Verbal Patterns in Hesiod's Theogony

by Cora Angier Sowa

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The Muses

Mousaôn Helikôniadôn archômeth' aeidein,
hai th' Helikônos echousin oros mega te zatheon te
kai te peri krênên ioeidea poss' hapaloisin
orcheuntai kai bômon eristheneos Kroniônos...
...hai nu poth' Hêsiodon kalên edidaxan aoidên,
arnas poimanonth' Helikônos hupo zatheoio...
From the Helikonian Muses, let us begin to sing,
who inhabit the great and holy mountain of Helikon,
and dance with soft feet around the violet-blue fountain
and the altar of [Zeus], the mighty son of Kronos...
...who once taught Hesiod beautiful song,
as he was pasturing his sheep beneath holy Helikon...

(Hesiod, Theogony lines 1-23)

Hesiod tells in the prologue to the Theogony how the Muses taught him to sing as he was herding his sheep under the slopes of Mount Helikon. In verses that follow the ones quoted above, he tells how they gave him a laurel staff, saying, "We can tell many lies that resemble reality, but when we want, we can speak the truth. Sing of the race of the eternal gods, but sing of us first and last."


The masters of early Greek poetry, like Homer (who, we think, flourished around 750 B.C), composed and sang their poems without the aid of writing. The entire society in which they lived was, in fact, illiterate. The so-called "Linear B" script, based on Minoan (Cretan) writing and probably used only for keeping official records, had been lost, and Phoenician writing had not yet been introduced. Homer seems to have lived just at the dawn of Greek writing, but probably did not himself know how to write.

The idea of a fixed text was foreign to these bards (a concept that comes only with writing). Rather, like jazz musicians, they recomposed their stories afresh each time, according to audience interest and influenced by current events. The bard was able to compose quickly by using stock phrases ("formulas") that fit the meter of his melody (now lost to us), such as "far-darting Apollo" or "then, when rosy-fingered Dawn appeared." Sometimes whole scenes ("type-scenes") were used, with only minor variations, such as "Welcoming a Guest" or "The Hero Puts on his Armor." The story lines or plot types were traditional, built out of mythic themes such as "The Journey," "The Marriage of the Fertility Goddess," or "The Young God Consolidates His Power." (You can read about the mythic themes in my and John Sowa's "Thought Clusters in Early Greek Oral Poetry" which is reproduced on this Web site, and in my book Traditional Themes and the Homeric Hymns, of which some excerpts are also on this site.

The Iliad and Odyssey that we know are simply the written transcriptions of one particular performance of each.

The orally performed (and composed) poem did not have the punctuation that, in a written work, lets the reader know where sections begin and end. There are no paragraphs, no commas and periods, no italics and boldface for emphasis. One of the devices used by the oral poet to provide auditory organization was repetition of sounds, words, or rhythms. Repeated words let the listener know what is important, and provide landmarks that let you know where you are in the story. Repetition as punctuation can take the form of anaphora (the repetition of the same words at the beginning of successive verses, such as "and then..., and then..., and then..."), assonance (repetition of similar sounds, like Mnemosune...Lesmosune -- "Memory...Forgetfulness"), ring-composition (the same words or phrases occurring at the beginning and end of a passage), rhyme, etc.

Contemporary, in all probability, with Homer, was the great Boeotian poet/singer Hesiod, whose surviving poems are the Works and Days (a compendium of adages for farmers, general advice, and edifying stories, of which the most famous is the tale of Pandora ("All-Gifted") opening the "box" -- actually a large storage jar) and the Theogony (a poem about the origins and genealogy of the gods). The article reproduced below examines the use of repetition as an organizing device in the Theogony.

This article was first published in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology Vol 68 (1964), pp.332-344.

Greek text, in Greek letters in the original article, has been transliterated, and oral formulas that were underlined are instead represented in boldface, since underlining is normally used in Web pages to indicate hypertext links. (Unfortunately, the distinction between solid underlining and broken underlining, distinguishing between phrases that are repeated verbatim and those that are merely metrically equivalent, is lost in this version.) The use of parentheses to indicate similarity of concepts rather than actual verbal identity has been kept. A few other minor changes of wording have been made to improve clarity.

English translations, which were not in the original publication, have been provided for the longer passages and most other words, to aid the reader's understanding. Some of the translations may be less than elegant, where I have stayed as close as possible to the Greek word order or sound, in order to make a point about the repetitive pattern.


by Cora Angier (Sowa)

Like all orally composed poetry, the Theogony of Hesiod contains a great amount of repetition. Such repetition could often, doubtless, be random and meaningless in the hands of a less skillful singer, but when used by an organizing and classifying mind such as that of Hesiod, it contributes greatly to the overall organization of the poem.

The repetition is of various sorts. It may consist in key words, expressive of key concepts, which keep recurring throughout the whole poem or a major section of it. Limited to smaller sections of the poem and used in a concentrated way, this repetition, often involving word-play, sometimes gives the impression that the composer gets a certain idea in mind and plays on it, using various forms of the same word and idea, each word suggested by the preceding. Sometimes the repetition is more simply syntactical; a syntactical pattern is established in a passage, as in the case of anaphora. Often organizing particles and pronouns or like inflectional forms are repeated (usually in identical metrical positions) rather than words expressive of key concepts. Related to this is the use of assonantal patterns (often occurring through the use of identical inflectional forms) which may also end up in word-play and punning. Finally, the most important type of repetition for the structural organization of the poem and that which is most particularly due to the oral technique, is the repetition of lines, or substantially similar lines, or even sets of several lines, especially in the device known as ring-composition, by which there is a return at the end of a section to the subject of the beginning, and the mind of the hearer is brought back to the point from which it originally left.

Of the first category of repetitions, the most important for the Theogony is that of words for birth and origin. These include forms of genos ["race"], gignomai ["to be born"], geinomai ["to bear"], phulon ["tribe"], tikto ["give birth"], teknon ["child"], and so on (forms of gignomai, tikto and words from these roots 134 times); such formulae as migeis' eratêi philotêti ["mingling in charming lovemaking"]. One might also include such words as teuchô ["make"] (e.g., teteuchato, v. 581, used of the "making" of "Pandora's"1 crown and teuxe, v. 585, of the making of "Pandora" herself), and, as connected with "birth" and "growth" one could mention forms of trephô ["nourish"](ten instances). [Note that I put the name "Pandora" in quotes, because in the version of the story told in the Theogony, she does not have a name, nor does she open the jar, but she is simply the First Woman, who brings misfortune to men.]

