Reading History is the ideal remedy to discouragement and dissatisfaction. During difficult periods, man can gain perspective by learning how his ancestors turned problems into opportunities. Past centuries have repeatedly shown how individuals with limited resources can face life's challenges and overcome extraordinary obstacles.
an Ancient Greek poet, recounted in the year 770 B.C. that "the world
did not welcome me when I was born and each season brought nothing but
problems and difficulties." The reason for such lamentations was that a
court decision in favour of his brother, Perses, had deprived Hesiod of
his inheritance at an early age, forcing him to earn his subsistence by
working in other people's fields.
As a result of adversity,
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 control my future."
During the winter,
Hesiod witnessed how the cold temperature in the mountains of northern
Greece often culled herds by half. Later on, he would write that the
destiny of animals, unlike that of human beings, is fully dependent on
the weather. The young shepherd spent a long time preparing himself in
the solitude of the mountains until, one spring, he walked to Chalces, a
nearby village, and enrolled in the annual poetry contest.
A ticket to fame
Ancient Greece, winning a poetry contest was a ticket to fame and opened
the door to a political career. That year, competition was particularly
fierce since Homer, the most famous poet of the time, had come to
Chalces to take part in the contest.
On the eve of the
competition, Perses asked his brother to which God he would be devoting
his poem, as it was customary to do on such occasions. 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 beginning of the contest, the jury separated the participants in
two groups, one for the morning session and the other for the afternoon.
After that, the winners from both groups would face each other in the
Sheep in the mountain
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.
who was the mayor of Chalces and the president of the jury said that he
liked Hesiod's poem. In a way, his opinion was not
surprising, since he owned the largest herd of the village. "That shepherd has interesting ideas," Amiphidamas told the
other judges of the contest.
the evening, torches were lighted to illuminate the theatre. Peasants
from surrounding villages had come to Chalces to see the poetry finale,
which featured Homer against an unknown shepherd called Hesiod. The
result of the contest was predictable and Perses bet heavily against his
An impeccable speech
Homer recited a poem recounting the Trojan war and his
performance galvanized the young. His strong voice and impeccable speech
brought the audience memories of long-forgotten Gods and glories. When
he finished his declamation, the jury nodded satisfied. Nobody doubted
that Homer would come out winner.
Then the young shepherd Hesiod
came to stand before the public. "How hard life is," he started, "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
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, their over-abundance in the summer, and
how sheep prices oscillated with the change of seasons.
How to overcome scarcity
the oracle for an answer," recited Hesiod, "but he told me to look for
it myself." At that point, part of the audience murmured their
disapproval. Undaunted, the young poet questioned his public. "What to
do in face of winter scarcity? Should man suffer passively the caprice
of the Gods?"
Hesiod's poem was called "Work and Days." His
conclusion was unmistakable. A wise man should buy sheep in the summer
at a low price and wait for the winter's cold weather to bring back high
prices and the opportunity of a profitable sale.
finished his performance, the audience remained silent. Half of the jury
members were in favour of Homer, but Amiphidamas' preference allowed
the young shepherd to carry the day. Hesiod's rhyme had been awkward and
his presence on stage unexciting, but the judges had found his poem
"highly instructive for ourselves and future generations."
For more information about rational living and personal development, I refer you to my book The 10 Principles of Rational Living
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