- Pronunciation: pro-ME-thee-uhs
- Origin: Greek
- Role: Titan
- Symbol: Fire
- Wife: Hesione
- Siblings: Menoetius, Atlas and Epimetheus
Who Is Prometheus?
Prometheus was the god of fire and one of the Titans. He was a master craftsman and considered to be very clever and mischievous. He was the son of a Titan and a sea nymph. He would escape imprisonment during the war against the Olympians and become a pillar in some of the most important Greek myths.
Prometheus was one of the Titans, the family of giants who ruled the earth until eventually being overthrown by the Olympians. He ended up fighting with the Olympians after the Titans refused to follow his advice to use trickery to win the war. Rather than disappearing from Greek mythology when the Titans were sent to Tartarus after the war, Prometheus remained to be an important asset. His name is derived from the Greek word meaning “forethought”.
Legends and Stories
The myths surrounding Prometheus are many and some focus on the most important chapters of Greek mythology, including the creation of man.
Creation of Man
While the other Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus, Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus escaped by fighting against their fellow Titans. They were then given the task of creating man. Prometheus used mud to make the shape of man while Athena breathed life into the sculpture.
Prometheus then asked his brother to give all creatures of the earth their unique qualities. Some were fast while some were smart. He also gave them their physical qualities, such as fur or wings. Epimetheus worked hard to complete his task but by the time he reached man, he had given out all the good qualities that were available. Prometheus stepped in and gave man the ability to stand upright just like the gods. He also gave them fire.
Even though Prometheus had fought with the Olympians during the war with the Titans, he was more loyal to man than he was the Olympians. So when Zeus demanded that man must give up a portion of each animal they sacrificed, Prometheus knew he had to find a way to help man and trick Zeus. He made two piles, one with meat hidden inside an animal hide and another with bones wrapped in fat. He asked Zeus to pick which he would prefer. Zeus chose the bones because he could see the fat. He was unable to see the delicious meat hidden in the animal hide. Realizing that he had been tricked, Zeus sought revenge by taking fire away from man.
Prometheus knew he had to give man back fire as they would not survive without it. He took a torch and lit it from the sun. He then used it to give fire back to man, which again enraged Zeus. It is easy to see that Prometheus considered man to be more important than his loyalty to the gods.
Even though Prometheus was very clever and was able to trick Zeus several times, he would eventually be punished for his actions. Zeus was still upset about man having fire and he needed a way to punish man as well. He asked Hephaestus to create a beautiful mortal. The gods all gave gifts to Hephaestus’ creation, most good but Hermes gave the mortal a lying tongue and a deceptive heart. The mortal was the first woman, named Pandora. The final gift from the gods was a jar. Pandora was told that she was forbidden from opening the jar and was quickly sent to Epimetheus who lived among man.
Prometheus knew that Pandora was a creation of Zeus and warned his brother of possible ill intentions. But Pandora was strikingly beautiful and Epimetheus could not turn her away. During her stay, Pandora grew more curious about what was in the jar. One day, her curiosity finally got the best of her and she opened it, releasing plagues, evils, sorrows and misfortunes that man had been oblivious to before. At the bottom of the jar there was hope. Pandora was able to seal the jar again before hope escaped.
Now that Zeus had sought revenge on man, he turned to Prometheus. Zeus was upset that Prometheus had tricked him into accepting less from sacrifices, had given man back the element of fire and that Prometheus wouldn’t tell him which of his children would dethrone him. So Zeus had his servants, Violence and Force, capture Prometheus and take him to the Caucasus Mountains where he was chained to a rock. He was unable to break the chains and was attacked every day by a giant eagle who would pick at his liver only to have it grow back overnight.
Since he couldn’t escape on his own, Zeus gave Prometheus two options to escape. He could either tell Zeus who the mother was of the child who would dethrone him or he could complete a two-part task. First, he would have to find an immortal being who would die for him. He also had to find a mortal to kill the eagle and release him from the unbreakable chains. Prometheus still refused to tell Zeus his prophecy and was set free when Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for the Titan while Heracles fought and conquered the eagle and released Prometheus.
Prometheus was a Titan and son of Iapetus and Clymene. His brothers were Menoetius, Atlas and Epimetheus. He was married to the daughter of the Titan Oceanus, Hesione.
Artistic representations of Prometheus typically show him as tall and attractive, with fair skin and blue eyes. He is usually without clothing except for a single sheet wrapped around him. Most pictures of him show him either with a torch, most likely a tribute to when he gave mankind the element of fire again, or with an eagle next to him, showing one of his darker moments found in his myths.
There isn’t a strong and obvious symbol for Prometheus but many mythology researchers say that fire the most closely associated symbol to the god. He is credited with gifting fire to mankind after it was taken away from Zeus. Though not a physical symbol, Prometheus is also associated with mischief and cleverness because of his tricky personality.