Ages of Man and Flood Myths
Ages of Man and Flood Myths CLAS 160D2 - 002
Popular in Classical Mythology Lecture
Popular in Classical Mythology
This 7 page Class Notes was uploaded by Samantha Work on Monday February 8, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to CLAS 160D2 - 002 at University of Arizona taught by Michael Teske in Winter 2016. Since its upload, it has received 55 views. For similar materials see Classical Mythology Lecture in Classical Mythology at University of Arizona.
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Date Created: 02/08/16
Classical Mythology: Ages of Man and Flood Myths February 5,2016 @2pm Hesiod’s Ages of Man ● Golden Pristines paradise world ○ the earth gives forth all its fruits freely ■ akin to symbiosis of fetus/infant and mother ● Silver ○ individuals are like overgrown rebellious children who refuse to honor the gods ■ i.e. their figurative parents ■ this age is akin to childhood ● Bronze ○ men are violent and warlike, wear armor and live in bronze houses ■ this age is akin to adulthood ● So these first 3 ages are akin to developmental phases of the human race ○ infancy ○ childhood ○ adulthood ● Heroic ○ age of great virtue, valor, and physical prowess of warriors, such as in Trojan War ● Iron ○ age of treachery (with no apparent cure), and the working in iron; Hesiod says he is living in race of iron: a bleak, pessimistic view of man ● This overall description of man’s ages suggests the progressive deterioration of mankind ○ i.e. an initial perfect harmony with nature (golden) descends into human strife and misery (iron) ○ related psychologically to nostalgia (grk. Nostos “return”; “homecoming” and alg”pain”: “a wistful longing to return to a rosier past” ● But the last part of Hesiod’s pattern does look like an historical reminiscence. Hesiod (ca. 700 B.C.) is living in an Iron Age perhaps ushered in about 1100 B.C. by the Dorian invasions, which may have ended the glorious age of the Mycenaean heroes (heroic Age) that was the culmination of a bronze metalworking civilization (Bronze Age) ● The Golden and Silver Ages (in Hesiod’s scheme) would then be figurative metal ages (with no actual link to those metals, except in their symbolic value: Gold of highest worth, and Silver next) Ovid’s Ages of Man (in Met.) ● Golden ○ time of continuous spring, and the earth spontaneously gives forth all its fruits ■ indeed the land of milk and honey ● Silver ○ change of seasons (hence temperature extremes), and man must till the earth laboriously to bring forth crops ● Bronze ○ (Ovid is sparse on detail) man is still free of taint of wickedness, but more likely to turn to warfare ● Iron ○ age of treachery when precious metals are first dug out of the earth (so working in iron); family members turn against each other, evil and bloodshed abound; no apparent remedy for mankind’s ills ■ Note that all 3 previous ages in Ovid are therefore figurative metal ages ● Flood ○ a purifying deluge sent by the gods nearly annihilates the human race ■ yet Deucalion, the Greek Noah figure, survives ● Stone (age) ○ not men working in stone rather, a hardy race of men sprung from stones emerges ■ see Deucalion/Pyrrha myth Vergil’s Ages of Man (in Eclogue 4 from ca. 40 B.C.) ● In this pastoral poem by Vergil, he predicts the birth of a wonder child who will bring back the Golden Age ○ i.e. a reversal of Hesiod’s eras from Iron back to Golden ● With the boy’s birth, the Iron Age will gradually be erased, then a second Heroic Age will recur (with glorious hero's and their exploits), and finally when the boy reaches manhood, the Golden Age will return throughout the world ● A powerful and hopeful vision of the future (a Roman cure for a civilwar torn Republic) ○ early Christians believed it was a reduction of the birth of Christ, though many Romans contended that Augustus and his reign of great prosperity from 31 B.C. 14 A.D. (the Pax Augusta “the Augustan peace”) was prefigured Great Seal of U.S. (on reverse of 1 dollar bill) ● Beneath the pyramid with the eye is the Vergilian phrase (adapted from this eclogue): novus ordo seclorum “a new cycle of ages” which predicts the imminent Golden Age ● The suggestion is that the genesis of U.S. democracy will lead inevitably to a blossoming forth of prosperity (like a Golden Age) Surreal Description by Vergil (TyeDyed Sheep in Fields/ Nature Imitates Art) ● This “Messianic” poem helped to establish Vergil’s reputation as a pagan prophet during the medieval period/consider, too, Vergil’s elaborate description of the underworld in Aeneid, Book 6 ○ later Dante in his Inferno (ca. 1300 A.D) has Vergil the poet as the tour guide to the 9 circles of Hell for Dante the pilgrim ● Vergil’s name (Vergilius) comes commonly to be to written as Virgil, because of the link to Latin virga “wand, branch” and the notion of this poet as a white magician (with his wand) Flood Myths ● Perhaps the earliest universal flood myth in written records is the Sumerian Flood myth contained in the Gilgamesh epic ● In 1800’s, there was a discovery of an ancient library at Nineveh in Mesopotamia ○ 30,000 clay tablets were found with the Gilgamesh epic poem maybe dating to ca. 1700 B.C. ● Gilgamesh is often identified as the 5th king of Uruk (in Sumer) in Mesopotamia at about 2700 B.C. (he is given in king’s lists) ● Gilgamesh is said to be the son of a goddess and a man (twothirds divine/ onthird mortal), yet still mortal (as with the mixed blood of heros in classical Greek myth) ● Gilg. befriends a man named Enkidu, and he goes out on hazardous journeys and performs great exploits with him ● Soon Enkidu gets fatally wounded and dies; then Gilgamesh becomes obsessed with the idea of living forever, so he sets out on a quest for immortality. His journey takes him to the edge of the world where he meets an old, wise man named Utnapishtim “the Exceedingly Wise One”. ● Utnapishtim (the Sumerian Noah figure) reveals how he and his wife survived a great flood, and later how they were honored by the gods and made immortal Similarities Between