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This article is about mythological ages. For the "Seven Ages of Man" speech from Shakespeare's "As You Like It", see All the world's a stage. For the one-man show, see Ages of Man (play).
Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Golden Age

The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology.

Two classical authors (Hesiod and Ovid) offered accounts of the successive ages of humanity, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current age of the writer, in which humans are beset by innumerable pains and evils. In the two accounts that survive from ancient Greece and Rome, this degradation of the human condition over time is indicated symbolically with metals of successively decreasing value.[citation needed]

Hesiod's Five Ages[edit]

Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Silver Age
Virgil Solis, The Iron Age

The first extant account of the successive ages of humanity comes from the Greek poet Hesiod's Works and Days (lines 109–201). His list is:

  • Golden Age – The Golden Age is the only age that falls within the rule of Cronus. Created by the immortals who live on Olympus, these humans were said to live among the gods, and freely mingled with them. Peace and harmony prevailed during this age. Humans did not have to work to feed themselves, for the earth provided food in abundance. They lived to a very old age but with a youthful appearance and eventually died peacefully. Their spirits live on as "guardians". Plato in Cratylus (397e) recounts the golden race of men who came first. He clarifies that Hesiod did not mean men literally made of gold, but good and noble. He describes these men as daemons upon the earth. Since δαίμονες (daimones) is derived from δαήμονες (daēmones, meaning knowing or wise), they are beneficent, preventing ills, and guardians of mortals.
  • Silver Age – The Silver Age and every age that follows fall within the rule of Cronus' successor and son, Zeus. Men in the Silver age lived for one hundred years under the dominion of their mothers. They lived only a short time as grown adults, and spent that time in strife with one another. During this Age men refused to worship the gods and Zeus destroyed them for their impiety. After death, humans of this age became "blessed spirits" of the underworld.
  • Bronze Age – Men of the Bronze Age were hardened and tough, as war was their purpose and passion. Zeus created these humans out of the ash tree. Their armor was forged of bronze, as were their homes, and tools. The men of this Age were undone by their own violent ways and left no named spirits; instead, they dwell in the "dank house of Hades". This Age came to an end with the flood of Deucalion.
  • Heroic Age – The Heroic Age is the one age that does not correspond with any metal. It is also the only age that improves upon the age it follows. These humans were created from the bones of the earth (stones) through the actions of Deucalion and Pyrrha. In this period men lived with noble demigods and heroes. It was the heroes of this Age who fought at Thebes and Troy. This race of humans died and went to Elysium.
  • Iron Age – Hesiod finds himself in the Iron Age. During this age humans live an existence of toil and misery. Children dishonor their parents, brother fights with brother and the social contract between guest and host (xenia) is forgotten. During this age might makes right, and bad men use lies to be thought good. At the height of this age, humans no longer feel shame or indignation at wrongdoing; babies will be born with gray hair and the gods will have completely forsaken humanity: "there will be no help against evil."

Ovid's Four Ages[edit]

The Roman poet Ovid (1st century BC – 1st century AD) tells a similar myth of Four Ages in Book 1.89–150 of the Metamorphoses. His account is similar to Hesiod's with the exception that he omits the Heroic Age.

Ovid emphasizes the justice and peace that defined the Golden Age. He adds that in this age, men did not yet know the art of navigation and therefore did not explore the larger world.

In the Silver Age, Jupiter introduces the seasons and men consequentially learn the art of agriculture and architecture.

In the Bronze Age, Ovid writes, men were prone to warfare, but not impiety.

Finally, in the Iron Age, men demarcate nations with boundaries; they learn the arts of navigation and mining; they are warlike, greedy and impious. Truth, modesty and loyalty are nowhere to be found.

Historicity of the Ages[edit]

These mythological ages are sometimes associated with historical timelines. In the chronology of Saint Jerome the Golden Age lasts ca. 1710 to 1674 BC, the Silver Age 1674 to 1628 BC, the Bronze Age 1628 to 1472 BC, the Heroic Age 1460 to 1103 BC, while Hesiod's Iron Age was considered as still ongoing by Saint Jerome in the 4th century AD.[1]

See also[edit]

Similar concepts include:

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ St. Jerome. "St. Jerome, Chronicle (2004-5). Preface of Jerome; Preface of Eusebius". Tertullian.org. Retrieved 2012-11-16. 

External links[edit]


Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ages_of_Man — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
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Daily Mail

The Guardian (blog)
Wed, 29 Oct 2014 05:06:59 -0700

Benedict Cumberbatch won't have needed to do much rehearsing for the BBC's new drama trailer, in which he recites the “seven ages of man” monologue from Shakespeare's As You Like It. The Sherlock star read the same speech for a Google+ ...

Broadway.com

Broadway.com
Wed, 29 Oct 2014 12:16:28 -0700

Check out the BBC drama trailer below, in which he recites the “seven ages of man” monologue from the Bard's As You Like It. While your ears listen to the Sherlock star's dulcet tones, keep an eye out for Great White Way vets including Tony winner Judi ...

Phindie

Phindie
Thu, 30 Oct 2014 11:09:47 -0700

As Jaques, Davis deadpans his lines in a way that makes them sound thrillingly original and new even to hearers who can recite “The Seven Ages of Man” and other passages along with him. Male actors Harvey and Betz as Rosalind and Celia are two of the ...

Time Out London

Time Out London
Tue, 14 Oct 2014 06:16:30 -0700

The details – join your host, Shakespeare's Character of Time, as he spins tales of love, loss, betrayal, hope and all the Seven Ages of Man as your eyes float across the capital's beautiful cityscape at The View from The Shard. Sound pretty mysterious ...

Cincinnati.com

Cincinnati.com
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:56:15 -0700

Perhaps Zimmerman's explanation of how the mural depicts Shakespeare's “Seven Ages of Man” will be printed in its entirety so as to enlighten all to the significance of the abstract mosaic. Jean's suggests an “Adopt a Mural” campaign of each Princeton ...

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ThinkAdvisor
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 14:01:32 -0700

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Tri City Times
Wed, 22 Oct 2014 08:45:00 -0700

According to Shakespeare's All the world's a stage/And all the men and women merely players, my husband and I played our parts to perfection. Well into the fifth act of Will's seven ages of man, we paused with eyes severe and watched the chicks in the pen.

The Guardian

The Guardian
Mon, 13 Oct 2014 07:46:47 -0700

Having already set Thomas's Fern Hill, then Poem on his Birthday, Corigliano chose Poem in October, to balance his reflection on the three ages of man. But, given the length and emotional landscape of these poems, the work is less an orchestral song ...
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