ancient Greek poet

Hesiod (Ἡσίοδος Hēsíodos) was an early Greek poet, believed to have lived around the year 700 BC.

Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.


He harms himself who does harm to another, and the evil plan is most harmful to the planner.
  • He is the best of all who thinks for himself in all things.
    He, too, is good who takes advice from a wiser (person).
    But he who neither thinks for himself, nor lays to heart another's wisdom, this is a useless man.’
He is the best of all who thinks for himself in all things. He, too, is good who takes advice from a wiser (person). But he who neither thinks for himself, nor lays to heart another's wisdom, this is a useless man.

The Theogony (c. 700 BC)

  • We know how to speak many falsehoods which resemble real things, but we know, when we will, how to speak true things.
    • lines 27–28. Variant translations:
      • Perhaps we know to tell many fictions like to truths, and we know, when we will, to speak what is true.
      • We know how to tell many lies that pass for truth, and we know, when we wish, to tell the truth itself.
  • On the tongue of such an one they shed a honeyed dew, and from his lips drop gentle words.
    • line 82.
  • Ἠδ᾽ Ἔρος, ὃς κάλλιστος ἐν ἀθανάτοισι θεοῖσι,
    λυσιμελής, πάντων δὲ θεῶν πάντων τ᾽ ἀνθρώπων
    δάμναται ἐν στήθεσσι νόον καὶ ἐπίφρονα βουλήν.
  • Ὅς κε γάμον φεύγων καὶ μέρμερα ἔργα γυναικῶν
    μὴ γῆμαι ἐθέλῃ, ὀλοὸν δ᾽ ἐπὶ γῆρας ἵκοιτο
    χήτεϊ γηροκόμοιο.
    • Whoever avoids marriage and the sorrows that women cause, and will not wed, reaches deadly old age without anyone to tend his years.
    • line 603.
  • Ὣς οὐκ ἔστι Διὸς κλέψαι νόον οὐδὲ παρελθεῖν.
    • It is not possible to deceive or go beyond the will of Zeus.
    • line 613.
  • Ἔνθα δὲ Νυκτὸς παῖδες ἐρεμνῆς οἰκί᾽ ἔχουσιν,
    Ὕπνος καὶ Θάνατος, δεινοὶ θεοί
    • There the sons of obscure Night hold their habitation, Sleep and Death, dread gods.
    • line 758.
  • From whose eyelids also as they gazed dropped love.
    • line 910.
Hesiodi Ascraei quaecumque exstant, 1701
  • There was not after all a single kind of strife, but on earth there are two kinds: one of them a man might praise when he recognized her, but the other is blameworthy.
    • line 11.
  • ζηλοῖ δέ τε γείτονα γείτων
    εἰς ἄφενος σπεύδοντ᾽· ἀγαθὴ δ᾽ Ἔρις ἥδε βροτοῖσιν.
    • Neighbour vies with his neighbour as he hurries after wealth. This Strife is wholesome for men.
    • line 23.
  • Καὶ κεραμεὺς κεραμεῖ κοτέει καὶ τέκτονι τέκτων,
    καὶ πτωχὸς πτωχῷ φθονέει καὶ ἀοιδὸς ἀοιδῷ.
    • Potter bears a grudge against potter, and craftsman against craftsman, and beggar is envious of beggar, and bard of bard.
    • line 25.
  • Nήπιοι, οὐδὲ ἴσασιν ὅσῳ πλέον ἥμισυ παντός.
    • Fools, they do not even know how much more is the half than the whole.
    • line 40; often translated as "The half is greater than the whole."
  • Αἶψα γὰρ ἐν κακότητι βροτοὶ καταγηράσκουσιν.
    • For in misery men grow old quickly.
    • line 93.
  • Αλλα δὲ μυρία λυγρὰ κατ᾽ ἀνθρώπους ἀλάληται·
    πλείη μὲν γὰρ γαῖα κακῶν, πλείη δὲ θάλασσα.
    • But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils and the sea is full.
    • line 100.
  • For full indeed is earth of woes, and full the sea; and in the day as well as night diseases unbidden haunt mankind, silently bearing ills to men, for all-wise Zeus hath taken from them their voice. So utterly impossible is it to escape the will of Zeus.
    • line 101.
  • Χρύσεον μὲν πρώτιστα γένος μερόπων ἀνθρώπων
    ἀθάνατοι ποίησαν Ὀλύμπια δώματ᾽ ἔχοντες.
