Justice in Hesiod’s Works and days and Theogony

The Subject of Justice in Hesiod's Poetry

The subject of justice predominates in Hesiod's poetry, particularly in Works and Days. It is hardly ever referenced in Theogony, and Hesiod asserts that it originates from a divine source. This essay will discuss the subject of justice in both poems and examine the reasons why it is connected to God in Hesiod's Theogony.

An Old Poem Called Works and Days

An old poem called Works and Days depicts the nature of virtue and vice while discussing Hesiod's everyday activities. (Caldwell & Richard, 21). Episodes of fable, allegory, and personal encounters are included. Three sections make up the composition. The first section talks about honest labor and warns against idleness and strife. The second part is about the rules of husbandry, and the last part is a religious calendar.

Hesiod's Dedication to Perseus

Hesiod wrote this poem and dedicated it to the brother, Perseus. He refers to him as a "great idiot" because when his father died, both of them inherited their father's properties, but his profligate brother wasted his portion of the inheritance (Hesiod, 139). Perseus takes him to court to claim the other part of the property that belongs to Hesiod. After bribing the judge, the court rules in his favor, and he takes what belongs to Hesiod. The theme of justice comes at this point in the poem. He again misuses everything and becomes destitute and comes back to Hesiod for help. In Christian spirit, he returned good for evil and helped his brother; he, therefore, wrote the poem to teach his brother on the importance of the virtue of hard work so that he may choose to reform his life (Hesiod, 140). He invokes the inspiration of the Muses and appeals to Zeus beseeching guidance to hit the mark for his misguided brother. He calls upon Zeus to set the fallen laws upright and pleads that his song to Perseus tells the truth.

The Nature of Justice in Works and Days

Hesiod devotes many lines in the poem, to the nature of justice. He says to men, Zeus gave judgment and at the end, it has proved to be the best thing. Modernity has shifted the real value of justice from being beautiful, excellent and right to the standards of subjective to those that are supposed to grant it to people in the society (Verdenius & William, 282). Appetite and self-preference is the order of the day. Ethics and common good no longer exist in the community. Lady Justice has been bound and gagged by the demands of ego, but Hesiod is determined to restore it to its rightful stature by instilling on the readers a spirit of not being egocentric (Most, 5). Hesiod says that the Olympian gods revere justice, and perjurers hurt it, straightway she sits by her father Zeus (Caldwell & Richard, 203). She tells him about the unjust hearts of men, and the city suffers for its lords. He also echoes of the Holy Mother Church that is communally elucidating sin.

The Role of Justice in the Poem Work and Days

In the poem Work and days, the unjust judges are attacked for ruling in favor of Perseus. Like Theogony, the poem begins with an invocation to the Muse (Hesiod, 142). He invokes the Pierian Muses to a song of their father Zeus and to take control of the fates of humanity. He says that through the power of Zeus, man can be made famous or nameless. He can strengthen and oppress the strong. Zeus can reduce the conspicuous and raise the inconspicuous people (Most, 6). He can quickly straighten the crooked. Hesiod, therefore, appeals to Zeus to guide his undertaking by telling him to straighten the laws so that he can speak to his brother.

The Theme of Divine Vengeance in Theogony

Hesiod begins the poem by engaging directly with the content of Theogony. The poem is full of strife one which is blameworthy and provokes disagreement and war among humankind. Zeus compels men to work honorably and stop rivalry amongst each other (Hesiod, 144).

Justice and Revenge in Theogony

Hesiod records the first murder in his Greek mythology poem, Theogony. This poem is an account of the origin of the cosmos, the genealogy of the gods and the events which led to the existence of Zeus whose leadership is greatly eulogized (Hesiod, 145). Uranos, the great sky-god killed some of his offspring, Cyclopes, and Hecatonchires (Hesiod, 145). Hesiod outlines that He forced them back to their mother's womb Gaia who was the earth goddess. The picture displayed in this poem is a woman in pain from losing her sons. Gaia suffers as a bereaved mother, which suggests her divine pity for her imprisoned children. It also shows the punishment that her husband is going to get due to mistreating their children. Her pain prompts her to devise a punishment by arranging to castrate her husband. This act is a symbolic representation of the separation of heaven and earth as used in mythology all over the world. Justice is barely mentioned in this poem by Hesiod uses the inner lives of the characters to bring the point of them trying to seek justice through revenge (Caldwell & Richard, 203). Truth has been made to appear divine in that only the gods can provide it. For instance, Gaia incites her children to get redress for their father's cruelty. Gaia's attempts to present herself and the children as agents of divine retaliation failed because she did not manage to convince her children at first (Verdenius & Willem, 123). They all feared, and no one uttered a word. This silence shows that they were all against homicide. Kronos later accepts the idea of castrating their father as a way of them getting justice. By using the same juristic idiom, Kronos reveals himself as an agent of divine retribution. This image materializes when he carries adamantine sickle prepared by her mother.

Divine Justice and the Fall of Uranos and Kronos

Uranos' evil deed develops the theme of divine vengeance. The blood spattered from him was received by Gaia who later bore the powerful Erinyes. The child was to be the goddess of punishment for murder. This scenario further reveals the manner in which justice is considered divine in Hesiod's poem, Theogony. Uranos denounces her children's wickedness and renames them as Titans (Hesiod, 145). He threatens retribution before he dies. The treat takes a form of a prophecy that Kronos is not aware of. Kronos, as prophesied, will be conquered by his child. Gaia later endorses this prophecy. It shows the inevitability of the divine justice by Kronos despite all the powers he possesses.

