Two Forms of Strife: Both Cause Harm

The poet Hesiod provides two different stories for the genealogy of Strife (Conflict, Competition). One appears in the Theogony and is mostly about War and Violence. The other comes from the Works and Days and is probably a free-market economist’s mythical dream come true. Both, doubtlessly, cause pain.

Hesiod, Theogony, 224-232

“Ruinous night then gave birth to Deception and Sex
And destructive Old Age, and also strong-hearted Strife.
Then hateful Strife gave birth to grief-causing toil,
And Forgetfulness, and Hunger, and tearful Pains,
Battles, Wars, Murders, and Mankillings,
Conflicts, Lies, Arguments, Doubletalk,
Bad-government, Blindness, and Gatherings with others,
And even Oath, who pains mortal men the most of all
Whenever someone willingly breaks a sworn word.”

Νὺξ ὀλοή• μετὰ τὴν δ’ ᾿Απάτην τέκε καὶ Φιλότητα
Γῆράς τ’ οὐλόμενον, καὶ ῎Εριν τέκε καρτερόθυμον.
αὐτὰρ ῎Ερις στυγερὴ τέκε μὲν Πόνον ἀλγινόεντα
Λήθην τε Λιμόν τε καὶ ῎Αλγεα δακρυόεντα
῾Υσμίνας τε Μάχας τε Φόνους τ’ ᾿Ανδροκτασίας τε
Νείκεά τε Ψεύδεά τε Λόγους τ’ ᾿Αμφιλλογίας τε
Δυσνομίην τ’ ῎Ατην τε, συνήθεας ἀλλήλῃσιν,
῞Ορκόν θ’, ὃς δὴ πλεῖστον ἐπιχθονίους ἀνθρώπους
πημαίνει, ὅτε κέν τις ἑκὼν ἐπίορκον ὀμόσσῃ•

Image result for ancient greek conflict vase

Works and Days, 11-26

“There isn’t only a single child called Strife, but there are two
on the earth. Whoever recognizes the first, praises her;
But the other is much-to-blame. They have distinct characters.
The first marshals terrible war and conflict, the wicked witch,
No mortal loves her, I think, but forced by the plans of the gods
They honor the burdensome Strife.
Dusky night bore the other one first
And Kronos’ high-throned son who lives on high
Set her in the roots of the earth and made her much better for men.
She readies even those who are lazy to go to work.
For, whenever a man who shirks hard work sees
Another man who is wealthy, he hurries to plow and plant
And order his house well. Neighbor envies his neighbor
As he becomes comfortable. This is the good Strife for men.
Now, a potter strives with a potter and a carpenter with carpenter—
Even a beggar rivals a beggar, and a singer another singer.”

Οὐκ ἄρα μοῦνον ἔην ᾿Ερίδων γένος, ἀλλ’ ἐπὶ γαῖαν
εἰσὶ δύω• τὴν μέν κεν ἐπαινήσειε νοήσας,
ἣ δ’ ἐπιμωμητή• διὰ δ’ ἄνδιχα θυμὸν ἔχουσιν.
ἣ μὲν γὰρ πόλεμόν τε κακὸν καὶ δῆριν ὀφέλλει,
σχετλίη• οὔ τις τήν γε φιλεῖ βροτός, ἀλλ’ ὑπ’ ἀνάγκης
ἀθανάτων βουλῇσιν ῎Εριν τιμῶσι βαρεῖαν.
τὴν δ’ ἑτέρην προτέρην μὲν ἐγείνατο Νὺξ ἐρεβεννή,
θῆκε δέ μιν Κρονίδης ὑψίζυγος, αἰθέρι ναίων,
γαίης [τ’] ἐν ῥίζῃσι καὶ ἀνδράσι πολλὸν ἀμείνω•
ἥ τε καὶ ἀπάλαμόν περ ὁμῶς ἐπὶ ἔργον ἐγείρει•
εἰς ἕτερον γάρ τίς τε ἴδεν ἔργοιο χατίζων
πλούσιον, ὃς σπεύδει μὲν ἀρόμεναι ἠδὲ φυτεύειν
οἶκόν τ’ εὖ θέσθαι• ζηλοῖ δέ τε γείτονα γείτων
εἰς ἄφενος σπεύδοντ’• ἀγαθὴ δ’ ῎Ερις ἥδε βροτοῖσιν.
καὶ κεραμεὺς κεραμεῖ κοτέει καὶ τέκτονι τέκτων,
καὶ πτωχὸς πτωχῷ φθονέει καὶ ἀοιδὸς ἀοιδῷ.

 

“Someone once said it is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism”  —Fredric Jameson

One thought on “Two Forms of Strife: Both Cause Harm

  1. Pingback: Envy and Pity: Proverbial Wisdom? | SENTENTIAE ANTIQUAE

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