According to the ancient Greeks, Prometheus was considered a transformer of culture because he stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans. He tricked Zeus and because of this, he was considered a trickster. Today, trickster might imply someone who is dishonest, but here and in many other tales, it’s more like a Robin Hood. Someone who takes from the rich and gives to the poor (rich being Zeus and poor being mankind). He tricked Zeus in order that mankind could have fire, thus making him a hero.
He was considered a full-fledged savior of humankind, the source of every advance, from agriculture to literature. Because without fire, we have nothing. Prometheus, whose name means forethought, was a god that sided with humans. He was always preparing for the future of mankind, constantly thinking about what could possibly happen in the future. He wanted to make Earth a better place. He actually had a younger brother named Epiimetheus, which means Afterthought.
Epimetheus was always so busy thinking about the past that he never thought about the future at all. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The story of Prometheus changes a bit thru history, starting out that Zeus was tricked by him. Later though, it was told that Zeus was never tricked at all because according to Hesiod, Zeus is smarter than that, even though in the original writings, it seems clear that Zeus was indeed tricked. Whether or not this was the case, Zeus did become angry and sentenced immortal Prometheus to eternal torment.
He was bound to a rock and each day an eagle, the emblem of Zeus, was sent by to feed on his liver, which would then grow back to be eaten again the next day. (Pretty harsh punishment). In some stories, Prometheus is eventually set free by Hercules, who kills the eagle. Not only did Zeus punish Prometheus, he also punished man for accepting the gift of fire. He had his son Hephaestus to create a woman, Pandora, who was given gifts of beauty and music. He also gave her a box, filled with hunger, sickness and old age, which she was told not to open. (Sounds like the Bible? ).
Of course as it seems to be common with these stories, Pandora’s curiosity got the best of her and she opened ‘Pandora’s box’, which is why today, we have sickness, hunger and old age. The poor man always being deceived by women. In the Aeschylus writings, Prometheus was considered a hero, someone who fought against the heartless god, Zeus, to win. As Hesiod describes him though, Prometheus is more like a rebel who played a pointless trick against the supreme head of gods. It appears as though Hesiod changes things up a bit to rationalize his praise of Zeus, whose cult at that time was very strong.
Zeus’ followers demanded the story portray Zeus with more intellect, which it does. Hesiod also changes the chronological order of the story. Why? It’s interesting how differently we can interpret stories thru the ages, changing them just enough to suit ourselves and our beliefs. In the end, the story might change to a completely different story with different morals and different meanings. What is truth? Is it something that remains constant or is it ever changing as well? Is the truth of today different from the truth of yesterday?
Courtney from Study Moose
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