The Succession Myth and Divine Justice

Kronos was fully aware that he could not avoid the prophecy because it kept haunting him. Hesiod remarks that he held no blind man's watch observed and swallowed his children as they reached their mothers' knees back to her holy womb (Most, 7). The conception of Kronos being an agent of divine justice has failed to bring him peace and solace.

The Golden Age and Divine Pity

Kronos' rule did not seem to appease the wrath of Gaia and Uranos who were at the helm of the divine universe. His rule was known as the golden age where men lived like gods, there was no suffering or toil, and old age did not exist (Verdenius & Willem, 124). Furthermore, people feasted because the food was abundant and there was no law or fear of receiving punishment (Hesiod, 146). As deities, Gaia and Uranos responded to Rhea's prayers, and she delivered a baby, who she called Zeus. Wrath was directed to Kronos, and he was to pay for the furies of Rhea's father and those of the children he had swallowed. Gaia and Uranos responded to their daughter's plea, and their assistance showed their divine pity and wrath. Pity was shown to the children and fury was directed to Kronos for his cannibalistic act.

Zeus' Victory and the Divine Justice

Rhea follows Gaia's advice on going to Crete and delivering the baby. She then leaves him under the care of her mother Gaia hidden in a cave until he is grown up. Gaia cunningly wraps up a stone on the baby's cloth so that Kronos does not succeed in his evil deeds. Kronos continually throws the wrapped stone down thinking that it is the newborn baby (Verdenius & Willem, 132). Kronos is a simple character, and this emphasizes Gaia's divine power and fulfillment of the prophecy about his downfall when the correct time comes. He is deceived in disgorging his children by Gaia and the strength and power of Zeus.

Zeus and Divine Guidance

Zeus having displaced his father does not mean he has control over everything. A close inspection reveals that at some point he seeks guidance from Gaia. For instance, in the Titanomachy, he seeks advice from Gaia who tells him that he will win if he releases the Cyclopes (Hesiod, 147). Zeus frees them from the bondage in Tartarus, which is a place of punishment in the underworld. As an act of appreciation, Cyclopes give him thunder, lightning, and thunderbolt which Gaia had hidden from them. Zeus also set free hundred-handers after Gaia's advice with whom he uses to defeat his enemies (Hesiod, 148). The story of Zeus and his succession over the father tells us how justice was considered divine because, through the curse that was directed to Kronos, justice prevailed upon him being overthrown.

Divine Justice and the Expulsion of Uranos and Kronos

Zeus' expulsion of his father together with other Titans to Tartarus is the revelation of the curse that Uranos made upon Kronos when he was about to die (Most, 8). This idea is in tandem with divine justice in Hesiod's divine justice. The fall of Uranos and Kronos seems to be part of the succession myth that is covered in Theogony (Verdenius & Willem, 245). The succession in the poem appears to be a manifestation of retributive justice. The was advice given to Zeus by Uranos and Gaia to swallow his wife was meant to prevent the succession which was not smooth (Most, 9). His son who was to become the king of the gods was killed in her mother's womb to prevent the problem of succession.

Divine Justice and Zeus' Rule

If Zeus had a chance to ponder over his sufferings at the cave, he would have thought of violence against his father. Hesiod does not mention the agony of Zeus in the cave because it would be offensive to a contemporary religious feeling which regarded Zeus as invincible (Caldwell & Richard, 206). Zeus had cherished honor and justice. Zeus is privileged because he never walked in the ways of his father, he ruled differently and that the reason he was chosen by Gaia to be the king of all gods (Most, 10). Justice is gotten through him with the guidance of Gaia and Uranos.

The Use of Adamantine Sickle in Divine Justice

Investigating into the workings of divine justice, the use of adamantine sickle cell is very significant in developing the theme. The sickle that was carried by Zeus in the Typhonomachy could have been the one that Kronos castrated his father, Uranos (Hesoid, 149). This sickle in the poem appears as a divine justice because Gaia made it. She made it punish her husband who had mistreated their children. The sickle also seems to be a weapon which Zeus uses to attack Typhoeus. On the other hand, Zeus kills her wife together with the child, which could be the punishment that Typhoeus inflicts upon him (Most, 10). It would appear to be justice gotten from his father as a result of his violence. Before Zeus takes up the throne, he feels that he will not be able to escape his father's wrath.


In conclusion, in the poem Theogony Hesiod has presented justice as something that can only be gotten through divine intervention as seen from the wrath that the Zeus' lineage gets as a result of evil deeds that they commit to people in the society. Its source is divine as Hesiod put it.

Works Cited

Caldwell, Richard S., ed. Hesiod's Theogony. Focus Pub R Pullins & Company, 1987.

Hesiod, Thomas Alan Sinclair. Works and days. Georg Olms Verlag, 1966.

Most, Glenn W., ed. Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days, Testimonia. Vol. 1. Harvard University Press, 2006.

Verdenius, Willem Jacob. A commentary on Hesiod: Works and days, vv. 1-382. Vol. 86. Brill, 1985.

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