Golden Age

Golden Age

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Encyclopedia
The term Golden Age comes from Greek
History of Greece
The history of Greece encompasses the history of the territory of the modern state of Greece, as well as that of the Greek people and the areas they ruled historically. The scope of Greek habitation and rule has varied much through the ages, and, as a result, the history of Greece is similarly...

 mythology and legend and refers to the first in a sequence of four or five (or more) Ages of Man
Ages of Man
The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology. Two classical authors in particular offer accounts of the successive ages of mankind, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current...

, in which the Golden Age is first, followed in sequence, by the Silver
Silver age
A silver age is a name often given to a particular period within a history, typically as a lesser and later successor to a golden age, the metal silver generally being valuable, but less so than gold.-Greek myth:...

, Bronze, and Iron Ages, and then the present, a period of decline. By extension "Golden Age" denotes a period of primordial peace
Peace
Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violent conflict. Commonly understood as the absence of hostility, peace also suggests the existence of healthy or newly healed interpersonal or international relationships, prosperity in matters of social or economic welfare, the...

, harmony, stability, and prosperity.

There are analogous concepts in the religious and philosophical traditions of the Central Asian subcontinent. For example, the Vedic
Vedas
The Vedas are a large body of texts originating in ancient India. Composed in Vedic Sanskrit, the texts constitute the oldest layer of Sanskrit literature and the oldest scriptures of Hinduism....

 or ancient Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

 culture saw history as cyclical, composed of yuga
Yuga
Yuga in Hindu philosophy is the name of an 'epoch' or 'era' within a cycle of four ages. These are the Satya Yuga, the Treta Yuga, the Dvapara Yuga, and finally the Kali Yuga. According to Hindu cosmology, life in the universe is created, destroyed once every 4.1 to 8.2 billion years, which is...

s with alternating Dark and Golden Ages. The Kali yuga (Iron Age), Dwapara (Bronze Age), Treta yuga (Silver Age) and Satya yuga (Golden Age) correspond to the four Greek ages. Similar beliefs occur in the ancient Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

 and throughout the ancient world, as well.

In classical mythology the Golden Age was presided over by the deity Astraea, who was identified with Justice. She lived with men until the end of the Silver Age, but in the Brazen Age, when men became violent and greedy, fled to the stars, where she appears as the constellation Virgo
Virgo (constellation)
Virgo is one of the constellations of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for virgin, and its symbol is . Lying between Leo to the west and Libra to the east, it is the second largest constellation in the sky...

, holding the scales of Justice, or Libra
Libra (constellation)
Libra is a constellation of the zodiac. Its name is Latin for weighing scales, and its symbol is . It is fairly faint, with no first magnitude stars, and lies between Virgo to the west and Scorpius to the east.-Notable features:]...

.

European Pastoral
Pastoral
The adjective pastoral refers to the lifestyle of pastoralists, such as shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasturage. It also refers to a genre in literature, art or music that depicts such shepherd life in an...

 literary and iconographic tradition often depicted nymphs and shepherds as living a life of rustic innocence and simplicity, untainted by the corruptions of civilization — a continuation of the Golden Age — set in an idealized Arcadia
Arcadia (utopia)
Arcadia refers to a vision of pastoralism and harmony with nature. The term is derived from the Greek province of the same name which dates to antiquity; the province's mountainous topography and sparse population of pastoralists later caused the word Arcadia to develop into a poetic byword for an...

, a region of Greece that was the abode and center of worship of their tutelary deity, goat-footed Pan, who dwelt among them. This idealized and nostalgic vision of the simple life, however, was sometimes contested and even ridiculed, both in antiquity and later on.

The Golden Age in Europe: Greece


The earliest attested reference to the European myth of the Ages of Man
Ages of Man
The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology. Two classical authors in particular offer accounts of the successive ages of mankind, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current...

 appears in the late sixth and early 7th century BCE works of the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 poet Hesiod
Hesiod
Hesiod was a Greek oral poet generally thought by scholars to have been active between 750 and 650 BC, around the same time as Homer. His is the first European poetry in which the poet regards himself as a topic, an individual with a distinctive role to play. Ancient authors credited him and...

's Works and Days
Works and Days
Works and Days is a didactic poem of some 800 verses written by the ancient Greek poet Hesiod around 700 BC. At its center, the Works and Days is a farmer's almanac in which Hesiod instructs his brother Perses in the agricultural arts...

 (109-126). Hesiod, a deteriorationist, identifies the Golden Age, the Silver Age
Silver age
A silver age is a name often given to a particular period within a history, typically as a lesser and later successor to a golden age, the metal silver generally being valuable, but less so than gold.-Greek myth:...

