Theogony by Hesiod (translation by Richard S. Caldwell)
Book Review by Centurion-Macro
When I first picked up Theogony, I admit that I did not have high hopes. Being a very small book, written by a poet I never heard of before, with a lengthy introduction bigger than the poem itself, I considered putting it down in favour of Homer or Virgil. However, despite my initial misgivings, I read it, and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing, and how enjoyable this little poem really was to read.
Theogony, in a nut shell, is a poem describing the genealogy of the Greek gods and the creation of the Greek world. Composed in the eighth century BC by the poet Hesiod, it is one of the oldest Greek poems to date, and one of the first accounts of Greek myth put in writing, along with Homer's famous works.
What really struck me about this poem was its content. It describes the stories of the Chasm, of Erebos, of Kronos and the Titans, of the Olympians, of their children, and of the many myths handed down to us from the Greek era. Theogony contains the oldest source for quite a few myths, including Pandora's Box and Prometheus, and continues to be a valuable source for scholars in understanding Greek myth.
For all that though, it is not a long, drawn out poem. Comprising of only a few dozen pages, it is a wonder how so much Greek mythology is present in a text that takes only an hour to read. But despite the amount of information and the shortness of the poem, it is not overcrowded and awkward. Indeed, Hesiod has done a wonder in making Theogony an evenly paced poem that gives both mythology and enjoyment to the reader.
Theogony is great for those wanting to understand Greek mythology. Because it is in a Homeric style poem, I found that it was a lot easier to comprehend and understand than by reading modern books of Greek mythology, which I find often to be very dry and boring. This poem did wonders for helping me to digest many important events, such as the Chasm and the war between the Titans and the Olympians, which I had beforehand been confused about.
Yet, I had to ask myself after finishing it, why had I never heard of Theogony before? It is such a great poem, written by a great poet - yet for years I had overlooked it in the bookshelves. Why? In hindsight, I believe that it was because Hesiod is unknown to many people, unless they have a special interest in classics or poetry. Certainly that it is true with myself, as I had often overlooked Hesiod in favour of those authors who are better known by the average person, such as Homer (who occupies an entire shelf in my local library!).
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However, while Hesiod does not get the publicity that Homer does, he is certainly worth reading. Whether you want to learn Greek mythology or if you just want to read a good story, Theogony is a good choice, and I recommend Hesiod to all.