This chapter sets out to investigate the relationship between the Hesiodic Gunaikōn Katalogos (GK) and the early epic corpus. It looks not only at cases where there is a correspondence of theme but also at cases where there is a striking difference, because ‘difference’ is itself an important type of relationship. It also asks how we decide whether or not such points of correspondence or dissonance are significant, and explores the issue of relative priority between them.
The GK is unusual because it is by its very nature a compendium, a compilation of narratives about figures from Greek mythology, particularly stories about women. The poem is notoriously difficult to reconstruct: what survives is mostly isolated fragments, either papyri or testimonia, and often assignation of these to the poem is tentative and uncertain. Thanks to the labours of Martin West (1985), we know that it had a loose, genealogical structure, in outline much like that of the Bibliotheca ascribed to Apollodorus, beginning with the great family of Aeolus, which occupied book 1 and probably most of book 2; then moving on to the other heroic families. The Inachids in books 2 and 3, with Argive mythology, as well as the Arcadians and Atlantids. In book 4 the Asopids, the Athenians and the Pelopidai and in book 5 the wooing of Helen and decline of heroes. In this way, the GK surveyed the whole of Greek mythology, going through the stemmata, following branches to the end, and sometimes jumping between then. In some cases, the ‘entry’ for someone was expanded into a short myth summarizing the life of a mythological figure. Myths relating to women sometimes start ἢ οἵη (or such as she), which gives the work its alternative name. It had its own style, its own repertoire of favoured formulae and idioms, such as long patronymics with a genitive in -αο (ones in -εω are by contrast avoided) and frequentative verbs in -σκε. The form is essentially loose. There has been a lot of discussion recently about ‘multiforms’ and ‘canonical’ epic, but the GK would be a very good candidate for the ‘multiform’ category. It is the sort of text that would become fixed, if at all, rather late; in fact, we know of another text, the Megalai Ehoiai, which may be precisely a multiform of the GK.