I found this on the Ages of Man Wikipedia article, in the section about Hesiod's Five Ages:

At the height of this age, humans no longer feel shame or indignation at wrongdoing; babies will be born with gray hair and the gods will have completely forsaken humanity: "there will be no help against evil."

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, April 17). Ages of Man. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 11:44, May 8, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ages_of_Man&oldid=892931853

What is the interpretation for "babies will be born with gray hair?" Did Hesiod mean it literally or as a symbol?

  • 1
    Just as a sidenote, the word used by Hesiod is "πολιοκρόταφοι" (~with grey hair on the temples). Thus, the translation of the passage in Christopher Klaus' answer is closer to the original than the one Wikipedia uses.
    – yannis
    Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 7:36
  • @yannis Understood. I tried finding the original Greek with a transliteration available, but to no avail. Commented Apr 18, 2018 at 12:38

1 Answer 1


I believe this version is a bit more illuminating. Grey at birth seems to imply by the surrounding text to mean a belief they are mature before their time.

Thereafter, would that I were not among the men of the fifth generation, but either had died before or been born afterwards. For now truly is a race of iron, and men never rest from labour and sorrow by day, and from perishing by night; and the gods shall lay sore trouble upon them. But, notwithstanding, even these shall have some good mingled with their evils. And Zeus will destroy this race of mortal men also when they come to have grey hair on the temples at their birth. The father will not agree with his children, nor the children with their father, nor guest with his host, nor comrade with comrade; nor will brother be dear to brother as aforetime. Men will dishonour their parents as they grow quickly old, and will carp at them, chiding them with bitter words, hard-hearted they, not knowing the fear of the gods. They will not repay their aged parents the cost of their nurture, for might shall be their right: and one man will sack another's city. There will be no favour for the man who keeps his oath or for the just or for the good; but rather men will praise the evil-doer and his violent dealing. Strength will be right and reverence will cease to be; and the wicked will hurt the worthy man, speaking false words against him, and will swear an oath upon them. Envy, foul-mouthed, delighting in evil, with scowling face, will go along with wretched men one and all. And then Aidos and Nemesis, with their sweet forms wrapped in white robes, will go from the wide-pathed earth and forsake mankind to join the company of the deathless gods: and bitter sorrows will be left for mortal men, and there will be no help against evil (Hesiod).


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