Catalogue of Women

Catalogue of Women

The Catalogue of Women (Greek: γυναικών κατάλογος, "gynaikōn katalogos") is an Ancient Greek poem. Ancient writers sometimes attributed it to Hesiod, although the poem contains a few references to events and things after Hesiod's time that could suggest that they were later added or that the epic is of a completely different author. Since Hesiod is known to us only as the author of the "Works and Days" and the "Theogony," which may not have the same date or author, the distinction here is unclear. Since the dating of the poem is one of the most problematic issues surrounding it, the poem's author remains anonymous.


In antiquity the poem was also known as the "Eoiai" ( _el. Ηοίαι or Ήοιαι; Latin "Eoeae", "Ehoeae", "Eoiae", etc.), from the formula Η' οιή ("ē' hoiē"), "Or such a woman as ...", which introduces new sections within the poem; it is also possible that these are two poems in the same style - we know both only from quotations. The poem was also referred to in the plural as "Catalogues of Women", but the singular is much more common.


Richard Janko's monumental survey of epic language suggests that the "Catalogue" is very early, perhaps contemporary with Hesiod's Theogony, i.e. about 700 BCE. [Janko 1982: 85-7.] Other dates have been proposed: Jacques Schwartz thought that the poem reached its final form between 506 BCE and 476 BCE, and West, for more literary reasons, dates it to between 580 BCE and 520 BCE. The most important point pushing the date forwards is a reference to the city of Cyrene (frr. 215 and 216 M-W), which was founded in 631 BCE. On the other hand, West himself assigns dates as early as 776 BCE to parts of the poem's content.

As always with texts deriving from oral traditional sources (like the Homeric epics), it is difficult to distinguish the periods at which part of the material within the poem was composed, and to determine the date at which the written text as we have it was finalised. Moreover, a poem whose main stage of composition was completed by 700 BCE, but was only transcribed in 550 BCE, is likely to have evolved considerably in some ways (adding references to Cyrene, modernising the formulaic style, etc.) while remaining the same in others (preserving some elements of an older poetic style).

Fragmentary epic

The poem is fragmentary, meaning that it survives in quotations, scraps of ancient papyrus, and second-hand references in other authors. It is much better-attested than most "lost" works, though, and surviving portions of the original text are well over 1000 lines of verse, longer than either of the other "Hesiodic" poems, the Works and Days and Theogony.

References to the poem are normally in the form of a fragment number in a specified edition, with line numbers: e.g. "fr. 23(a).15 M-W" means fragment 23(a) in the edition by M(erkelbach) and W(est), line 15. All editions have their own numeration, so it is important to specify the edition. In one edition (Merkelbach and West 1967, 1990) nearly 250 fragments survive; in the most recent edition (Hirschberger 2004), the number is reduced, for various reasons, to 142. More fragments do not equate to a better edition; conversely, a more recent edition is not necessarily the best. Therefore multiple editions will always exist side-by-side.


The complete poem contained five books of verse in dactylic hexameter. Each book may have been up to 1000 lines long. This is the same metre as Homer, and the work resembles the Catalogue of Ships in the "Iliad" in being a list of disjoint items, briefly described. The Catalogue is a list of famous women in Greek mythology, and their descendants by both men and gods. The poem opens,

Sing now of the tribe of women, sweet-voiced Olympian Muses,
daughters of "aigis"-bearing Zeus: those women who were the noblest,
and had sex with gods.
Fact|date=May 2007

This invocation of the Muses is standard epic style.