    οἱ μὲν ἐπὶ Κρόνου ἦσαν, ὅτ᾽ οὐρανῷ ἐμβασίλευεν·
    ὥστε θεοὶ δ᾽ ἔζωον ἀκηδέα θυμὸν ἔχοντες,
    νόσφιν ἄτερ τε πόνων καὶ ὀιζύος· οὐδέ τι δειλὸν
    γῆρας ἐπῆν.
    • First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Cronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them.
    • line 109.
  • They died, as if o'ercome by sleep.
    • line 116.
  • Ἄφρων δ᾽, ὅς κ᾽ ἐθέλῃ πρὸς κρείσσονας ἀντιφερίζειν·
    νίκης τε στέρεται πρός τ᾽ αἴσχεσιν ἄλγεα πάσχει.
    • He is a fool who tries to withstand the stronger, for he does not get the mastery and suffers pain besides his shame.
    • line 210.
  • Παθὼν δέ τε νήπιος ἔγνω.
    • Only when he has suffered does the fool learn.
    • line 218.
  • Οἳ δὲ δίκας ξείνοισι καὶ ἐνδήμοισι διδοῦσιν
    ἰθείας καὶ μή τι παρεκβαίνουσι δικαίου,
    τοῖσι τέθηλε πόλις, λαοὶ δ᾽ ἀνθεῦσιν ἐν αὐτῇ.
    • But they will give straight judgements to strangers and to the men of the land, and go not aside from what is just, their city flourishes, and the people prosper in it.
    • line 225.
  • Often an entire city has suffered because of an evil man.
    • Variant translation: Oft hath even a whole city reaped the evil fruit of a bad man.
    • line 240.
  • Ἐγγὺς γὰρ ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἐόντες
    ἀθάνατοι φράζονται, ὅσοι σκολιῇσι δίκῃσιν
    ἀλλήλους τρίβουσι θεῶν ὄπιν οὐκ ἀλέγοντες.
    • The deathless gods are near among men and mark all those who oppress their fellows with crooked judgements, and reck not the anger of the gods.
    • line 249.
  • Ὄφρ᾽ ἀποτείσῃ
    δῆμος ἀτασθαλίας βασιλέων, οἳ λυγρὰ νοεῦντες
    ἄλλῃ παρκλίνωσι δίκας σκολιῶς ἐνέποντες.
    • [Thus] the people pay for the mad folly of their princes who, evilly minded, pervert judgement and give sentence crookedly.
    • line 260.
  • οἷ γ᾽ αὐτῷ κακὰ τεύχει ἀνὴρ ἄλλῳ κακὰ τεύχων
    ἡ δὲ κακὴ βουλὴ τῷ βουλεύσαντι κακίστη.
    • He harms himself who does harm to another, and the evil plan is most harmful to the planner.
    • The man who does evil to another does evil to himself, and the evil counsel is most evil for him who counsels it.
    • He for himself weaves woe who weaves for others woe,
      and evil counsel recoils on the counsellor. [1]
    • lines 265-266
  • Ἐπεὶ κακὸν ἄνδρα δίκαιον
    ἔμμεναι, εἰ μείζω γε δίκην ἀδικώτερος ἕξει.
    • For then it is a bad thing to be righteous — if indeed the unrighteous shall have the greater right.
    • line 271.
  • Ἀνδρὸς δ᾽ εὐόρκου γενεὴ μετόπισθεν ἀμείνων.
    • The generation of the man who swears truly is better thenceforward.
    • line 285.
  • Badness you can get easily, in quantity: the road is smooth, and it lies close by. But in front of excellence the immortal gods have put sweat, and long and steep is the way to it, and rough at first. But when you come to the top, then it is easy, even though it is hard.
    • line 287.
  • Οὗτος μὲν πανάριστος, ὃς αὐτὸς πάντα νοήσει,
    φρασσάμενος, τά κ᾽ ἔπειτα καὶ ἐς τέλος ᾖσιν ἀμείνω·
    ἐσθλὸς δ᾽ αὖ καὶ κεῖνος, ὃς εὖ εἰπόντι πίθηται·
    ὃς δέ κε μήτ᾽ αὐτὸς νοέῃ μήτ᾽ ἄλλου ἀκούων
    ἐν θυμῷ βάλληται, ὁ δ᾽ αὖτ᾽ ἀχρῄος ἀνήρ.
    • This man, I say, is most perfect who shall have understood everything for himself, after having devised what may be best afterward and unto the end: and good again is he likewise who shall have complied with one advising him well: but whoso neither himself hath understanding, nor when he hears another, lays it to heart, he on the other hand is a worthless man.
    • line 293.
  • Λιμὸς γάρ τοι πάμπαν ἀεργῷ σύμφορος ἀνδρί.
