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Department of the Classics, Harvard University

Parmenides and Hesiod


Author(s): Edwin F. Dolin, Jr.
Source: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 66 (1962), pp. 93-98
Published by: Department of the Classics, Harvard University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/310737 .
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PARMENIDES AND HESIOD

BY EDWIN F. DOLIN, JR.

P ARMENIDES' poem sometimes seems to evoke the same fascina-


tion and sense of borrowed glory as his wandering moon, shining
with a light not its own (B.I4):

VVKTrcpaE yaitav
TEpl acAt[Evov AAd'rptov-6S
The assurance and calm with which the poem offers this and other
examples of disquieting imagery, particularly in the "proem," has
stimulated a search for sources and prototypes, whether in mystery
religion or in Hellenic myth, legend, and poetry.
It should be said at once, of course, that the power and brilliance
are Parmenides' own and not borrowed from anyone. To assume, as
this paper does, that the tradition from which Parmenides drew was
the main poetic tradition of Homer and Hesiod is not to imply that
hexameter poetry by itself somehow accounts for Parmenides. Rather,
the assumption is that the tradition was there, pervasively and ineluct-
ably, in the cultural atmosphere, that Parmenides used its motifs and
imagery as freely and naturally as he breathed, counting them as allies
in his poetic communication with Hellas, and that he criticized this
cultural donnee whenever he saw fit, which was not seldom, by the
very manner in which he made use of what he liked of it.
The prototypal aspect of Homer in Parmenides, especially of the
Odyssey, has been discussed by E. H. Havelock.' Odysseus, the ex-
perienced and knowing traveler protected by the goddess Athena,
reaches an ultimate place where day and night meet and where he is
told by Circe, goddess and daughter of the sun, what road to take
home. In another ultimate place, Thrinacia, he finds the immortal
cattle of Helios, the sun, guarded by the sun's daughters. Telemachus,
Odysseus' son, makes a chariot journey in search of his father. And, in
the Iliad, Achilles' famous chariot horses are immortal and wise. So,
in Parmenides' poem, the narrator is a knowing man (E$W' qWs) on a
journey to an ultimate place where day and night meet and where he
is told what road to take. His chariot is drawn by wise, immortal
horses. His guides are goddesses, daughters of the sun. The Homeric
parallels and language, Professor Havelock remarked, suggest that

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94 Edwin F. Dolin, Jr.

the experience of Parmenides is to be viewed as a new form of


traditional epic heroism.
Hesiodic parallels, on the other hand, have been remarked by
Werner Jaeger, among others. Jaeger, in fact, suggested that the
Greeks saw "in Parmenides' adoption of the verse-form of his venerable
theological predecessor an avowed intention to compete with him on
his own territory... Parmenides present(ed) himself as one who had
followed in Hesiod's footsteps and beaten him at his own game."2
This article seeks to extend the comparison with the Theogony by
suggesting a specific parallel between Parmenides' daughters of the
sun and the Theogony's Muses and by commenting on the parallel
between Parmenides' gates of night and day and those of the Theogony.3
Its hypothesis is that Parmenides was deliberately attacking the archaic
thought processes represented by Hesiod and wished to present himself
as the exponent of a new intellectual approach which would be associ-
ated in its spirit with the Homeric ideal of the heroic individual.

