Pedagogical File

Pedagogical File : Theogony
The pedagogical file accompanies the ebook. It is intended for teachers, trainers, cultural workers and speech therapists. It aims to facilitate the design of workshops to discover the digital books of the Bibliodos project. Target group for the workshop: from <A1.1 to A1/A2 written language.

Table of Contents


The ‘Theogony’ (in Greek ‘Theogonia’) is a didactic or instructional poem written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod. It details the origins of the universe and the battle between the Olympians and the Titans. 

“Theogony has a significant value because it is one of the first known literature pieces from ancient Greece. Furthermore, it provides a perception of what Greek literary and religious traditions were like during Hesiod’s era.  This is interesting because all cultures have their mythical tales about the genesis of the world”. 

The author : Hesiod

Hesiod was an ancient Greek poet generally thought to have lived in the latter half of the 8th Century BC. He was born and raised in Boetia, where he worked as a shepherd in the mountains. While he was sleeping, the nine Muses appeared to him with a laurel staff, a symbol of poetic authority, and taught him to sing. His major works are thought to have been written around 700 BCE but only three of them were found completed (‘Works and Days’, ‘Theogony’ and ‘The Shield of Heracles’). 

The period between the 11th and 8th century B.C. is known as the Geometric period because of geometric motifs in vase painting. It is also characterized as the “Dark Ages” since there are not many facts for this period.

This period’s major characteristic was the extensive migration to the mainland of Greece and the Aegean islands and Asia Minor’s coast. Greek tribes that previously occupied barren and mountainous territories around Mycenae moved to productive, fertile, and prosperous Mycenean centers opening the way to settle the ancient Greek city-states.

The city-state was the fundamental component of ancient Greek society, within the notions and ideas of the panhellenic ethnicism and the ethnic and individual liberty developed and led to the establishment of Democracy.  The name Hellenes occurred as the common identifying name of groups that occupied Greek lands and shared common characteristics, customs and origin. 

By the end of the 8th century B.C., the extensive migratory flow took its final form. Afterward, only new colonies and cities were found. The colonists settle important commercial harbours and colonies from the Northern coast of Africa to the Black Sea and from France and Spain to Asia Minor/ Anatolia. They gain prosperity, became great sailors and maintained close bonds with their mother cities. The most important was the dissemination of Greek civilization to the rest of the then-known world. 

By the fall of the Mycenaean civilization, literacy had been lost and Mycenaean script forgotten. However, a few years later, the Greeks adopted the Phoenician alphabet and modified it to create the Greek alphabet. 

Poetry was the earliest Greek literature and it was composed for performance to wealth men rather than private use. Homer and Hesiod were the earliest Greek poets and scholars usually compare their writing style. According to Wender Homer’s Olympians, even though they were not admirable ethically, they were still civilized. He erased their sins without mentioning any “primitive behavior”. Nonetheless, Hesiod did not attempt to gloss over the mythological past except Zeus, the protagonist of the poem, whose omniscience, justice and power are emphasized at every opportunity. 

Homer’s works, Iliad and Odyssey, marked the beginning of Greek literature and established most of the epic poem’s literary conventions. Hesiod’s didactic poetry was probably later in composition than Homer’s epics and continued the epic tradition, even though it had different theme and treatment.

Around 750 BC the poems were transformed from bardic songs into written texts – the evolution from folklore to literature. However, they were not available to readers, but they enable people to preserve them and perform them consistently. 

The historian Chester Starr suggested that the 8th century B.C. was the age of revolution and the most dramatic development of early Greek history. The population growth prompted state formation and changes in art, culture and religion. 

The most reasonable theory is that political organizations existed before the eighth century with local chiefs (basileis) having influence on specific villages or groups of villages, forming something like primitive states. The term “state” includes city-states (poleis), empires, theocracies, and many other forms of government, but excludes tribes, lineages, forms, and churches (Tilly 1992: 1-2). 

In the beginning of eighth century, there were many independent city-states. Each one of them had a different system of governance, ranging from monarchies and oligarchies to militaristic societies and proto-democracies. Monarchies were governed by a tyrant—an absolute ruler who ruled without constitutional right and laws, applying cruel and extreme methods against the people. Oligarchies were small and privileged groups of powerful members (aristocrats) who governed the city-state. Usually, oligarchs were distinguished by nobility and wealth, and as Aristotle said oligarchy means to be “rule by the rich”. Sparta was an exception having two kings with real powers, perhaps as a concession when villages joint their power in the ninth or eighth century. 