, the Bronze Age, the Heroic Age, and the Iron Age. With the exception of the Heroic Age, each succeeding age was worse than the one that went before. Hesiod maintains that during the Golden Age, before the invention of the arts and of private property, primitive communism prevailed, and the earth produced food in such abundance that there was no need for agriculture:

[Men] lived like gods without sorrow of heart, remote and free from toil and grief: miserable age rested not on them; but with legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all devils. When they died, it was as though they were overcome with sleep, and they had all good things; for the fruitful earth unforced bare them fruit abundantly and without stint. They dwelt in ease and peace.


Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 in his Cratylus
Cratylus
Cratylus was an ancient Athenian philosopher from late 5th century BC, mostly known through his portrayal in Plato's dialogue Cratylus. Little is known of Cratylus or his mentor Heraclitus . According to Cratylus at 402a, Heraclitus proclaimed that one cannot step twice into the same stream...

 referred to an age of golden men and also expounded at some length on Ages of Man from Hesiod's Works and Days. The Roman poet Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

 simplified the concept by reducing the number of Ages to four: Gold, Bronze, Silver, and Iron. Ovid's poetry, known to schoolboys from Antiquity through the Middle Ages and beyond, was likely a prime source for the transmission of the myth of the Golden Age during the period when Western Europe had lost direct contact with Greek literature.
In Hesiod's version, the Golden Age ended when the Titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 Prometheus
Prometheus
In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of mankind, known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals...

 conferred on mankind the gift of fire and all the other arts. For this, Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

 punished Prometheus by chaining him to a rock in the Caucasus
Caucasus
The Caucasus, also Caucas or Caucasia , is a geopolitical region at the border of Europe and Asia, and situated between the Black and the Caspian sea...

, where an eagle eternally ate at his liver. Prometheus's brother Epimetheus
Epimetheus (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Epimetheus was the brother of Prometheus , a pair of Titans who "acted as representatives of mankind" . They were the inseparable sons of Iapetus, who in other contexts was the father of Atlas...

 received from the gods the gift of the beautiful maiden Pandora
Pandora
In Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman. As Hesiod related it, each god helped create her by giving her unique gifts...

, whose uncontrollable curiosity caused her to open the box
Pandora's box
Pandora's box is an artifact in Greek mythology, taken from the myth of Pandora's creation around line 60 of Hesiod's Works and Days. The "box" was actually a large jar given to Pandora , which contained all the evils of the world. When Pandora opened the jar, all its contents except for one item...

 which she had been entrusted, unleashing all manner of evil in the world.

The Orphic school
Orphism (religion)
Orphism is the name given to a set of religious beliefs and practices in the ancient Greek and the Hellenistic world, as well as by the Thracians, associated with literature ascribed to the mythical poet Orpheus, who descended into Hades and returned...

, a mystery cult
Greco-Roman mysteries
Mystery religions, sacred Mysteries or simply mysteries, were religious cults of the Greco-Roman world, participation in which was reserved to initiates....

 that originated in Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and spread to Greece in the 5th century BCE, held similar beliefs about the early days of man, likewise denominating the ages with metals. In common with the many other mystery cults prevalent in the Graeco-Roman world (and their Indo-European religious antecedents), the world view
World view
A comprehensive world view is the fundamental cognitive orientation of an individual or society encompassing the entirety of the individual or society's knowledge and point-of-view, including natural philosophy; fundamental, existential, and normative postulates; or themes, values, emotions, and...

 of Orphism was cyclical. Initiation into its secret rites, together with ascetic practices, was supposed to guarantee the individual's soul eventual release from the "grievous circle" of mortality and also communion with god(s). Orphics sometimes identified the Golden Age with the era of the god Phanes
Phanes (mythology)
Phanes , or Protogonos , was the mystic primeval deity of procreation and the generation of new life, who was introduced into Greek mythology by the Orphic tradition; other names for this Classical Greek Orphic concept included Ericapaeus and Metis...

, who was regent over the Olympus
Mount Olympus
Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, located on the border between Thessaly and Macedonia, about 100 kilometres away from Thessaloniki, Greece's second largest city. Mount Olympus has 52 peaks. The highest peak Mytikas, meaning "nose", rises to 2,917 metres...

 before Cronus. In classical mythology
Classical mythology
Classical mythology or Greco-Roman mythology is the cultural reception of myths from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Along with philosophy and political thought, mythology represents one of the major survivals of classical antiquity throughout later Western culture.Classical mythology has provided...

 however, the Golden Age was associated with the reign of Saturn
Saturn (mythology)
In ancient Roman religion and myth, Saturn was a major god presiding over agriculture and the harvest time. His reign was depicted as a Golden Age of abundance and peace by many Roman authors. In medieval times he was known as the Roman god of agriculture, justice and strength. He held a sickle in...

