The Roman poet Ovid gives us a connected narrative of creation. Before the earth and sea and the all-covering heaven, one aspect, which we call Chaos, covered all the face of Nature,-- a rough heap of inert weight and discordant beginnings of things clashing together. As yet no sun gave light to the world, nor did the moon renew her slender horn month by month,-- neither did the earth hang in the surrounding air, poised by its own weight,-- nor did the sea stretch its long arms around the earth. Wherever there was earth, there was also sea and air. So the earth was not solid nor was the water fluid, neither was the air transparent.
God and Nature at last interposed and put an end to this discord, separating earth from sea, and heaven from both. The fiery part, being the lightest, sprang up, and formed the skies; the air was next in weight and place. The earth, being heavier, sank below, and the water took the lowest place and buoyed up the earth.
Here some god, no man knows who, arranged and divided the land. He placed the rivers and bays, raised mountains and dug out valleys and distributed woods, fountains, fertile fields and stony plains. Now that the air was clear the stars shone out, the fishes swam the sea and birds flew in the air, while the four-footed beasts roamed around the earth. But a nobler animal was needed, and man was made in the image of the gods with an upright stature [The two Greek words for man have the root an, "up], so that while all other animals turn their faces downward and look to the earth, he raises his face to heaven and gazes on the stars [Every reader will be interested in comparing this narrative with that in the beginning of Genesis. It seems clear that so many Jews were in Rome in Ovid's days, many of whom were people of consideration among those with whom he lived, that he may have heard the account in the Hebrew Scriptures translated. Compare JUDAISM by Prof. Frederic Huidekoper.]
To Prometheus the Titan and to his brother Epimetheus was committed the task of making man and all other animals, and of endowing them with all needful faculties. This Epimetheus did, and his brother overlooked the work. Epimetheus then gave to the different animals their several gifts of courage, strength, swiftness and sagacity. He gave wings to one, claws to another, a shelly covering to the third. Man, superior to all other animals, came last. But for man Epimetheus had nothing,-- he had bestowed all his gifts elsewhere. He came to his brother for help, and Prometheus, with the aid of Minerva, went up to heaven, lighted his torch at the chariot of the sun, and brought down fire to man. With this, man was more than equal to all other animals. Fire enabled him to make weapons to subdue wild beasts, tools with which to till the earth. With fire he warmed his dwelling and bid defiance to the cold.
Woman was not yet made. The story is, that Jupiter made her, and sent her to Prometheus and his brother, to punish them for their presumption in stealing fire from heaven; and man, for accepting the gift. The first woman was named Pandora. She was made in heaven, every god contributing something to perfect her. Venus gave her beauty, Mercury persuasion, Apollo music. Thus equipped, she was conveyed to earth, and presented to Epimetheus, who gladly accepted her, though cautioned by his brother to beware of Jupiter and his gifts. Epimetheus had in his house a jar, in which were kept certain noxious articles, for which, in fitting man for his new abode, he had had no occasion. Pandora was seized with an eager curiosity to know what this jar contained; and one day she slipped off the cover and looked in. Forthwith there escaped a multitude of plagues for hapless man,-- such as gout, rheumatism, and colic for his body, and envy, spite, and revenge for his mind,-- and scattered themselves far and wide. Pandora hastened to replace the lid; but, alas! The whole contents of the jar had escaped, one thing only excepted, which lay at the bottom, and that was HOPE. So we see at this day, whatever evils are abroad, hope never entirely leaves us; and while we have THAT, no amount of other ills can make us completely wretched.
Another story is, that Pandora was sent in good faith, by Jupiter, to bless man; that she was furnished with a box, containing her marriage presents, into which every god had put some blessing. She opened the box incautiously, and the blessings all escaped, HOPE only excepted. This story seems more consistent than the former; for how could HOPE, so precious a jewel as it is, have been kept in a jar full of all manner of evils?
The world being thus furnished with inhabitants, the first age was an age of innocence and happiness, called the GOLDEN AGE. Truth and right prevailed, though not enforced by law, nor was there any magistrate to threaten or punish. The forest had not yet been robbed of its trees to furnish timbers for vessels, nor had men built fortifications round their towns. There were no such things as swords, spears, or helmets. The earth brought forth all things necessary for man, without his labor in ploughing or sowing. Perpetual spring reigned, flowers sprang up without seed, the rivers flowed with milk and wine, and yellow honey distilled from the oaks.
"But when good Saturn, banished from above, Was driven to hell, the world was under Jove. Succeeding times a Silver Age behold, Excelling brass, but more excelled by gold. Then summer, autumn, winter did appear, And spring was but a season of the year. The sun his annual course obliquely made, Good days contracted and enlarged the bad, Then air, with sultry heats, began to glow; The wings of winds were clogged with ice and sno And shivering mortals into houses driven, Sought shelter from the inclemency of heaven. Those houses then were caves, or homely sheds; With twining osiers fenced; and moss their beds. Then ploughs, for seed, the fruitful furrows broke, And oxen labored first beneath the yoke. To this came next in course the Brazen Age: A warlike offspring, prompt to bloody rage, Not impious yet! . . . . . Hard Steel succeeded then; And stubborn as the metal were the men." Ovid's Metam, Book I. Dryden's Translation.