Friday, April 19, 2024

Prometheus: The Fire Thief

“Prometheus swore to undertake the sole protection of the humans, disobeying the commands of the gods and braving the wrath of Zeus himself.”

Prometheus of Greek mythology is the incarnation of fire, having a reputation of being a clever trickster and disobedient to the gods themselves.

Fire is tricky, rebellious and seems to possess a mind of its own. In this respect, the famous Titan Prometheus of Greek mythology is the incarnation of fire, having a reputation of being a clever trickster and his disobedience to the gods themselves. Much like the story of Lucifer in Christian myth, Prometheus was punished for disobeying Zeus, caring more for the humans he created than his heavenly family themselves by giving them the gift of fire and the skill of metalwork. These were powerful abilities that allowed the Greeks to sustain their empire, attributing their strength and genius of the time to Prometheus’ gifts. Prometheus played an important role in the battle between the Titans and the Olympian gods to gain control of the heavens but Prometheus switched sides to support the victorious Olympians when the Titans would not follow his advice to use trickery in battle. While he and his brother, Epimetheus, were spared imprisonment in Tartarus because they had not fought with their fellow Titans, Prometheus still harboured feelings of resentment against the Olympians who had thrown most of his family into the gates of hell.

Thus was the story of how Prometheus came to care more for his human creations than the Olympians he shared a home with. He was given the task of creating man and so, shaped man out of mud as Athena breathed life into his clay figure. On his first try, Prometheus created a being of pure perfection that was carried to Mount Olympus by Hermes and made to drink of immortality and becoming the planet “Phaenon”, known as Jupiter. During this time, Prometheus created animals by mixing Earth and Fire. His brother Epimetheus was in charge of giving the animals various qualities like swiftness, cunning, strength, fur and wings but by the time he got to Man, every good trait was gone and mankind remained with only a few hairs and nails that rendered him vulnerable. Ever since this mistake, Prometheus promised to undertake the protection of the humans. It was due to this that he paid full attention to their brief lives on earth, going so far as to disobey the commands of Lord Zeus himself or fool him to their advantage.

This is where the start of Prometheus’ legend began. When Zeus decreed that man must present a portion of each animal he sacrificed to the gods, Prometheus tricked Zeus to protect his creations.

He created two piles, one with the bones wrapped in juicy fat, the other with the good meat hidden in the hide. He then bade Zeus to pick. Zeus picked the bones and had to accept this pile as his share for future sacrifices. In his anger over the trick, he took fire away from man. However, Prometheus famously lit a torch from the sun and ran back to earth to present it to mankind. In punishment, Zeus had Hephaestus create a mortal of stunning beauty and gave her many gifts of wealth and named her Pandora, giving her a box that she was forbidden to open. She was sent down to Earth but eventually her curiosity bested her and she opened the box and out flew all manner of evils, sorrows, plagues, and misfortunes. Unfortunately, she closed the box before hope could be set free upon the world. Prometheus was punished by being chained to a rock on the Caucasus Mountains with unbreakable adamantite chains and tormented day and night by a giant eagle tearing at his liver until he was rescued by Chiron the centaur who agreed to die for him and Heracles who killed the eagle and unbound him.

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