Works and Days

Hesiod was one of the earliest known Greek poets. He lived some time in the 8th century BC in Boeotia. He said he became a poet when the Muses visited him one day while he was tending his sheep. They gave him the inspiration to write poetry and told him to 'sing of the race of the blessed gods immortal.'

Works and Days is one of his most famous poems. In it, Hesiod advises farmers how to run a successful farm. He tells them the best times of the year to undertake certain tasks and warns them to work hard or else the gods may be angry with them.

"...Hunger goes always with a workshy man... You should embrace work-tasks in their due order, so that your granaries be full of substance in its season."
"Make sacrifice to the immortal gods..., burn gleaming thighbones; and at other times [try to please] them with libations and [offerings], both when you go to bed and when divine light returns..."
"When the keen sun's strength stops scorching and sweltering, after mighty Zeus begins the autumn rain, and human skin feels the change with relief ... then timber is freest from the worm... Then do your woodcutting, do not neglect it..."

"...Take heed when you hear the voice of the crane from high in the clouds, making its annual clamour; it brings the signal for ploughing, and indicates the season of winter rains, and it stings the heart of the man with no ox."
"Pray to Zeus of the earth and pure Demeter for Demeter's holy grain to ripen heavy ... In this way the ears may nod towards the earth with thickness ... you will reach the bright spring in prosperity..."
"the swallow comes forth into men's sight as the spring is just established. Do not wait for her before pruning the vines: it is better so"
"For fifty days after the solstice, when the summer has entered its last stage, then is the time for mortals to sail... At that time the breezes are well defined and the sea harmless."
"When Orion and Sirius come into mid-heaven ... then set about cutting off all the grape-clusters for home. Expose them to the sun for ten days and ten nights, cover them over for five, and on the sixth draw merry Dionysos's gift off into jars."

"Well with god and fortune is he who works with knowledge of all this, giving the immortals no cause for offence, judging the bird-omens and avoiding transgressions."