The literary work: Theogony

Although some scholars question whether or not Hesiod wrote the Theogony, most historians believe that he is the actual author. However, later poets might have made some additions in his work, and there is a defined resemblance in some aspects to prior Mesopotamian literature. According to historian Dorothea Wender, Theogony was an earlier work than Works and Days and had the same epic verse-form despite their different topics. She considers that Theogony seems to be unpolished since the author probably had difficulty with written composition.

The literary genre

Didactic poetry was not regarded as a distinct genre by either Greek and Roman theorists. In any way, this genre aims to instruct the reader in a specific subject – matter in the expressive language of poetry. ‘Works and Days’ and ‘Theogony’ display a vital concern for overall moral and philosophical instruction such as the origins of the universe. 

Its European dimension

According to the historian Norman Cantor, Theogony was influential and Greeks adopted Homer and Hesiod’s concept of the gods. Hesiod had a significant influence on Classical Greek philosophy and literature; for example, his Prometheus story inspired dramatists such as Aeschylus. Especially in Hellenistic times and Roman times, his poetic style was imitated and his works continued to be performed and set to music. The Roman writer Ovid used many of ‘Theogony’ themes in his work ‘Metamorphoses’.

In modern times, there some film adaptations about the conflict between the Titans and the Olympians. Some of these movies are:

  • Clash of the Titans (1981)
  • Clash of the Titans (2010)
  • Wrath of the Titans (2012)

Major issues/problems of the time addressed

The major issues of Hesiod’s time were the population growth and the extensive migration to the mainland of Greece, the Aegean islands and the coast of Asia Minor. Tribes such as Ionians from Euboea and Attica emigrated to Cyclades and Asia Minor. However, Hesiod’s father did the opposite since he moved from Cyme in Aeolis (on the coast of Asia Minor) and traversed the sea to settle at Ascra, near Thespiae in Boeotia. 

Scholars point out that Hesiod mentions facts (myths, gods, themes) in his works that possibly derive from the East.  This can be attributed to the trade contacts and cultural interactions between the peoples of the eastern Mediterranean. Eastern influence may have emerged into the Greek culture in the pre-Greek years, or later in the Mycenaean era, or even later, after the migration of Greek populations to Asia Minor. 


The gallery of characters

Chaos – the origin of everything and the very first thing that ever existed

Gaia – the primordial earth or mother goddess who governed the universe before Titans’ existence

Tartarus – the third of the primordial deities and the deep abyss where wicked imprisoned

Eros – was the fourth god to come into existence and he is the god of love and sex

Uranus – was the primal Greek god personifying the sky and one of the Greek primordial deities

Cyclops – Brontes, Steropes, and Arges, who were the sons of Uranus and Gaia. They had a single eye set in the middle of their foreheads.

Titans – the twelve children of the primordial parents Uranus and his mother, Gaia, with six male Titans: Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Cronus, and six female Titans, called the Titanides: Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Tethys.

Cronus – was the leader and youngest of the first generation of Titans. He overthrew his father and ruled during the mythological Golden Age.

Rhea – daughter of the earth goddess Gaia and the sky god Uranus. She is also the older sister and wife of Cronus.

Zeus – the Olympian god of the sky and the thunder, the king of all other gods and people. He is the son of Cronus and Rhea.

The location

The location is not specified since the poem is about the origins of the universe and gods in ancient times. 

Iconography in the book

The iconographic material was enhanced with paintings illustrating elements which are associated with the story e.g. gods, landscapes etc. 

Giovanni Battista Coriolano was an Italian engraver of the Baroque period. His father was the famous German engraver Cristoforo Coriolano. He worked both on wood and copper. 

Henry Fuseli was aSwiss-born artist whose paintings are among the most dramatic, original, and sensual works of his time. During his stay in Rome he studied Michelangelo’s works and classical art, which became his principal stylistic influences. Fuseli is famous for his paintings and drawings of nude figures caught in strained and violent poses suggestive of intense emotion. 

Pietro da Cortona was an Italian Baroque painter and architect. He is considered as one of the main figures in the appearance of Roman Baroque architecture. He was also an important designer of interior decorations, such as the vault of the main salon of the Palazzo Barberini in Rome. 

Workshop design


Activity: Theogony

Entry activity in ebook

  • Printed pieces of art representing the creation of the universe
  • PC or laptop 
  • Internet

Before the session:

Choose this music background “Space Traveling Background Music” ( ) to set the atmosphere for the activity.

