There is no doubt that the “Works and Days” is the oldest, as it is the most original, of the Hesiodic poems. It seems to be distinctly earlier than the “Theogony”, which refers to it, apparently, as a poem already renowned. Two considerations help us to fix a relative date for the “Works”. 1) In diction, dialect and style it is obviously dependent upon Homer, and is therefore considerably later than the “Iliad” and “Odyssey“: moreover, as we have seen, it is in revolt against the romantic school, already grown decadent, and while the digamma is still living, it is obviously growing weak, and is by no means uniformly effective.
2) On the other hand while tradition steadily puts the Cyclic poets at various dates from 776 B.C. downwards, it is equally consistent in regarding Homer and Hesiod as ‘prehistoric’. Herodotus indeed puts both poets 400 years before his own time; that is, at about 830-820 B.C., and the evidence stated above points to the middle of the ninth century as the probable date for the “Works and Days”. The “Theogony” might be tentatively placed a century later; and the “Catalogues” and “Eoiae” are again later, but not greatly later, than the “Theogony”: the “Shield of Heracles” may be ascribed to the later half of the seventh century, but there is not evidence enough to show whether the other ‘developed’ poems are to be regarded as of a date so low as this.