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Mythology (9)

Ancient myths

Prometheus & Pandora

Prometheus was the creator of Mankind and its benefactor, since he had stolen fire from the gods and given it to men. Zeus wanted to punish him by offering Epimetheus, Prometheus’ brother Pandora, a woman that he had made especially for the occasion and who was gifted with every possible virtue. Prometheus warned his brother not to accept any of Zeus’ gifts, so he refused to marry Pandora. Zeus was furius now and he tied Prometheus on the Mount Caucasus, where a vulture ate his liver every single day. Epimetheus wanted to set his brother free, so he finally decided to marry Pandora. This turned out to be a fatal decision, for one day Pandora could not resist her curiosity and opened a box, where all kinds of misfortunes had been stored. When she realised what she had done she tried to close the box again, but it was too late. The only thing left there was hope, while everything else had already spread around the world.


The Prometheus myth. Prometheus, along with his brother Epimetheus, were two of the four sons of the Titan and the Oceanide Clymene. Thus they were cousins of Zeus, who was the son of their uncle Cronus. Their brothers were Menoetius and Atlas. Prometheus was as shrewd as his brother Epimetheus was clumsy.
  Prometheus became the father of Deucalion, the first man, with his wife Celaeno, or Clymene (in traditions where she is not mentioned as his mother). He was also sometime given as the father of Hellen, the ancestor of all Greek tribes, in the place of his son Deucalion. In fact, in some traditions, he was even said to have manufactured the first men from clay.
  He was the benefactor of mankind that he protected from the jealousy of Zeus and the blunders of his brother. During a solemn sacrifice, Prometheus deceived Zeus by asking him to pick his share between two shares of the ox he had slaughtered, the other being for men. In one, Prometheus had put the meat and entrails hidden behind the belly of the animal, and in the other, the bare bones hidden behind white fat. Zeus chose the latter, leaving the former to men. But when he saw what he had taken and what he had lost, he became jealous of men and withdrew them the fire. But Prometheus came to the rescue of mankind in stealing fire from Hephaestus' forge. In reprisal, Zeus asked Hephaestus and Athena to manufacture, with a bit of help from all other gods, a creature that would be the source of all evils for men, a woman (the first one indeed), named Pandora (a name meaning in Greek “the all-encompassing gift”).
  Pandora was so beautiful that, no sooner had Epimetheus seen her that, forgetting the order from his brother Prometheus never to accept a gift from Zeus, he fell in love with her and made her his wife. As soon as she was on earth, Pandora, seeing a jar that was there and devoured by curiosity, opened it. Halas ! The jar was holding all the evils, and they immediately spread over mankind. Another tradition presents the jar as Pandora's wedding gift to Epimetheus, that was holding all goods. But, because Pandora opended it, all goods escaped and returned to the gods, except hope, that was at the bottom and could not escape before Pandora put the lid back on the jar.
  Prometheus' punishment was to be chained to a huge rock in Caucasus where an eagle would come every day to eat his liver, that would reconstitue immediately. And Zeus vowed never to unchain Prometheus from his rock. Yet, when Heracles happened to pass by, he killed the eagle and unchained Prometheus, who told him how to get the Golden Apples from the garden of the Hesperides. Zeus was proud of this deed of his son, but, so as not to renege on his vow, he ordered Prometheus to always wear a ring that would be made out of the steel from his chains and a piece of the rock he had been tied to. Toward that time, the Centaur Chiron, wounded by Heracles' arrows, wished to die. But, because he was immortal, he could do so only if he could find some mortal that would take over his immortality. Prometheus accepted the deal, and thus became immortal, with Zeus' blessing at last, because, owing to his gift of prophecy, he had warned him that, if he had a son with the Nereid Thetis, with whom he was then in love, this son would become stronger than him and unseat him (no longer courted by the gods, Thetis later became Achilles's mother).
  It is also Prometheus who warned his son Deucalion, who had by then married Pyrrha, the daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora, of the impending flood Zeus was planning to destroy mankind, and gave him the means to escape the disaster.

Bernard Suzanne (page last updated 1998), ed.
This extract is cited July 2003 from the Plato and his dialogues URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks.