. In the 5th century BCE, the philosopher Empedocles
Empedocles
Empedocles was a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Agrigentum, a Greek city in Sicily. Empedocles' philosophy is best known for being the originator of the cosmogenic theory of the four Classical elements...

, like Hesiod before him, emphasized the idea of primordial innocence and harmony in all of nature, including human society, from which he maintained there had been a steady deterioration until the present.

Arcadia


A tradition arose in Greece that the site of the original Golden Age had been Arcadia
Arcadia
Arcadia is one of the regional units of Greece. It is part of the administrative region of Peloponnese. It is situated in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. It takes its name from the mythological character Arcas. In Greek mythology, it was the home of the god Pan...

, an impoverished rural area of Greece where the herdsmen still lived on acorns and where the goat-footed god Pan had his home among the poplars on Mount Maenalus. However, in the 3rd century BCE, the Greek poet, Theocritus
Theocritus
Theocritus , the creator of ancient Greek bucolic poetry, flourished in the 3rd century BC.-Life:Little is known of Theocritus beyond what can be inferred from his writings. We must, however, handle these with some caution, since some of the poems commonly attributed to him have little claim to...

, writing in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

, set his pastoral poetry in on the lushly fertile island of Sicily, where he had been born. The protagonist of Theocritus's first Idyll
Idyll
An idyll or idyl is a short poem, descriptive of rustic life, written in the style of Theocritus' short pastoral poems, the Idylls....

, the goat herder, Daphnis, is taught to play the Syrinx
Syrinx
In classical mythology, Syrinx was a nymph and a follower of Artemis, known for her chastity. Pursued by the amorous Greek god Pan, she ran to the river's edge and asked for assistance from the river nymphs. In answer, she was transformed into hollow water reeds that made a haunting sound when...

 (panpipes) by Pan himself.

The Golden Age in Rome: Virgil and Ovid


Writing in Latin during the turbulent period of revolutionary change at the end of the Roman Republic
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 (roughly between 44 and 38 BC), the poet Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

 moved the setting for his pastoral imitations of Theocritus back to an idealized Arcadia in Greece, thus initiating a rich and resonant tradition in subsequent European literature.

Virgil, moreover, introduced into his poetry the element of political allegory, which had been largely absent in Theocritus, even intimating in his fourth Eclogue
Eclogue
An eclogue is a poem in a classical style on a pastoral subject. Poems in the genre are sometimes also called bucolics.The form of the word in contemporary English is taken from French eclogue, from Old French, from Latin ecloga...

 that a new Golden Age of peace and justice was about to return:
Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis aetas;
magnus ab integro saeclorum nascitur ordo:
iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna;
iam nova progenies caelo demittitur alto.

Translation:
Now the last age by Cumae's Sibyl sung
Has come and gone, and the majestic roll
Of circling centuries begins anew:
Astraea returns,
Returns old Saturn's reign,
With a new breed of men sent down from heaven.


Somewhat later, shortly before he wrote his epic poem the Aeneid
Aeneid
The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

, which dealt with the establishment of Roman Imperial rule, Virgil composed his Georgics
Georgics
The Georgics is a poem in four books, likely published in 29 BC. It is the second major work by the Latin poet Virgil, following his Eclogues and preceding the Aeneid. It is a poem that draws on many prior sources and influenced many later authors from antiquity to the present...

 (29 BC
29 BC
Year 29 BC was either a common year starting on Friday or Saturday or a leap year starting on Thursday, Friday or Saturday of the Julian calendar and a leap year starting on Thursday of the Proleptic Julian calendar...

), modeled directly on Hesiod's Works and Days and similar Greek works. Ostensibly about agriculture, the Georgics are in fact a complex allegory about how man's alterations of nature (through works) are related to good and bad government. Although Virgil does not mention the Golden Age by name in the Georgics, he does refer in them to a time of primitive communism before the reign of Jupiter, when:

Fields knew no taming hand of husbandmen
To mark the plain or mete with boundary-line.
Even this was impious; for the common stock
They gathered, and the earth of her own will
All things more freely, no man bidding, bore.


ante Iouem nulli subigebant arua coloni
ne signare quidem aut partiri limite campum
fas erat; in medium quaerebant, ipsaque tellus
omnia liberius nullo poscente ferebat. (Georgics, Book 1: 125–28)


This view, which identifies a State of Nature
State of nature
State of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition that preceded governments...

 with the celestial harmony of which man's nature is (or should be, if properly regulated) a microcosm
Macrocosm and microcosm
Macrocosm and microcosm is an ancient Greek Neo-Platonic schema of seeing the same patterns reproduced in all levels of the cosmos, from the largest scale all the way down to the smallest scale...

