Golden age (metaphor)
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A golden age is a period in a field of endeavor when great tasks were accomplished. The term originated from early Greek and Roman poets, who used to refer to a time when mankind lived in a better time and was pure (see Golden Age).
The origin of the term is with the ancient Greek philosopher Hesiod, who introduced it as a period in his Works and Days as the period where the "Golden Race" of man lived. This was part of fivefold division of Ages of Man, starting with the Golden age, then the Silver Age, the Bronze Age, the Age of Heroes (including the Trojan War) and finally the current Iron Age. The concept was further refined by Ovid in his Metamorphoses into the four "metal ages" (golden, silver, bronze, iron).
The Golden age in Classic literature
The Golden age as described by Hesiod was an age where all humans were created directly by the Olympian gods. They did not have women in their ranks, and could not reproduce. They lived long lives in peace and harmony, and were oblivious of death. The "Golden race" were however mortals, but would die peacefully and in their sleep unmarked by sickness and age. Ovid emphasizes the justice and peace that defined the Golden Age. He described it as a time before man learned the art of navigation, and as a pre-agricultural society. The idea of a Golden age lingered in literature and historical understanding throughout the Greek and Roman periods. It was partly replaced by the Christian of the Six Ages of the World based on the biblical chronology in the early Middle Ages.
Evolution from period to metaphor
The term "Golden age" has always had a metaphoric element. A few centuries after Hesiod, Plato pointed out that the "Golden race" were not made from gold as such, but that the term should be understood metaphorically. The classical idea of the "metal ages" as actual historical periods held sway throughout the Greek and Roman periods. While supplemented by St. Augustine's "Six Ages of the World", the classical ideas were never entirely eradicated, and it resurfaced to form the basis of division of time in early archaeology
At the birth of modern archaeology in the 18th century, the "Golden age" was associated with a pre-agricultural society. However, already in the 16th century, the term "Golden age" was replaced by "Stone age" in the three-age system. Still, Rousseau used the term for a loosely defined historical period characterized by the "State of nature" as late as the during the late 18th century. While the concept of an Iron and Bronze Age are still used by historians and archaeologists, the "Golden age" of Hesiod was a purely mythical period, and has come to signify any period in history where the state of affairs for a specific phenomenon appear to have been on their height, better than in the periods proceeding it and following the "Golden Age". It is sometimes still employed for the hunter-gatherer tribal societies of the Mesolithic, but only as a metaphor.
Golden Age in society timeline
A society's Golden Age marks that period in its history having a heightened output of art, science, literature, and philosophy.
- Athenian Golden Age presided by Pericles
- Golden age of Latin literature, the period in Latin literature between Cicero and Ovid.
- Golden age of India, the period between the 3rd century to the 6th century CE under the leadership of the Gupta Empire, during which Indians made great achievements in mathematics, science, culture, religion, philosophy and astronomy.
- Islamic Golden Ages
- Golden Age of Bulgaria, the reign of Emperor Simeon I the Great, late 9th - early 10th centuries.
- Golden age of Kiev, 10th century
- China has had multiple golden ages, with the Han, Tang, Song, and Ming all considered golden ages in Chinese history. The Chinese Golden Age is used to refer to the period of the Tang and Song Dynasties from 618 to 1279, which saw an economic revolution.
- Ancient Egypt experienced several Golden Ages including the Fourth Dynasty as well as the New Kingdom.
- Golden age of Jewish culture in the Iberian Peninsula period between 900 and 1100. Sometimes categorized as part of the larger Islamic Golden Age, because of the event's timeframe & geography.
- Golden age of Christian Monasticism, 8th-12th centuries, its peak being 11th century to early-mid 12th century. Understood to be a Golden age in the European continent of strictly religious matters, and not in comparison to other Golden ages of the era.
- Georgian Golden Age, the period of prosperity and cultural flourishing in Georgia in the 11th, 12th, and early 13th centuries.
- Second Golden Age of Bulgaria - prosperity of Bulgarian culture, literature and arts during Emperor Ivan Alexander (1331–1371)
- Portuguese Golden Age, 15th century - 1640
- Golden age of Valencian literature, 15th Century
- Ottoman Golden Age, 1480s-1560s, partly under the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent.
