Some deny that Prometheus created men, or that any man sprang from a serpent's teeth. They say that Earth bore them spontaneously, as the best of her fruits, especially in the soil of Attica, and that Alalcomeneus was the first man to appear, by Lake Copais in Boeotia, before even the Moon was. He acted as Zeus's counsellor on the occasion of his quarrel with Hera, and as tutor to Athene while she was still a girl.
These men were the so—called golden race, subjects of Cronus, who lived without cares or labour, eating only acorns, wild fruit, and honey that dripped from the trees, drinking the milk of sheep and goats, never growing old, dancing, and laughing much; death, to them, was no more terrible thansleep. They are all gone now, but their spirits survive as genii of happy rustic retreats, givers of good fortune, and upholders of justice.
Next came a silver race, eaters of bread, likewise divinely created. The men were utterly subject to their mothers and dared not disobey them, although they might live to be a hundred years old. They were quarrelsome and ignorant, and never sacrificed to the gods but, at least, did not make war on one another. Zeus destroyed them all.
Next came a brazen race, who fell like fruits from the ash—trees, and were armed with brazen weapons. They ate flesh as well as bread, and delighted in war, being insolent and pitiless men. Black Death has seized them all.
The fourth race of men was brazen too, but nobler and more generous, being begotten by the gods on mortal mothers. They fought gloriously in the siege of Thebes, the expedition of the Argonauts, and the Trojan War. These became heroes, and dwell in the Elysian Fields.
The fifth race is the present race of iron, unworthy descendants of the fourth. They are degenerate, cruel, unjust, malicious, libidinous, unfilial, treacherous.
(Taken from The Greek Myths by Robert Graves. See also Works and Days by Hesiod)
Hésiode et la Muse (Gustave Moreau)