Another concept and set of words important to the whole of the Theogony is that of timê ["honor"] and geras ["privilege"]. Not only is the Theogony a chronicle of the birth of the gods but it is also the story of how they acquired their positions in the divine hierarchy. Hence words connected with "office," "function," or "honor" keep recurring throughout the poem (twenty-nine instances of forms of geras, timê, timaô ["to honor"], tiô ["to honor"]).

Another idea which keeps recurring throughout the dynastic struggles of the gods is the important part played by the figure of Earth, especially in the phrase Gaiês phradmosunêisi ["on the advice of Gaia"]. Mother Earth not only is the mother of many of the characters and creatures in the poem, but she is back of the divine revolutions against Ouranos and Kronos, suggests bringing back the Hundred-Arms to help the children of Kronos against the Titans (vv. 626-28), suggests giving Zeus the headship of the gods (v. 884), and suggests that Zeus swallow Metis pregnant with Athene (v. 891).

The Prologue contains certain key words which occur in it with frequency but not (at least significantly) in the rest of the Theogony.2 The most important of these is the idea of singing (ten instances of forms of aoidê ["song"], aoidos ["singer"], aeidô ["to sing"], and some thirty3 other expressions referring to song or speech). Connected with this is the idea of the Muses' dancing (chiefly in vv. 1-10 in which there are five expressions; also at vv. 63, 70). Important, too, in this first part of the Prologue, in which the Muses themselves are the subject without relation to anything else,4 is the idea of the tenderness of the Muses as creatures. This is conveyed in the phrases poss' hapaloisin ["with soft feet"] (v. 3), terena chroa ["tender skin"] (v. 5), and kalous himeroentas ["beautiful and lovely (dances)"] (v. 8) and also suggested by the phrase perikallea ossan hieisai ["giving utterance to their very beautiful voice"].5

In the same way, the idea of evil and misfortune for mankind runs through the Prometheus story. Forms of the word kakos ["evil"] occur ten times in the story, and the idea is reinforced by synonyms (e.g., pêma ["calamity"], v. 592; ergôn | argaleôn ["vexatious works"], vv. 601-2; mermera erga gunaikôn ["mischievous works of women"], v. 603; oloon ... gêras ["destructive old age"], v. 604; aliaston aniên ["unabating trouble"], v. 611). Also running through this story are the words dolos ["trick"]and dolios ["tricky"], synonyms, and words of related meaning (forms of dolos, dolios, and synonyms eleven times). The deceit is now practiced by Prometheus on Zeus, now by Zeus on Prometheus. [Note that in in Theogony, Prometheus plays two tricks on Zeus: (1) He cheats Zeus of his share of sacrificial meat, establishing a precedent for men to offer only bones to the gods; the punishment for this crime is to withhold fire from men; (2) he steals fire and gives it to men, whereupon Zeus punishes him and mankind by creating the First Woman.]

In the stories of Styx (vv. 383-403)6 and of Hekate (vv. 411-52) the idea of timê and geras (including related words), one of the central ideas in the Theogony, takes on special prominence (twelve instances in the former, fourteen in the latter).

Often a word or its synonyms will keep recurring in an extremely short passage, as if the bard gets an idea into his head and plays with it for a while, exhausting all the possible ways of using a word and its forms, its cognates and synonyms, each phrase suggesting the next in turn. So in the first ten lines of the Prologue the poet plays upon the idea of the delicacy of the Muses, and the notion of the Muses dancing, which keeps recurring in the rest of the Prologue also, is particularly heightened in these lines. Similarly, in vv. 211-13, the idea of birth and race, which is the great central idea of the whole Theogony, is heightened by repetition within the space of a few lines:

Nux d'eteken stugeron te Moron kai Kêra melainan
kai Thanaton, teke d' Hupnon, etikte de phulon Oneirôn
-- ou tini koimêtheisa thea teke Nux erebennê --

Night bore hateful Fate and black Doom
and also Death, and she bore Sleep, and did bear the race of Dreams
-- without sleeping with anyone did the goddess give birth, Night the dark --
in which the repetition of Nux ["Night"] and the repetition of the verb after the names also make this an example of ring-composition. Another example of this sort is the description of the birth of "mild" Leto, "gentlest of the Olympians," and of "fair-named" Asterie (vv. 404-10)
Phoibê d' au Koiou poluêraton êlthen es eunên;
kusamenê dê epeita thea theou en philotêti
Lêtô kuanopeplon egeinato, meilichon (aiei),
meilichon (ex archês), aganôtaton entos Olumpou,
êpion anthrôpoisi kai athanatoisi theoisin.
geinato d' Asteriên euônumon hên pote Persês
êgaget' es mega dôma philên keklêsthai akoitin.

Phoebe went to Koios' much-loved bed:
becoming pregnant then, the goddess by the god's lovemaking,
she brought forth Leto of the dark blue veil, mild always,
mild from the beginning, gentlest on Olympus
kind to men and to the immortal gods.
She brought forth Asteria of the fair name, whom once Perses
took to his great house to be called his dear wife.
The repetitions in this passage are manifold. The principal repetitions are of words for "lovely," "gentle," "mild," and of words pertaining to "birth." The idea of "always" is repeated in connection with this -- meilichon aiei | meilichon ex archês ["mild always, | mild from the beginning"] -- where the beginning of one line picks up the end of the last, as also in the following: aganôtaton entos Olumpou | êpion anthrôpoisi kai athanatoisi theoisin ["gentlest on Olympus, | kind to men and to immortal gods"]. The poet also uses here the collocation thea theou ["...goddess god's..."] (v. 405) which he has used earlier at v. 380: ... en philotêti thea theou eunêtheisa ["...the goddess with the god's love sleeping"].

