Perfection: Classical Utopias

We can find the origins of utopian ideas in images of perfection and imagined ideal societies from classical and biblical literature. A tension between the ideal and the real can be felt in all of the sources provided here. Many of these worlds are set outside history in a golden age, before time began or in a mythical time governed by its own rules.

Human nature, social reality and world history are complex and complicated. Are we able to imagine ourselves living in these worlds? What about individual will and desire?

Think about the purpose of these perfect descriptions.

  • Are they deliberately impossible?
  • Are they meant to be compared with everyday life?
  • What function does fantasy fulfil?

Hesiod - the five ages (text extract)


Garden of Eden - Genesis

Virgil, The Messianic Eclogue (text extract)

Athenaeus - the perfect life? (text extract)

Plato, Republic, perfect forms

Plato, Republic, society

Plato, Republic, three elements of man (text extract)