, reflects the Hellenistic cosmology
Hellenistic philosophy
Hellenistic philosophy is the period of Western philosophy that was developed in the Hellenistic civilization following Aristotle and ending with the beginning of Neoplatonism.-Pythagoreanism:...

 that prevailed among literate classes of Virgil's era. It is seen again in Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

's Metamorphoses
Metamorphoses (poem)
Metamorphoses is a Latin narrative poem in fifteen books by the Roman poet Ovid describing the history of the world from its creation to the deification of Julius Caesar within a loose mythico-historical framework. Completed in AD 8, it is recognized as a masterpiece of Golden Age Latin literature...

 (AD 7), in which the lost Golden Age is depicted as a place and time when, because nature and reason were harmoniously aligned, men were naturally good:

The Golden Age was first; when Man, yet new,
No rule but uncorrupted Reason knew:
And, with a native bent, did good pursue.
Unforc'd by punishment, un-aw'd by fear.
His words were simple, and his soul sincere;
Needless was written law, where none opprest:
The law of Man was written in his breast.


The Graeco-Roman concept of the "natural man" delineated by Ovid and many other classical writers, was especially popular during the Deistically
Deism
Deism in religious philosophy is the belief that reason and observation of the natural world, without the need for organized religion, can determine that the universe is the product of an all-powerful creator. According to deists, the creator does not intervene in human affairs or suspend the...

 inclined 18th century. It is often erroneously attributed to Rousseau, who did not share it.

Political significance of the Golden Age


The political interpretation given the Golden Age by Virgil, who situated it in the future, resurfaced in subsequent eras of revolutionary change. The Protestant Queen Elizabeth I of England was frequently hailed by her supporters as the virgin goddess Astraea, and the famous lines of Virgil's fourth Eclogue quoted above are supposed to be the source of the motto Novus ordo seclorum
Novus Ordo Seclorum
The phrase Novus ordo seclorum appears on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, first designed in 1782 and printed on the back of the United States one-dollar bill since 1935. The phrase also appears on the coat of arms of the Yale School of Management, Yale University's business...

 (New Order of the Ages) that appears on the Great Seal of the United States. The British poet Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley
Percy Bysshe Shelley was one of the major English Romantic poets and is critically regarded as among the finest lyric poets in the English language. Shelley was famous for his association with John Keats and Lord Byron...

 (1792–1822) hailed the promise of the romantic and revolutionary era with these lines, which foretell the dissolution of empires and the advent of a new religion, superior even to Christianity:

The world's great age begins anew,
The golden years return,
The earth doth like a snake renew
Her winter weeds outworn;
Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam
Like wrecks of a dissolving dream....
Saturn and Love their long repose
Shall burst, more bright and good
Than all who fell, than One who rose,
Than many unsubdued.
Not gold, not blood, their altar dowers,
But votive tears and symbol flowers.

"Soft" and "hard" primitivism in Arcadia


In his famous essay, "Et in Arcadia ego
Et in Arcadia ego
"Et in Arcadia ego" is a Latin phrase that most famously appears as the title of two paintings by Nicolas Poussin . They are pastoral paintings depicting idealized shepherds from classical antiquity, clustering around an austere tomb...

: Poussin and the Elegaic Tradition", Erwin Panofsky
Erwin Panofsky
Erwin Panofsky was a German art historian, whose academic career was pursued mostly in the U.S. after the rise of the Nazi regime. Panofsky's work remains highly influential in the modern academic study of iconography...

 remarks how in ancient times, "that particular not overly opulent, region of central Greece, Arcady, came to be universally accepted as an ideal realm of perfect bliss and beauty, a dream incarnate of ineffable happiness, surrounded nevertheless with a halo of 'sweetly sad' melancholy":


There had been, from the beginning of classical speculation, two contrasting opinions about the natural state of man, each of them, of course, a "Gegen-Konstruktion" to the conditions under which it was formed. One view, termed "soft" primitivism in an illuminating book by Lovejoy and Boas conceives of primitive life as a golden age of plenty, innocence, and happiness—in other words, as civilized life purged of its vices. The other, "hard" form of primitivism conceives of primitive life as an almost subhuman existence full of terrible hardships and devoid of all comforts—in other words, as civilized life stripped of its virtues.