The epic was broadly divided into a number of key genealogies, though the divisions between these, and how they were arranged through the epic's first four books, is debated. Important genealogies included are those of two of the children of Deukalion and Pyrrha: Hellen and Pandora who with respective partners Orseis and Zeus they give birth to the progenitors of the Greek/Hellenic nation: Graecus, Makedon, Magnetas, Dorieus, Aeolos and Xuthus (with his two sons, Achaeus and Ionas). Other significant genealogies include those of Aiolids, Inachids, Pelasgids, and Atlantids (descendants, respectively, of Aeolus, Inachus, Pelasgus, and Atlas). The style of the genealogies is similar to genealogical passages in the Homeric epics, such as the genealogy of Glaucus in "Iliad" book 6, that of Aeneias in "Iliad" 21, or that of Theoclymenus in "Odyssey" 15. Brief descriptions are given of some figures in the genealogies, while others are elaborated and have substantial storylines attached to them. As a result the poem is a mine of information about Greek mythology. There are also strong resemblances to the catalogue of heroines that Odysseus sees in the underworld in "Odyssey" 11.

Book 5 was different, and may originally have been a separate poem: it consisted a nearly 200-line catalogue of the suitors of Helen, similar in style to the catalogue of ships in "Iliad" book 2, and probably led into an account of the beginning of the Trojan War (perhaps even leading directly into the "Cypria").

Reception and influence

As noted above, the poem has similarities to many passages in Homer. This implies that they share a common genre in some respects: the "Catalogue" did not exist in isolation, but belonged to a clear tradition of genealogical poetry.

The "Catalogue" was extremely influential in the Hellenistic period. The "Bibliotheca" or "Library" of Greek mythology (attributed, wrongly, to Apollodorus) appears to have been largely modelled on the "Catalogue", giving valuable evidence on the "Catalogue"'s structure. The work was widely read: in Egypt, archaeologists have found papyrus fragments of at least 52 separate copies of the "Catalogue", more than for almost any other single work other than the Homeric epics, implying that the poem was one of the most popular of all literary works there.

It is not known when the poem ceased to be read. No copies of the poem were preserved intact through the Middle Ages, so there is no direct link between the "Catalogue" and mediaeval catalogues of women such as Boccaccio's 1361 "De mulieribus claris" or Christine de Pizan's 1405 "Cité des dames". The reconstruction of the work, based on citations in other classical authors, began with 19th-century classical scholarship, and the first edition appeared in 1823, edited by Gaisford as part of his collection "Poetae minores Graeci"; two years later Ludwig August Dindorf's "Hesiod" appeared. The most important editions now are those of Aloisius Rzach (1913), Reinhold Merkelbach and West (1967, 1990), and Martina Hirschberger (2004).



*Online editions, in Greek
**No online editions of the original text exist
*Online editions, in English translation:
** [ Translated by H.G. Evelyn-White] , 1914. Not the full modern corpus of fragments (public domain)
** [ Translated by H.G. Evelyn-White] , 1914. Project Gutenberg text of the above (complete works of Hesiod; starts on p. 67)
*Print editions, in Greek
**See References below
*Print editions, in English translation
**Evelyn-White, H.G. 1914, revised 1936, "Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica", Cambridge, Massachusetts. ISBN 0-674-99063-3 Loeb with Greek text.
**None of the modern collections of fragments includes a translation. Papyrus fragments are often incoherent.



*Hirschberger, M. 2004, "Gynaikōn katalogos und Megalai Ēhoiai", Munich. ISBN 3-598-77810-4 (reviewed by G. B.D'Alessio, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.02.31:
*Hunter, R. ed. 2005, "The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: Constructions and Reconstructions", Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-83684-0
*Janko, R. 1982, "Homer, Hesiod and the Hymns", Cambridge. ISBN 0-521-23869-2
*Merkelbach, R., and M.L. West eds. 1967, "Fragmenta Hesiodea", Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814171-8
*Merkelbach, R., and M.L. West eds. 1990, "Fragmenta selecta", in F. Solmsen (ed.), "Hesiodi Theogonia, Opera et Dies, Scutum" (3rd edition), Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814071-1
*Rzach, A. 1913, "Hesiodus: Carmina" (3rd edition), Stuttgart. ISBN 3-598-71418-1 (reprint)
*Schwartz, J. 1960, "Pseudo-Hesiodeia: recherches sur la composition, la diffusion et la disparition ancienne d'oeuvres attribuées à Hésiode", Wetteren.
*West, M.L. 1985, "The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women", Oxford. ISBN 0-19-814034-7

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