Biblical Noah's flood myth and the Gilgamesh flood story ● Biblical Version ○ Flood punishment for wickedness of mortals ○ Noah told directly by the Utnapishtim Lord to build the ark to specs, but specification hut’s material ○ Precise dimensions for ark: 3 decks (300 X 50 X 30 cubits) ○ Taken on board ark: Noah & his wife, his 3 sons/their wives, & pairs of all living things ○ Rain for 40 days and nights ○ Birds sent out from ark test if flood waters have receded: first a raven, the dove 3 times ○ Ark lands on sacred peak ○ Sacrifice/prayers of thanks ○ Covenant between God & men that no universal flood will again threaten the human race is marked by the rainbow ● Gilgamesh version ○ Flood punishment for man’s racket (his noisy revelry?) ○ Ea in dream tells to build ark per out of hs reed ○ Exact ark measurements: 7 decks/ 9 vertical divisions (120 X 120 X 120 cubits) ○ On ark: Ut. & wife, gold, family & relatives, craftsmen (civil survives) & “seed of all living things” ○ Rain for 6 days and nights ○ Birds send out to search to for dry land: first dove, then a swallow, & a raven ○ Ark lands on sacred mt. ○ Sacrifice/ prayers of thanks ○ Divine promise never to bring destruction to man with a flood comes to Ishtar’s mind when she looks on her lapis lazuli necklace Noah and Utnapishtim myths must be related (structural parallels) ● One version may not have derived directly from the other, but both may have descended from a common antecedent, and become differentiated over time Main Greek Flood Myth Adapted from One of Theses Earlier Ones? ● Greek topography is somewhat mountainous ○ it would take a huge flood to overtop even some of the smaller hills, not to mention the towering peaks (area not conducive to the notion of a flood) ○ So scholars believe the flood motif is likely a borrowed one (perhaps from Mesopotamia where silt pattern analysis indicates a possible huge flood event in the midfourth millennium (ca. 3500 B.C.) ● Is Utnapishtim recalling such a flood centuries later (since he has become an immortal)? Deucalion and Pyrrha (Main Greek Flood Myth) ● Prometheus warns his son Deucalion of the impending flood, and he survives along with his cousin Pyrrha in a boat which grounds on Mt. Parnassus. ● As the flood waters recede, the couple descends and comes to a shrine of Themis “Justice” ○ an oracle booms forth: “Veil your heads, loosen your garments, and throw the bones of your mother over your shoulders.” ● The cryptic language of the oracle confounds Pyrrha, but Deucalion deciphers it he says the mother referred to is Mother Earth, so her “bones” are stones. ● As they come down the mountain, they both hurl stones over their shoulders. The ones thrown by Deucalion are transformed into men, and those tossed by Pyrrha turn into women: a dual act of creation ○ cf. farmers’ ritual throwing of seeds behind them as they avert their gaze to keep away evil influences Major Differences Between Greek Flood Myth & Biblical/Gilgamesh ones ● No animals taken on Deucalion’s boat ○ all the animals will be spontaneously generated from the earth with the precise conditions of heat and moisture as the flood waters recede ■ spontaneous generation, that animate things can arise from inanimate matter, was a widely embraced idea in classical times ● e.g. Aristotle in 4th cent. B.C.was a firm believer in it ● Only the Greek flood version (i.e. Deucalion) has the world repopulated by men/women arising from stones ○ could this be a distinct cultural customizing of a previous flood myth? ● This may be a form of “disease of language” myth ○ making (or, the punning type) whereby linguistic confusions can account for the creation of mythic details ● In Greek, two words look and sound similar yet have different meanings: laas “stone” and laos “people” ○ so to explain this correspondence, the Greeks said that people must have come from stones. Wordplay in Ovid (lost in translation) ● To emphasize the dual nature of creation in this Deucalion/Pyrrha myth, Ovid puns mercilessly on the Latin base par”equal/pair” ○ He begins with the notion of the twin peaks of Parnassus where the boats lands ○ As the story proceeds, he employs the verb parere (short e) “to give birth to” and parere (long e) “to obey”;he mentions the mother as parens “the parent (who gives birth to you and who you must obey)” ○ reveals the remedy for the earth: reparare meaning “to fix/repair”, or “to repair”, or “pair again” ■ to fix the world one must pair up the newly created men and women ● this pun works perfectly between Latin and English Baucis and Philemon (a local Phrygian flood myth) ● Zeus and Hermes (in human disguise) visit a community as weary travelers, but they find they are turned away by all the houses/ inhabitants. At the edge of town they come to a thatched hovel and are readily welcomed in by an elderly couple, Baucis and Philemon, who show them great xenia, “hospitality”. ○ The two offer their guests as lavish a feast as their paltry peasant resources allow until they realize they are in the presence of the gods how do they know? ■ the wine flask magically refills itself ● The couple chases their guard goose around hoping to feed it to the gods ○ but Zeus says they have indeed shown proper respect for the host/guest bond and will be honored ● Zeus leads them to the top of a nearby hill, and as they look down, they see that the surrounding town is being destroyed by a flood and that their hut is being transformed into a magnificent temple of gold and marble. ● The couple asks two things of Zeus ○ that they become priest/ priestess of this temple ○ that they eventually be allowed to die together ● Later on the steps of the temple, they are transformed into intertwining trees (an oak and a linden). Clearly, a cautionary tale about the dangers of disregarding xenia. ● Could this flood myth be yet another version of one of the earlier ones (such as the Gilgamesh?) If so, what is different and why/ Study Guided is coming up! Test on Friday February 12, 2016. Sam
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