When I find myself in troubled times, I turn to the ancient writers for the comfort of their now familiar words. Yesterday I picked up Hesiod's Works and Days. Works and Days is a very soothing piece of writing for me. It describes the day to day; it looks in, not out. While the wold burns, it gives reprieve.

Works and Days (Erga kaí Hemérai, Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι), by the way, is a didactic poem written by the very early ancient Hellenic poet Hesiod. It was probably written around 700 BCE or earlier and is the first example we have of Hellenic didactic poetry (poetry that emphasizes instructional and informative qualities). It embodies the experiences of his daily life and work, forming a sort of shepherd's calendar, interwoven with episodes of myth, allegory, advice and personal history. It may have been written against a background of an agrarian crisis in mainland Hellas, which inspired a wave of documented colonizations in search of new land.

While I was reading last night, I recognized that turmoil in the pages and I found his words even more sound and soothing. As part of Works and Days, Hesiod speaks of the creation of mankind by the Gods. Hesiod distinguishes five, separate, Ages where the Gods made a form of mankind; the Golden Age, the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Heroic Age, and the Iron Age.

Hesiod placed himself in the Iron Age, and regretfully so. The Iron Age is a moral continuation of the Bronze Age, not the Heroic Age; those of the Heroic Age were far nobler. Men of the Iron Age bicker amongst themselves, there is no respect for parents, for guests, or the Theoi. Bitter war rules, and those who have the strength to cease power, do so without hesitation and without caring about the lives of those they oppress. It is a bleak Age, because those of the Iron Age are even more wicked than those of the Bronze age: they will not end their own lives. Either the Theoi will end this Age, or They will retreat from it, leaving the race to fend for themselves.

Roman Christian priest, Saint Jerome (c. 347 – 420), contemplated Hesiod's Ages and figured it still ongoing. Many have contemplated since if that is correct. I leave you with Hesiod's words now and I will ask of you: is this the Iron Age?

"And again far-seeing Zeus made yet another generation, the fifth, of men who are upon the bounteous earth. Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them.

But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth.

The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonour their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city.

There will be no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all.

And then Aidos and Nemesis, with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil."

I pose another option: that Hesiod's fifth Age has come to pass-: the Theoi had forsaken mankind for a long time, as mankind turned to other Gods--and we are now--as the worship of the Theoi comes back slowly--in a transitional period towards a new Age, an Age of remembrance of the old Hellenic ways and their Gods. A better Age than the Iron Age... or worse, perhaps, depending on what we do with it. As always, I choose to live in hope, not fear.