Arcady, as we encounter it in all modern literature, and as we refer to it in our daily speech, falls under the heading of “soft" or golden-age primitivism. To be sure, this real Arcady was the domain of Pan, who could be heard playing the syrinx
Syrinx
In classical mythology, Syrinx was a nymph and a follower of Artemis, known for her chastity. Pursued by the amorous Greek god Pan, she ran to the river's edge and asked for assistance from the river nymphs. In answer, she was transformed into hollow water reeds that made a haunting sound when...

 on Mount Maenalus; and its inhabitants were famous for their musical accomplishments as well as for their ancient lineage, rugged virtue, and rustic hospitality.

Death of Pan and the passing of the Golden Age


A story is recounted by Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

 in his De Oraculorum Defectu (The Obsolescence of Oracles) that sailors heard a cry, "Great Pan is dead!" sweeping across the waves of the Mediterranean, and at that moment the pagan oracle
Oracle
In Classical Antiquity, an oracle was a person or agency considered to be a source of wise counsel or prophetic predictions or precognition of the future, inspired by the gods. As such it is a form of divination....

s suddenly ceased. Pan is the only pagan god whose death is thus recorded. Subsequently, a tradition grew up among Christian commentators, notably Eusebius of Cesarea, (263–339), in his Praeparatio Evangelica, that the death of Pan coincided with the advent of Jesus, occurring either on the occasion of his birth or of his crucifixion on the first Easter
Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...

:

The Oracles are dumb,
No voice or hideous hum
Runs through the archèd roof in words deceiving.
Apollo from his shrine
Can no more divine,
With hollow shriek the steep of Delphos
Delphi
Delphi is both an archaeological site and a modern town in Greece on the south-western spur of Mount Parnassus in the valley of Phocis.In Greek mythology, Delphi was the site of the Delphic oracle, the most important oracle in the classical Greek world, and a major site for the worship of the god...

 leaving.
No nightly trance, or breathèd spell,
Inspire's the pale-eyed Priest from the prophetic cell.
The lonely mountains o're,
And the resounding shore
A voice of weeping heard and loud lament.
From haunted spring, and dale
Edg'd with poplar pale,
The parting Genius is with sighing sent.
With flowre-inwov'n tresses torn,
The Nymphs in twilight shade of tangled thickets mourn.— John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

, On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
On the Morning of Christ's Nativity
On the Morning of Christ's Nativity is a nativity ode written by John Milton in 1629 and published in his Poems of Mr. John Milton . The poem describes Christ's Incarnation and his overthrow of earthly and pagan powers...

 [XIX, XX, 1629]

This 17th-century passage, with its poignant evocation of the luminous world of Greek mythology (within a context, nevertheless, of Protestant devotion), greatly influenced 19th-century English Romantic poetry:
The Dead Pan
Gods of Hellas, gods of Hellas,
Can ye listen in your silence?
Can your mystic voices tell us
Where ye hide? In floating islands,
With a wind that evermore
Keeps you out of sight of shore?
Pan, Pan is dead.—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Elizabeth Barrett Browning was one of the most prominent poets of the Victorian era. Her poetry was widely popular in both England and the United States during her lifetime. A collection of her last poems was published by her husband, Robert Browning, shortly after her death.-Early life:Members...

 (1806–61)


Later Victorian and Edwardian writers lamented the death of paganism and its replacement by Christianity as the passing of a former Golden Age of physical beauty and sexual and political freedom, which they contrasted with what they saw as the sexual and political repressiveness and crass materialism of the modern era, as in Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

's invocation of Pan:

Πάν
Pan
O goat-foot God of Arcady!
This modern world is gray and old,
And what remains to us of thee?....
Then blow some trumpet loud and free,
And give thine oaten pipe away,
Ah, leave the hills of Arcady !
This modern world hath need of thee!—Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

 (1854–1900)

While Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet, playwright, novelist, and critic. He invented the roundel form, wrote several novels, and contributed to the famous Eleventh Edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica...

 wrote:

Thou hast conquered, O pale Galilean; the world has grown grey from thy breath;
We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.—"Hymn to Proserpine
Hymn to Proserpine
"Hymn to Proserpine" is a poem by Algernon Charles Swinburne, published in 1866. The poem is addressed to the goddess Proserpina, the Roman equivalent of Persephone....

" (1866)

Hindu


The Indian teachings differentiate the four world ages (Yugas) not according to metals, but according to quality depicted as colors, whereby the white color is the purest quality and belongs to the first, ideal age. These colors were originally assigned to the planet Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury and Mars just like the metals. After the world fall at the end of the fourth, worst age (the Kali yuga) the cycle should be continued, eventually culminating in a new golden age.