    • Hunger is altogether a meet comrade for the sluggard.
    • line 302.
  • Let it please thee to keep in order a moderate-sized farm, that so thy garners may be full of fruits in their season.
    • line 304.
  • Ἔργον δ᾽ οὐδὲν ὄνειδος, ἀεργίη δέ τ᾽ ὄνειδος.
    • Work is no disgrace: it is idleness which is a disgrace.
    • line 311.
  • Χρήματα δ᾽ οὐχ ἁρπακτά· θεόσδοτα πολλὸν ἀμείνω.
    • Wealth should not be seized: god-given wealth is much better.
    • line 320.
  • Invite the man that loves thee to a feast, but let alone thine enemy.
    • line 342.
  • Πῆμα κακὸς γείτων, ὅσσον τ᾽ ἀγαθὸς μέγ᾽ ὄνειαρ.
    • A bad neighbor is a misfortune, as much as a good one is a great blessing.
    • line 346.
  • μὴ κακὰ κερδαίνειν: κακὰ κέρδεα ἶσ᾽ ἀάτῃσιν
    • Do not seek evil gains; evil gains are the equivalent of disaster.
    • Gain not base gains; base gains are the same as losses.
    • line 352; compare: "the gains of the wicked bring trouble", Book of Proverbs 15:6.
  • Εἰ γάρ κεν καὶ σμικρὸν ἐπὶ σμικρῷ καταθεῖο
    καὶ θαμὰ τοῦτ᾽ ἔρδοις, τάχα κεν μέγα καὶ τὸ γένοιτο.
    • If you should put even a little on a little, and should do this often, soon this too would become big.
    • Variant translation: If zach shouldst lay up even a little upon a little, and shouldst do this often, soon would even this become great.
    • line 361.
  • Οἴκοι βέλτερον εἶναι.
    • There's no place like home.
    • line 365.
  • Take your fill when the cask is first opened and when it is nearly spent, but midways be sparing: it is poor saving when you come to the lees.
    • line 368 (translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White).
    • Variant translation: At the beginning of the cask and at the end take thy fill, but be saving in the middle; for at the bottom saving comes too late.
  • Let the price fixed with a friend be sufficient, and even dealing with a brother call in witnesses, but laughingly.
    • line 369.
  • Πίστεις ἄρ τοι ὁμῶς καὶ ἀπιστίαι ὤλεσαν ἄνδρας.
    • For trust and mistrust, alike ruin men.
    • line 372.
  • μὴ δὲ γυνή σε νόον πυγοστόλος ἐξαπατάτω
    αἱμύλα κωτίλλουσα, τεὴν διφῶσα καλιήν.
    • Do not let a flaunting woman coax and cozen and deceive you: she is after your barn.
      (translated by Hugh G. Evelyn-White)
    • Do not let any sweet-talking woman beguile your good sense with the fascinations of her shape. It’s your barn she's after.
      (translated by Richmond Lattimore)
    • lines 373–374
  • Ὃς δὲ γυναικὶ πέποιθε, πέποιθ᾽ ὅ γε φηλήτῃσιν.
    • The man who trusts womankind trusts deceivers.
    • line 375.
  • Ἐργάζευ, νήπιε Πέρση,
    ἔργα, τά τ᾽ ἀνθρώποισι θεοὶ διετεκμήραντο,
    μή ποτε σὺν παίδεσσι γυναικί τε θυμὸν ἀχεύων
    ζητεύῃς βίοτον κατὰ γείτονας, οἳ δ᾽ ἀμελῶσιν.
    • Work the work which the gods ordained for men, lest in bitter anguish of spirit you with your wife and children seek your livelihood amongst your neighbours, and they do not heed you.
    • line 397.
  • Μηδ᾽ ἀναβάλλεσθαι ἔς τ᾽ αὔριον ἔς τε ἔνηφιν·
    οὐ γὰρ ἐτωσιοεργὸς ἀνὴρ πίμπλησι καλιὴν
    οὐδ᾽ ἀναβαλλόμενος· μελέτη δὲ τὸ ἔργον ὀφέλλει·
    αἰεὶ δ᾽ ἀμβολιεργὸς ἀνὴρ ἄτῃσι παλαίει.
    • Do not put your work off till to-morrow and the day after; for a sluggish worker does not fill his barn, nor one who puts off his work: industry makes work go well, but a man who puts off work is always at hand-grips with ruin.
    • line 410.
  • Diligence increaseth the fruit of toil. A dilatory man wrestles with losses.
    • line 412.
  • Οὐκ αἰεὶ θέρος ἐσσεῖται· ποιεῖσθε καλιάς.
