This week in English class, I read and finished Hesiod’s epic poem ‘Works and Days.’ Hesiod was a famous Greek poet who lived between 750 BC – 650 BC. He wrote ‘Works and Days’ for his brother, Perseus, in a way to convince him to give him (Hesiod) their deceased father’s land after the court ruled in favor of Perseus. In the poem, Hesiod talked about his beliefs of mankind’s past and future. In this essay, I am going to briefly explain his views.
Hesiod believed that there were five races of men created by the Greek gods. The Golden race, the Silver race, the Bronze race, the Demi-gods, and the Iron race (supposedly our race). He believed that as time went on, the races became even worse than their predecessors.
The Golden race lived during the reign of Cronos, before his children (e.g. Zeus and Poseidon) overthrew him. This race lived seemingly perfect lives. They never had to deal with depression or hardship. The prospect of old age did not bother the Golden race, and they spent their days surrounded by wealth and luxury. The Golden race worshipped their gods, winning their good graces. In Hesiod’s eyes, the Golden race was the best and most pious of all the races. When they died, they became spirits, watching over the future races of men.
The Silver race came after the end of the Golden race. Like Hesiod believed, they were far lower than their forefathers. They stayed as children for years and lived short lives. They did not participate in the sacrificial rituals and worshipping of the gods, which led to their death caused by an angry Zeus.
The next generation was the Bronze generation, who were violent people. There is not much to say about them besides that they loved power and violence. Eventually, their love for aggression overpowered their love for their fellow man and they destroyed one another.
After the Bronze generation perished, the gods created the next generation known as Demi-gods. This term may sound familiar for any Percy Jackson fans. Demi-gods were half man and half god. This generation was considered to be heroes by the regular men. They were noble and strong, and fought in many well-known wars. Most notably, the Trojan War. However, their constant participation in these wars caused the death of majority of the race, making Zeus take the remaining Demi-gods away from the regular men to a place called the “Blessed Islands,” where they lived happy and carefree lives, much like the Golden race once did.
The final race is us, known as the Iron race. Hesiod believed the Iron race to be the worst out of all five that existed. This race will always be sorrowful and unhappy, and will extremely evil and unjust. Hesiod was convinced that the Iron generation was doomed by Zeus, and one day, he will exterminate them like he did the Silver race. Hesiod believed that the main reason the Iron race will be so much worse than all the others was because the Iron race will be the only one that has females in it, causing this generation to be at a disadvantage (how rude).
As you can see, Hesiod had a very depressing view of the future. But it is obvious he had a lot of respect for those that came before him. I cannot help but wonder if Hesiod was a happy man. After all, if you believed that the mighty god of sky will wipe you out because of the sins of your generation, wouldn’t you be living in a perpetual state of doom?