Another example which goes even more into the realm of wordplay, play of assonance, and into the tendency to etymologize7 that appears throughout the poem is that of vv. 252-55 (in the catalogue of the Nereids)

Kumodokê th' hê kumat' en êeroeidei pontô
pnoias te zaeôn anemôn sun Kumatolêgêi
rheia prêunei kai eusphurôi Amphitritêi
Kumô t' Êionê te eustephanos Halimêdê.

...and Kymodoke ["Wave-Receiver"], who to the waves on the misty sea
and to the blowing of the stormy winds, along with Kymatolege ["Wave-Stopper"]
and Amphitrite of the beautiful ankles, easily brings calm;
and Kymo ["Wavy"] and Eione and beautiful-crowned Halimede.
The progression of the first two of these lines is logical: Wave-Receiver waits; the wave itself comes; Wave-Stopper makes it cease.

This whole catalog, in fact, is full of doubles and names suggested by similar names: Kumothoê and Thoê (v. 245);8 Eunikê and Eulimenê (vv. 246-47); Dôtô and Prôtô (v. 248); Nêsaiê and Aktaiê (v. 249) Hippothoê and Hipponoê (v. 251); Lêagorê, Euagorê, and Laomedeia (v. 257); Poulunoê and Autonoê (v. 258).

Assonance, alliteration, and juxtaposition of similar-sounding words is frequent, as in the example just cited, in the collocation thea theou cited above, and in the combination of poiê possin ["...foliage | feet..."] in vv. 194-95 (in the story of the birth of Aphrodite) amphi de poiê | possin hupo rhadinoisin aexato ["around her the foliage, | beneath her feet so slender, grew"]. Alliteration is not generally thought of in connection with Greek poetry, but it does occur in Hesiod quite often. Another example is in vv. 860-61 (of Zeus striking Typhoeus with his thunderbolt):

oureos en bêssêisin Aitnês paipaloessês,
plêgentos. pollê de pelôrê kaieto gaia. the glens of Mount Aetna with its pointed peaks
as he was pounded; plenty of the ponderous earth was burning.
Still another is in vv. 990-91 (of Phaethon)
. . . kai min zatheois eni nêois
nêopolon nuchion poiêsato, daimona dion.

[Aphrodite placed him] in her temple nave,
a nightly nave-keeper she made him, a divine deity.

Alliteration and assonance are joined with identity in meaning in v. 554 (in the account of Zeus' wrath at Prometheus)

Chôsato de phrenas amphi, cholos de min hiketo thumon,

He became choleric in his heart, choler entered his mind.
in which the second half of the line simply restates the first. Similar is v. 273 on the Graiai, daughters of Phorkys
Pemphrêdô t' eupeplon Enuo te krokopeplon.

Pemphredo of the fair veil and Enyo of the yellow veil.
In vv. 37-39 likeness of sound comes from likeness of inflectional forms and is united with likeness of meaning:
humneusai terpousi megan noon entos Olumpou
eireusai ta t' eonta ta t' essomena pro t' eonta,
phonêi homêreusai

Singing, [the Muses] delight [Zeus's] great spirit on Olympus
telling what is, what shall be, and what was before,
with their voices harmonizing.
A similar case, though lacking the similarity of meaning is vv. 736-37
entha de gês dnopherês kai Tartarou êeroentos
pontou t' atrugetoio kai ouranou asteroentos

[the ends are]
there of dark earth and of Tartarus the misty
and of the unharvested sea and of heaven the starry
Also vv. 684-85:
hôs ar' ep' allêlois hiesan belea stonoenta
phônê d' amphoterôn hiket' ouranon asteroenta.

and so they hurled at each other their missiles sorrowful
and the cry of both armies reached heaven the starful

In one case similarity of sound is possibly responsible for a variation in formula. Verses 150-52, on the Hundred-Armed Monsters

tôn hekaton men cheires ap' ômôn aissonto
aplastoi, kephalai de hekastôi pentêkonta
ex ômôn epephukon epi stibaroisi melessin

a hundred arms from their shoulders sprang,
unnaturally, and upon each, fifty heads
from their shoulders grew above their strong limbs
are identical to vv. 671-73, except that the latter, which are applied to the same trio of monsters, have pasin homôs ["the same for all"] instead of aplastoi ["unnatural"]. Since v. 148,
treis paides megaloi te kai obrimoi, ouk onomastoi,

three sons, huge and mighty, unspeakable,
has a similar structure to that of the first sentence of the other passage -- the adjective in apposition tacked on at the end, although the metrical position of the similar words aplastoi, ouk onomastoi is different -- and since the words aplastoi and ouk onomastoi are similar in sound and meaning, the bard may have been influenced in his choice of an epithet by the one which he had just used in a similar way. This would account for the difference between v. 151 and v. 672.

Another case in which one can see the poet being led by his train of thought from one expression to another is at vv. 292-4 (of Herakles):

Tirunth' eis hierên diabas poron Okeanoio
Orthon te kteinas kai boukolon Eurutiôna
stathmôi en êeroenti perên klutou Okeanoio.

[he drove the cattle]
to holy Tiryns, fording the straits of Ocean,
and killing Orthus and the herdsman Eurytion
in the dim stable across the glorious Ocean.
It is likely that the expression perên klutou Okeanoio ["across the glorious Ocean"] was suggested to the poet by poron Okeanoio ["the straits of Ocean"] which he had just used.

One can also watch such a train of thought at the end of the catalogue of Nereids at vv. 261-64

Nêsô t' Eupompê te Themistô te Pronoê te
Nêmertês th', hê patros echei noon athanatoio
autai men Nêrêos amumonos exegenonto
kourai pentêkonta, amumona erga iduiai.

