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In Greek mythology, Prometheus (in Greek, Προμηθεύς — "forethought") is the Titan chiefly honored for stealing fire from Zeus in the stalk of a fennel plant and giving it to mortals for their use. For that, Zeus ordered him to be chained on top of the Caucasus. Every day an eagle would come and eat his liver, but since Prometheus was immortal, his liver always grew back, so he was left to bear the pain everyday. He is depicted as an intelligent and cunning figure who had sympathy for humanity. To this day, the term promethean refers to events or people of great creativity, intellect and boldness.
The myth

Prometheus was a son of Iapetus by Clymene (one of the Oceanids). He was a brother of Atlas, Menoetius and Epimetheus, but he surpassed all in cunning and deceit. He held no awe for the gods, and he ridiculed Zeus, although he was favored by him for assisting him in his fight against Cronus.

Prometheus, in Ovid's Metamorphoses, is credited with the creation of man "in godlike image" from clay (in others, this role is assigned to Zeus). When he and his brother Epimetheus set out to make creatures to populate the earth under the orders of Cronus, Prometheus carefully crafted a creature after the shape of the gods: a man. According to the myths, a horrendous headache overcame Zeus and no healer of the realm was able to help the Lord of the Gods. Prometheus came to him and declared that he knew how to heal Zeus. Taking a rock from the ground, Prometheus proceeded to hit Zeus in the head with it. From out of Zeus' head popped the Goddess Athena; with her emergence Zeus' headache disappeared. Some myths attribute Hephaestus or Hera to the splitting of the head rather than Prometheus.

Prometheus and Epimetheus journeyed to Earth from Olympus, then ventured to the Greek province of Boitia and made clay figures. Zeus took the figures and breathed life into them. The figures that Prometheus had created became Man and honored him. The figures that his brother Epimetheus had created became the beasts, which turned and attacked him.

Zeus was angered by the brothers' actions; he forbade the pair from teaching Man the ways of civilization. Athena chose to cross Zeus and taught Prometheus so that he might teach Man.

For their actions, Zeus demanded a sacrifice from Man to the Gods to show that they were obedient and worshipful. The gods and mortal man had arranged a meeting at Mecone where the matter of division of sacrifice was to be settled. Prometheus slew a large ox, and divided it into two piles. In one pile he put all the meat and most of the fat, skillfully covering it with the ox's grotesque stomach, while in the other pile, he dressed up the bones artfully with shining fat. Prometheus then invited Zeus to choose. Zeus, seeing through the trick, realized that in purposefully getting tricked he would have an excuse to vent his anger on mortal man, and thus chose the pile of bones (many sources say that Zeus did not, in fact, see through this trick). This also gives a mythological explanation of the practice of sacrificing only the bones to the gods, while man gets to keep the meat and fat.

Zeus in his wrath denied men the secret of fire. Prometheus felt sorry for his creations, and watched as they shivered in the cold and winter's nights. He decided to give his most loved creation a great gift that was a "good servant and bad master". He took fire from the hearth of the gods by stealth and brought it to men in a hollow wand of fennel, or ferule that served him instead of a staff. He brought down the fire coal and gave it to man. He then showed them how to cook and stay warm. To punish Prometheus for this hubris (and all of mankind in the process), Zeus devised "such evil for them that they shall desire death rather than life, and Prometheus shall see their misery and be powerless to succor them. That shall be his keenest pang among the torments I will heap upon him." Zeus could not just take fire back, because a god or goddess could not take away what the other had given.

Zeus was enraged because the giving of fire began an era of enlightment for Man, and had Prometheus carried to Mount Caucasus, where an eagle (often mistaken as a vulture) by the name of Ethon (offspring of the monsters Typhon and Echidna) would pick at his liver; it would grow back each day and the eagle would eat it again. Curiously, the liver is one of the rare human organs to regenerate itself spontaneously in the case of lesion. The ancient Greeks were well aware of this, since they named liver (Greek: hēpar, ήπαρ[1]) after hēpaomai (ηπάομαι[2]), hence hēpar actually means "repairable".

In some stories, Zeus has Prometheus tortured on the mountain because he knows the name of the person who, according to prophecy, will overthrow the king of the gods. This punishment was to last 30,000 years. About 12 generations later, Heracles (known as Hercules in Roman mythology), passing by on his way to find the apples of the Hesperides as part of the Twelve Labours, freed Prometheus. Once free, Prometheus captured the eagle and ate his liver as revenge for his pain and suffering. Zeus did not mind this time that Prometheus had again evaded his punishment, as the act brought more glory to Heracles, who was Zeus's son. However, there was a problem. Zeus had made the decision that Prometheus would be tied in the rock for eternity. According to Greek mythology, this could never change, even if Zeus himself wished it. Finally, a solution was found. Prometheus was invited to return to Olympus and was given a ring by Zeus which contained a piece of the rock to which Prometheus had been bound. Prometheus liked this ring and decided to wear it thereafter for eternity. According to some myths, Hercules was told by Zeus to tell Prometheus the solution.