The Krita Yuga also known as the Satya yuga, the First and Perfect Age, as described in the Mahabharata
Mahabharata
The Mahabharata is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India and Nepal, the other being the Ramayana. The epic is part of itihasa....

, a Hindu
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 epic
Epic poetry
An epic is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation. Oral poetry may qualify as an epic, and Albert Lord and Milman Parry have argued that classical epics were fundamentally an oral poetic form...

:
Men neither bought nor sold; there were no poor and no rich; there was no need to labour, because all that men required was obtained by the power of will; the chief virtue was the abandonment of all worldly desires. The Krita Yuga was without disease; there was no lessening with the years; there was no hatred or vanity, or evil thought whatsoever; no sorrow, no fear. All mankind could attain to supreme blessedness.


The Hindus make reference to at least two overlapping yuga cycles, driven by celestial motions, that affect conditions on earth. One cycle, the Maha Yuga, is millions of years in length and therefore difficult to relate to human history or events. The shorter yuga cycle lasts 24,000 years, including an ascending age of 12,000 years (one daiva yuga) and a descending age of 12,000 years, for a total equal to one precession of the equinox
Great year
The Great Year is an archaic cosmological conception, found in different cultures, which acquired new interpretations with the development of astronomical knowledge In the Western tradition Plato has been the main source for the idea, so it was also frequently called 'Platonic year'...

. Both cycles are composed of the four eras, and the Satya Yuga is the first and the most significant age in each cycle. This Golden Age era lasts 7200 years (out of the 12,000 years in the ascending period) and another 7200 years (out of 12,000 years in the descending period) in the precessional cycle. Knowledge, meditation, and communion with Spirit hold special importance in this era. The average life expectancy of a human being in Satya Yuga is believed to be about 400 years. During Satya Yuga, most people engage only in good, sublime deeds and mankind lives in harmony with the earth. Ashrams become devoid of wickedness and deceit. Natyam (such as Bharatanatyam
Bharatanatyam
Bharata Natyam or Chadhir Attam, is a classical dance form from the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, practiced predominantly in modern times by women. The dance is usually accompanied by classical Carnatic music...

), according to Natya Shastra
Natya Shastra
The Natya Shastra is an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written during the period between 200 BC and 200 AD in classical India and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata.The Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope...

, did not exist in the Satya Yuga "because it was the time when all people were happy".

Brahma Kumaris


The Brahma Kumaris and Prajapita Brahma Kumaris make reference to five yuga in a single cycle of 5000 years in which the Golden Age, or Satya yuga, is first and lasts for 1250 years. Three of the remaining four; Thretha Yuga (Silver Age), Dwarpar Yuga (Copper Age) and Kali Yuga (Iron Age), also last for 1250 years each. A fifth age of only 100 years exists from Brahma Kumari souls called the Sangum Yuga (Confluence Age) during which time the Iron Age is destroyed and the Golden Age created. Every 5,000 Year cycle repeats identically the same.

Norse


The Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 word gullaldr (literally "Golden Age") was used in Völuspá
Völuspá
Völuspá is the first and best known poem of the Poetic Edda. It tells the story of the creation of the world and its coming end related by a völva addressing Odin...

 to describe the period after Ragnarök
Ragnarök
In Norse mythology, Ragnarök is a series of future events, including a great battle foretold to ultimately result in the death of a number of major figures , the occurrence of various natural disasters, and the subsequent submersion of the world in water...

 where the surviving gods and their progeny build the city Gimlé
Gimlé
In Norse mythology, Gimlé was a place where the survivors of Ragnarök were to live. It is mentioned in the Prose Edda and Völuspá and described as the most beautiful place on Earth, more beautiful than the Sun....

 on the ruins of Asgard
Asgard
In Norse religion, Asgard is one of the Nine Worlds and is the country or capital city of the Norse Gods surrounded by an incomplete wall attributed to a Hrimthurs riding the stallion Svadilfari, according to Gylfaginning. Valhalla is located within Asgard...

. During that period, Baldr reigns.

Fantasy


In modern fantasy world
Fantasy world
A fantasy world is a fictional universe used in fantasy novels and games. Typical worlds involve magic or magical abilities and often, but not always, either a medieval or futuristic theme...

s whose background and setting sometime draw heavily on real-world myths, similar or compatible concepts of Golden Age exist in the said world's prehistory; when Deities or Elf
Elves in fantasy fiction and games
In many works of modern fantasy, elves are a race of semi-divine humanoid beings.-Characteristics and common features:Modern fantasy literature has revived the elves as a race of semi-divine beings of human stature who are friendly with animals. Fantasy elves are different from Norse elves and the...

