Prometheus was the wisest Titan. His name means "forethought" and he was able to foretell the future. Prometheus, along with his brother Epimetheus, were two of the
four sons of the Titan Iapetus (a son of Uranus--Heavens-- and Gæa--Earth--, and thus elder brother of Cronus) and the Oceanide Clymene (or Asia, a daughter of Ocean
and Tethys in both cases). Thus they were cousins of Zeus, who was the son of their uncle Cronus. Their brothers were Menoetius (who was so proud and rude that Zeus
struck him with lightning and plunged him into Tartarus, as he did with his father and all the Titans) and Atlas (see Hesiod's Theogony, 507, sq). Prometheus was as
shrewd as his brother Epimetheus was clumsy. Prometheus became the father of Deucalion, the first man, with his wife Celæno, 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.
There are many versions of the Prometheus myth. One is that the Titans and Gods were equally matched in their internecine war until Prometheus struck a deal with
Zeus to throw his power on the side of the Gods in return for a pledge that Zeus would free humankind from servitude. After Zeus won, he reneged on his promise and
chained Prometheus and all the other Titans.
Another version is that Prometheus was one of the Titans who was given the task of creating mankind by Zeus, molding human beings from clay, and guarding humanity
against the angry Gods. By some accounts he and his brother Epimetheus were delegated by Zeus to create man. In all accounts, Prometheus is known as the protector
and benefactor of man, he felt great compassion for his creations. Prometheus decided he had to give man fire, even though gods were the only ones meant to have
access to it. As the sun god rode out into the world one morning Prometheus took some of the fire and brought it back to man. He hid the fire in a hollow reed, which he
concealed in his cloak. This he then gave to man, teaching him how to use fire to warm, to cook, to make bricks, tools and earthenware, everything needed to give people
a more comfortable life. He taught his creation how to take care of it and then left them. When Zeus discovered Prometheus' deed he became furious. For when he stole
fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity, he also initiated all the arts of human civilization. He also tricked Zeus into allowing man to keep the best part of the animals
sacrificed to the gods and to give the gods the worst parts. For this Zeus punished Prometheus.
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 reconstitute 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.
Prometheus is also mentioned in the final myth of last judgment in the Gorgias as responsible for the ability that men once had to know the hour of their death ahead of
time (Gorgias, 523d-e). Again, in the myth of the Statesman about the golden age of Cronus and the time when the earth is left to itself, in a reference to god given gifts to
men, Prometheus is mentioned as the one who gave men fire (Statesman, 274c). And in the Philebus, Socrates attributes to "some sort of Prometheus" the godly gift of "a
most dazzling fire" that allows men to partake in the knowledge of the one and the many (Philebus, 16c).
Throughout history, Prometheus has symbolized unyielding strength that resists oppression.
"Titan! to whose immortal eyes
The sufferings of mortality,
Seen in their sad reality,
Were not as things that gods despise;
What was thy pity's recompense?
A silent suffering, and intense;
The rock, the vulture, and the chain;
All that the proud can feel of pain;
The agony they do not show;
The suffocating sense of woe.
"Thy godlike crime was to be kind;
To render with thy precepts less
The sum of human wretchedness,
And strengthen man with his own mind.
And, baffled as thou wert from high,
Still, in thy patient energy
In the endurance and repulse
Of thine impenetrable spirit,
Which earth and heaven could not convulse,
A mighty lesson we inherit."
(Prometheus, Lord Byron)
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