Prometheus, the friend of man

The story of Prometheus holds a special place in Geek mythology and in popular imagination. This son of a Titan is regarded as one of the great benefactors of humankind, the bringer of fire and the original teacher of technology and the useful arts to man.

The great love he had for humans often brought Prometheus into a dangerous conflict with Zeus, the mighty and cruel chief of the Olympian gods. The meaning of the name Prometheus, Forethought, signifies the intellectual qualities of his many-sided character. According to some accounts, Prometheus is even credited with the creation of the male of the human species.

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Discover the myth of Prometheus, the friend of man

The conflict with Zeus

Prometheus was born to the Titan Lapetus and the nymph Clymene. Although Prometheus was the son of a Titan and supposedly allied to them, he had helped Zeus to gain victory in the War of the Titans, the celebrated "Titanomachy", that was the fight between the Titans led by Kronos, the father of Zeus, and the Olympian gods. The war resulted in Zeus dethroning his father and establishing his reign as the chief god on Mount Olympus.

Prometheus is also said to have helped in the birth of the goddess Athena, by keeping open the head of Zeus as a fully-formed Athena issued out of the gaping hole in her father's head. The relations went well between Zeus and Prometheus in the beginning. However, as men on the Earth multiplied and prospered, aided by Prometheus who had given them fire and many beneficial arts, Zeus became concerned about their growing power.

The anger of Zeus against mankind, and their helper Prometheus, was first aroused when the latter duped the chief god into choosing the worst part of a sacrificial bull. Prometheus wrapped the bones of the slain bull in fat while he covered the best part, the flesh, with the intestines. Zeus unknowingly chose the fat-covered heap of bones, while the flesh wrapped in the intestines was given to hungry men by their patron Prometheus.

The great sin: Stealing the fire from the gods

An enraged Zeus in revenge withheld fire, the most necessary element of civilization, from humankind, putting them to untold miseries. However, Prometheus soon came to their help. He stole fire from the workshop of Hephaestus, the god of fire and patron of artisans and craftsmen, and passed it, hidden in a stalk of fennel, on to humankind. According to other accounts, Prometheus stole fire from the hearth of the gods on Mount Olympus.

The severe punishment

Zeus decided to punish once and for all Prometheus, who had made foul of the chief of the Gods. He had Prometheus chained onto a rock on Mount Caucasus for eternity, and put him to relentless torture by having a vicious eagle feed on his liver. The liver would grow up again at night, so that the eagle could happily eat it again the next day.

This endless apin was the punishment of Prometheus for having helped the mankind. His screams were full of pain and despair. Even the gods in far away Olympus could hear them and Zeus was happy, because this was also a warning for his enemies. According to some versions of the legend, the liver of Prometheus would have been the daily meal of the aforementioned eagle till the end of time, if the great hero Hercules hadn't killed the eagle and hadn't released Prometheus from his torment.

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