Hesiod (Hesiodos) was an early Greek poet and rhapsode, believed to have lived around the year 700 BC. From the 5th century BC literary historians have debated the priority of Hesiod or of Homer. Most modern scholars agree that Homer lived before Hesiod.
Hesiod lived in Boeotia and regularly visited Mt Helicon, the mythological home of the Muses, who, he says, gave him the gift of poetic creation one day while he tended sheep.
The few details of Hesiod's life come from his own works. His poem Works and Days mentions that he lost a lawsuit with his brother Perses over their inheritance. However, some scholars have seen Perses as a literary creation, a foil for the moralizing of the Works and Days. In another biographical detail, Hesiod mentions a poetry contest at Chalcis where the sons of one Amiphidamas awarded him a tripod (ll.654-662). Plutarch first identified this passage as an interpolation into Hesiod's original work, based on his identification of Amiphidamas with the hero of the Lelantine War between Chalcis and Eretria, which occurred around 705 BC. The account of this contest inspired the later tale of a competition between Hesiod and Homer.
Two different, yet early, traditions record the site of Hesiod's grave. One, as early as Thucydides, states that an oracle had warned Hesiod that he would die in Nemea, and so he fled to Locris, where he was killed at the local temple to Nemean Zeus, and buried. The other tradition, first mentioned in an epigram of Chersios of Orchomenus written in the seventh century BC, claims that Hesiod lies buried at Orchomenus, a town in Boeotia. Later writers attempted to harmonize these two accounts.
Hesiod wrote only one poem universally considered authentic: the Works and Days; but the Theogony, if not by Hesiod, resembles it very closely in style and substance considering the purposely different subject-matter.
The poem Works and Days lays out the five Ages of Man, as well as containing advice and wisdom, prescribing a life of honest work and attacking idleness and unjust judges (like those who decided in favour of Perses)
The Theogony concerns the origins of the world and of the gods, and shows a special interest in genealogy.
Classical authors also attributed to Hesiod later genealogical poems -- known as Catalogues of Women or as Eoiae (because sections began with the Greek words e oie 'or like her'). Only small fragments of these have survived. They deal with the genealogies of kings and heroes of the legendary heroic period. Scholars generally classify them as later examples of the poetic tradition to which Hesiod belonged. A final poem traditionally attributed to Hesiod, The Shield of Heracles, apparently forms a late expansion of one of these genealogical poems.
Hesiod serves as a major source for knowledge of Greek mythology, of farming techniques, of archaic Greek astronomy and of ancient time-keeping.