The Five Ages of Man

From Prometheus to the creation of Zeus

Characters team Jan 29. 2016
by Characters team

Some deny that Prometheus created men, or that any man sprang from a serpent's teeth.
They say that Earth bore them spontaneously, as the best of her fruits, especially in the soil of Attica, and that Alalcomeneus was the first man to appear, by Lake Copais in Boeotia, before even the Moon was.

a. He acted as Zeus's counsellor on the occasion of his quarrel with Hera, and as tutor to Athene while she was still a girl.
b. These men were the so—called golden race, subjects of Cronus, who lived without cares or labour, eating only acorns, wild fruit, and honey that dripped from the trees, drinking the milk of sheep and goats, never growing old, dancing, and laughing much; death, to them, was no more terrible than sleep.
They are all gone now, but their spirits survive as genii of happy rustic retreats, givers of good fortune, and upholders of justice.
c. Next came a silver race, eaters of bread, likewise divinely created.
The men were utterly subject to their mothers and dared not disobey them, although they might live to be a hundred years old.
They were quarrelsome and ignorant, and never sacrificed to the gods but, at least, did not make war on one another. Zeus destroyed them all.
d. Next came a brazen race, who fell like fruits from the ash—trees, and were armed with brazen weapons. They ate flesh as well as bread, and delighted in war, being insolent and pitiless men. Black Death has seized them all.
e. The fourth race of men was brazen too, but nobler and more generous, being begotten by the gods on mortal mothers.
They fought gloriously in the siege of Thebes, the expedition of the Argonauts, and the Trojan War.
These became heroes, and dwell in the Elysian Fields.
f. The fifth race is the present race of iron, unworthy descendants of the fourth.
They are degenerate, cruel, unjust, malicious, libidinous, unfilial, treacherous.

Though the myth of the Golden Age derives eventually from a tradition of tribal—subservience to the Bee—goddess, the savagery of her reign in pre—agricultural times had been forgotten by Hesiod's day, and all that remained was an idealistic conviction that men had once lived in harmony together like bees. Hesiod was a small farmer, and the hard life he lived made him morose and pessimistic.
The myth of the silver race also records matriarchal conditions — such as those surviving in Classical times among the Picts, the Moesynoechians of the Black Sea, and some tribes in the Baleares, Galicia, and the Gulf of Sirte — under which men were still the despised sex, though agriculture had been introduced and wars were infrequent. 
Silver is the metal of the Moon—goddess.
The third race were the earliest Hellenic invaders:
Bronze Age herdsmen, who adopted the ash—tree cult of the Goddess and her son Poseidon.
The fourth race were the warrior—kings of the Mycenaean Age.
The fifth were the Dorians of the twelfth century BC, who used iron weapons and destroyed the Mycenaean civilization. Alalcomeneus ('guardian') is a fictitious character, a masculine form of Alalcomeneïs, Athene's title (Iliad) as the guardian of Boeotia.
He serves the patriarchal dogma that no woman, even a goddess, can be wise without male instruction, and that the Moon—goddess and the Moon itself were late creations of Zeus.

Source:Robert Graves – The Greek Myths
Photo credits: Prometheus Bound by Thomas Cole (1801–1848)
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