A poet and rhapsode, Hesiod lived around 700 B.C. Hesiod is always compared to Homer and is one those rare poets whose compositions survive to this day. No one knows who was born first Homer or Hesiod, but some assume they lived around the same time.
Some ancient Greek scholars like Aristarchus argued that Homer was the earlier and many accepted this later. But this claim is doubtful because both these poets existed when no records of history were compiled. So whoever was born first may never be known.
Hesiod claimed himself to be a farmer in Boeotia, an area in Central Greece. His father belonged to Kyme in Aeolis but travelled to Ascra and settled there (described as cursed in his poems). Hesiod's father owned a small piece of land and practised law along with his brother Perses. These details are derived from his works 'Works and Days' and the 'Theogony' but other than this, little of him is known.
Only these famous works 'Works and Days' and the 'Theogony' exist today and some lines of his composition 'Shield of Heracles'.
Only three of the many works of Hesiod are in a good state today. Other remains are fragmented and therefore incomplete.
The first edition of 'Works and Days' came out in 1493 compiled by Demetrius Chalcondyles. Along with this composition other works were compiled and published in Venice by Aldus Manutius in 1495.
Hesiod's and Homer's poems main difference is that while Homer described the rich and kingly people in his works, Hesiod is known for describing the common man's life. In fact, some details of his own life are known to exist in 'Works and Days'.
This work, containing about 800 verses, makes the base for two facts in the Universe: Labour is the universal lot of Man, but he who is willing to work will get by. The background of this work can be dated to the agricultural land crisis in Greece which led to colonies in search of new land.
The works describes the five ages of man; mainly the Golden age, ruled by Cronos. In this era, people had extremely long lives and there was no sadness. Also mentioned are The Silver Age, which was ruled by Zeus, the Bronze age period of wars and the Heroic Age, the time of the Trojan war and the Iron age, the present corrupt era.
'Works and Days' also describes ethical values, hard work and unlucky and lucky days for specific occasions.
Theogony is one of the main documents of Greek mythology. The same style of writing seen in 'Works and Days' is used in Theogony. Most scholars agree upon the author of the composition as Hesiod.
Theogony revolves around the concepts of cosmogony i.e origins of world and theogony i.e of Gods. The composition of Theogony begins with fictional characters such as Gaia, Nyx and Eros and the genealogy of Gods to humans. It is believed through his composition that all the Gods and humans descended from the godesseses Chaos and Earth. It clarifies the positions of all the Gods, Godesseses, demi-gods, demons, humans and heroes in Greek mythology, along with fictional fairy tales and myths.
A short poem called the 'Shield of Heracles' is also credited to Hesiod. Other works of Hesiod, even if available, are in damaged (quotations or papyri) condition.
Another famous work of Hesiod is 'Catalogue of Women' or 'Eoiae' which describes mortal women who mated with Gods and their descendants.