Vico Cycles

What are the 3 ages of Vico’s historical cycle?

The 3 ages of Vico cycles are, Theocratic (The Age of Gods), Aristocratic (The Age of Heroes) and Democratic (The Age of Men)

Despite an early injury as a result of a fall Giambattista Vico (1668 to 1744) became known as Italy’s greatest philosopher. His importance rests on his cyclical theory of history as stated in Principles of New Science ... Concerning the Common Nature of the Nations usually referred to as The New Science first published in 1725.

Vico was the product of a Jesuit education, and nothing good can come of that. He mingled with the best minds of the time where he was a professor of Latin at the university where he chaose History as his chosen field of study.

The Age of Gods

The age of Gods begins with the foundation of primitive religion, marriage, the family unit and burial of the dead which offers the promise of eternal life, for souls, if done properly. These are the basic institutions of society according to Vico. The form of government is a theocracy based on auspices, auguries and divine revelations.

The rulers are the patriarchs, who combine the powers of kings, priests, prophets and judges. The form of wisdom is oracular and theological and all physical things are thought to be animated by Gods.

The Age of Heroes

In the age of heroes some of the remaining wandering savages weary of fighting off fierce marauders and appeal for protection to the patriarchs who have made clearings in the forest. The patriarchs kill off as many marauders as they can and as villages evolve, make agricultural serfs of the helpless, who lack all rights.

Uniting against the serfs, the patriarchs form feudal aristocratic commonwealths in which the serfs are severely oppressed. Gradually, when the serfs begin to rebel, the first agrarian laws are passed. This warlike, valiant and barbaric age is poetic, mythic and imaginative as stated by Homer.

The Age of Men

The age of men begins when the serfs become plebeians in newly emerging city states. They assert their rights to the privileges formerly denied them not only by social and political tradition but also by religious taboo. This denial extends to the right town land, marry according to religious ritual, bequeath property, become citizens, hold political office and even take auspices.

The ethos of this age is rational; legal codes are drawn up and scientific and philosophical thought emerges. This is a more humane and benign age, in which reason applies itself to the betterment of all citizens.

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