Search This Blog

Sunday, April 18, 2021

A To Z Blogging Challenge 2021 - P Is For Prometheus


Public Domain

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! 


AJ Blythe said...

Oooh, I didn't know about the ending for Prometheus (although I knew the rest of the story). *shudder*

Debra She Who Seeks said...

The myth of Prometheus has always been a fave of mine. It certainly shows the capriciousness, fickleness and cruelty of certain gods (looking at you, Zeus). The Greek myths are, by and large, almost as patriarchal in their values as any Abrahamic religion. The presence of goddesses, however, does at least give women some voice and role as representatives of the Divine, which has been completely stripped out of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Figures like Miriam, Virgin Mary or the Prophet Mohammed's daughter, Fatima, may be given some respect, but let's face it -- an honoured handmaiden is still a handmaiden.

Stuart Nager said...

Hi Sue
hmm...I knew about the liver thing, but I did not know that Prometheus was the Trickster god for this bunch. Loki had the venom of a poisonous snake dripping on him.

OK. Unless you've already amassed the perils of the trickster gods....DIBS.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Debra! The Greek myths, as far as I can tell, were quite often about the patriarchal religions overcoming the matriarchal ones. But they didn’t have it all their own way, even after Christianity. The Madonna and Child do seem to be inspired by Isis and Horus, and one lady teaching a class I attended in pagan religions remembered her childhood when small European villages competed for their statues of Our Lady, which were more or less statues of THE Lady, the Goddess, still worshipped deep down...

Hi Stuart! Yes, Loki had a nasty end, though he had done quite a lot for the gods over the years, whenever someone sneaky was needed. He even supplied Odin with his eight legged horse. Have you read Parke Godwin’s Beowulf novel? It ends with his daughter(Grendel’s mother!) trying to keep the venom off him. And he didn’t have a Heracles to rescue him!

I imagine Prometheus was a trickster to the Olympian gods, and much brighter than the rest.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Anita! Well, at least he was eventually released.

Debra She Who Seeks said...

I agree the Virgin Mary does have many symbols of various goddesses attached to her, but that just goes to show how fundamentally attached people are to the concept of the Divine Feminine, which is a good thing. The Church Fathers did their best to discourage and stamp out Marian devotion but it was too strong for them.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Well, it makes sense to believe in the Divine Feminine, doesn’t it? When you are waiting for the crop to come up and depend on it to eat, you don’t pray to a male god, do you?

Anne E.G. Nydam said...

Surely it makes more sense to blame all our woes on Zeus?
Black and White: P for Plurimiregia

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

Poor guy must surely be immune to pain by now...

Ronel visiting for the A-Z Challenge with an A-Z of Faerie: Paladin