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The Ages of Man are the stages of human existence on the Earth according to Greek mythology.
Two classical authors (Hesiod and Ovid) in particular offer accounts of the successive ages of humanity, which tend to progress from an original, long-gone age in which humans enjoyed a nearly divine existence to the current age of the writer, in which humans are beset by innumerable pains and evils. In the two accounts that survive from ancient Greece and Rome, this degradation of the human condition over time is indicated symbolically with metals of successively decreasing value.
An alternative system according to Hindu scriptures, the cycle of creation and destruction, known as kalpa, is a period of 10,000 divine years, and is divided into four ages or yugas (Sanskrit yuga = age/epoch). According to one calculation, one yuga cycle is estimated to be 4,320,000 years, and one kalpa 4,320,000,000 years. See below.
The Roman poet Ovid (1st century BC – 1st century AD) tells a similar myth of Four Ages in Book 1.89–150 of the Metamorphoses. His account is similar to Hesiod's with the exception that he omits the Heroic Age.
Ovid emphasizes the justice and peace that defined the Golden Age. He adds that in this age, men did not yet know the art of navigation and therefore did not explore the larger world.
In the Silver Age, Jupiter introduces the seasons and men consequentially learn the art of agriculture and architecture.
In the Bronze Age, Ovid writes, men were prone to warfare, but not impiety.
Finally, in the Iron Age, men demarcate nations with boundaries; they learn the arts of navigation and mining; they are warlike, greedy and impious. Truth, modesty and loyalty are nowhere to be found.
These mythological ages are sometimes associated with historical timelines. In the chronology of Saint Jerome the Golden Age lasts ca. 1710 to 1674 BC, the Silver Age 1674 to 1628 BC, the Bronze Age 1628 to 1472 BC, the Heroic Age 1460 to 1103 BC, while Hesiod's Iron Age was considered as still ongoing by Saint Jerome in the 4th century AD.
The Aztec tradition of Five Suns also involves four previous ages. The term Five Suns in the context of creation myths, describes the doctrine of the Aztec and other Nahua peoples, supported amply by ancient texts and calendars, in which the present world was preceded by four other cycles of creation and destruction. It is primarily derived from the mythological, cosmological and eschatological beliefs and traditions of earlier cultures from central Mexico and the Mesoamerican region in general. The Late Postclassic Aztec society inherited many traditions concerning Mesoamerican creation accounts, while, however; modifying some aspects and supplying novel interpretations of their own.
The Hindu and Vedic writings also make reference to four ages (Yuga) termed: Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali. According to the Laws of Manu these four ages total 4.32 million years. These four yugas make up a Maha Yuga, a Chatur Yuga, or a Divya Yuga. 1000 Maha Yugas taken together equals one day of Brahma or 4.32 billion years. Brahma’s night is of an equal length which is also 4.32 billion years. Taken together Brahma’s day and night are 8.64 billion years in total. Brahma lives for 36,000 "Brahma days" so his lifespan is equivalent to 311 trillion, 40 billion years. After his death there is an equivalent period of 311 trillion, 40 billion years when the Universe is unmanifest. Then a new Brahma is born and the cycle starts all over again. Taken together the life and the death of Brahma equals 622 trillion, 80 billion years. This equals one cycle out of innumerable cycles in the Vedic Universe.
Anthropology and evolutionary biology recognize various periods/ages of Homo (Man, the Human Genus) beginning with the invention of stone tools in the Oldowan. These periods are grouped into Prehistory (subdivided into Lower, Middle, and Upper Paleolithic, followed by Mesolithic and Neolithic) and Recorded History (subdivided into Antiquity, the Middle Ages, and Modernity).
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