Theogony

by

Hesiod

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The Natural and Divine Worlds Theme Analysis

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Cycles of Succession Theme Icon
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Violence and Power Theme Icon
The Natural and Divine Worlds Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Theogony, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
The Natural and Divine Worlds Theme Icon

In the Theogony, the poet describes the natural and the divine world as being closely linked and sometimes almost indistinguishable from one another, like in the instances of personified deities like the Winds, the Sea, and the Sun and Moon. This link between the natural and divine worlds emphasizes that humans are forced to rely on two forces larger than themselves—nature and divinity—in order to thrive. Ultimately, Hesiod makes the case in the poem that the everyday world is suffused with the divine, and that humans must appropriately revere the gods in order to ensure good fortune.

Hesiod makes special note of the goddess Hecate for her ability to bestow bounty from the land and the sea, emphasizing the link between the natural and divine realms. Those who worship Hecate are handsomely rewarded: “To those too who till the surly grey, and who pray to Hecate and the strong-thundering Shaker of Earth, easily the proud goddess grants a large catch; but easily she takes it away when it is sighted, if she so chooses. She is good for increasing the livestock in the folds together with Hermes. Herds of cattle and broad herds of goats and flocks of fleecy sheep, if so she chooses, she makes great out of small, and less out of many.” This passage illustrates the ways in which the divine can have a direct effect on the natural world toward human benefit—divine favor is bestowed to worshippers of Hecate in the form of tangible agricultural reward. In terms of those who pay proper reverence to Hecate, “great favour readily attends him, if the goddess is well disposed to his prayers, and she grants him prosperity, for she has the power to do so.” While in later centuries Hecate took on a more ambivalent nature, associated with magic and witchcraft, here she is unambiguously good, and intimately tied to the natural world. Through Hecate, the poem highlights that the divine is not separate from nature or humanity, but instead infuses every aspect of human existence, and has tangible, significant effects upon the world.

Wealth, the son of Demeter and a human hero, is indicative of good harvest and agricultural prosperity, emphasizing the integration of the divine and the human in the form of a god that is descended from and embodies both worlds. Wealth is conceived by the earth goddess Demeter and the hero Iasius in “in a thrice-turned fallow field, in the rich Cretan land,” indicating his connection to the natural world and to agricultural bounty. The bounty that the god Wealth represents is that of grain and good harvest, and “whoever encounters him, into whosever hands he comes, he makes him rich and bestows much fortune upon him.” Here, worldly success and the connection between the divine and the natural is borne out in the personification of Wealth itself.

Throughout the poem, the natural world is constantly intertwined with the divine, both for good and ill, in the form of gods and goddesses. While this close link sometimes works in humanity’s favor, it can also result in catastrophe. Even though the natural world is suffused with the divine, it’s not necessarily suffused with goodness and good fortune—gods and goddesses, in all of their power, have the ability to shake up the natural world to disastrous effect. Many lesser deities crowd the streams, rivers, and forests in the form of nymphs and naiads. Other, less positive effects also occur, such as the winds that spring from the defeated Typhoeus, which “rage with evil gusts” and “blow different at different times, scattering ships and drowning sailors.” The natural world is thus constantly imbued with the divine, with lesser gods and goddesses populating the world with both good and bad effects. Even when the immortals are concerned only with their own affairs, they still have an outsized effect on the world around them, as when the battle between the Titans and the Olympians rocks the world: “Great Olympus quaked under the immortal feet of the lord as he went forth, and the earth groaned beneath him. A conflagration held the violet-dark sea in its grip, both from the thunder and lightning and from the fire of the monster, from the tornado winds and the flaming bolt. All the land was seething, and sky, and sea; long waves raged to and fro about the headlands from the onrush of the immortals, and an uncontrollable quaking arose.” While the battle that takes place on Olympus primarily concerns the gods, the effects of it are widespread, and extend even to the more fragile natural and human worlds, revealing the link between the natural and divine worlds.

In the Theogony, the natural and the divine are intimately connected for both good and ill. This can take the form of dangerous natural disasters inspired by the warring gods or malicious monsters, or more beneficial interactions such as those of Hecate or Demeter. In the poem, there is no separation between the human and the natural, or the human and the divine—instead, they all overlap one another. Ultimately, the poem emphasizes that humankind is at the mercy of both nature and the divine, with gods and goddesses, natural forces, and human culture and civilization inextricably intertwined.

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The Natural and Divine Worlds Quotes in Theogony

Below you will find the important quotes in Theogony related to the theme of The Natural and Divine Worlds.
Theogony Quotes

From the Muses of Helicon let us begin our singing, that haunt Helicon's great and holy mountain, and dance on their soft feet round the violet-dark spring and the altar of the mighty son of Kronos.

Related Characters: Zeus, Kronos, The Muses
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Whomsoever great Zeus' daughters favour among the kings that Zeus fosters, and turn their eyes upon him at his birth, upon his tongue they shed sweet dew, and out of his mouth the words flow honeyed; and the peoples all look to him as he decides what is to prevail with his straight judgments. His word is sure, and expertly he makes a quick end of even a great dispute. This is why there are prudent kings: when the peoples are wronged in their dealings, they make amends for them with ease, persuading them with gentle words. When he goes among a gathering, they seek his favour with conciliatory reverence, as if he were a god, and he stands out among the crowd.

Such is the Muses' holy gift to men.

Related Characters: Zeus, The Muses
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:

Great Heaven came, bringing on the night, and, desirous of love, he spread himself over Earth, stretched out in every direction. His son reached out from the ambush with his left hand; with his right he took the huge sickle with its long row of sharp teeth and quickly cut off his father's genitals, and flung them behind him to fly where they might.

Related Characters: Kronos, Heaven, Earth
Related Symbols: The Sickle
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:

For from her is descended the female sex, a great affliction to mortals as they dwell with their husbands—no fit partners for accursed Poverty, but only for Plenty. As the bees in their sheltered nests feed the drones, those conspirators in badness, and while they busy themselves all day and every day till sundown making the white honeycomb, the drones stay inside in the sheltered cells and pile the toil of others into their own bellies, even so as a bane for mortal men has high-thundering Zeus created women, conspirators in causing difficulty.

Related Characters: Zeus, Prometheus
Page Number: 20
Explanation and Analysis:

Great Olympus quaked under the immortal feet of the lord as he went forth, and the earth groaned beneath him. A conflagration held the violet-dark sea in its grip, both from the thunder and lightning and from the fire of the monster, from the tornado winds and the flaming bolt. All the land was seething, and sky, and sea; long waves raged to and fro about the headlands from the onrush of the immortals, and an uncontrollable quaking arose. Hades was trembling, lord of the dead below, and so were the Titans down in Tartarus with Kronos in their midst, at the incessant clamour and the fearful fighting.

Related Characters: Zeus, Kronos, Tartarus
Related Symbols: Thunder and Lightning
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

Farewell now, you dwellers in Olympus, and you islands, continents, and the salt sea between. But now, Olympian Muses, sweet of utterance, daughters of aegis­ bearing Zeus, sing of the company of goddesses, all those who were bedded with mortal men, immortal themselves, and bore children resembling the gods.

Related Characters: Zeus, The Muses
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis: