David Conan Wolfsdorf
This chapter examines the reception of Hesiod in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, from Aristotle to Posidonius. The discussion focuses on the contributions of the Peripatetics, Epicureans, and Stoics, the only philosophical schools within this period for which the author has found evidence of Hesiodic reception. Two Hesiodic passages above all seem to have captured the attention of these philosophers: the genesis of the primordial divinities in Theogony and the Myth of Ages, especially the golden age in Works and Days. Granted the importance of these passages and their provision of one unifying thread within this particular history, philosophical interest in and use of Hesiod over the three centuries in question was diverse and complex. The reception is in fact not tightly unified at all.
This chapter surveys Hesiodic reception in fourth-century bce prose, with emphasis on Plato and especially the Laws. Passages of the Laws are read in context and used to illuminate the status of Hesiodic poetry in the fourth century. Topics discussed include rhapsodic performance, Hesiod’s relationship to Homer, study of Hesiodic poetry in schools, the fourth-century manuscript tradition, citation of Hesiod’s poems in conversation and Athenian courtrooms, and the politics of Hesiodic quotation. Whether understood as part of the rhapsode’s canon, a gnomic poet, a proto-sophist or proto-philosopher, or an allegorist, Hesiod remained a dynamic site for the production of the philosophical, literary, and political debates that animated fourth-century prose.
The early pre-Socratics’ major speculative and critical initiatives—in particular Anaximander’s conceptions of the justice of the cosmos and of the apeiron as its archē and Xenophanes’s polemics against immorality and anthropomorphism in the depiction of the gods and against any claim to divine inspiration—appear to break with Hesiod’s form of thought. But the conceptual, critical, and ethical depth of Hesiod’s own rethinking of the lore that he inherited complicates this picture. Close examination of each of their major initiatives together with the relevant passages in Hesiod shows that even in the course of departing from his thought, Anaximander and Xenophanes also reappropriate and renew it. A postscript to this chapter poses some questions for future inquiry into Heraclitus’s and Parmenides’s receptions of Hesiod.
This chapter discusses two ancient and long-persisting views of poetry that interpenetrate but are distinguishable: an earlier view, rooted in archaic oral-traditional rhetoric, which regards poetry as epideictic rhetoric composed in verse or song; and a later view, arising from classical theory and hermeneutics, which regards poetry as in essence a mimesis (representation) or philosophical fabulation (allegory) that conventionally is composed in verse but need not be. In the former view, poetry/song is a rhetorical (persuasive) act, and the audience’s role is to respond; in the latter, the poem/representation is a hermeneutic object, and the audience’s role is to decode. The earlier view accounts most fully for actual poetic practice from early to late antiquity, but the later view survives into modernity as the main thread in Western literary theory and poetics.
Arthur F. Kinney
Classical rhetoric provided the foundation for Renaissance poetics throughout Europe, beginning with Petrarch. Poetry was seen as a matter of rhetorical persuasion. The basic technique was the creative imitation of models, which in time encouraged the imagination to aim for wonder (admiratio) as well as instruction and delight. Handbooks of schemes and tropes suggested the means, such as prosopopeia or prosographia.