The term Golden age is best known from Greek mythology and legend but can also be found in other ancient cultures (see below). It refers either to the highest age in the Greek spectrum of Iron, Bronze, Silver and Golden ages, or to a time in the beginnings of Humanity which was perceived as an ideal state, or utopia, when mankind was pure and immortal. A "Golden Age" is known as a period of peace, harmony, stability and prosperity. In literary works, the Golden Age usually ends with a devastating event, which brings about the Fall of Man (see Ages of Man).
An analogous idea can be found in the religious and philosophical traditions of the Far East. For example, the Vedic or ancient Hindu culture saw history as cyclical composed of yugas with alternating Dark and Golden ages. The Kali yuga (Iron Age), Dwapara yuga (Bronze Age), Treta yuga (Silver age) and Satya yuga (Golden age) correspond to the four Greek ages. Similar beliefs can be found in the ancient Middle East and throughout the ancient world.
According to Giorgio de Santillana, the former professor of history at MIT, and co-author of the book Hamlet's Mill, there are over 200 myth and folkstories from over 30 ancient cultures that spoke of a cycle of the ages tied to the movement of the heavens. Some Utopianist beliefs, both political and religious, hold that the Golden Age will return after a period of blessedness and gradual decadence is completed. Other proponents, including many modern day Hindus, believe a Golden age will gradually return as a natural consequence of the changing yugas.
Some pastoral works of fiction depict life in an imaginary Arcadia as being a continuation of life in the Golden Age; the shepherds of such a land have not allowed themselves to be corrupted into civilization.
The Greek poet Hesiod, around the 8th century BC, in his compilation of the mythological tradition (the poem Works and Days), explained that, prior to the present era, there were four other progressively more perfect ones, the oldest of which was called the Golden age. In this stage:
In this age, Hesiod writes, mankind lived in absolute peace, carefree like the gods because they never aged and death was a falling asleep. The main characteristic of this age according to Hesiod was that the earth produced food in abundance, so that agriculture was rendered superfluous. This characteristic also defines almost all later versions of the myth.
The Orphic school, a religious movement from Thrace which spread to Greece in the 6th century BC, held similar beliefs, including the denomination of the ages with metals. Some Orphics identified the Golden Age with the era of the god Phanes, who was regent over the Olympus before Cronus. In classical mythology however, the Golden Age took place during the reign of Cronus. In the 5th century BC, the philosopher Empedocles emphasised the idea of original peacefulness, innocence and harmony in all of nature, including human society.
Peace and harmony prevailed during this age. Humans did not grow old, but died peacefully. Spring was eternal and people were fed on acorns from a great oak as well as wild fruits and honey that dripped from the trees. The spirits of those men who died were known as Daimones and were guides for the later ancient Greeks (who considered themselves to live in the later Iron Age.)
This race of humans eventually died out after Prometheus (a Titan) gave them the secret of fire. For this, Zeus punished humans by allowing Pandora to open her box which unleashed all evil in the mortal world.
The Hindus make reference to at least two overlapping yuga cycles, driven by celestial motions, that affect conditions on earth. One cycle, the Maha Yuga, is millions of years in length and therefore difficult to relate to human history or events. The shorter yuga cycle lasts 24,000 years, including an ascending age of 12,000 years (one daiva yuga) and a descending age of 12,000 years, for a total equal to one precession of the equinox. Both cycles are composed of the four eras, and the Satya Yuga is the first and the most significant age in each cycle. This Golden Age era lasts 7200 years (out of the 12,000 years in the ascending period) and another 7200 years (out of 12,000 years in the descending period) in the precessional cycle. Knowledge, meditation, and communion with Spirit hold special importance in this era. The average life expectancy of a human being in Satya Yuga is believed to be about 400 years. During Satya Yuga, most people engage only in good, sublime deeds and mankind lives in harmony with the earth. Ashrams become devoid of wickedness and deceit. Natyam (such as Bharatanatyam), according to Natya Shastra, did not exist in the Satya Yuga "because it was the time when all people were happy".
The Golden Age is identified with Eden. It is considered to return during the Kingdom of God, the reign of Christ which will never end. See also millennialism. The church father Lactantius availed himself with his description "golden age" of the future thousand-year old of Christ's Kingdom including the usual characteristics (blessedness of entire nature, sumptuous fertility, animal peace, disappearing agriculture and navigation).
Book of Isaiah Ch. 65, which somehow is reminiscent of the mythological Golden Age descriptions, is believed to refer to that state:
Another connection made by some Christians and Jews was that this was a reference to the Nephilim spoken of in the book of Genesis, as referenced from the Book of Enoch, a pseudopigraphal work. The book of Enoch is quoted in Jude 14, 15.
For example, a Golden Age exists in Middle-earth legendarium. Arda (the period of our world where The Lord of the Rings is set), was designed to be symmetrical and perfect. After the wars of the Gods, Arda lost its perfect shape (known as Arda Unmarred) and was called Arda Marred. Another kind of 'Golden Age' follows later, after the Elves awoke; the Eldar stay on Valinor, live with the Valar and advance in arts and knowledge, until the rebellion and the fall of the Noldor, reminiscent of the Fall of Man. Eventually, after the end of the world, the Silmarilli will be recovered and the light of the Two Trees of Valinor rekindled. Arda will be remade again as Arda Healed.
In The Wheel of Time universe, the Age of Legends is the name given to the previous Age: In this society, channelers were common and Aes Sedai - trained channelers - were extremely powerful, able to make angreal, sa'angreal, and ter'angreal, and holding important civic positions. The Age of Legends is seen as a utopian society without war or crime, and devoted to culture and learning. Aes Sedai were frequently devoted to academic endeavours, one of which inadvertently resulted in a hole - 'The Bore' - being drilled in the Dark One's prison. The immediate effects were not realised, but the Dark One gradually asserted power over humanity, swaying many to become his followers. This resulted in the War of Power and eventually the Breaking of the World.
Another example is in the background of the Lands of Lore classic computer game, the history of the Lands is divided in Ages. One of them is also called Golden Age, where the Lands were ruled by the 'Ancients', no wars existed yet, until that age was over with the 'War of the Heretics'.
Federal Delegation Urges Va to Fulfill Commitment to Host Golden Age Games in Western New York Sen. Schumer and Rep. Higgins among Those Warning of Potential $2.2M Loss to Local Economy
Mar 27, 2013; WASHINGTON -- The following information was released by New York Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand: U.S. Senator Charles Schumer and...