The Golden Age and the Garden of Eden
Both classical and Christian cultures shared a belief in an original state of human perfection, in which man lived effortlessly and in complete harmony with nature, free from time, change and death. In classical culture this period was known as the golden age. The idea goes back to a very early Greek poem, Hesiod’s Works and Days, which describes five races of men succeeding one another chronologically: golden (ideal), silver (impious), brazen (warlike and cruel), the race of heroes (demigods who approached the perfection of the golden race), and iron (the present race, who lead a miserable and laborious life). In some later versions there are only two races, the golden and the iron. Cronos (later identified with the Roman Saturn) ruled during the golden age; when his son Zeus (the Roman Jupiter) deposed him the golden age ended and man’s troubles began (1, 5). The goddess of justice, Astraea, has a significant part in the story; in one version she flees to the mountains during the silver age, and finally abandons mankind during the age of bronze.