Chiron - The Precepts of Chiron

The Precepts of Chiron

A didactic poem, Precepts of Chiron, part of the traditional education of Achilles, was considered to be among Hesiod's works by some of the later Greeks, for example, the Romanized Greek traveller of the 2nd century CE, Pausanias, who noted a list of Hesiod's works that were shown to him, engraved on an ancient and worn leaden tablet, by the tenders of the shrine at Helicon in Boeotia. But another, quite different tradition was upheld of Hesiod's works, Pausanias notes, which included the Precepts of Chiron. Apparently it was among works from Acharnae written in heroic hexameters and attached to the famous name of Hesiod, for Pausanias adds "Those who hold this view also say that Hesiod was taught soothsaying by the Acharnians." Though it has been lost, fragments in heroic hexameters that survive in quotations are considered to belong to it. The common thread in the fragments, which may reflect in some degree the Acharnian image of Chiron and his teaching, is that it is expository rather than narrative, and suggests that, rather than recounting the inspiring events of archaic times as men like Nestor or Glaucus might do, Chiron taught the primeval ways of mankind, the gods and nature, beginning with the caution "First, whenever you come to your house, offer good sacrifices to the eternal gods". Chiron in the Precepts considered that no child should have a literary education until he had reached the age of seven. A fragment associated with the Precepts concerns the span of life of the nymphs, in the form of an ancient number puzzle:

A chattering crow lives out nine generations of aged men, but a stag's life is four times a crow's, and a raven's life makes three stags old, while the phoenix outlives nine ravens, but we, the rich-haired Nymphs, daughters of Zeus the aegis-holder, outlive ten phoenixes."

In human terms, Chiron advises, "Decide no suit, until you have heard both sides speak".

The Alexandrian critic Aristophanes of Byzantium (late 3rd-early 2nd century BCE) was the first to deny that the Precepts of Chiron was the work of Hesiod.

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