Today’s character from Greek mythology is Prometheus. Among all those nasty gods, here is one who got into trouble for sticking up for humans. He was a trickster figure we can like, and he is used as an icon for the arts and misunderstood artists.
Prometheus was one of the Titans, a bunch of gods who were related to, and ruled the planet before, the Olympian gods. His father was the Titan Iapetus, his mother an Oceanid called Clymene. He had three brothers, Atlas(yes, that Atlas of the Eleventh Labour), Menoetius and Epimetheus.
Menoetius was killed during a rebellion of the Titans against Cronos, who ruled before Zeus. Atlas, who looked after the Garden of the Hesperides and ruled Atlantis, escaped the flooded island and joined Cronos. Afterwards, he was condemned to hold up the heavens, which he did except briefly when Heracles took over, to give Atlas the chance to collect the Golden Apples for him.
But Prometheus decided it was smarter to fight on Zeus’s side and talked Epimetheus into doing the same, so they looked set to prosper under the new regime.
No such luck. Prometheus created humans and cared about their welfare. He taught them all the arts of civilisation, which he apparently got from Athene, whom he birthed from Zeus’s head. So, he had done Zeus two favours, right? He had fought on his side and cured him of a dreadful headache.
But this wasn’t considered quite good enough. And Zeus was annoyed at how well these beings were doing and considering wiping them out. Prometheus talked him out of it, but when the time came to decide what was the human share of sacrifices and what was the gods’ share, Prometheus got sneaky.
He sewed up two bags of the animal’s hide and put in one bag all the good stuff, covered by the yucky-looking stomach. In the other bag, he put bones wrapped in very tempting-looking fat. Then he invited Zeus to choose. Of course, he picked the yummy-looking share, which turned out to be nothing but bones. So humans sacrificing to the gods got to eat the meat while the gods were stuck with the useless bits of the animal.
As you can guess, Zeus was not impressed.
“Fine,” he said, “they can eat their meat raw.”
He withdrew fire. Rather than see his beloved humans freeze and eat food raw, Prometheus sneaked onto Olympus through the back door, with Athene’s help, and picked up a coal from the chariot of the Sun, which he hid in a giant fennel stalk, and hurried back to Earth with it.
Zeus was furious, but he had one more thing to try. He got the craftsman god, Hephaestus, to make a stunningly beautiful woman, had the Winds breathe life into her and the goddesses dress her. She was sent to Earth and offered to Epimethius as his wife.
Prometheus was understandably suspicious and told Epimetheus to beware of any gift from Zeus. The lady’s name, Pandora, by the way, means “all gifts” and she seemed to be bringing yet another gift, a jar or box with something in it. She didn’t know what that was.
This warning was the last straw as far as Zeus was concerned. He had Prometheus carried off to the Caucasus Mountains, chained down and tortured by having an eagle eat his liver every day. As he was immortal, of course, it grew back overnight, to be eaten again. There is a scene in Miller’s novel Circe in which the heroine meets Prometheus as he is being taken off to his torture.
He was eventually rescued by Heracles(that event, by the way,is in an episode of the TV show Hercules: The Legendary Journeys).
But Epimetheus panicked and agreed to marry Pandora, who, as we know, opened that jar out of curiosity and let out all the world’s troubles, except Hope, which was locked in just in time.
It seems the Bible isn’t the only source that blames all our woes on a woman!
Tomorrow Q is for Quests!