Humans in Greek mythology had a very intriguing past, and as the years progressed their future became more uncertain and morbid. In fact, Greek mythology portrays mankind in a very bad light. According to Hesiod’s poem Works and Days, there have been five races of humans since the beginning of the world.
- The Golden Race of Mankind: The gods of Olympus created a golden race of mankind, and they lived like gods. They were completely free from all worry, strife, and evil. They had no worries at all in life and with “legs and arms never failing they made merry with feasting beyond the reach of all evils.”
- The Silver Race of Mankind: was created after the golden race ended. This group was far less noble than the previous race had been. A child was brought up in the home and lived there for a hundred years. These people lived a little while in sorrow because of their foolishness; for they could not help but sinning and hurting each other. They refused to serve the gods by honoring them or giving them sacrifices. Zeus became angry so he destroyed this race of man and created another.
- The Bronze Race of Mankind: After Zeus destroyed the silver race he created the brazen race of mankind from ash trees. This race of men was in no way equal to the previous race. They were “terrible and strong” and they delighted in evil deeds and violence especially. Everything they had was made from bronze and there was no black iron to be found anywhere. Death destroyed all of them and the brazen race was no more.
- The Hero-Men/Demi-gods: These people loved war and many of them were destroyed by fighting with each other over pocessions. The rest of them lived “untouched by sorrow in the islands of the blessed along the shore of deep swirling Ocean”. These Hero-men had lasting honor and glory on earth.
- The Race of Iron: After the demi-gods had lived their span of years, the race of iron came to be. This is the race of men that currently live on the earth, and they are severely troubled. This race never rests from work or sorrow, and death comes in the night. The gods continually trouble them, but along with their sinful nature and bad deeds; they have some good qualities.
In Hesiod’s poem, Works and Days, he continues with the belief that this race of iron will not come to a good end. The race will continue to decline and will become even more deceitful and full of sin. Finally, it will get so bad that Zeus will destroy them from the earth.
The Greeks did not have a very optimistic view of the future, they believed that mankind would come to a bad end. Part of the reason is because their gods were very unpredictable. They could never trust them to do what they promised; at any moment they could change their minds. Also, the gods (especially Zeus) were angered easily. This brought on the pessimistic outlook that men would ultimately be destroyed.