(Prometheus, "forethought"). A son of the Titan Iapetus and the Ocean-nymph Clymene, brother of Atlas, Menoetius, and Epimetheus, father of Deucalion. The most ancient account of him, as given by Hesiod is as follows: When the gods, after their conquest of the Titans, were negotiating with mankind about the honour to be paid them, Prometheus was charged with the duty of dividing a victim offered in sacrifice to the gods. He endeavoured to impose upon Zeus by dividing it in such a way as cleverly to conceal the half which consisted of flesh and the edible vitals under the skin of the animal, and to lay thereon the worst part, the stomach, while he heaped the bones together and covered them with fat.
Zeus divined the stratagem, but, out of enmity towards man, purposely chose the worst portion, and avenged himself by refusing mortals the use of fire. Thereupon Prometheus stole it from Olympus and brought it to men in a hollow reed (narthex). As a set-off to this great blessing, Zeus resolved to send them an equally great evil. He caused Hephaestus to make of clay a beautiful woman named Pandora--that is, the all-gifted; for the gods presented her with all manner of charms and adornments, coupled however with lies, flattering words, and a crafty mind. Hermes brought her, with a jar as her dowry, in which every evil was shut up, to the brother of Prometheus, named Epimetheus (i. e. the man of afterthought, for he never thought of what he did until it had brought him into trouble). In spite of his brother's warning not to receive any present from Zeus, he was ensnared by her charms and took her to wife. Pandora opened the jar, and out flew all manner of evils, troubles, and diseases, before unknown to man, and spread over all the earth. Only delusive Hope remained in the jar, since, before she could escape, Pandora put the lid on the jar again ( Op. et D. 54-105). But Prometheus met with his punishment. Zeus had him bound in adamantine fetters to a pillar with an eagle to consume in the day-time his liver, which grew again in the night. At last Heracles, with the consent of Zeus, who desired to increase his son's renown, killed the eagle, and set the son of Iapetus free. According to this account, the guile of Prometheus, and his opposition to the will of Zeus, brought on man far more evil than good.
Aeschylus, on the other hand, taking the view suggested by the Attic cult of Prometheus, in which the fire-bringing god was honoured as the founder of human civilization, gave the myth an entirely different form in his trilogy of Prometheus the Fire-bearer, Prometheus Bound, and Prometheus Released. In these Prometheus is still, of course, the opponent of Zeus; but, at the same time, he is represented as full of the most devoted love for the human race.
Aeschylus makes him son of Themis, by whom he is put in possession of all the secrets of the future. In the war with the Titans, his advice assisted Zeus to victory. But when the god, after the partition of the world, resolved on destroying the rude human race, and to create other beings in their stead, Prometheus alone concerned himself with the fate of wretched mortals, and saved them from destruction. He brought them the fire he had stolen from Hephaestus at Lemnos, the fire that was to become the source of all discoveries and of mastery over nature; and raised them to a higher civilization by his inventive skill and by the arts which he taught mankind. For this he was punished by being chained on a rock beside the sea in the wilds of Scythia. Oceanus advised him to bend beneath the might of Zeus; but he consoled himself with the knowledge that, if the god begat a son by a certain goddess known to himself alone (Thetis), the son would dethrone his father. When no menaces could tear from him the secret, Zeus hurled him with a thunderbolt into Tartarus together with the rock to which he was chained. From this abode he first emerged into the light of day a long time after, to be fastened on Mount Caucasus and torn by the eagle until another immortal voluntarily entered Hades for him. At last Heracles, on his journey to the Hesperides, shot the eagle; the centaur Chiron, suffering from his incurable wound, gladly renounced his immortality; and, after Prometheus had revealed the name of the goddess, he was set free. But, as a sign of his punishment, he ever after bore on his finger an iron ring and on his head a willow crown. He returned to Olympus, and once more became adviser and prophet of the gods. Legends related that he moulded men and animals of clay, and either animated these himself with the heavenly fire or induced Zeus or Athene to do so. In Athens Prometheus shared with Hephaestus a common altar in the Academy, in the sacred precinct of Athene, and was honoured with a torchrace in a yearly festival called the Prometheia.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited September 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Pandora (=the All-gifted). The Greek Eve; the first woman on earth. After Prometheus had stolen the heavenly fire, Zeus in revenge caused Hephaestus to make a woman of exquisite beauty who should bring sorrow upon the human race. From her perfection of loveliness and intellect she was called Pandora. She became the wife of Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus, though Epimetheus had been advised to accept nothing that came from Zeus. In the house of Epimetheus stood a closed box or jar containing all the evils possible for man; and this box Pandora out of curiosity opened. The evils poured out when the lid was raised, and though she closed it hastily, she only succeeded in preventing the escape of Hope, which was also in the box. In later times the story was differently told. The box was then said to contain blessings which were thus secured to the human race; but by opening it, Pandora lost them all except Hope.

This text is from: Harry Thurston Peck, Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. Cited September 2002 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks


Editor’s Information:
The e-text(s) of "Prometheus Bound", the tragedy written by Aeschylus, is (are) found in Greece (ancient country) under the category Ancient Greek Writings .



The Story of Prometheus

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