Radcliffe G. Edmonds III
Hesiod’s Theogony provides one of the most widely authoritative accounts of the origin of the cosmos, but his account has always been challenged by rivals claiming to be older, wiser, and better, and the name of Orpheus has always been privileged in the evidence for ancient rivals to Hesiod. The Orphic accounts play their variations on the Hesiodic themes, riffing in different ways on the idea of the ultimate origin of the cosmos; the processes of reproduction by which subsequent entities were generated; the conflicts between these divinities that created the changes from the original state to the current one; the way in which humans entered the story; and the final resolution of the conflicts and changes that created the current, normal order of Zeus. The shocking innovations they introduce in the images of the theogonic narrative serve to bolster the authority of their often less shockingly innovative cosmological ideas.
In ancient Rome, the epic is much occupied with beginnings and endings, foundation and destruction. The history of Roman epic begins with the translation into Latin of Homer's Odyssey by Livius Andronicus in the later third century
Richard P. Martin
The Hesiodic view of the supernatural varies within individual compositions, in tune with oral-traditional poetic practice. The flexibility and dramatization inherent in the medium led ancient philosophers to treat Hesiod and Homer as deficient “theology.” Taken as religious fictions, with attention to their diction and devices, the Hesiodic poems are distinct from the Homeric in orientation toward and expressions about the divine world. The Theogony frames itself as a praise poem to Zeus but must downplay the self-interested character of such compositions. Zeus’s sovereignty is depicted in diachronic terms as wisely integrating earlier powers. The Works and Days deals synchronically with the upshot of the world-shaping Prometheus and Pandora complex, projecting onto the mythic level its tale of contemporary fraternal strife and advice for living under a regime of divine justice.