Hesiod


Kathryn Rombs // Metaphysics of Motherhood

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February 11  

Hesiod and Homer are the earliest Greek writers of the classical period, both of whom wrote in the 8th century B.C. Homer’s poems are mostly concerned with the stories of particular men and what they achieved and suffered. Hesiod, on the other hand, was concerned with the larger order of the world and its origin, and then how the gods and generations of humans came into being.

In his Theogony, Hesiod assumes that at one time, the present world did not exist, and thus he accounts for it coming into existence. “First of all was Chaos born” he begins. Born of what? How? We do not know. The metaphysical question, “How did the world come from nothing?” receives a vague answer.

Then, Hesiod presents us with the most delightful image:

Black-winged night. . . laid a wind-born egg, and as the seasons rolled forth, sprang Love, the longed-for shining, with wings of gold. From darkness and death, Love was born. Order and beauty began to banish blind confusion. Love created Light with its companion, Radiant Day (Hamilton, Of God and Men). 

An egg appears, and Love springs out. And Love conquers darkness and disorder. Later Gaea is born, then Sky and the gap between them, then the gods and then men.

Hesiod’s description of Love is a first attempt at metaphysics. Out of chaotic “stuff,” out of darkness (there is nothing beyond a physical world here), arises Love (which is not physical). Where did it come from? How did it appear? It came in an egg (distinctly physical) and there is no account of where it came from. This is a fascinating little picture of physis—the natural world—with something beyond it, something that can neither be seen nor touched, emerging (In an egg, no less! Where better for something new to spring forth than that?).

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