It is from the Greek poet Hesiod that we first get an account of the successive ages of humanity in Greek myth. Hesiod divided the ages of man into five different ages, and we’re living in the last one.
The Golden Age
When Cronus was still in power, the golden age prevailed. Like the gods, people lived a blissful life without sorrow and misery. They were free from ailments and lived in constant health. The earth gave them gifts and produce to enjoy, and herds grazed on the meadows in their service. Free and unforced, they interacted with the gods. After a long and happy life, they passed away as if in a painless sleep.
The Silver Age
After this generation, the heavenly gods created another less perfect race, the family of the silver age. They could neither match in body nor soul with the golden generation. They were in constant conflict with each other and neglected the worship of the gods. Zeus destroyed them in his anger and hid them underground.
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The Copper Age
The third age was the copper age. It was tough and strong and warlike people. The war was their craft and their joy, their hearts were hard as stone and their bodies possessed incredible strength. But no matter how mighty they were, they could not escape death. They too descended to Hades.
The Heroic Age
When this family had also perished, Zeus called a fourth generation alive, which was better and more just than the former. It was the age of the heroes. It was these heroes who fought in the wars of Troy and Thebes. When they died, Zeus gave them a dwelling at the farthest edge of the earth, on the Blessed Islands, where Cronus reigns. There they lead a carefree and blissful life.
The Iron Age
The fifth age is the Iron Age. Life is trouble and endless misery. No one cares about custom or right. The reverence for the parents and the elders is gone. The fidelity between guests and friends has disappeared. Relatives and friends are in bloody battles with each other. Nothing but a bottomless misfortune is left to man. This is the last age, the one we’re living in right now.
Morals in the Myth
- There’s something about us humans and nostalgia or the longing for the past, a past which we deemed was better than the depraved times of today. This tendency of the mind seems to be as old as history itself. Whether you look at the Vedas in the Indian subcontinent, or at Hellas as in the works of Hesiod and Homer, there is a longing and reverence towards the generations of the past, the ancestors.
- We live in the age of trouble and misery, the Iron age, in Hindu myth, there is a similar notion about the kaliyuga, which we’re currently in. The “Kali” of Kali Yuga means “strife”, “discord”, “quarrel” or “contention”, which is quite similar to the description that Hesiod gave of the Iron Age.
Daniel Seeker is a wandering dervish and lifelong student of the past, present and future. He realized that he was made of immaculate and timeless consciousness when meditating in his hermit cave on the island of Gotland. His writings are mostly a reflection of that realizaton. Daniel currently studies history, philosophy, egyptology and western esotericism at Uppsala Universitet. He’s also currently writing his B.A. thesis in history which explores how Buddhist and Hindu texts were first properly translated and introduced to the western world in the late 18th and 19th century.