...Neso and Eupompe and Themisto and Pronoe,
and Nemertes, who has the mind of her immortal father.
They of excellent Nereus were born,
fifty daughters, knowing excellent skills.
From the names Themistô and Pronoê -- Lawful and Forethought -- he thinks of Nêmertês -- Infallible -- which makes him add hê patros echei noon athanatoio ["who has the mind of her immortal father"]. Because he has the idea of their wisdom in his head, he adds that the Nereids are (like Nêrêos amumonos ["excellent Nereus"]) amumona erga iduiai ["knowing excellent skills"]. In the same way, he thinks at v. 233 of Nêrea d' apseudea kai alêthea ["Nereus the guileless and true"] (an idea which he proceeds to play upon and expand in the lines that follow) because he has just been speaking of Horkos ["Oath"], who punishes those who are not truthful. In the case of vv. 878-80 (of the winds which originate from Typhoeus)
hai d' au kai kata gaian apeiriton anthemoessan
erg' erata phtheirousi chamaigeneôn anthrôpôn
pimpleisai konios te kai argaleou kolosurtou.

Others [of the winds] over the boundless, flowering earth
destroy the lovely works of earth-born men
filling them with dust and cruel devastation.
the choice of the formula containing the epithet chamaigeneôn ["earth-born"] is perhaps not only due to metrical convenience, but to the train of thought suggested by the idea of men tilling the earth.9

Verbal similarities sometimes almost turn into puns, as in vv. 53-55 (on the birth of the Muses)

tas en Pieriêi Kronidêi teke patri migeisa
Mnêmosunê, gounoisin Eleuthêros medeousa,
lêsmosunên te kakôn ampauma te mermêraôn

To them in Pieria did she give birth, in union with the father, son of Kronos,
Memory, who over the hills of Eleuther is mindful,
as a forgettery of ills and a surcease from misfortunes.
in which there is not only the obvious play of Mnêmosunê | lêsmosunê ["Memory" | "forgetting"] in identical metrical positions, but the repetition of m-sounds also. This is not a case of etymologizing in the sense of claiming that the one word is derived from the other which is similar to it, but the bard doubtless had the same feeling with regard to this pair as he would in the case of actual "etymologies," that there did, indeed, exist a "real" connection between the one idea and the other, as indicated in the identity of sound in the words.

There are a number of etymologies throughout the Theogony, sometimes with the word epônumon ["named after"], which Hesiod feels to be true. These are at vv. 139-45 (Kyklopes) [for their single, circular, eye], 193-200 (Aphrodite) [for her birth from the foam (aphros) that spread around Ouranos' severed genitals as they floated in the sea, after Kronos cut them off], 207-10 (Titans) [because they "strained mightily" (titainontas) or because they would suffer vengeance (tisin]), 252-53 (Kymodoke, Kymatolege; see above), 270-72 (Graiai) ["the Old Women," because they were gray-haired from birth], 282-84 (Chrysaor and Pegasos) [Chrysaor and the winged horse Pegasus sprang from the severed head of Medusa, cut off by Perseus; the former is named for the golden sword (aor chruseion) used by Perseus, the latter for being born by the springs (pêgas) of Ocean], 775-76 (Styx) ["Hateful"], 901-3 (Horai) ["the Hours"]. Of these, those for Kymodoke and Kymatolege, Styx (Styx is the river, not the personality), and the Horai are not so much explicit etymologies, since these are obviously derived names and abstractions. The derivation is obvious and need only be emphasized. Verses 886-87 also belong somewhat to this category:

. . . Mêtin
pleista theôn te iduian ide thnêtôn anthrôpôn.

...Metis ["Wisdom"]
most knowledgeable among gods and mortal men.

The derivation in v. 200 of the epithet philommêdea ["genital-loving"] of Aphrodite is particularly interesting as emphasizing what is perhaps an older and less polite form of the more familiar philommeidês ["laughter-loving"].

Connections exist in the poet's mind between certain words. The timai ["functions" or "special attributes"] of Aphrodite are listed in vv. 205-6 as

parthenious oarous meidêmata t' exapatas te
terpsin te glukerên philotêta te meilichiên te.

maidenly conversations, smiles, and deceits,
sweet enjoyment and gentle lovemaking.
This same combination of sex and deceit is shown to be a standardized concept by its appearing in personification among the children of Night at v. 224: . . . meta tên d' Apatên teke kai Philotêta ["after [Nemesis], she bore Deceit and Lovemaking"]. This is the same attitude that appears in the Prometheus story and with regard to women passim in the Works and Days.

Another such connection is that in vv. 901-3:

deuteron êgageto liparên Themin hê teken Hôras
Eunomiên te Dikên te kai Eirênên tethaluian,
hai erg' ôreuousi katathnêtoisi brotoisi

Secondly [Zeus] married radiant Themis ["Custom"], who bore the Hours,
Eunomia ["Order"], Dike ["Justice"], and flourishing Eirene ["Peace"],
who care for the works of mortal men.
where the connection between work [erga], proper time [Hôras], and justice [Dikê] corresponds to the relation between erga, kairos ["opportune time"], and Dike, which is the theme of the Works and Days.

Another form of repetition which has a definitely organizing function within a short passage is what could be called syntactical repetition, in which a series of lines exhibit like syntactic arrangement and often share identical pronouns and connecting words, with the like or similar element often falling in the same position metrically. One example, in a catalogue, is vv. 18-20:

Lêtô t' Iapeton te ide Kronon agkulomêtên
Êô t' Êelion te megan lampran te Selênên
Gaian t' Ôkeanon te megan kai Nukta melainan

Leto and Iapetus and also Kronos of crooked counsel,
Eos and Helios the great and shining Selene,
Gaia and Oceanus the great, and too, Night the black
in which all three lines have the same structure, the last two using exactly the same formula in the first half, the first lacking the epithet megan; the second halves of all use different connectives, but are alike in consisting of a connective plus a noun-epithet group.

Another passage showing similar arrangement but not part of a catalogue, is at vv. 25-29:

Mousai Olumpiades, kourai Dios aigiochoio:
poimenes agrauloi, kak' elegchea, gasteres oion,
idmen pseudea polla legein etumoisin homoia,
idmen d' eut' ethelômen alêthea gêrusasthai.
hôs ephasan kourai megalou Dios artiepeiai.

...[said the] Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus the aegis-bearer:
"Shepherds living out of doors, objects of disgrace, mere bellies,
we know how to tell many lies that are like reality,
we know also, when we want, how to proclaim the truth."
so spoke the daughters of great Zeus, [they who were] ready of speech.
Verses 27-28 are analogous in syntax and meaning (the one being the opposite of the other) and the similarity is marked by the anaphora idmen...| idmen.10 Further parallelism is achieved by the repetition (in ring-composition) in vv. 25 and 29.