The similarity between the Muses' message to Hesiod and the


goddess' message to Parmenides has been widely noted.4
1 otov,
EVES
(YPaUVAOt, KK E'AE'XE
EroAA&
LpLEv EvO/EVa AA "yEWv ETV/,LOo'UV o, ca,
7TOL, yaOUTEpE&t
!SLEVS', EVT
E'-OE'AWEV,
aAriOEa
yrIpvraaaroac.
(Theogony z6-z8)
OJKOVP . . .
sEorc
LPtotP K uK7taITpOdTEJoE VEE
XlPd covo EhTE
OkTlE Ido,
fOorv alr m
7"Olv' te vOputr7TWo EKTO 7rntrov EorTrv)
ti,
H
s AAoOt o
e4nS rE cpKi 7TE.XpE oSE goE ITVaOEOaC
y7T'XvMra
?)Ev 'A jOE1-qsEVKVKAEoS. TPE)UE& Y TOP
rqo~ fPpo-r5v 80'a-, -raXS OVK Vt 7dUT-rS &,rOri.
(B.I.24, 26-30)
The vocative mood is followed in both by the assertion of the two-
fold character of knowledge, a stress on truth, and anaphoric syntax:
E 77E.
.. '8ijE Y7/LEV...
'/1 . vY,Parmenides, the blunt didactic
Typically, for presentation of Hesiod
is softened by Homeric politeness. The Theogony's Muses, as though
perhaps shepherds themselves, say straight out, "Rustics, disgraces,
mere bellies." The goddess, however, greets Parmenides with elaborate
epic courtesy. "Graciously, the goddess received me, took my hand in
hers and spoke to me these words: '0 youth, accompanied by im-

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Parmenides and Hesiod 95
mortal guides and these horses which bring you to our home, welcome.
For no evil destiny sent you forth...' "5
This fusion of a basic Hesiodic form with Homeric tone is character-
istic of the whole poem. It is repeated in the merger of the Muses with
the daughters of the sun, the Heliades, who bring the poet to the gates
of night and day and thus to the goddess herself.6 As a group they are
the divinities responsible for Parmenides' instruction in the way of
truth. If the goddess is comparable to the Muses (as Jaeger believes),
then the daughters of the sun may be also. In fact, like the Muses,
Moicax KoMpacdOIS alycdXototheyareKoVpat(B.I.5, 9,15,
and 'OAvtTTLCaSES&,
have a characteristic patronymic: rHAca'SESKoipat
21) they
(B.I.9).
The Theogony opens with a description of the Muses dancing on
Mt. Helicon, then moving away at night, veiled in mist, to sing of
Zeus and the Olympians and to instruct Hesiod. Parmenides' poem
begins with a chariot journey guided by the Heliades, who have left
the house of night and cast off their veils and are bringing Parmenides
to his place of instruction beyond the gates.

Movroawv"EAtKWVtapWV "ELEW
"xWI'EO
EAJLKwXOPoZS aVTO
EVETOLvqj
aKpo-ra7-
EVOEVa7TOpvvLEVa,KEKUAV[ULEVatL
?Ept7ToAAr,
EVVVXtat UrTELXOV orrav
7TEPLKAAEO(o EFcrLt
(Theogony I, 7, 9-1o)

OTE ar7EPXOta70 7TE17TE


WHAdxSES S TLa7aT
KOfpaL,7TpoAL7TOUat VVKTOR
EI& /cOS, KpaaTV alTO KaAVlrTrpa'
.ucqi)Eva, XEPU,
(Parmenides B.I.8-Io)
The poetic imagination, molding its memories, moves purposefully
toward the creation of a new vision. The didactic song of the Muses
came at night, veiled, under Mt. Helicon. The didactic discourse of the
Heliades comes in the light, unveiled, beyond the gates of any place
or time in this world.7
The Theogony's song of the Muses organized Hellenic religion around
Zeus, chief of the third-generation rulers of a changing universe,
whom the Muses sang and served. But in Parmenides, Zeus and the
Olympians have vanished without a trace, leaving the Kovpat masterless,
daughters of a god almost without cult. Their only function is to bear
witness to 7r 5V, being itself.

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96 Edwin F. Dolin, Jr.

