chapter  1
The apocalypse as history
Pages 2

Looking back upon the Four Ages of Man that had passed since the birth of the gods, Hesiod did not doubt that he lived in the worst age, the Iron Age: “for now men are offered no respite from any toils and sufferings by day, or distress by night; and the gods bestow the worst hardships upon them.” Even the age of the Heroes that had followed the Golden, Silver and Bronze Ages was a thing of the past: by learning the rules of a cruel world, human existence could become more endurable, but only fools would try to escape the fate that the gods had decided for them.2 The somewhat later author of the Jewish Koheleth came to a similar conclusion even if it was presented in a happier mood: “everything that happens has already been named and the lot of man is decided upon, and there is no use of struggling with someone who is stronger (…) Everything that God has made is beautiful in the right moment: he has put the whole world in the hearts of men in such a way that they can never understand the works of God from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing good for them except being merry and doing good things in life. If a man eats and drinks and finds good things in the midst of his hardships, it is a gift from God.”3