A high degree of parallelism is also found in vv. 632-36 (in the Titanomachia)

hoi men aph' | hupsêlês Othruos | Titênes agauoi,
hoi d' ar' ap' | Oulumpoio theoi, | dotêres eaôn,
hous teken | êukomos Rheiê | Kronôi eunêtheisa.
hoi rha tot' | allêloisi cholon | thumalge' echontes
sunexeôs emachonto deka pleious eniautous.

the ones from | lofty Othrys, | the noble Titans,
the ones from | Olympus, the gods, | givers of good things,
whom bore | fair-haired Rhea | having slept with Kronos.
They indeed then | against each other anger | heart-sick having
continually fought for ten full years.

Each of the first four lines consists of three parts:

(1) Demonstrative pronoun (plus particle plus preposition or adverb in vv. 632, 633, 635);
(2) Noun plus modifying word; and
(3) Formula which names or describes the subject of the clause contained in that line.
The metrical pattern, which follows the syntactical pattern, is as follows (marking the divisions of the line as given above):
-uu | -- -uu - | - -uu -- (vv. 632, 633, 635)
-uu | -uu -- - | uu -- -u (v. 634)
Verse 634, which shows variation syntactically, also reverses the pattern metrically in the second and third parts of the line.

The "syntactical" type of repetition is also found in vv. 829-38 (on the monster Typhoeus)

phônai d' en pasêisin esan deinêis kephalêisi
pantoiên op' ieisai athesphaton; allote men gar
phtheggonth' hôs te theoisi suniemen, allote d'aute
taurou eribrucheô, menos aschetou, ossan agaurou,
allote d' aute leontos aneidea thumon echontos,
allote d' au skulakessi eoikota, thaumat' akousai,
allote d' au rhoizesch', hupo d' êcheen ourea makra.
kai nu ken epleto ergon amêchanon êmati keinôi
kai ken ho ge thnêtoisi kai athanatoisi anaxen
ei mê ar' oxu noêse patêr andrôn te theôn te.

There were voices in all his terrible heads
uttering every kind of unspeakable sound; for at one time
they spoke the language of the gods, but at another time
they made the sound of a loud-bellowing bull, unmanageable and proud,
but at another time of a lion, ruthless of heart,
but at another time like puppies, a wonder to hear.
And there would have happened an extraordinary event that day;
and he would have reigned over mortals and immortals,
had not the father of men and gods quickly noticed.
The repeated allote ... ["at one another"] comes first at the ends of lines, then at the beginnings. This phrase yields to kai ken ["and would have..."] as an organizational device in the lines that follow. One device suggests another, and the following verses, vv. 839-40
sklêron d' ebrontêse kai obrimon (amphi de gaia)
smerdaleon konabêse kai (ouranos eurus huperthe)

crashingly [Zeus] thundered and mightily. Around about, the earth
terribly resounded, and so did the broad heaven above...
are parallel in thought, syntax (including the adverbial phrases at line ends), and analogous formulae, and are similar in sound. (It is, however, the sound, rather than the syntax, which keys in with the metre.)

Another example of organization by parallel use of pronouns and particles is vv. 871-74 (on the winds which come from Typhoeus as opposed to helpful winds):

hoi ge men ek theophin geneê, thnêtois meg' oneiar
hoi d' alloi mapsaurai epipneiousi thalassan:
hai dê toi piptousai es êeroeidea ponton,

These (winds) are a god-sent kind, to mortals a great help;
those others as random gusts blow upon the sea;
and others, falling upon the murky waters...

Organization by repetition of more important words at the beginning of lines is achieved at vv. 298-99 (of Echidna)

hêmisu men numphên heliôpida kalliparêion,
hêmisu d' aute pelôron ophin deinon te megan te.

half [of her] a nymph with glancing eyes and beautiful cheeks,
half a monstrous snake, terrible and huge.

A less exact corresponsion between syntax and metre, but where the corresponsion is rather between sound and cognate word and metre, joined with use of alliteration, is found at vv. 637-38 (Just following the highly symmetrical passage analyzed above [about the Titanomachia])

oude tis ên (eridos) chalepês lusis oude (teleutê)
oudeterois, ison de (telos) tetato (ptolemoio),

Nor was there any hard strife's solution or ending
for either side, and an equilibrious end stretched out for the war.
The similarity of first words in the lines is due to enjambment (as in vv. 839-40, see above), but the second line is virtually synonymous with the first."

The most important type of repetition for the total structure of the poem is the repetition of entire lines, or substantial portions of lines, especially in the device of ring-composition. By this device the mind of the hearer is recalled after a digression, anecdote, catalogue, or the like by a repetition, exactly or (more usually) substantially, of the lines which introduced the section. An example of such a re-echo of an incomplete sort is the similarity between vv. 1-2:

Mousaôn (Helikôniadôn) archômeth' aeidein
hai th' (Helikônos) echousin oros mega te zatheon te

From the Helikonian Muses, let us begin to sing,
who inhabit Helikon's great and holy mountain,
and vv. 22-23:
hai nu poth' Hêsiodon kalên edidaxan aoidên,
arnas poimainonth' (Helikônos) hupo zatheoio.

...who once taught Hesiod beautiful song,
as he was pasturing his sheep beneath holy Helikon...
Intervening between these pairs of lines is the description of the Muses and the catalogue of what they sing. One pair begins the description of the Muses; the other begins the account of their teaching Hesiod to sing. Each pair mentions Helikon; the first line of each ends in aeidein/aoidê ["sing/song"] (which is usually localized in this part of the line), the second in a form of zatheos ["holy"] (also usually localized in this part of the line). Each has a relative clause modifying the Muses beginning a line with hai ["who"] plus an enclitic. The second pair is resumptive of the narrative after the catalogue.