-like creatures existed, before the coming of human
Human
Humans are the only living species in the Homo genus...

s.

For example, a Golden Age exists in Middle-earth
Middle-earth
Middle-earth is the fictional setting of the majority of author J. R. R. Tolkien's fantasy writings. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place entirely in Middle-earth, as does much of The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales....

 legendarium. Arda
Arda
In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Arda is the name given to the Earth in a period of prehistory, wherein the places mentioned in The Lord of the Rings and related material once existed...

 (the period of our world where The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings is a high fantasy epic written by English philologist and University of Oxford professor J. R. R. Tolkien. The story began as a sequel to Tolkien's earlier, less complex children's fantasy novel The Hobbit , but eventually developed into a much larger work. It was written in...

 is set), was designed to be symmetrical and perfect. After the wars of the Gods, Arda lost its perfect shape (known as Arda Unmarred) and was called Arda Marred. Another kind of 'Golden Age' follows later, after the Elves awoke; the Eldar stay on Valinor
Valinor
Valinor is a fictional location in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the realm of the Valar in Aman. It was also known as the Undying Lands, along with Tol Eressëa and the outliers of Aman. This is something of a misnomer; only immortal beings were allowed to reside there, but the land itself,...

, live with the Valar
Vala (Middle-earth)
The Valar are fictional characters in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. They are first mentioned in The Lord of the Rings, but The Silmarillion develops them into the Powers of Arda or the Powers of the World...

 and advance in arts and knowledge, until the rebellion and the fall of the Noldor
Noldor
In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, the Noldor are Elves of the Second Clan who migrated to Valinor and lived in Eldamar. The Noldor are called Golodhrim or Gódhellim in Sindarin, and Goldoi by Teleri of Tol Eressëa. The singular form of the Quenya noun is Noldo and the adjective is Noldorin...

, reminiscent of the Fall of Man. Eventually, after the end of the world
Dagor Dagorath
The Dagor Dagorath is a fictional battle described in the legendarium of J. R. R. Tolkien. As Tolkien's works were conceived as a fictional "forgotten history" of the world, the Dagor Dagorath represents the coming End of the World, and is often referred to as simply "The End"...

, the Silmaril
Silmaril
The Silmarils are three brilliant jewels which contained the unmarred light of the Two Trees in J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium. The Silmarils were made out of the crystalline substance silima by Fëanor, a Noldorin Elf, in Valinor during the Years of the Trees...

li will be recovered and the light of the Two Trees of Valinor
Two Trees of Valinor
In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, the Two Trees of Valinor are Telperion and Laurelin, the Silver Tree and the Gold that brought light to the Land of the Valar in ancient times...

 rekindled. Arda will be remade again as Arda Healed.

In The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time
The Wheel of Time is a series of epic fantasy novels written by American author James Oliver Rigney, Jr., under the pen name Robert Jordan. Originally planned as a six-book series, the length was increased by increments; at the time of Rigney's death, he expected it to be 12, but it will actually...

 universe, the Age of Legends is the name given to the previous Age: In this society, channelers were common and Aes Sedai
Aes Sedai
The Aes Sedai are a special society in the fictional universe of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time book series. Aes Sedai means "Servant to All" in the Old Tongue. They are the wielders of the One Power...

 - trained channelers - were extremely powerful, able to make angreal, sa'angreal, and ter'angreal, and holding important civic positions. The Age of Legends is seen as a utopian society without war or crime, and devoted to culture and learning. Aes Sedai were frequently devoted to academic endeavours, one of which inadvertently resulted in a hole - The Bore - being drilled in the Dark One's prison. The immediate effects were not realised, but the Dark One gradually asserted power over humanity, swaying many to become his followers. This resulted in the War of Power and eventually the Breaking of the World.

Another example is in the background of the Lands of Lore
Lands of Lore
Lands of Lore or LoL is a computer role-playing game series by Westwood Studios and published by Virgin Interactive. Lands of Lore follows the tradition of Dungeon Master, but introduced a linear scenario-based storyline, rather than characters and feats.-Development:Westwood Studios made role...

 classic computer game, the history of the Lands is divided in Ages. One of them is also called Golden Age, where the Lands were ruled by the 'Ancients', no wars existed yet, until that age was over with the 'War of the Heretics'.

Present-day usage



The term "Golden Age" is at present frequently used in the context of various fields, such as the "Dutch Golden Age
Dutch Golden Age
The Golden Age was a period in Dutch history, roughly spanning the 17th century, in which Dutch trade, science, military and art were among the most acclaimed in the world. The first half is characterised by the Eighty Years' War till 1648...

