Importance of Hesiod:
Hesiod and Homer are the first great writers of Greek literature. Homer and Hesiod are also central to the history of ancient Greece because they are reputed to have given the Greeks their gods, at least according to Herodotus. Hesiod is also credited with creating didactic (instructive and moralizing) poetry.
Hesiod probably lived around 700 B.C., shortly after Homer, in a Boeotian village called Ascra. This is one of the few details of his life that Hesiod reveals in his writing.
Hesiod worked as a shepherd in the mountains, as a youth, and then, as a small peasant on a hard land when his father died. While tending his flock on Mt. Helicon, the Muses appeared to Hesiod in a mist. This mystical experience impelled Hesiod to write epic poetry.
Hesiod's major works are Theogony and Works and Days. Shield of Herakles, a variation on the Shield of Achilles theme from the Iliad, is attributed to Hesiod, but was probably not actually written by him.
On the Greek Gods - Theogony:
The Theogony is particularly important as an often confusing account of the evolution of the Greek gods. In the beginning was Chaos, a yawning chasm. Later Eros developed on its own. These figures were powers rather than anthropomorphic deities like Zeus (who wins and becomes king of the gods in the 3rd generation struggle against his father).
Hesiod's Works and Days:
The occasion of Hesiod's writing of the Works and Days is a dispute between Hesiod and his brother Perses over the distribution of his father's land. The Works and Days is filled with moral precepts, myths, and fables (making it a didactic poem) for which reason, rather than its literary merit, it was highly valued by the ancients.
After Hesiod lost a lawsuit to his brother Perses, he left his homeland and moved to Naupactus. According to the legend about his death, he was murdered by the sons of his host in Oeneon. At the command of the Delphic Oracle Hesiod's bones were brought to Orchomenus where a monument to Hesiod was erected in the marketplace.