In the workshop: 

  • Start showing the pieces of art without giving any clue about the topic.
  • Divide the participants into smaller groups of 4-5 persons. Explain to them that they will first have to describe what they see and guess the subject.
  • Turn on the music and allow them to listen to it and watch the video.
  • Then present the title of the ebook, Theogony, and ask participants if they understand the word and explain its meaning (the genealogy or birth of the gods). 
  • Encourage them to discuss and share their hypothesis about the location and the time of the ebook.
  • After they guess the time, ask participants to share their ideas. 
  • Retell and write down the key words from this first activity. 
  • Retain the relevant words and may add others.
  • For participants who cannot read, a work of copying and associating the word to the image with the association of the initial sound of the word and the letter(s) beginning the word can be beneficial. (Example: “Universe” begins with the sound [Y]. How is it written? U. Where do you see a word beginning with this letter? That’s it, that’s the word UNIVERSE)


Activity 1: Meet the gods

Preparation activity for global understanding

  • Printed pictures of the different gods
  • Labels for the names of the gods

Before the session:

  • Print pictures of selected gods of the ebook according to your interests and time available 
  • Make the labels (font and size adapted to the group)
  • Prepare 1 or 2 pieces of information per god/deity

In the workshop: 

  • Divide the groups into smaller ones (4-5 persons) and give them some of the printed pictures. Plan a collective time to decipher the labels of the gods’ names. For people who do not read, check that they have reference marks (Correspondence 1st sound of the god’s name and 1st letter(s) => = phone-graphic correspondence reference marks). Ask them to describe what they see. The facilitator can help by going into the groups. 
  • Give 1 or 2 pieces of information per god/deity in order to approach a guessing game.  For participants who do not read and for participants with poor communication skills, give the information orally. The objective for them will be to listen and understand; then, by deduction, to find out which god it is. 
  • For participants who read and communicate a little bit better: give the information in written form. The objective for them will be to read and understand; then, by deduction, to recognise which god it is. 

Give 1 or 2 pieces of information per god/deity in order to approach a guessing game. 

  • For participants who do not read and for participants with poor communication skills, give the information orally. The objective for them will be to listen and understand; then, by deduction, to find out which god it is. 

For participants who read and communicate a little bit better: give the information in a written form. The objective for them will be to read and understand; then, by deduction, to recognise which god it is. 

  • At the end of the game: compare the different proposals in order to arrive at the correct answer.

Activity 2: Family tree

Fine-grained comprehension activity

Associated practical sheets (to be added later)

  • Printed pictures of the different gods
  • Labels for the names of the gods
  • Cardboards
  • Markers
  • Glue

Before the session:

  • Distribute to each group all the necessary materials

In the workshop: 

  • Explain the principle of the family tree. Discuss what this does (the representation of family relationships) in the countries/cultures of the participants. 
  • Ask everyone to draw the tree. Depending on the group, read the beginning of the ebook in large groups and complete the first two names of the family tree together.
  • Then ask them to read the ebook in order to complete the family tree.
  • Ask the sub-groups to compare their trees and then collectively reread the ebook (or relevant slides) to check and correct.
  • Stick the poster of the family tree on the wall/ room space dedicated to the Theogony ebook.

Activity 3: Storyline

Global understanding activity

  • Printed pictures of the ebook.

Before the session:

  • Print the pictures of the ebook

In the workshop: 

  • Try making the students understand the conflicts between the gods. 
  • The sub-groups can find the oppositions in the ebook and try to guess the reasons for the oppositions. 
  • The facilitator can complete the stories. Written and visual elements (depending on the skills of the participants in the group) could even be given in addition at this time to get to know the stories better and enrich the reading.

To go further with cross- cultural 

You can start a conversation regarding the origins and genealogies of gods and the creation of the world in general according to the folklore, legends, mythology, beliefs or narratives derived from the participants’ cultures. Nearly every culture has its own myths about the creation of earth. After the participants share their culture’s stories with each other, you can initiate a dialogue with reference to the common elements that these stories share. For example, you can ask them what are some common characteristics of the narratives. A possible answer could be that all stories might share a supreme being that triggers a set of events. If there is time, you could also ask the participants with which being they identify the most or which deity is the most aspiring to them (it can be from any culture. E.g. someone might identify with Prometheus or aspire to be like him for being compassionate for the suffering of others).


Activity: Art exhibition

Activity of appropriation of the reading experience

Associated practical sheets (to be added)

  • Canvas
  • Oils
  • Smocks
  • Paintbrushes 

Before the session:

In the workshop: 

  • Discuss with the participants about the ebook and invite them to share their thoughts about the origins of the universe.
  • Then distribute all the necessary materials and ask them to draw the creation of the universe based on their point of view. 
  • After all participants finish, invite them to exhibit their paintings and present them to the others.
  • At the end, collect all the paintings and put them on the wall/room space dedicated to the Theogony ebook.

Depending on the audience you can add a video or an audio instead of the first step of discussion