To replace the specific, well-defined Muses of Hesiod, Parmenides


has created an abstract blend of the sun-daughters of Thrinacia and
Circe.
II
The "gates of the paths of night and day" occur at line ii of the
first fragment of Parmenides and recall Theogony 736-57. Hesiod
there recounts how the rebellious Titans were confined in Tartarus
within a wall guarded by the Hecatoncheires, Kottos, Gyes, and
Briareos. The place has gates, beyond which is a huge "chasm," the
home of night. In front, Atlas supports the sky near where night and
day speak to each other as they pass crossing the threshold. Within are
Sleep and Death, Night's children, and Hades' house, guarded by
Cerberus, and the loathsome sources and ends of the universe (Theo-
gony 736-41, 744-49):
IvOa8E yrT`prc&pov
8voEp77 Kl 7jEpdEVT70O
T aTpvyETOLO Kct ovpcvov
TorrVTOV CXUTEpOEVTO.
E r- r7TavrTWV
r7Tya(tKact7TEtpcT
Eaccp
&pyaAE" TraErTV
EVpWEVTra,
' ayEovE OEOl rTTEp,
Xday7 LEy, OVoEKE7TraVT7a EUrgdpov El.E VLCaV7V
TEA
ovi8as EL,rpa
KOLT, _rrt WUAEwv' EVTOUE YEVOLTO,

VVKTOO8 E
PEEVV7T]q OLK a ELV
ET7J-KEV VEq!)UV(XSKEKaAVJ LEa KVaXVE-7T.
TwVIpoEO OVP(VOV
EEEL EVpVV
ET-7L KEq!)aA-7rE KC7Tat,
I,r7TETOLO OaKaLUtaruTXEPEUC~LV
&OV?OV
arTE/fEW/S,oOt vtv TE Kat 7flLLEp7
&AArAas
r7TpoUEEL*trov, tEYCavOVOSd
atJELOtEVECCL OZLt
The journeying narrator of Parmenides' poem reaches the gates of
night and day. They open revealing a huge "chasm." He passes
within and is greeted by the goddess (B.I.II-I8):
I
EVOavTudAaiL
VVKTOe TE
KCf o/ul, iLTo ELrtL KEAEVOuOV
Kat uraS 15r7dPOvpov aLL'S E'EL KCl Acvoswol080's.
CVTCCL
o8alptst, LEyaAott
rrVTAiv-rate OVpETPrOLS.,
TW as Kq TrroAVTowoSL EXEL KAhgat's~osfloUo'S.
SEJL, u vt raiKO TAo
nTjv8a aAaKOde.or
7TaCdrleEa S. V IcflaAavwTrov O7tootuv
-"
arTTEpEW W trvAEwv
oELE Tal SE OvpE-rTpwv
EIT,,paOEW,
7TE'Ucav, W,
XaoI aXaVs TrroL7tuav afro.
avarrracEvaI.L..
The obvious difference, of course, in these two accounts is that
Parmenides asserts that his gates are not in Tartarus, but in the ether
(ateO'ptat),just as the chasm beyond his gates contains not Titans,
night and death, but the gracious goddess. The "loathsome sources

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Parmenidesand Hesiod 97
and ends of the universe" give place to the goddess' account of "well-
rounded truth's unshaken heart," which is "like the bulk of a well-
rounded ball," Being without beginning or end. As guardiansof the
chasm, the hundred-handed giants have yielded to Dike. Compare
Hesiod's descriptionof the binding of the Titans by the Hecatoncheires,
Theogony717-19:
Kca TOIV o -
I/EV EVpvo
TT7"vas, V'Tt XO"v?.
7TE/LaV
Kat 8EULt-otoV E&Jouav
EV xpyxAE"totTV
oEr,

XEpaLVVLKr7)vr..TE .
with Parmenides'descriptionof the binding of "becoming and destruc-
tion" by Dike (and Ananke)B.8.I3-I4, 26-27, 30-31, 37-38:
TO7 EWVEKEV OVTE yEVEOctOL
o5T oWvuOat
'VJKE ZLq
XKaAcOaoua
7TJ1W8

al3Tap aKivYvtOV IEyaAwvV 7TEVIrELpaut8EU(LtV


Eo.Tw avapxov ?tevoiTov ....

