The Five Ages
There are several conflicting versions about the creation of mortals. According to the myth of the ages of humankind, men and women are the creation of the gods or Zeus himself.
The following is a summary of Hesiod's account. Ovid describes only four ages, omitting the Age of Heroes. This tale of human degeneration mingles fact and fancy in an astonishing manner, for ages of bronze and of iron are historically very real indeed.
The Age of Gold
In the time when Cronus (Saturn) was king in heaven, the Olympian gods made a golden race of mortals, who lived as though in a paradise, without toil, trouble or cares.
All good things were theirs in abundance, and the fertile earth brought forth fruit of its own accord. They lived in peace and harmony, never grew old, and died as though overcome by sleep.
The earth covered over this race, but they still exist as holy spirits who wander over the earth.
The Age of Silver
The Olympian gods made a second race of silver, far less favored than the one of gold. Their childhood lasted a hundred years and when they grew up their lives were short and distressful.
For they were arrogant against one another and refused to worship the gods or offer them sacrifice. Zeus in his anger at their senselessness hid them under the earth where they still dwell.
The Age of Bronze
Zeus made a third race of mortals, a terrible and mighty one of bronze. Their implements and weapons were of bronze, and they relentlessly pursued the painful and violent deeds of war.
They destroyed themselves by their own hands and went down to the realm of Hades without leaving a name.
The Age of Heroes
Zeus made still another race, also valiant in war but more just and more civilized. This was the race of the heroes, also called demigods, who were involved in the legendary events of Greek saga.
They fought, for example, at Thebes and in the Trojan War. When they died, Zeus sent some of these heroes to inhabit the Islands of the Blessed, a paradise at the far ends of the earth, ruled over by Cronus (Saturn), who had been deposed and freed by Zeus.
The Age of Iron
Zeus made still another race, that of iron, troubled by toil and misery, although good is intermingled with their evils. It is in this age that the poet Hesiod lived, and he exclaims in woe:
"Would that I were not a man of the fifth generation but had either died before or had been born later".
He predicts further moral and physical disintegration and annihilation through war, until Zeus will finally destroy human beings when it comes to pass that they are born with gray hair on their temples.
More and more will this become an age of wickedness, strife, and disrespect for the gods, until Shame itself and righteous Retribution will abandon mortals to their evil folly and doom.
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