So also the end of the Muses' song and their meeting of Hesiod (vv. 21-25)

allôn t' athanatôn hieron genos aien eontôn.
hai nu poth' Hêsiodon kalên edidaxan aoidên
. . .
Mousai Olumpiades, kourai Dios aigiochoio

[they sing of these] and the other gods' holy race who live forever.
Who once taught Hesiod beautiful song...
The Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus the aegis-bearer.
are picked up after the end of their speech when they give Hesiod the laurel spray and inspire him with song (vv. 29-34)
hôs ephasan kourai megalou Dios artiepeiai
. . .
. . . enepneusan de m' aoidên
thespin, hina kleioimi ta t' essomena pro t' eonta.
kai m' ekelonth' humnein makarôn genos aien eontôn
sphas d'autas prôton te kai hustaton aien aeidein

So spoke the daughters of great Zeus, ready of speech.
...they breathed into me a voice
divine, that I might celebrate that which shall be and that which was.
And they commanded me to praise the blessed race of the immortals
but of themselves first and last always to sing.
and by the fresh invocation to the Muses at v. 38:
eireusai ta t' eonta ta t' essomena pro t' eonta.12

telling of that which shall be and that which was.

An example of repetition with closer corresponsion is that of v. 138:

deinotatos paidôn: thaleron d' êchthêre tokêa

...most terrible of her children; and he hated his vigorous father.
and v. 155,
deinotatoi paidôn, spheterôi d' êchthonto tokêi.

...most terrible of children, and they were hated by their father.
The first of these refers to Kronos, the second to all the children of Gaia and Ouranos. The first comes at the end of one of the barer sort of catalogue, consisting mostly of names;13 the second resumes the narrative after the insertion of passages on the Kyklopes and the Hundred-Armed Monsters. The formula deinotatos paidôn of Kronos is somewhat more logical, describing him as "most terrible of the children" of Ouranos who have been named in the catalogue, whereas deinotatoi paidôn in v. 155 can only be generalizing -- "very terrible among offspring."

The story of the vengeance of Kronos [by castrating his father Ouranos] is bound together by the repetition of lines and formulae. In v. 158 the poet says of Ouranos ...kakôi d'epeterpeto ergôi ["he rejoiced in his evil-doing," i.e. of hiding all of his children deep within Gaia].

In vv. 164-68 Gaia speaks:

(paides) emoi kai patros atasthalou, ai k' ethelête
peisesthai, patros ke kakên teisaimetha lôbên
humeterou: proteros gar aeikea mêsato erga
hôs phato. (tous d' ara pantas helen deos), oude tis autôn

Childen of mine by a wicked father, if you wish
to heed me, we should avenge the evil outrage of this father
of yours; for he was the first to plot unseemly works.
Thus she spoke. Fear seized them all, nor did any of them
Finally Kronos answers (vv. 170-73):
(mêter), egô ken touto g' huposchomenos telesaimi
ergon, epei patros ge dusônumou ouk alegizô
hêmeterou: proteros gar aeikea mêsato erga.
hôs phato: (gêthêsen de mega phresi Gaia pelôrê)

Mother, I, making this promise, would accomplish
this work, since I do not care about this hatefully named father
of ours; for he was the first to plot unseemly works.
Thus he spoke; and vast Gaia rejoiced greatly in her heart.
Of the two long passages the second is an answer to the first (substituting mêter ["mother"] for paides ["children"], hêmeterou ["our"] for humeterou ["your"]. Each ends with a description (introduced by hôs phato ["thus spake"]) of the reaction of the other party.

In the two stories in which a king of the gods swallows or tries to swallow a possible successor there is repetition, but it is purely resumptive, not question and answer. The story of Zeus being saved from eating by Kronos is bound together by repeated lines and words which bind the sections together. Kronos eats his children because

peutheto gar Gaiês te kai Ouranou asteroentos
houneka hoi peprôto heôi hupo paidi damênai
(vv. 463-64)

for he learned from Gaia and from Ouranos the starry
that he was destined to be overcome by his own child.
When Rhea is about to give birth to Zeus, she likewise consults Gaia and Ouranos, asking for advice on how to circumvent Kronos:
all hote dê Di' emelle theôn pater' êde kai andrôn
texesthai, tot' epeita philous litaneue tokêas
tous autês Gaian te kai Ouranon asteroenta
mêtin sumphrassasthai . . .
. . .
hoi de thugatri philêi mala men kluon êd' epithonto,
kai hoi pephradetên, hosa per peprôto genesthai.
(vv. 468-75)

But when she was about to bear the father of gods and men,
then she entreated her dear parents,
Gaia and Ouranos the starry,
to suggest a plan...
. . .
and they heard and obeyed their dear daughter,
and they explained to her everything that was destined to happen.
The line which tells how Zeus was rescued
pempsan d' es Lukton, Krêtês es piona dêmon (v. 477)

they sent [Rhea] to Lyktos, to the fertile country of Crete.
prompts the poet to expand, and he begins the amplification also with "when she was about to give birth . . ."
hoppot' ar' hoplataton paidôn texesthai emelle Zêna megan.

...when she was about to give birth to the youngest of her children, great Zeus.

The many formulaic correspondences between the story of Kronos' attempting to swallow Zeus and Zeus' swallowing Metis ["Wisdom"] pregnant with Athene (vv. 886-900) indicate that these are oral variants of one type-scene. The latter episode is divided roughly into two parts, the break occurring at approximately v. 894 [prôtên men kourên glaukôpida Tritogeneian "First of all the maiden, gray-eyed Tritogeneia" v. 895]. At this point the poet starts over again, and one part is a variant of the other, with the same formulae occurring in each.




Zeus de theôn basileus prôtên alochon theto Mêtin
pleista theôn te iduian ide thnêtôn anthrôpôn
all' hote dê ar' emelle thean glaukôpin Athênên
texesthai, tot' epeita dolôi phrenas exapatêsas
haimulioisi logoisin heên eskattheto nêdun
Gaiês phradmosunêisi kai Ouranou asteroentos.
tôs gar hoi phrasatên hina mê basilêida timên
allos echoi Dios anti theôn aieigenetaôn.
ek gar tês heimarto periphrona tekna genesthai:
prôtên men kourên glaukôpida Tritogeneian
ison echousan patri menos kai epiphrona boulên,
autar epeit' ara paida theôn basilêa kai andrôn
êmellen texesthai, huperbion êtor echonta:
all' ara min Zeus prosthen heên eskattheto nêdun,
hôs dê hoi phrassaito thea agathon te kakon te.




