Summary and analysis of Hesiod's 'Theogony'

Summary and analysis of Hesiod's 'Theogony'

Theogony, by Hesiod, is a very broad poem that is based on the deity of the gods or the birth of these gods.

Its title means «genealogy or birth of the gods', Being a large-scale synthesis of a great variety of local Greek traditions about the gods, organized as a narrative that tells how they came to be and how they established permanent control over the cosmos

It's based on amorphous corpus, a system that the Greeks used to be able to include those divinities totally unknown names that were named in the Homeric poems.

When we talk about the book Theogony, we refer to a work or poetics in which Hesiod tells how the world was created out of Chaos and from there the birth of many gods and the feats that they could perform.

The work is written in ancient Greek between 730 and 700 BC.

Composition of Hesiod's Theogony

Proemio (v. 1-115)

The Proem has two blocks:

1 - Hymn to the Muses of Mount Helicon (v. 1-35)
2 - Hymn to the Muses of Olympus (v. 36 - 104)

The proem ends with an invocation (v. 105 - 115) that marks the transition to the main part of the poem.

Its composition is similar to that of other proem like the Homeric Hymns, with a ternary structure (announcement of the theme of the hymn, account of some episode in the life of the god celebrated, closing invocation asking for his favor), and is linked to the forms of the lyric.

Body of the poem (v. 116 - 1018)

Cosmogony and the first generation of gods

First part of the succession myth. (v. 116 - 210), where the deities that represent cosmic elements: Chaos, Gaia and Eros, and later, chronologically the first generations are presented.

Then (v 133 - 153, they are presented, in addition to gods of elements, the first anthropomorphic like the Titans, the Cyclops and the Hecatonchires.

At the end of this block, the myth of succession and the castration of Uranus (v. 154 - 210), in addition to all the gods that were born from him.

Second and third generation of gods

It is followed by a set of genealogies and the end of succession myth (v. 211 - 885), reaching the Titanomachy.

Fourth generation of gods

In this fourth generation (v. 886 - 962) the distribution of the three kingdoms of the earth (Sky for Zeus, Sea for Poseidon and Underworld for Hades), and the constitution of the underworld and various genealogies arising from the Olympian gods.

End of poem

At the end of the poem (v.963 - 1022), although the thread is lost, a new proem, new genealogies and a hero catalog (v. 969-1018).

Explanation of Theogony

To the reading Theogony it is noted that it is a Greek poem which aims to give a brief explanation of the order of the world based on divinity and the triumph that good can have over evil.

Has a very fine line between myth and reality, the author tried to paint a statement in which an explanation is sought at the beginning of the world.

For the Greeks, Homer and Hesiod are two men who sought the creation of the names of many gods and this book is a sample of this, since throughout the poem it is described how the world originated and how the gods were involved in them.

It is described at the beginning, a chaos, and then a perfect order by the justice of the god Zeus.

All these gods explain the forces that run the world and what they allow to exist in it, all this based on a myth expressed in a poem that wants to explain the reality of the world.

The myth of creation

One of the main components of the Theogony is the presentation of the «Myth of the succession», where it is told how Cronos overthrew Uranus, and how Zeus in turn overthrew Cronos and his Titans, and how Zeus finally established himself as the final and permanent ruler of the cosmos.

Uranus (Heaven) initially He had 18 children with his mother, Gea (Earth): the twelve Titans, the three Cyclops and the three Hecatonchires, but by hating them, he hid them somewhere within Gaia.

Distraught, Gaea formed a firmly made sickle and urged her sons to punish their father. Only his son Cronos, the youngest Titan, was willing to do so.

Gaea hid Cronos and gave him the sickle, creating an ambush, and when Uranus slept with Gaia, Cronos reached out and castrated his father.

This allowed the Titans to be born and Chronos assumed supreme command of the cosmos.

Chronos takes control of the Universe

Chronos, having taken control of the cosmos from Uranus, he wanted to make sure he kept it. Uranus and Gea had prophesied to Cronos that one of their children would overthrow him, so when he married his older sister, Rhea, he made sure to swallow each of the children she gave birth to: Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus (in that order).

However, when Rea was pregnant with Zeus, she begged her parents to help her save him. So they sent Rhea to Crete to take Zeus, and Gaea took the newborn Zeus away, hiding him deep in a cave below Mount Aigaion.

In the meantime, Rea gave Cronos a huge stone wrapped in baby clothes that he swallowed thinking it was another of his sons.

Zeus, now grown, forced Cronos to vomit his other five children, and then released the Cyclops who provided him with his weapon, the lightning bolt, which Gaea had hidden.

The Titanomachy in Theogony

At that moment a great war started, the Titanomachy, between the new gods, Zeus and his brothers, and the old gods, Cronos and the Titans, for control of the cosmos.

In the tenth year of that war and following the advice of Gaea, Zeus freed the Hundred Hecatonchires, who joined the war against the Titans by helping Zeus.

Zeus fired his thunderbolt at the Titans, defeating them and throwing them into Tartarus.

The final threat to the power of Zeus was the monster Typhoon, son of Gea and Tartarus, but the god with his lightning beat him quickly and Typhon was also imprisoned in Tartarus.

Zeus, the king of the gods

On the advice of Gaea, Zeus was elected king of the gods and distributed various honors among the gods.

Zeus later married his first wife Metis, but when she learned that she was destined to produce a son who could usurp her rule, on the advice of Gaea and Uranus, Zeus swallowed Metis (while still pregnant with Athena), ending the cycle of succession and ensuring his eternal dominion over the cosmos.

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Video: Greek Creation Myths: Hesiods Theogony