- Spanish Golden Ages - Siglo de oro:
- Golden Age of England presided by Elizabeth I of England, late 16th century
- Polish Golden Age, 16th century, early 17th century
- Dutch Golden Age, 17th century, approximately 1588-1702
- Golden Age of Dutch Painting, spanning the 17th century
- Golden age of Belarusian history, 1500s–1570s, esp. 1550s–1570s
- Grand Siècle, the reigns of Louis XIII and Louis XIV.
- The Golden Age of Piracy, 1650-1730
- Early Christian Ireland, when Ireland was united under one High King and was significant in European art
- The Genroku era (1688–1704) in Japan is widely considered a "golden age" for literature, drama, and the arts
- Danish Golden Age, first half of the 19th century
- Golden Age of Russian Poetry, first half of the 19th century, with Russian poets Pushkin, Lermontov, Tyutchev and others
- Golden Age of Britain under Queen Victoria, 19th century
- Golden Age of Capitalism, a period of rapid growth in the economies of the west, Korea & Japan from 1945 to 1970. Also used for the Gilded Age of the late 19th century
- German Golden Age 1919–1933 (of the Weimar Republic), particularly 1924-1929
- The Golden Twenties, the 1920s in Europe, the Roaring Twenties were the American equivalent
- the United States, 20th century (different periods considered)
Culture and technology
A golden age is often ascribed to the years immediately following some technological innovation. It is during this time that writers and artists ply their skills to this new medium. Therefore, there are Golden Ages of both radio and television. During this nascent phase the technology allows new ideas to be expressed, as new art forms flower quickly into new areas:
- Golden age of illustration, a period in US illustration history
- The Golden Age of Radio, 1920s-1940s
- The Golden Age of American animation, between 1928 (sound) and the 1960s (television).
- The Golden Age of Graffiti, (occurred in New York City from approximately 1974 - 1984.)
- Golden Age of Arcade Video Games, the late 1970s to 1980s
- The Golden Age of Hollywood, which lasted from the end of the silent era in American cinema in the late 1920s to the early 1960s
- Golden Age of Television (referring to U.S. television circa 1950s) when television was still a fairly recent invention. Programs such as Kraft Television Theatre, Playhouse 90, and later Alfred Hitchcock Presents and The Twilight Zone brought a level of writing to American commercial television that would rarely be seen in the next several decades.
- Golden Age of Aviation, period between the two World Wars, 1920s and 1930s. Also sometimes refers to the period between the late 1950s and early 1970s when the jet engine entered widespread use in both commercial and civil aviation.
- Golden Age of Pornography, period between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s. During this period pornographic films emerged from the underground studios and became a full scale industry with aspirations towards mainstream cinema.
- Golden age of hip hop, 1988-1994 a period when hip hop music was arguably at its creative and artistic peak.
At least one technology had its "Golden Age" in its latter years:
- The Golden Age of Sail, 19th century.
Technology and creativity spawn new genres in literature and theatre. The onset of a new genre will be its Golden Age:
- Golden Age of Broadway, the period from about 1943 to 1968 that brought musicals like Oklahoma! (1943); Kiss Me, Kate (1948); West Side Story (1957); The Sound of Music (1959); and Hello, Dolly! (1964) to the Broadway stage
- Golden Age of British dance bands, 1920s-1930s
- Golden Age of the British whodunit, early 20th century
- Golden Age of Comic Books, period between roughly 1938 and 1945, though exact definitions vary
- Golden Age of Mexican cinema, beginning in 1935 and ending in the late 1950s
- Golden Age of Detective Fiction, an era of detective fiction between World Wars I and II, epitomised by Agatha Christie.
- Golden age of the Italian Horror movie (ca. 1957-1979)
- Golden Age of Science Fiction, period from the late 1930s through the 1950s
- Golden age of Swordplay, period of sword skills between 16th and 18th century
- Golden Age of the Western, of the Western movie, 1930s-1960s
- The Golden age of general relativity, upon its entering the mainstream of theoretical physics, 1960-75.
- The golden age of alpinism (1854–1865), during which many major Alpine peaks saw their first ascents.
- The Golden Age of cricket (1890–1914)
- Golden age of baseball
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- David Maybury-Lewis (1992). Millennium : tribal wisdom and the modern world. New York, N.Y., U.S.A.: Viking. ISBN 0-670-82935-8.