Zeus, the king of the gods, took as his first wife Metis
most knowledgeable among gods and mortal men.
But when she was about to bear the goddess, gray-eyed Athene,
he then, deceiving her mind with a trick
and cunning words, placed her in his belly
on the advice of Gaia and Ouranos the starry.
For thus they advised him, so that no one else would hold the kingly honor
except Zeus over all the immortal gods.
For from her it was destined that very wise children would be born;
first the gray-eyed maiden Tritogeneia [Athene],
having strength and wise counsel equal to her father.
But then a son who was king of gods and men
she would bear, having an overbearing spirit.
But Zeus first placed her in his belly,
so that the goddess might give him advice on both good and evil.

The Prometheus story is likewise bound together with such repetitions, to an even more complex degree. Compare, for instance, the deceptive sacrifice as offered by Prometheus, as discovered by Zeus, and as henceforth offered by man:

tôi d' aut' ostea leuka boos doliêi epi technêi
euthetisas katethêke kalupsas argeti dêmôi. (vv. 540-41)

[to the other gods and men gathered at Mekone, Prometheus offered flesh and fat entrails]
but for him [Zeus] he set out the white bones of the ox, with deceitful craft
arranging them, hiding them in shining fat.
chôsato de phrenas amphi, cholos de min hiketo thumon,
hôs iden ostea leuka boos doliêi epi technêi. (vv. 554-5)

He became choleric in his heart, choler came into his mind,
when he saw the white bones of the ox, arranged with deceitful craft.
ek tou d'athanatoisin epi chthoni phul' anthrôpôn
kaious' ostea leuka thuêentôn epi bômôn. (vv. 556-7)

For this reason, the races of men upon earth
burn white bones for the immortals upon fragrant altars.

Zeus' anger and his address to Prometheus when he sees the sacrifice trick and when he pretends to be duped by it are also similar in language, and the words used by the poet of Prometheus' trickery (v. 547, doliês d' ou lêtheto technês) are repeated in Zeus' speech to Prometheus (v. 560):



dê tote min proseeipe patêr andrôn te theôn te:
Iapetionidê, pantôn arideiket' anaktôn,
ô pepon, hôs heterozêlôs diedassao moiras.
hôs phato kertemeôn Zeus aphthita mêdea eidôs
ton d'aute proseeipe Promêtheus agkulomêtês
êk' epimeidêsas, doliês d' ou' lêtheto technês:
. . .
phê rha dolophroneôn: Zeus d' aphthita mêdea eidôs
gnô rh' oud' êgnoiêse dolon: kaka d' osseto thumôi
. . .
ton de meg' ochthêsas prosephê nephelêgereta Zeus:
Iapetionidê, pantôn peri mêdea eidôs,
ô pepon, ouk ara pô doliês epilêtheô technês
hôs phato chôomenos Zeus aphthita mêdea eidôs.



Then, indeed, the father of men and gods addressed him:
Son of Iapetus, most glorious of all lords,
good sir, how unfairly you have divided the portions.
Thus spake, mockingly, Zeus the thinker of immortal plans.
Prometheus of crooked counsel addressed him,
gently smiling, for he did not forget his deceitful craft...
. . .
So he said, thinking craftily. Zeus the thinker of immortal plans
knew and was not unknowing of the trick, and he envisioned evil in his heart...
. . .
mightily angered, there addressed him cloud-gathering Zeus:
Son of Iapetus, above all others the thinker of plans,
good sir, you certainly have not forgotten your deceitful craft.
Thus he spoke in anger, Zeus the thinker of immortal plans.

When the poet substitutes for pantôn arideiket' anaktôn ["most glorious of all lords"] (v. 543) the phrase pantôn peri mêdea eidôs ["above all, the thinker of plans"] (v. 559) in the formulaic line for Prometheus, he is using almost the same phrase for Prometheus that he repeatedly uses of Zeus -- Zeus aphthita mêdea eidôs ["Zeus, thinker of immortal plans"], with the difference that Zeus' wisdom is immortal, but Prometheus' merely excels that of other men.

Divisions in the story are marked not by explicit logical connectives but by repetition.

The Titanomachia (vv. 617-712) is similarly divided by repetitions. The scheme is as follows:

(1) The Hundred-Arms, bound kraterôi eni desmôi ["in strong bonds"](v. 618).

They sit underground

. . . hupo chthonos euruodeiês
enth' hoi g' alge' echontes hupo chthoni naietaontes
. . .
tha mal' achnumenoi kradiêi mega penthos echontes.
(vv. 620-23)

... beneath the earth of wide ways,
there they, suffering pain while living beneath the earth...
. . .
...for a long time very afflicted, in their heart suffering great grief.
(2) Zeus frees them, on Gaia's advice, because they will help in the war with the Titans, for
dêron gar marnanto ponon thumalge' echontes
antion allêloisi dia krateras husminas
Titênes te theoi kai hosoi Kronou exegenonto.
(vv. 629, 631, 630)
[Note that Rzach reverses the verse order from other editions]

Long they battled, suffering heart-pained toil,
opposite each other in fervent combat,
the Titan gods and those who were born of Kronos.
(3) The battle lines described:14
hoi rha tot' allêloisi cholon thumalge' echontes
sunecheôs emachonto deka pleious eniautous.
(vv. 635-36)

Against each other, suffering heart-pained anger,
they continually fought for ten full years.
(4) Zeus receives the Hundred-Arms and addresses them:
êdê gar mala dêron enantioi allêloisi
nikês kai krateos peri marnameth' êmata panta
Titênes te theoi kai hosoi Kronou ekgenomestha.
humeis de megalên te biên kai cheiras aaptous
phainete Titênessin enantioi en dai lugrêi
mnêsamenoi philotêtos enêeos, hossa pathontes
es phaos aps aphikesthe dusêlegeos hupo desmou
(hêmeteras dia boulas) hupo zophou êeroentos
(vv. 646-53)