    • It will not always be summer, build barns.
    • line 503.
  • The dawn speeds a man on his journey, and speeds him too in his work.
    • line 579.
  • Nῆ᾽ ὀλίγην αἰνεῖν, μεγάλῃ δ᾽ ἐνὶ φορτία θέσθαι·
    μείζων μὲν φόρτος, μεῖζον δ᾽ ἐπὶ κέρδει κέρδος
    ἔσσεται, εἴ κ᾽ ἄνεμοί γε κακὰς ἀπέχωσιν ἀήτας.
    • Admire a small ship, but put your freight in a large one; for the greater the lading, the greater will be your piled gain, if only the winds will keep back their harmful gales.
    • line 643.
  • Μέτρα φυλάσσεσθαι· καιρὸς δ᾽ ἐπὶ πᾶσιν ἄριστος.
    • Observe due measure, for right timing is in all things the most important factor.
    • line 694.
  • Ὡραῖος δὲ γυναῖκα τεὸν ποτὶ οἶκον ἄγεσθαι,
    μήτε τριηκόντων ἐτέων μάλα πόλλ᾽ ἀπολείπων
    μήτ᾽ ἐπιθεὶς μάλα πολλά· γάμος δέ τοι ὥριος οὗτος.
    • Bring home a wife to your house when you are of the right age, while you are not far short of thirty years nor much above; this is the right age for marriage.
    • line 695.
  • Οὐ μὲν γάρ τι γυναικὸς ἀνὴρ ληίζετ᾽ ἄμεινον
    τῆς ἀγαθῆς, τῆς δ᾽ αὖτε κακῆς οὐ ῥίγιον ἄλλο.
    • For a man wins nothing better than a good wife, and, again, nothing worse than a bad one.
    • line 702.
  • Neither make thy friend equal to a brother; but if thou shalt have made him so, be not the first to do him wrong.
    • line 707.
  • Μηδὲ πολύξεινον μηδ᾽ ἄξεινον καλέεσθαι,
    μηδὲ κακῶν ἕταρον μηδ᾽ ἐσθλῶν νεικεστῆρα.
    • Do not get a name either as lavish or as churlish; as a friend of rogues or as a slanderer of good men.
    • line 715.
  • Γλώσσης τοι θησαυρὸς ἐν ἀνθρώποισιν ἄριστος
    • The best treasure a man can have is a sparing tongue.
    • line 719.
  • Φήμη γάρ τε κακὴ πέλεται, κούφη μὲν ἀεῖραι
    ῥεῖα μάλ᾽, ἀργαλέη δὲ φέρειν, χαλεπὴ δ᾽ ἀποθέσθαι.
    φήμη δ᾽ οὔ τις πάμπαν ἀπόλλυται, ἥν τινα πολλοὶ
    λαοὶ φημίξωσι· θεός νύ τίς ἐστι καὶ αὐτή.
    • Gossip is mischievous, light and easy to raise, but grievous to bear and hard to get rid of. No gossip ever dies away entirely, if many people voice it: it too is a kind of divinity.
    • line 761.
  • Ἄλλοτε μητρυιὴ πέλει ἡμέρη, ἄλλοτε μήτηρ.
    • Sometimes a day is a step mother, sometimes a mother.
    • line 825.

Catalogue of Women or Eoiae

  • And she conceived and bore to Zeus, who delights in the thunderbolt, two sons, Magnes and Macedon, rejoicing in horses, who dwell round about Pieria and Olympus.
    • Catalogues of Women and Eoiae 3 (Loeb, H.G. Evelyn-White).


  • I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly disrespectful and impatient of restraint.
    • This quote has been attributed to Hesiod on the internet, and even published with citation as a dubious attribution, but there are no known occurrences of it in his writings.
  • The gods have placed sweat as the price of all things.
    • Perhaps a mistranslation (or loose interpretation) of line 289 of Works and Days, actually:
      But in front of excellence the immortal gods have put sweat

Quotes about Hesiod

  • "What was at the beginning?" Gigon said of Hesiod, "is the question of history precisely at the point where it turns into philosophy... The question Hesiod poses is no longer about the historical past, but about the beginning of what exists, the question of philosophical origins..." But "history" is wholly out of place here. Hesiod is foreshadowing the step from mythos to logos, and that step was not mediated by history. It bypassed history altogether. It moved from the timelessness of myth to the timelessness of metaphysics.
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