", "Golden age of alpinism
Golden age of alpinism
The golden age of alpinism was the period between Alfred Wills's ascent of the Wetterhorn in 1854 and Edward Whymper's ascent of the Matterhorn in 1865, during which many major peaks in the Alps saw their first ascents....

", "Golden Age of American animation", "Golden Age of Comics", "Golden Age of Science Fiction
Golden Age of Science Fiction
The first Golden Age of Science Fiction — often recognized as the period from the late 1930s through the 1950s — was an era during which the science fiction genre gained wide public attention and many classic science fiction stories were published...

", "Golden Age of Hollywood", "Golden Age of Hip Hop
Golden age hip hop
Hip hop's "golden age" is a name given to a period in mainstream hip hop—usually cited as being a period varying in time frames during the 1980s and 1990s said to be characterized by its diversity, quality, innovation and influence. There were strong themes of Afrocentricity and political...

" and even "Golden Age of Piracy
Golden Age of Piracy
The Golden Age of Piracy is a common designation given to one or more outbursts of piracy in maritime history of the early modern period. In its broadest accepted definition, the Golden Age of Piracy spans from the 1650s to the 1730s and covers three separate outbursts of piracy:the buccaneering...

" or "Golden Age of Porn
Golden Age of Porn
The Golden Age of Porn or porno chic refers to a period in the history of pornography, approximately from the late-1960s to the early-to-mid-1980s. The period is idealized as a time in history where the difficulty to treat STDs had not achieved wide public notice...

". Invariably, the term "Golden Age" is bestowed retroactively, when the period in question has ended and is compared with what followed in the specific field discussed.

See also

  • Ages of Man
    Ages of Man
    The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology. Two classical authors in particular offer accounts of the successive ages of mankind, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current...

  • Arcadia (utopia)
    Arcadia (utopia)
    Arcadia refers to a vision of pastoralism and harmony with nature. The term is derived from the Greek province of the same name which dates to antiquity; the province's mountainous topography and sparse population of pastoralists later caused the word Arcadia to develop into a poetic byword for an...

  • Eschatology
    Eschatology
    Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

  • Garden of Eden
    Garden of Eden
    The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

  • Great year
    Great year
    The Great Year is an archaic cosmological conception, found in different cultures, which acquired new interpretations with the development of astronomical knowledge In the Western tradition Plato has been the main source for the idea, so it was also frequently called 'Platonic year'...

  • Messianic Age
    Messianic Age
    Messianic Age is a theological term referring to a future time of universal peace and brotherhood on the earth, without crime, war and poverty. Many religions believe that there will be such an age; some refer to it as the "Kingdom of God" or the "World to Come".- Terminology: "messianic" and...

  • Merrie England
    Merry England
    "Merry England", or in more jocular, archaic spelling "Merrie England", refers to an English autostereotype, a utopian conception of English society and culture based on an idyllic pastoral way of life that was allegedly prevalent at some time between the Middle Ages and the onset of the Industrial...

  • Millennialism
    Millennialism
    Millennialism , or chiliasm in Greek, is a belief held by some Christian denominations that there will be a Golden Age or Paradise on Earth in which "Christ will reign" for 1000 years prior to the final judgment and future eternal state...

  • Paradise
    Paradise
    Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and...

  • Precession of the Equinoxes
    Precession of the equinoxes
    In astronomy, axial precession is a gravity-induced, slow and continuous change in the orientation of an astronomical body's rotational axis. In particular, it refers to the gradual shift in the orientation of Earth's axis of rotation, which, like a wobbling top, traces out a pair of cones joined...

  • Satya Yuga
    Satya Yuga
    The Satya Yuga , also called Sat Yuga, Krta Yuga and Krita Yuga in Hinduism, is the "Yuga of Truth", when mankind is governed by gods, and every manifestation or work is close to the purest ideal and mankind will allow intrinsic goodness to rule supreme...

    /Krita Yuga
  • Utopia
    Utopia
    Utopia is an ideal community or society possessing a perfect socio-politico-legal system. The word was imported from Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book Utopia, describing a fictional island in the Atlantic Ocean. The term has been used to describe both intentional communities that attempt...

  • 2012 Conspiracy
    2012 phenomenon
    The 2012 phenomenon comprises a range of eschatological beliefs that cataclysmic or transformative events will occur on December 21, 2012. This date is regarded as the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar...


External links

  • http://www.maicar.com/GML/AgesOfMan.html#golden
  • http://ancienthistory.about.com/cs/grecoromanmyth1/a/hesiodagesofman.htm
  • http://www.pantheon.org/articles/g/golden_age.html