The myth of the Golden Age is in some ways similar to that of the Islands of the Blest. It was originally an early paradise ruled by Saturn, a period of peace and prosperity without wars or violence and in which laws were superfluous. The earth was fertile without being cultivated and even the animals lived peacefully with one another. See especially Ovid, Metamorphoses , I, 89 ff. Macrobius points out that good laws derive from evil habits (Saturnalia, 3, 17, 10).
The Golden Age was an influential myth in the Renaissance, but the most important feature of Folly's account, however, is the glossing over of the problem of original sin. The early sixteenth century went some way towards attempting to replace the authority of Augustine, gloomily conscious of human sinfulness, with that of Origen, who minimizes the effects of original sin on fallen nature. Erasmus himself in the 1516 Paraclesis goes so far as to regard the philosophy of Christ and Christian rebirth as the 'establishment of well-formed human nature', just as Folly here asserts the innocence of natural instinct. This is perhaps the heart of evangelical humanism. Erasmus always defended the view that human perfection, even religious perfection, was achieved in accordance with natural needs and moral aspirations, while the scholastics of the early sixteenth century thought of religious perfection in practice as something extrinsic to human -needs and not empirically verifiable in human experience.
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