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The Good Stuff
Greek Myths-Prometheus
by Barbara Llewellyn
Length:  813 words 

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Greek Myths - Prometheus

Prometheus was an “elder god” before The Olympians took over the heavens.  He was a Titan, the powerful giants whose entire first generation was conceived by Gaea, the Earth goddess.   One of Gaea’s sons, Iapetus, was the father of Prometheus, Epimetheus, Menoetius, and Atlas.

Another of Gaea’s sons was Cronus who gained the rulership of the Titans by castrating his father.  Obviously his own behaviour left him somewhat paranoid about having children and he mercilessly assured his continued power by eating every child he and his wife, Rhea, produced.  Understandably this repeated action greatly upset Rhea, and she schemed to save one of her babies by substituting a large rock in its place.  Cronus took the bait and swallowed the stone; not realising that he now had a living son.  Zeus was that son.

Zeus was very angry with his father and fought against him, for the right to rule.  Prometheus fought by his side, but Zeus doesn’t seem to be particularly grateful.  Zeus won his war, and wanted to be ultimate ruler of everything.  He liked a few other gods, but he was very content to see mankind stay primitive and inconsequential, and didn’t want to bother about looking after them.

Prometheus is said to be the wisest of all the Titans.  His name means “forethought” and he was able to foretell the future.   This ability seems to have deserted him on many an occasion, and he suffered cruelly for his lack of foresight –  or his love of mankind overcame his fear of the pain he knew he would have to endure.  It could be argued that Prometheus was a big softie who always stood up for the underdog.

Zeus gave the job of giving all creatures on earth the ability to look after themselves to Prometheus and his brother, Epimetheus.   Epimetheus was to give each species some special attribute that would protect it, and Prometheus was to ensure all gifts were working well and fulfilled their function.  Unfortunately Epimetheus was not the brightest of the Titans and used all the gifts he had to share before reaching mankind.  The name Epimetheus means "afterthought", which should have given his brother some “foresight” as to the possible outcome.  It was left to Prometheus to sort out the problem.

Prometheus took a radical approach, and decided to give the left-over, unprotected mankind a gift worthy of a god – in fact worthy of the king of the gods.  Prometheus stole a small amount of Zeus’s sacred fire and gave it to mankind, to protect them and inspire them.  Prometheus was very fond of the puny humans and believed they had a right to all the possibilities of their future.

Zeus was not amused.  He had wanted humans to be unthinking creatures.  The fire of creativity was not part of his plans for their survival.  He was furious with Prometheus.  He was so furious, he had Prometheus chained onto the rocks of Mount Caucasus and tortured every day for the next thirty thousand years.  At the start of every day a giant eagle would hover over Prometheus’s prone body and peck away at his liver.  During the night, Prometheus’s liver would regrow, preparing him for another day of pain.

Eventually Hercules saved Prometheus from his torment by shooting the eagle with an arrow.  Zeus accepted the escape of his torture victim at this time, either because he was particularly fond of his son, Hercules or because Prometheus had done Zeus a recent favour by warning him against bedding a particular human female, Thetis, whose son was foreseen to overtake his father’s power.

Prometheus has become a symbol of brilliance and inspiration.  His love of humans is seen as outstanding in a time when the gods were playing with mankind, like naughty children with very breakable dolls.   The Prometheus myth often states that he fathered the first human being, or that he made the original humans from clay.

The name of Prometheus has been taken by many interesting organisations – for example, on the web, you can visit; 

  • The Prometheus Society who only welcome members who have received a score on an accepted IQ test that is equal to or greater than that received by the highest one thirty-thousandth of the general population, 

  • The Prometheus Trust which is dedicated to the restoration of the ancient mystery tradition of the west, as a living counterpart to that of the east,

  • The Science Policy Weblog- “Prometheus” which provides daily news and commentary on science policy issues.

Prometheus is also the name of the third of Saturn's known satellites.  This moon is extremely elongated about 145 by 85 by 62 kilometres (90 by 53 by 39 miles) in diameter.  True to its name, Saturn's "Prometheus" acts as a shepherd satellite for the inner edge of Saturn's F Ring, just as Prometheus, the god, acted as the shepherd for man’s humanity and greatness.

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 View of Saturn from Voyager 2
View of Saturn from Voyager 2
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