Already for a long time opposite each other
for victory and power we have been battling every day,
the Titan gods and we who were born of Kronos.
But do you show your great force and invincible hands
opposite the Titans in the baneful war,
remembering our kind friendship, and how much you had suffered
when you came back to the light from your grievous bonds
because of our decree, from the misty darkness.
(5) The Hundred-Arms answer:
sêisi d' epiphronsunêisin hupo zophou êeroentos
apsorron deur' autis ameiliktôn hupo desmôn
êluthomen, Kronou huie anax, anaelpta pathontes.
(vv. 658-60)

By your wisdom, from the misty darkness
back hither again from the harsh bonds
we have come, lord son of Kronos, having hopelessly suffered.
Then comes the battle, and at the close of the fighting
eklinthê de machê: prin d' allêlois epechontes
emmeneôs emachonto dia krateras husminas.
(vv. 711-12)

The battle turned. But before that, having at each other,
ceaselessly they fought, in fervent combat.

It was shown by Milman Parry that the formulaic technique facilitates the poet's task of thinking of words in which to express his thought quickly, as he goes along. As one can see from the examples in this paper, examples in the Theogony which I consider most striking, the repetition which is a feature of this technique can also serve as an organizing device, to mark divisions of the narrative and remind the audience of the point of departure for an episode, and also to emphasize certain key ideas, and in this way also impart unity to the composition. The oral poet does not say in a reasoning way "This is a fundamental idea," or "This is my main point," or "This is the connection between these things"; he simply repeats the words over again.


For this paper I have used the text of the Theogony as printed in Rzach's edition of 1913, but without bracketing any of the lines which he brackets. In passages quoted, I have sometimes had recourse, in addition to the usual broken and unbroken underlining of formulaic analysis, to the use of parentheses to mark instances of recurring ideas or subject-matter, as opposed to simple recurrence of words. [As explained at the head of this Web version of the article, both types of underlining are represented here by boldfaced type, to avoid confusion with Web hyperlinks.]

1. Neither the name Pandora ["Endowed with all gifts"] nor the etymologizing myth behind it occurs in the Theogony. I simply use the name for convenience.

2. Exceptions in the case of "song" are in a similar context: v. 917 aoidês also referring to the Muses, and vv. 965 and 1021 in the smaller prologues to the Muses introducing respectively the genealogies of the offspring of goddesses and the Êoiai [catalog of women, all the stories beginning Ê hoiê "Or such as she..."].

3. I have followed no strict rule on what I call an "expression," as words and formulae overlap, but have tried to distinguish those which are fairly independent. Hence the figures are approximate.

4. The Prologue, as I see it, presents the Muses in a series of relationships:

vv. 1-10: the Muses per se, without reference to gods or men (followed by a catalogue);

vv. 22-34: the Muses as teachers of the poet (followed by transitional line);

vv. 36-74: the Muses in their relationship to other immortals, especially Zeus;

vv. 36-51 (including a catalogue): the Muses as entertainers, especially for Zeus; vv. 52-62: birth of the Muses as daughters of Zeus (followed by digression on the Charites and Himeros); vv. 68-74: the Muses' arrival on Olympus to be the entertainers of Zeus (followed by catalogue of the Muses);

vv. 81-103: the Muses' gifts to special classes of mortals -- as givers of persuasiveness to kings and of song to poets, and, through the song of poets, of respite from cares to all mankind.

With this picture of the Muses as helpers of kings may be compared the picture of Hekate in the Theogony (vv. 411-52) in which her functions, also, include helping kings (vv. 434-30). The description of the Muses in Theog. I-10 bears a strong resemblance to the descriptions of nymphs in the long Hymn to Aphrodite (Hymn V 258-272) and in the Hymn to Pan (Hymn XIX).

5. The discussion of this set of words, however, more properly belongs in the next part of this paper, as being not a recurring theme in an overall story so much as a play of words contained within a small section.

6. This is the so-called Hymn to Styx, in which she is thoroughly anthropomorphized and takes her place in the genealogy as a full personality. Contrast the second long section on Styx (vv. 775-806) in the part on the geography of Tartaros, in which Styx is not a "daughter" of Ocean, as earlier, but simply a river which is one branch of Ocean, containing one tenth of its water. Whereas in the earlier passage it is Styx' timê to be the oath of the gods, in the later one Styx is the source whence Iris obtains water with which to administer the oath.

7. See below, p. 334 [on Mnêmosunê/lêsmosunê].

8. If this is the correct reading: see Apparatus Criticus.

9. Cf. Hymn to Demeter 352-55:

phisai phul' amenêna chamaigeneôn anthrôpôn
sperm' hupo gês kruptousa, kataphthinuthousa de timas
athanatôn. destroy the fleeting races of earth-born men
by hiding the seed beneath the ground, utterly destroying the honors
of the immortals...

10. Cf. Odyssey 19.203:

Iske pseudea polla legôn etumoisin homoia,

He feigned many lies as he was speaking, that were like truth.
in which the sound pattern is the same but iskô means "to make like," and so the meaning is different.

11. Other examples of the bard's using the same way to get started on a line but finishing it differently are vv. 434 and 430 [in the Rzach edition, verse 434 of other editions immediately precedes verse 430]:

en te dikêi basileusi par' aidoioisi kathizei
en t' agorêi laoisi metaprepei, hon k' ethelêisin:

...and in judgment, [Hecate] sits beside the revered kings,
and in the meeting-place, that man is distinguished among the people, whom she chooses.
and vv. 419, 438, 442, 443, 453: rheia, rheia, rhêidiôs, rheia, Rheiê.

12. See above, p. 332, for another pattern into which this line fits [The likeness of inflectional forms in successive lines: hymneusai, eireusai, omêreusai].

13. This list-of-names type of catalogue, as Mr. Beye has pointed out (Charles R. Beye, The Catalogues as a Device of Composition in the Iliad, diss., Harvard University 1960), is more likely to have such expansion at its end.

14. See above, p. 336, for discussion of the syntactical symmetry of this section [the beginning of successive lines with like phrases: hoi men aph', hoi d' ar' ap', hous teken, hoi rha tot'].

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