Works and Days


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The Five Races of Man


First of all, a golden race of mortal men did the immortal dwellers in Olympus fashion. These lived in the time of Cronus when he was king in Heaven. Like gods they lived, having a soul unknowing sorrow, apart from toil and travail. Neither were they subject to miserable old age, but ever the same in hand and foot, they took their pleasure in festival apart from all evil. And they died as overcome of sleep. All good things were theirs. The bounteous earth bare fruit for them of her own will, in plenty and without stint. And they in peace and quiet lived on their lands with many good things, rich in flocks and dear to the blessed gods. But since this race was hidden in the earth, spirits they are by the will of mighty Zeus: good spirits, on earth, keepers of mortal men. . . .

Then next the dwellers in Olympus created a far inferior race, a race of silver, no wise like to the golden race in body or in mind. For a hundred years the child grew up by his good mother’s side, playing in utter childishness within his home. But when they grew to manhood and came to the full measure of age, for but a little space they lived and in sorrow by reason of their foolishness. For they could not refrain from sinning the one against the other, neither would they worship the deathless gods, nor do sacrifice on the holy altars of the blessed ones, as the manner of men wheresoever they dwell. Wherefore Zeus in anger put them away, because they gave not honor to the blessed gods who dwell in Olympus. Now since this race too was hidden in earth, they beneath the earth are called blessed mortals. Of lower rank, yet they too have their honor.

Then Zeus the father created a third race of mortal men, a race of bronze . . . terrible and strong; whose delight was in the dolorous works of Ares and in insolence. Bread they ate not: but souls they had stubborn, of adamant, unapproachable: great was their might and invincible the arms that grew from their shoulders on stout frames. Of bronze was their armor, of bronze their dwellings, with bronze they wrought. Black iron was not yet. These by their own hands slain went down to the dank house of chill Hades, nameless. And black death slew them, for all that they were mighty, and they left the bright light of the sun.

Now when this race also was hidden in earth, yet a fourth race did Zeus the son of Cronus create upon the bounteous earth, a juster race and better, a god-like race of hero men who are called demigods. . . . And them did evil war and dread battle slay, some at seven-gated Thebes . . . some when war had brought them in ships across the great gulf of the sea to Troy for the sake of fair-tressed Helen. There did the issue of death cover them about. But Zeus the father, the son of Cronus, gave them a life and an abode apart from men, and established them at the ends of the earth afar from the deathless gods. Among them Cronus is king. And they with soul untouched of sorrow dwell in the Islands of the Blest by deepeddying Ocean. Happy heroes are they, for whom the bounteous earth beareth honey-sweet fruit fresh thrice a year.

I would then that I lived not among the fifth race of men, but either had died before or had been born afterward. For now verily is a race of iron. Neither by day shall they ever cease from weariness of woe, neither in the night from wasting, and sore cares shall the gods give them. Howbeit even for them shall good be mingled with evil.1

3 Hesiod, , 109–179.

1 Hesiod’s picture of the Gold and Silver ages is purely ideal. The Bronze Age and the Iron Age, on the contrary, are historical. In inserting an Heroic Age of demigods, the poet is making a concession to the widespread Greek custom of hero-worship.


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Chicago: "The Five Races of Man," Works and Days in Readings in Early European History, ed. Webster, Hutton (Boston: Ginn and Company, 1926), 51–52. Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023,

MLA: . "The Five Races of Man." Works and Days, in Readings in Early European History, edited by Webster, Hutton, Boston, Ginn and Company, 1926, pp. 51–52. Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023.

Harvard: , 'The Five Races of Man' in Works and Days. cited in 1926, Readings in Early European History, ed. , Ginn and Company, Boston, pp.51–52. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from