Homer and Hesiod: the Greek poets and their forms of poetry

Greek culture has a long and rich history, especially in literature. There are too many forms of poetry that come from this culture to explore them all, so today we will learn a little about Homer and Hesiod, two of the first poets of Greece, and some of the major Greek poetic forms.



In ancient times, people “sang the stories of the Trojan War and its Greek heroes; these songs would be the Greek equivalent of a miniseries, since the stories were so long that they would take days to complete. The Greeks believed that the greatest One of these narrators was a blind man named Homer, who sang ten epic poems about the Trojan War, of which only two survived (although the Greeks seem to have known them). However, he only covered a small part of that story “( Hooker).

Homer is best known for writing the Iliad and the Odyssey. They, as mentioned above, were related to the Trojan War. However, “Homer’s authorship and indeed even his own existence are established by tradition; nothing is actually known about him” (Matthews and Platt 43). The Iliad and the Odyssey are especially important because it is where later Greeks sought the history of their people, their religion, and the moral ideals with which to guide their lives. Homer also wrote some hymns that have survived into modern times.



Like Homer, Hesiod also wrote in epic form. His most famous works were called: Theogony Y Jobs and days. Also like Homer, his work was a guide on how people should behave. “In ‘Jobs and days’ he talks about justice and hard work, which is the only way to success, and gives advice on agriculture, commerce, navigation, as well as on marriage, the education of children and other moral precepts and useful “(Papageorgiou-Haska).

Both Hesiod and Homer are believed to have lived about 2,800 years ago.



The epic name comes from the word “epos”. This Greek word is translated into the phrase “tell a tale” (Padgett, 65).


–Tell a story.

– There is no set length, BUT they are usually very long. So long, in fact, that they are sometimes divided into chapter-shaped sections called cantos (Padgett, 65).

– About a specific story of heroism, and its intention must be to motivate morality in the reader.

– The rhythm is dactyl hexameter: “This means that each line contains six metric feet of three beats each, the first a long syllable and the second and third short syllables (as in ‘gratitude’ and ‘Oldsmobile’)” (Padgett, 65).

I COULD HAVE OR What is the poet’s choice in all of this?

– Whether it rhymes or not. Historically these were oral and rhyming aids memorization, but there is no hard and fast rule for rhyming.

– Choice of the hero and his specific act of heroism. Choose a hero from a long time ago or a current one. You don’t even have to name a specific person, but rather a heroic effort that many people put in.

-Rhythm, yes-I already listed it in the “essentials”, but the dactyl hexameter is the traditional Greek rhythm. English epics are primarily iambic pentameter. If you choose to use your poetic license here, I would choose a meter and stick with it throughout your poem.


– Funny epics are known by the term “epic mock”.

The Elegy


This form dates back to ancient Greece. The Poetic Forms Writers and Teachers Handbook says that “the word elegy comes from the Greek word elegeia, meaning ‘song of mourning'” (Padgett, 62).

This same manual tells us that in the 7th century BC. C., “the first person who wrote an elegy was probably Mimnermus de Colophon”. At least his is the first written record of an elegy to be found. There may be many earlier elegies lost in time or yet to be discovered (Padgett, 62).

The elegy began, in modern times, as a term for a specific type of couplet, but developed into a form based on gender: sadness, contemplation, and mourning for death in general or for the death of a specific person.


It must be about death or a loss that is like death, unless you choose the Roman change that made them over love (see below).

–If you choose to create a classic elegy, you’ll want to start with the theme of your elegy, then share your grief, and finally your acceptance of death / loss.

I COULD HAVE OR What is the poet’s choice in all of this?

–Any form (or no particular form) just follow the form rules if you use one.

–Any rhyme (or no rhyme), unless a shape is used, then the rhyme scheme for that shape is followed.

–Any meter (or no meter set) unless a form is used, then follow the meter required for that form.

– The length can be long or short. However, if you use a form, that form can determine the length.


The Greeks wrote elegies about death, but later the Romans wrote them about love. This remained relatively unchanged until “England in 1611”. At that time, John Donne returned the elegy on death to writing. (Padgett, 62 years old).

Letter and specifically the Monody


Already in ancient Greece, the letter had two types: the choral letter, which was interpreted by many people, and the monody, which was sung by a single person. Since there are very few rules for this poetic form, I will create a few for you to use as a guide based on its historical usage. I will use Monody’s article, Choral Lyric, and the Tyranny of the Hand-Book by Davies, and Classics in Translation by Mackendrick and Howe as my historical guides.


“ You must mourn a death.

– It should be short, but not as short as the epitaph and epigram.

“ It must be from one person’s point of view, although the regret could be for the loss of many.

I COULD HAVE OR What is the poet’s choice in all of this?

–Any rhyme (or no rhyme), unless a shape is used, then the rhyme scheme for that shape is followed. Usually the things that are sung rhyme and this form was originally sung. Consult your poetic license when deciding how to go for it.

–Any meter (or no meter set) unless a form is used, then follow the meter required for that form. This form usually had simple meters, and if one is chosen, stick to it at all times.

–Length Stanza, choose any, but stay the same at all times. Example: If you choose an eight-line stanza and want three stanzas, make them all have eight lines.

–Any form (or no particular form) just follow the form rules.


The Classics in Translation book had an interesting note. They said that this form is “closely associated with the Ionians, [and] it is closer to popular folk poetry “(Mackendrick and Howe, 93).

–Lyrical poetry is not a specific form, but rather a category for a form of poetry that is meant to be sung. Modern lyrical poetry may not be sung, but it should at least have a musical quality. There are almost forty forms that could be considered lyrical poetry (Turco, 102).

Source Notes

Davies, M. (1988). Monody, Coral Lyric, and the Tyranny of the Hand-Book. The Classical Quarterly, new series. Flight. 38, no. 1, pp. 52-64.

Bitch, Richard. “Homer.” Bureaucrats and Barbarians: The Greek Dark Ages. 1999. Washington State University. March 1, 2009.

Mackendrick, P and Howe, H (1980). Translation classics. Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press.

Matthews, Roy T., and F. DeWitt Platt. The Western Humanities. 5th. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Padgett, Ron. The Manual of Teachers and Writers of Poetic Forms. 2nd. New York: T & W Books, 2000.

Papageorgiou-Haska, Roula. “Hesiod”. Cosmogony-Theogony. June 5, 1996. Hellonic Electronic Center. March 1, 2009.

Turkish, Lewis. The Book of Forms. 3rd. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 2000.

Williams, Miller (1986). Poetry Patterns: An Encyclopedia of Forms. Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press.

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