!)
in which a brief discussion of the differences between ideographic and alphabetic languages made it clear to me that chinese written language is one level less abstracted than alphabetic written work, much as described above. Watts gives an example in our general conception of chinese being very difficult:
The same text is written in English and Chinese, and we are then asked to turn the page through 90 degrees and decide which looks more complicated and difficult! There's no contest!
Also, Chinese readers can communicate with each other in writing, even when their spoken languages are totally mutually incomprehensible! The sounds used vocally may be totally different, but the characters represent the idea, not the sound.

Also, Watts reports studies with pupils with "reading difficulties" who apparently are able to learn to read and write pictographically (in Chinese!) quite readily..... Food for thought?

from studentlinks page on student pages, or studentlinks.html:

Alan Watts may be dead, but he's on the reading list! Started as an "uptight English theologian," became one of
the most lucid interpreters of zen, buddhism, taoism...sadly, Nature Man & Woman is out of print, but there's lots
else, including one of my alltime favourites, TAO, the watercourse way -- ed
all the best

Return to North Glen or Reading List or Credo
Hesiod's Theogony Or Hesiod's "Works and Days"
Perseus Classics collection and digital library

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Valid CSS!