Western Literature lesson 40

Write 500 words on this topic: What was Hesiod’s view of the mankind’s past and future? Okey doke, so this is waaaay late and now I have 6 more because I can’t do them fast enough! Joy…

Hesiod, the author of Works and Days, told tales of the five races of men created by the gods to serve the gods in whatever capacity the gods wished. Named after various metals, each race was different from the last and ever increasing in tarnish and corrosion. Zeus kept twiddling his fingers long after each race died out, always hoping for something better than what had previously been created, but to no avail.

Golden was the first stage of man and the only one not created by the gods of Mt. Olympus. Instead, the people lived under the reign of Cronos, the king Titan. Un-tainted by sorrow, misery, pain, or hunger, their lives were considered perfect in every way. They honored their rulers constantly in return for their wonderful, content lives. Though still mortal, their deaths came after a lifespan of hundreds of years and were like a peaceful sleep. From then on they roamed the earth as pure spirits. But how did such a perfect race ever come to an end? Alas, when Zeus struck his father Titan from his throne, the resulting carnage destroyed all mortals below.

The following age was crafted from silver to make up for the loss of gold, but shone far less brightly. These quarrelsome men lived for hundreds of years as children but fought and sinned unrelentingly until they grew up and left their mother’s sides. About time! When they kicked up daisies after their short span of adulthood, they retreated to the underworld as blessed spirits. Their downfall had a much simpler explanation that their predecessors. The silver men were far less eager to praise Zeus and his companion gods for all that was given to them. The mighty Olympians were displeased with their impiety and finally wiped out the second race. Therefore Tarnished Silver fell away.

The succeeding age emerged from the ash tree by way of the gods. The Bronze Age lived for only for one thing—smashing the patooties out of each other. Their namesake metal was forged into weapons and armor, all used to pound each other until nothing was left. Unimpressed with their bloodlust, the Olympians decided that this new age was a failure as well. Much like the bronze bathroom craze in the early 2000s, the Bronze Age fell out of fashion and died out.

Next came the Age of Heroes! This age was different from the others both in name and in the people who composed it. They were actually the sons and daughters of the gods! The demigods tried to be good, noble, and pay their dues to the gods. Unfortunately, with so many gods to serve, things got confusing and the demigods started attacking each other. When their age was up, Zeus transported the heroes who had not died tragic horrible deaths (aka. Perseus) to a faraway place to live happily ever after for the rest of their totally mortal lives. When they died, they went to Elysium, the paradise of the underworld.

Out with the old and in with the new. The final age was forged from iron. We occupy this age of suffering and toil. Compared to the previous races, we are dishonorable, quarrelsome liars. Oh yeah, and don’t forget the shame. Lots of shame. Living in such a harsh unforgiving way has added the burden of short lifespans to our lives; and Homer predicted we will be destroyed when no more good is left.

Even though our Iron Age is not as nice as the pure Gold, the shining Silver, the warlike Bronze, or the Age of Heroes, it is not such a bad time to live. Hesiod, the eternal pessimist, predicted that we would be the last race of men to ever be created. Zeus and his fellow gods finally would tire of humans altogether and give up. Who knows? It may still happen, but optimism never hurts.

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