Hesiod was an ancient Greek poet who wrote the works, Theogony, and Works and Days. For the past week I have been studying and reading his work, Works and Days, which was directed to Hesiod’s brother who had won a legal battle against him, that was related to their father’s inheritance. The piece of literature itself contains many interesting messages which are related to the gods but are directed to Hesiod’s brother. An interesting aspect of this piece of literature is the fact that it shares the author’s(Hesiod’s),view of mankind’s past and future. Exactly what was Hesiod’s view of mankind’s past and future?
Hesiod in Works and Days, stated that there were four races of man before our race of man. The first race of man was called “the golden race,” which was created by Greek deities. This race of man lived similarly to the gods and had no troubles, but due to them being mortal they died off and a new race of man was created. The second race of man was known as the “silver race,” which was very pathetic and poor minded, which Hesiod blamed on the fact that they were raised by their mothers.
After the “silver race” died off another race was created which in turn became known as the “bronze race,” which was a race that loved war and violence. This race was very strong, but like the last two races they too died off. The fourth race and the last before our race of man was known as the “demigods,” which was a noble race of man; but like the rest of the races they too began to die off from war, but those who survived were gifted by Zeus to live in a special place where they lived without sorrow.
The final race of man, the race of man that Hesiod was a part of had no break from hardship and sorrow, but also they had moments of joy and happiness. The final race of man is known as the “iron race,” and Hesiod in his own words stated quite frankly that this race of man too like the rest would eventually die out, thanks to the race being unrighteous; which in turn will lead Zeus to destroy them. But other than that Hesiod also stated that this race was not a completely bad one.
Hesiod’s view of mankind’s past and future is a unique one. Instead of perceiving the past and the future in the way that us people do today, Hesiod instead sees it in cycles of different races of man. These races of man all in the end have the same end, they all die off in the end and a new race is thus created by Zeus to replace the old race. Hesiod sees man kind as destructive beings who in the end somehow manage to destroy themselves through violence and dishonoring others, and that they were always like this in the past and that they will continue to be like this in the future. Which makes one wonder why Hesiod thought in this way.