digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















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 and its subsequent Roman interpretation.

Both 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.

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. 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, no man had knowledge of any arts but pre agriculture. 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.

Related usage[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:


  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.

3117 news items

Instinct Magazine

Instinct Magazine
Thu, 31 Mar 2016 12:41:15 -0700

“We used one of his most epic stanzas from the 'Seven Ages of Man' because it oddly captures the arc of a gay man's experience if read through the right vision,” he says. “There is so much to coming out (being born), exploring yourself (childhood ...
The Hindu
Thu, 21 Apr 2016 17:33:11 -0700

C. Anoop's 3 Kalangal is a man writing about a male world and in the process seeing images, people and situations that have a masculine slant of perception. Invoking a male canon of writing from O.V. Vijayan to Paul Zacharia, the world of the stories ...


Fri, 29 Apr 2016 23:45:00 -0700

Shakespeare's “spotless reputation” as a writer has to do with the fact that he embraces all the ages of man. He is there even when you are “breathing your last”. If you are searching for a writer with as many phrases, give up as “it's a wild goose chase”.


Fri, 29 Apr 2016 06:30:00 -0700

Erick Chavarria first read Shakespeare when he knew very little English, but he was immediately struck by the Bard's poetry. “'The beast with two backs' — all these rich phrases really resonated with me,” Chavarria said. The Guatemala-born actor, who ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Fri, 08 Apr 2016 23:30:24 -0700

And there is an unlikely print of Titian's Allegory of Prudence – a painting of three heads representative of the three ages of man – hanging above that aforementioned rogan josh. My one reservation has to be Szalay's female characters. This is a book ...

The Guardian

The Guardian
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 02:00:11 -0700

It is not just Dix echoed here but the German Renaissance painter Hans Baldung Grien, who painted The Three Ages of Man as a young beauty, an old woman – and a skeleton. In fact, the Dix painting emulated is itself a homage to German Renaissance ...


Wed, 27 Apr 2016 09:18:45 -0700

Especially striking are the eight giant tempera paintings taken from a group of works called The Ten Largest, made in 1907 which measure over 10 feet tall and are devoted to presenting the four ages of man in a rich vocabulary of obscure but ...

Apollo Magazine (blog)

Apollo Magazine (blog)
Wed, 27 Apr 2016 04:03:45 -0700

Four further paintings on display are given to the master in straightforward terms, plus the Three Ages of Man, which at the time of writing had yet to arrive from the Palazzo Pitti, while five more are tentatively classed as 'attributed to Giorgione ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight