Scholia Reviews ns 6 (1997) 16.
David W. Tandy and Walter C. Neale (edd. and trr.), Hesiod's Works and Days: A Translation and Commentary for the Social Sciences. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1996. Pp. xiv + 149. ISBN: 0-520-20384-4. US$10.95.
Allegheny College, Meadville
This translation and commentary of Hesiod's Works and Days aims at a sociological reading; it is written for classicists, ancient historians, and social scientists. I agree with the authors that the preoccupations of Hesiod's poetry are legitimate historical guides to issues which were alive in his culture. Consequently, I review the book on its own terms and leave to others the comparison of this version's literary merits with those of other available translations.
The authors' candor and circumspection are admirable. Since they believe that certain Greek words do not map well onto any English word [DI/KH, BASILEU/S, XRE/OS, KE/RDOS], and that others are highly specific to ancient Greece [OI)=KOS, PO/LIS, A)GORH/], these words are untranslated (p. xii). They also stress that they offer a reading of the poem, not a definitive or unchallengeable explanation (pp. 4-5; cf. pp. 47-48).
The introduction (pp. 1-48), includes sections on the historical outlines of the Greek Dark Ages, on the Hesiodic structures of everyday life, and on the notions of XRE/OS, KE/RDOS, and DI/KH in the context of Perses' plight. Although the authors acknowledge recent scholarship that suggests that the Hesiodic poems take on a traditional persona, they treat Hesiod as an historical individual.[] The fact that early Greek oral culture did not need the author category, as it is discussed in Foucault's classic essay, 'What Is An Author?,' is of crucial importance in understanding the social world of this poetry, and, in my opinion, the authors should have dealt with it more fully.[] They treat Works and Days as a text that cuts against the grain of elitist contemporary texts, the Homeric epics and the Hesiodic Theogony (e.g., pp. 6-7). Hesiod's poem reflects a world in which burgeoning commercial interests of the leaders had begun to sever traditional links of mutual dependence between center and periphery in earlier redistributive economies, to the disadvantage of the commons (pp. 14-15; 22-25; 39; 48). Here the authors might have made mention of the later Gortyn Law Code, where we can clearly see the production of exchange values and the transition to a money economy. In this context, Hesiod's voice expresses the discomfiture of the marginal smallholder (but one should note that the authors assume that Hesiod had several slaves, that he had the wherewithal to hire seasonal day laborers, and that his OI)=KOS extended to 25-30 acres [pp. 27-31]). Most classicists will learn a great deal from the introduction, which is grounded in comparative studies on subsistence agricultural practices in peasant societies. Interesting parallels between Hesiod's world and the 'big men' of India before the British presence (pp. 18-19; cf. p. 44 n. 19), the Old Testament (pp. 22, 24), ancient Egypt (p. 24 n.11), and modern Nigeria (p. 35 n. 16), buttress some of the arguments.
The translation itself flows smoothly, and the facing notes are a convenience. As a minor quibble, I would prefer, contra Verdenius, 'Hope' for 'Expectation' as a translation of )ELPI/S at line 96. The authors follow West's transposition of lines 757-759 to follow 736.[] The work as a whole fills a void, and as a translated text for teaching Hesiod as an historical source, at present I see no rival in the field.
[] See R. P. Martin, 'Hesiod, Odysseus, and the Instruction of Princes,' TAPA 114 (1984) 29-48; id., 'Hesiod's Metanastic Poetics,' Ramus 21.1 (1992) 11-33; cf. R. M. Rosen, 'Poetry and Sailing in Hesiod's Works and Days,' CA 9 (1990) 99-113.
[] M. Foucault, 'What Is An Author?,' in J.V. Harari (ed.), Textual Strategies: Perspectives in Post-Structuralist Criticism (Ithaca 1979) 141-60.
[] W. J. Verdenius, A Commentary on Hesiod, Works and Days, vv. 1-382 (Leiden 1985); M. L. West, Hesiod: Works and Days (Oxford 1978).