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9. Myth Of The Golden Age
The tradition of a "Golden Age" is widespread over the world, and it is not
necessary to go at any length into the story of the Garden of Eden and the other
legends which in almost every country illustrate this tradition. Without indulging in
sentiment on the subject we may hold it not unlikely that the tradition is justified
by the remembrance, among the people of every race, of a pre-civilization period
of comparative harmony and happiness when two things, which to-day we
perceive to be the prolific causes of discord and misery, were absent or only
weakly developed--namely, PROPERTY and SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS.[1]
[1] For a fuller working out of this, see Civilisation: its Cause and Cure, by E.
Carpenter, ch. i.
During the first century B.C. there was a great spread of Messianic Ideas over
the Roman world, and Virgil's 4th Eclogue, commonly called the Messianic
Eclogue, reflects very clearly this state of the public mind. The expected babe in
the poem was to be the son of Octavian (Augustus) the first Roman emperor,
and a messianic halo surrounded it in Virgil's verse. Unfortunately it turned out to
be a GIRL! However there is little doubt that Virgil did-- in that very sad age of the
world, an age of "misery and massacre," and in common with thousands of
others --look for the coming of a great 'redeemer.' It was only a few years earlier-
-about B.C. 70--that the great revolt of the shamefully maltreated Roman slaves
occurred, and that in revenge six thousand prisoners from Spartacus' army were
nailed on crosses all the way from Rome to Capua (150 miles). But long before
this Hesiod had recorded a past Golden Age when life had been gracious in
communal fraternity and joyful in peace, when human beings and animals spoke
the same language, when death had followed on sleep, without old age or
disease, and after death men had moved as good daimones or genii over the
lands. Pindar, three hundred years after Hesiod, had confirmed the existence of
the Islands of the Blest, where the good led a blameless, tearless, life. Plato the
same,[1] with further references to the fabled island of Atlantis; the Egyptians
believed in a former golden age under the god R to which they looked back with
regret and envy; the Persians had a garden of Eden similar to that of the
Hebrews; the Greeks a garden of the Hesperides, in which dwelt the serpent
whose head was ultimately crushed beneath the heel of Hercules; and so on.
The references to a supposed far-back state of peace and happiness are indeed
[1] See arts. by Margaret Scholes, Socialist Review, Nov. and Dec. 1912.
So much so that latterly, and partly to explain their prevalence, a theory has been
advanced which may be worth while mentioning. It is called the "Theory of intra-
uterine Blessedness," and, remote as it may at first appear, it certainly has some