r7TElphaTos EV EXEL .. KaEfy vo K i


rEigionLOLv

-O ye
E0'TEL E'7TE&I7aV
o aOV tVrni o e
TeEVL . . .
Mop"'
Like the Heliades and the goddess, Dike is at best only a very distant
relationto the well-definedanthropomorphicfiguresof Hesiod and the
myth in general. In fact, popularreligion, if not religion altogether,is
gone, and we are not surprised. But Parmenides'treatment has done
more than simply ignore religion. By carefullyevoking Hesiod's effort
at systematicpresentationof the myth, while at the same time draining
it of individuality and twisting its images of dark to light, he has
doubly condemnedit.
A new vision of man accompaniesthis new vision of the universe.
He is a traveleron a lonelyroad- -rvS' 6ev, Iqyap r"&vOp W6iTWV EKTO7
rrd-rov He is not taken in by the 0os-rroAV'7TEtpov,the established
wisdom uv.
of society. His road is straightahead,not rraAlv-rporTos like that
of other people. But, lonely though it is, this road will lead him to all
knowledgeXPEw SE
6 rrdv-ra rrvE'crOat.For him, Dike, the law of nature,s
will yield and open her gates. He will pass within and "judge by reason
the strife-encompassed proof spoken" (B.7.5-6) by the goddess (Kp cvat
h
Aoy pEnV"rua).
TOAre&St
nhp"
The AEYXOV/
of the "OEVo of
"unshaken heart
apprehension well-rounded truth"

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98 Edwin F. Dolin, Jr.

is only for the extraordinary man, the hero. The new, rational Theo-
gony, emptied of myth, presents itself as comprehensible only through
the heroic spirit of the epic.9

NOTES
I. E. H. Havelock, "Parmenides and Odysseus," HSCP 63 (I958) 133-43.
2. W. Jaeger, Theology of the Early Greek Philosophers (Oxford 1947) 93.
3. Theogony 736-57; Parmenides B.I.II.
4. ". . . the goddess is thus an exact counterpart of the Muses," Jaeger, 94;
O. Gigon, Ursprung der Griechischen Philosophie (Basel 1945) 246-47.
5. B.I.zz-z8 ETTEtlY
oYrt E KaK7)7P0ofTEt/EVEEUOaL may recall Iliad 1.418
(Thetis to Achilles) 7WUE KaKV toUOpa
aU? 7TEKOVEv LEyadpOLUL.
6. M. Untersteiner, Parmenide (Florence 1958) lxvii.
7. Untersteiner, pp. lxxii-lxxiii.
8. Untersteiner, pp. lxxv-lxxviii.
9. The language of Parmenides is fundamentally epic. In fact, the first
notable departure does not come until the end of the "proem," when 5~da
and lrraUr suddenly thrust the fifth century and its preoccupations into the
Homeric-Hesiodic context, as the goddess explains the double character of
knowledge (B.I.30): 7'5 flpor&v 6S'as, raiZsorK Vt 7rldUs &0~XA s. Later, the follow-
ing nouns characteristic of post-epic language occur: Kp&6iUS, Kptuts, yEVEOLSE
pJt,
yvva, , 'yKos, rdrros.One verb and one adverb are notably non-
0os, KAEYXOs,
epic: vopldw and Eflflahus. Parmenides' nearly twenty negative adjectives
include several which occur rarely or seldom in epic: &y7v7-roS,&KVIT7OST, &Vdr7TOS,
rcravUros, uavAos.The numerous compound adjectives include three character-
istic of the fifth century: rE''Upos, Ezay4)s. Six others are of interest
flpptpO6,
because of their rarity: &Xav', IKpavos, uaorrA7j,
VvK707La s, 7r7ArTpoTros,
7TEptOTO-r.sx

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