Catalogue of Women

The Catalogue of Women (Ancient Greek: Γυναικῶν Κατάλογος, Gynaikôn Katálogos)—also known as the Ehoiai (Ἠοῖαι, )—is a fragmentary Greek epic poem that was attributed to Hesiod during antiquity. The "women" of the title were in fact heroines, many of whom lay with gods, bearing the heroes of Greek mythology to both divine and mortal paramours. In contrast with the focus upon narrative in the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey, the Catalogue was structured around a vast system of genealogies stemming from these unions and, in M.L. West’s appraisal, covered "the whole of the heroic age." Through the course of the poem's five books, these family trees were embellished with stories involving many of their members, and so the poem amounted to a compendium of heroic mythology in much the same way that the Hesiodic Theogony presents a systematic account of the Greek pantheon built upon divine genealogies.

Most scholars do not currently believe that the Catalogue should be considered the work of Hesiod, but doubts about the poem's authenticity have not lessened its interest for the study of literary, social and historical topics. As a Hesiodic work that treats in depth the Homeric world of the heroes, the Catalogue offers a transition between the divine sphere of the Theogony and the terrestrial focus of the Works and Days by virtue of its subjects' status as demigods. Given the poem's concentration upon heroines in addition to heroes, it provides evidence for the roles and perceptions of women in Greek literature and society during the period of its composition and popularity. Greek aristocratic communities, the ruling elite, traced their lineages back to the heroes of epic poetry; thus the Catalogue, a veritable "map of the Hellenic world in genealogical terms," preserves much information about a complex system of kinship associations and hierarchies that continued to have political importance long after the Archaic period. Many of the myths in the Catalogue are otherwise unattested, either entirely so or in the form narrated therein, and held a special fascination for poets and scholars from the late Archaic period through the Hellenistic and Roman eras.

Despite its popularity among the Hellenistic literati and reading public of Roman Egypt, the poem went out of circulation before it could pass into a medieval manuscript tradition and is preserved today by papyrus fragments and quotations in ancient authors. Still, the Catalogue is much better-attested than most "lost" works, with some 1,300 whole or partial lines surviving: "between a third and a quarter of the original poem", by one estimate. The evidence for the poem's reconstruction—not only elements of its content, but the distribution of that content within the Catalogue—is indeed extensive, but the fragmentary nature of this evidence leaves many unresolved complexities and has over the course of the past century led to several scholarly missteps. This article reflects, for the most part, M.L. West's reconstruction of the Catalogue as presented in his monograph on the poem, but also takes account of scholarship that has appeared since its publication, especially Martina Hirschberger's 2004 commentary on the Catalogue and the Megalai Ehoiai, a similar poem that was also attributed to Hesiod.

Read more about Catalogue Of Women:  Title and The ē' Hoiē-formula, Content, Date, Composition and Authorship, Transmission and Reconstruction

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