Sunday, 15 February 2009

Take advice from the wise



"The world did not welcome me when I was born," recounted Hesiod in 770 B.C. "Each season brought nothing but problems and difficulties."

A Court decision in favour of his brother Perses deprived Hesiod of his inheritance at an early age, forcing him to earn his subsistence by working in other people's farms.

As a result, Hesiod soon acquired first-hand experience in all kind of farm labours and gained expertise in breeding goats and sheep. "
Watching the sheep kindled my ambition," recorded Hesiod. "I realized that, unlike sheep, I had the capacity to take control of my future."

Hesiod realized that animals' lives were fully dependent on the weather. Once and again, he witnessed how extreme temperature changes in the high mountains of northern Greece swiftly culled a herd by half.

After preparing himself in the solitude of the mountains, the young shepherd took a few days off from his work and went to
Chalces, a nearby village, where he enrolled himself in the annual poetry contest.

In Ancient Greece, winning a poetry contest was a ticket to fame and opened the door to a political career. That year, one external factor rendered competition amongst candidates particularly fierce. Homer, the most famous Greek poet, had come himself to Chalces to take part in the contest.

"To which God will you devote your poem?" Perses asked his brother on the eve of the competition. Hesiod smiled and shook his head. "
My poem is not about Gods. It's about sheep." Perses stared at his brother incredulously, but did not make any comment.

The jury separated candidates in two groups, one for the morning session and the other for the afternoon. After that, the two winners, one from each group, would face each other in the evening finale.

Homer achieved an easy victory in the morning competition, but the jury deliberated long before picking the afternoon winner. Who was this youngster Hesiod? It was the first time that anyone had ever heard a poem about sheep in the mountain.

"I like it," said Amiphidamas, who was the mayor of Chalces and the president of the jury. "That shepherd has interesting ideas." In a way, Amiphidamas' view was not surprising, since he possessed the largest herd in the village.

In the evening, torches were lighted to illuminate the theatre, where farmers from surrounding villages had joined Chalces' population for the poetry finale. It was Homer against an unknown shepherd called Hesiod.
The result of the contest was predictable and Perses had bet heavily against his brother.

Homer performance galvanized the young, since his poem recounted the Trojan war. His strong voice and impeccable speech brought the audience memories of Gods long forgotten. When Homer finished his poem, the jury nodded satisfied. Then the young shepherd came to stand before the public.

"How hard life is," started Hesiod, "and how recurrent our miseries." Puzzled by the unusual beginning, the audience held their breath to be able to hear better. What was this poem all about?

It was the story of a farmer who lost half of his herd every winter due to extreme cold. In his poem, Hesiod noted the scarcity of sheep in the winter and their over-abundance in the summer. Sheep prices, of course, oscillated wildly each time in the contrary direction.

"I asked the oracle for an answer," cried out Hesiod, "but he told me to look for it myself." At that point, part of the audience murmured in disapproval. "What to do in face of winter scarcity?" the young poet questioned his public. "Should we suffer passively the caprice of the Gods?"

When Hesiod finished his performance, the audience remained silent. Now it was clear why Hesiod's poem was called "Work and Days." The poet's conclusion was unmistakable. A wise man should buy sheep in the summer for a low price and wait patiently for the winter. Cold weather would bring back high prices and the opportunity of a profitable sale.

Half of the jury members were in favour of Homer, but
Amiphidamas' preference allowed the young shepherd to carry the day. Hesiod's presence on stage had been unexciting and his rhyme awkward. Nevertheless, Amiphidamas had found the poem "highly instructive for ourselves and for future generations."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Alaskan Dude under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]

Take advice from the wise



"The world did not welcome me when I was born," recounted Hesiod in 770 B.C. "Each season brought nothing but problems and difficulties."

A Court decision in favour of his brother Perses deprived Hesiod of his inheritance at an early age, forcing him to earn his subsistence by working in other people's farms.

As a result, Hesiod soon acquired first-hand experience in all kind of farm labours and gained expertise in breeding goats and sheep. "
Watching the sheep kindled my ambition," recorded Hesiod. "I realized that, unlike sheep, I had the capacity to take control of my future."

Hesiod realized that animals' lives were fully dependent on the weather. Once and again, he witnessed how extreme temperature changes in the high mountains of northern Greece swiftly culled a herd by half.

After preparing himself in the solitude of the mountains, the young shepherd took a few days off from his work and went to
Chalces, a nearby village, where he enrolled himself in the annual poetry contest.

In Ancient Greece, winning a poetry contest was a ticket to fame and opened the door to a political career. That year, one external factor rendered competition amongst candidates particularly fierce. Homer, the most famous Greek poet, had come himself to Chalces to take part in the contest.

"To which God will you devote your poem?" Perses asked his brother on the eve of the competition. Hesiod smiled and shook his head. "
My poem is not about Gods. It's about sheep." Perses stared at his brother incredulously, but did not make any comment.

The jury separated candidates in two groups, one for the morning session and the other for the afternoon. After that, the two winners, one from each group, would face each other in the evening finale.

Homer achieved an easy victory in the morning competition, but the jury deliberated long before picking the afternoon winner. Who was this youngster Hesiod? It was the first time that anyone had ever heard a poem about sheep in the mountain.

"I like it," said Amiphidamas, who was the mayor of Chalces and the president of the jury. "That shepherd has interesting ideas." In a way, Amiphidamas' view was not surprising, since he possessed the largest herd in the village.

In the evening, torches were lighted to illuminate the theatre, where farmers from surrounding villages had joined Chalces' population for the poetry finale. It was Homer against an unknown shepherd called Hesiod.
The result of the contest was predictable and Perses had bet heavily against his brother.

Homer performance galvanized the young, since his poem recounted the Trojan war. His strong voice and impeccable speech brought the audience memories of Gods long forgotten. When Homer finished his poem, the jury nodded satisfied. Then the young shepherd came to stand before the public.

"How hard life is," started Hesiod, "and how recurrent our miseries." Puzzled by the unusual beginning, the audience held their breath to be able to hear better. What was this poem all about?

It was the story of a farmer who lost half of his herd every winter due to extreme cold. In his poem, Hesiod noted the scarcity of sheep in the winter and their over-abundance in the summer. Sheep prices, of course, oscillated wildly each time in the contrary direction.

"I asked the oracle for an answer," cried out Hesiod, "but he told me to look for it myself." At that point, part of the audience murmured in disapproval. "What to do in face of winter scarcity?" the young poet questioned his public. "Should we suffer passively the caprice of the Gods?"

When Hesiod finished his performance, the audience remained silent. Now it was clear why Hesiod's poem was called "Work and Days." The poet's conclusion was unmistakable. A wise man should buy sheep in the summer for a low price and wait patiently for the winter. Cold weather would bring back high prices and the opportunity of a profitable sale.

Half of the jury members were in favour of Homer, but
Amiphidamas' preference allowed the young shepherd to carry the day. Hesiod's presence on stage had been unexciting and his rhyme awkward. Nevertheless, Amiphidamas had found the poem "highly instructive for ourselves and for future generations."

[Text: http://johnvespasian.blogspot.com]

[Image by Alaskan Dude under Creative Commons Attribution License. See the license terms under http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us]