Good morning and welcome to llt121 Classical Mythology. In our last class, we were examining the concept of the Ages of Humankind. Hesiod was the first to write it down, circa 750 bc



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Lecture 7

Good morning and welcome to LLT121 Classical Mythology. In our last class, we were examining the concept of the Ages of Humankind. Hesiod was the first to write it down, circa 750 BC. Remember that Hesiod also had other theories about the creation of humankind. Who can forget that Pandora, the first woman, was created as a punishment for mankind? Now Hesiod springs version number two on us, the so-called Ages of Humankind. To sum up briefly, with the help of a chart that I have just designed, Hesiod posits a sequence of five eras each—not each of them—based on a series of metals. The first stage is the Golden Age. Out of ten I would give it a 9.5. They weren’t quite gods. They might be giants, but I’m not sure whether they really deserve a ten. Zeus destroyed the golden race of humans because he had just come to power and they were not his people.

The Silver Age I arbitrarily assign an 8 to. You see the same downward trend that people have been getting up on soapboxes and proclaiming for centuries. The world is going down the tubes and your generation is to blame. The Bronze Age is another step down. Although the humans had come up with an advance in the form of bronze implements, bronze plowshares, bronze swords, they used these implements for the wrong things. They used them for war. Good God! What was it good for? It was good for getting them killed. This generation succeeded in wiping itself off of the face of the earth, according to Hesiod.

Then we’ve got Heroes. This is the rather embarrassing up blip with which we ended our last class. When I think of Hesiod, the Greek poet Hesiod, I think of a fellow standing up on a soapbox complaining about everything and saying that the main problem is that you people do not worship and respect Zeus sufficiently. Certainly, the Iron Age, in which Hesiod believes himself to live, is really pretty pitiful. Zero out of zero. How do you explain the Heroes? These are the heroes of ancient Greek mythology such as Heracles, such as Achilles, such as Agamemnon, and Ulysses. They did represent an up blip. But don’t worry, says Hesiod, now that we’re in the Iron Age, we’re hitting the skids and moving downward.

750 years later, the Roman poet, Ovid, takes the same basic schema and gives us his own take on the quote unquote Ages of Humankind. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; the weltanschauung of a civilization is, in large part, determined by its own situation in the world at the time. Life was nasty, brutish and short in 750 BC, ancient Greece. It had become much kinder, and gentler. The life expectancy had gone up. Creature comforts had multiplied by 1 AD. This viewpoint is going to be reflected in Ovid’s poetry. I’ll tell you right off the bat, it is going to be more optimistic than is Hesiod’s version of the same myth. Sure, Ovid is taking a story of the Ages of Humankind. We can bust Ovid for plagiarism. However, I think that Ovid has done something novel and exciting with the Ages of Humankind. Ovid has the same ages to start out with, Gold, Silver, Bronze. He skips the Age of Heroes. If anybody can give me a good reason why Ovid skips the Age of Heroes, he or she can put their head down on the desk and sleep—and even snore—for the rest of the class period. Your name is? Yeah. That’s pretty good, but it’s not right. Mark? Thank you. Put your head down, have a graham cracker and go to sleep. Hesiod’s a Greek, whereas Ovid is a Roman. What does he care about Greek heroes? So he skips the Age of Heroes and goes to the Iron Age. Right at the end of Hesiod’s account of the Ages of Humankind, he makes the statement that Zeus will destroy this Iron Age, too, when it comes to pass that father gets angry at son and so on and so forth. In Ovid’s account of the Iron Age, Zeus—actually, to give him his Roman name, Jupiter, does destroy the whole world by the ever-popular motif of flood. I teach comparative mythology at this university, also. By this point in the semester, we usually have encountered three or four flood myths. I’ve gone for three weeks without a flood myth, and I’m really having a tough time with it, so we’ll have a flood myth. But, before we discuss the flood myth, as reported to us by Ovid, I want to give you a little note about names of gods and goddesses.

The Greek god Zeus is spelled Z-E-U-S. That’s the only way it’s spelled. Anybody who spells it any other way will fry. Okay, has the Roman equivalent god of Jupiter. Zeus’s wife’s name is Hera in Greek. It’s Juno in Latin. One of the things I’m going to require you to know for your test—actually this is good for the entire semester—is that the major Greek gods also have Roman names. The same studly looking, roving-eyed god, author of the world’s worst pickup line, with a slightly receding hairline and stuff—the leader of the universe—was known to the ancient Greeks as Zeus and to the Romans as Jupiter. He was, more or less, the same god, but not quite. Very briefly, very briefly, what happened? Why did the Romans wind up with Greek gods? Because of a process called




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