Over the Thanksgiving holiday I read Jenny Strauss Clay’s “Hesiod’s Cosmos”. Looking at previous blogposts. Apparently this is my third read-through. Apparently, her insights are sticking, because as I read through my posts and studied the underlined items in the text, I said to myself, “I knew this already.”
So the insights I offer here are a little different for a couple of reasons. 1) My next big article will be about Aeacus and Arbitration in Ancient Greek myth. 2) Freed from having to follow the now well-known arguments, I could now read for enjoyment alone. I hope you will do the same. All quotes are from Clay unless noted otherwise.
Aeacus and Arbitration
“To favored kings they (the Muses) dispense the mollifying rhetoric that has the power to resolve even a great quarrel; those who have been wronged are sooth and reconciled.”
“The people all look to him as he discerns the ordinances with straight judgments and he speaking without stumbling, quickly and expertly makes and end even to a big quarrel.” Theogony 84-87
“The setting is clearly a communal feast shared by gods and men[i] a dias, whose very name derives from the act of division or apportionment; hence the formulaic expression, dais eish, referring to a fair and equitable distribution. As a social institution, the dias eish involves two distinct kinds of apportionment; the first is a division into strictly equal parts…the second constitutes the portion of honor the geras, assigned in recognition of particular excellence or esteem. With his division of the meat, Prometheus honors men by giving them all the edible parts of the ox. By this very act, he deprives the gods of that part of the dais eish that legitimately belong to them.”
“The gods in their blissful state needed the presence of inferior creatures to enjoy their superiority fully.”
“Pandora, who is coeval with the hiding of bios” Hey, same as Eve.
μηδέ ποτ᾽ οὐλομένην πενίην θυμοφθόρον ἀνδρὶ τέτλαθ᾽ ὀνειδίζειν,
Don’t ever dare to blame a man for cursed soul-destroying poverty.
“Cereberus will later receive a place and function in the organization of Tartarus, ensuring that the dead cannot escape from the underworld.” This is wrong. Cereberus is there to keep the living from accidentally wandering in.
“At the outset, the cosmos came into being when Gaia became oppressed by the burden of her children within; so now in a parallel fashion the external pressure of human population weighs her down.” I think a better parallel is that the cosmos came into being when Gaia was oppressed by the constant weight of Uranus upon her and now “the external pressure of human population weighs her down”. Gee, what does that say about us? The severing of the demi-gods from their lives at Thebes and Troy constitutes a new dispensation, because the gods like their grandfather Uranus pull back from the earth. “It renders permanent the gulf separating the eternal gods from ephemeral mortals.” It is the birth of the Iron Age, when Man rules.
“I am convinced that meaning inheres in form.”
“The succession of races is not linear but cyclical; at the end of the age of iron…the cycle of races stars again with a new golden age or more likely a new age of heroes as the sequence reverse itself.”
“Thebes, traditionally reputed to be the first city.”
“Thebes and Troy where the heroes demonstrate their valor – and perhaps provide entertainment for the gods.”
[i] The feast at Mecone celebrating the victory of the Olympians and their allies over the Titans. It is the time of the Great Dispensation when Zeus allotted each their prerogatives, privileges and powers.