Mythology Mondays: A friend to mankind

Prometheus is a Titan, the son of Atlas. Now, the Titans don’t really like the Olympians much, being that Zeus and his siblings sort of stole their power from them. Prometheus, however, is a special case.

In some accounts, it was Prometheus who created mankind out of mud. But Prometheus is best known for his gift to man - essentially the gift of civilization.

Prometheus tricked Zeus. On the event of the first sacrifice to the Gods, Prometheus divided the animal into two portions and wrapped each in cloth. In one portion was the bones and fat, all of the inedible parts of the animal. In the other portion was the meat. Prometheus spoke to Zeus on behalf of mankind. He bade Zeus to choose which portion he would take for himself. Zeus, of course, chose the larger bundle. Prometheus had made sure that the sack of bones and fat was larger. This set the precedence for all divine sacrifices - humans would feast on the meat and leave the bones for the Gods.

Out of anger, the Olympians kept the power of fire to themselves, to forge Zeus’ lightening bolts, to light Helios’ sun chariot. But Prometheus conspired to steal it back.

Prometheus begged admittance to Mount Olympus. He climbed to the heavens where he could reach Helios’ chariot. He lit a torch on the flame of the sun and hurried back to Earth, where he gave fire to mankind. Hesiod says that with fire, humans were finally able to take the first steps towards civilization. That Prometheus gave man the means of life.

Prometheus’ punishment is renowned. He was chained to a rock on the top of a mountain. Every day an eagle would swoop down and gnaw out his liver. Every night the liver would grow back, and Prometheus would have to suffer again the next day. He remained here through ages of mankind, until finally Heracles freed him.

Prometheus
For boons bestowed
On mortal men I am straitened in these bonds.
I sought the fount of fire in hollow reed
Hid privily, a measureless resource
For man, and mighty teacher of all arts.
This is the crime that I must expiate
Hung here in chains, nailed ‘neath the open sky.

-Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound

Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus, was the husband of Pandora. Prometheus’ daughter was Pyrrha, the wife of Deucalion and the only woman to survive the Flood.

3 Comments

  • By Sebastian, April 27, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

    “nailed ‘neath the open sky”. I think I might have to borrow that one, it’s too good!

    Interesting derivation on sacrifices, didn’t know that bit :)

  • By Ambles, April 29, 2009 @ 2:01 am

    Harsh.

    Those ancient (mythical) Greeks were real bitches.

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