According to Wikipedia, Ovid's Four Ages of Man are very similar to Hesiod's Five Ages Man, with the exception of the Heroic Age.

Why didn't Ovid include the Heroic Age?

1 Answer 1


Subsequent authors were always changing up the content of their predecessors to keep things fresh. (Simply repeating Hesiod wouldn't get an audience excited. Contradicting previous authors or adding new twists to the old stories sells books, or scrolls, as the case may be.)

On the other hand, Ovid may have simply been attracted to the idea of comparing each age to a metal, and decided that the Heroic Age and Bronze Age could be merged.

Ovid was writing poetry, thus keeping the metal association strengthens the metaphor. It also squares nicely with his mention of the creation of the Four Seasons.

(You can read an old fashioned, poetic translation in English here.)

It may also have to do with the improvement Hesiod references during his Heroic Age. Ovid's four ages seem to reflect a steady, downward progression as civilization advances, which he may, again, have felt strengthened his poem.

Hesiod was himself a poet, but his life and concerns were quite different from the much later P. Ovidius Naso. For Hesiod, content may said to preempt form (the tension over form vs. content is central to poetic composition.)

Hesiod clearly wants to make the case that the heroes of the Iliad and their generations were superior to the debased times he himself lived in. Fidelity to the metal theme was clearly not as important to him as his moral message.

Where Ovid's primary intent is aesthetic, Hesiod's primary intent is instructive.

[PS-This is just a quick overview--I may have more info once I get a chance to do a little research.]

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    I feel there might be a bit more to this. Hesiod's Heroic Age includes the Trojan War. For Hesiod, characters like Achilles and Odysseus were heroes. For Romans, however, they were villains, as they traced their ancestry to Aeneas (search for "dirus Ulixes" for clear examples of this). I don't have much more to go on, but I feel Ovid's omission of the Heroic Age may be connected to this.
    – yannis
    Jan 26, 2017 at 18:36
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    @yannis Although I'll note that Aneas was also a hero of Troy, especially after Virgil, and the hero painted in the most positive light in the Iliad is arguably Hector. It's significant that the epic, which starts with the rage of Achilles, ends the funeral of Hector, the Breaker of Horses.
    – DukeZhou
    Feb 1, 2017 at 20:48

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