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The Five Ages of Man

Hesiod Wrote About a Golden Age Under Cronus


Gustave Moreau's Hesiod and His Muse

Gustave Moreau's Hesiod and His Muse, 1891 - Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Courtesy of Wikipedia

Hesiod Wrote About the 5 Ages of Man

Hesiod was a Boeotian farmer until the day he met the muses while he was tending sheep. The muses were the 9 daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne [Memory] who inspired poets, speakers, and artists. By convention, they were invoked at the beginning of an epic poem. The muses inspired Hesiod to write the 800-line epic poem called Works and Days. In it, Hesiod tells a Greek creation story that traces the lineage of mankind through 5 successive "ages" or "races" from the "Golden Age" to the present "Iron Age."

The Golden Age

The Golden Age was a mythical first period of man when everything was happy and easy, and mortals lived like gods, although they died, but only as if falling asleep. No one worked or grew unhappy. Spring never ended. It is even described as a period in which people aged backwards. When they died, they became daimones (from which Philip Pullman gets his "daemon" and others get the word demon) and roamed the earth. The people of the Golden Age were formed by or for the Titan Cronus, whom the Romans called Saturn. When Zeus overcame the Titans, the Golden Age ended.

(ll. 109-120) First of all the deathless gods who dwell on Olympus made a golden race of mortal men who lived in the time of Cronos when he was reigning in heaven. And they lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils. When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace upon their lands with many good things, rich in flocks and loved by the blessed gods.
(ll. 121-139) But after earth had covered this generation -- they are called pure spirits dwelling on the earth, and are kindly, delivering from harm, and guardians of mortal men; for they roam everywhere over the earth, clothed in mist and keep watch on judgements and cruel deeds, givers of wealth; for this royal right also they received....

Hesiod Works and Days

Print Source: Early Greek Myth, by Timothy Ganz.

Next: Silver Age

Introduction to Greek Mythology

Myth in Daily Life | What Is Myth? | Myths vs. Legends | Gods in the Heroic Age - Bible vs. Biblos | Creation Stories | Uranos' Revenge | Titanomachy | Olympian Gods and Goddesses | Five Ages of Man | Philemon and Baucis | Prometheus | Trojan War | Bulfinch Mythology | Myths and Legends | Kingsley Tales from Mythology | Golden Fleece and the Tanglewood Tales, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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