To punish man for the offenses of Prometheus, Zeus told Hephaestus to "mingle together all things loveliest, sweetest, and best, but look that you also mingle therewith the opposites of each." So Hephaestus took gold and dross, wax and flint, pure snow and mud of the highways, honey and gall; he took the bloom of the rose and the toad's venom, the voice of laughing water and the peacocks squall; he took the sea's beauty and its treachery, the dog's fidelity and the wind's inconstancy, and the mother bird's heart of love and the cruelty of the tiger. All these, and other contraries past number, he blended cunningly into one substance and this he molded into the shape that Zeus had described to him. She was as beautiful as a goddess and Zeus named her Pandora which meant "all gifted".

Zeus breathed upon her image, and it lived. Zeus sent her to wed Prometheus' brother, Epimetheus, and although Prometheus had warned his brother never to accept gifts from the Olympians, Epimetheus was love-stricken, and he and Pandora wed. The Gods adorned the couple with many wedding gifts, and Zeus presented them with a beautifully wrought box. When Pandora opened the box, all suffering and despair was unleashed upon mankind. Zeus had had his revenge.

((Pandora, in other stories, was said to be the root of evil, knowing what was in the box when Zeus gave it to her, and opened it anyway. In some stories, she was simply a woman with an insatiable amount of curiosity. Zeus gave her the box, told her not to open it, but curiosity got the better of her, and she opened it anyway, releasing evils upon the world. In almost all Pandora stories, someone //she or Epimetheus// manages to close the box before everything escaped, but in their mourning over what had happened to the world, did not remember to lock the lid, and the last of what was in the box came out. At the bottom of the box, placed there by one of the other goddesses //Either Athena or Hera// was hope. Hope for humanity to hold to when the worst has come to pass. ))

As the introducer of fire and inventor of crafts, Prometheus was seen as the patron of human civilization. Uncertain sources claim he was worshiped in ancient Rome as well, along with other gods.

He was the father of Deucalion with Pronoia who is often confused as Clymene because the both of them are often called by the same other name, Asia.

[edit] Worship

Prometheus had a small shrine in the Kerameikos, or potter's quarter, of Athens, not far from Plato's Academy.

I) Athens, chief city of Attica (Southern Greece)

"In the Akademia [outside Athens] is an altar to Prometheus, and from it they run to the city carrying burning torches. The contest is while running to keep the torch still alight; if the torch of the first runner goes out, he has no longer any claim to victory, but the second runner has. If his torch also goes out, then the third man is the victor. If all the torches go out, no one is left to be the winner."

II) Argos, chief city of Argolis (Southern Greece)

The Argives possessed a tomb of Prometheus,who honoured him as a dead hero.

(III) Opous, chief city of Lokris (Central Greece)

"As to the tomb of Prometheus, their account seems to me to be less probable than that of the Opuntians [who also claimed a grave] , but they hold to it nevertheless." [1]

[edit] Promethean myth in culture

The cloned horse Prometea, and Prometheus, a moon of Saturn, are named after this Titan, as is the asteroid 1809 Prometheus. The story of Prometheus has inspired many authors through the ages, and the Romantics saw Prometheus as a prototype of the natural daemon or genius. Promethius is a mythical analogue of Lucifer.

Sculpture of Prometheus in front of the GE Building at the Rockefeller Center (New York City, New York, USA).
Sculpture of Prometheus in front of the GE Building at the Rockefeller Center (New York City, New York, USA).
Digital Webbing Presents #26, featuring "The Prometheus Effect"
Digital Webbing Presents #26, featuring "The Prometheus Effect"
  • Prometheus Radio Project - Non-profit group in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that fights to transfer control of the public airwaves from large corporations to the public. Best known for the lawsuit Prometheus Radio Project v. FCC that stopped the FCC's attempt to further deregulate media ownership rules.
  • Prometheus BoundAeschylus, 525-456 BC, a play
  • Prometheus Being Chained by VulcanDirck van Baburen, 1623, a painting
  • PrometheusLudwig van Beethoven, Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus, op. 43
  • PrometheusJohann Wolfgang von Goethe, a poem
  • PrometheusLord Byron, a poem
  • Promethidion- Cyprian Kamil Norwid, a poem on Greek dialogue
  • Frankenstein; or, The Modern PrometheusMary Shelley, 1818, a novel
  • Prometheus UnboundPercy Bysshe Shelley, 1819, a play with poetic dialogue
  • PrometheusThomas Kibble Hervey, 1832, a poem
  • PrometheusFranz Liszt, Symphonic Poem No. 5
  • Prometheus: Poem of FireAlexander Scriabin, 1910, an orchestral poem
  • Prometheus UnboundGranville Bantock, 1933, a work for brass band
  • PrometheusCarl Orff, 1968, an opera
  • Prometheus Books − a secular humanist publishing house founded in 1969 by Paul Kurtz
  • PrometheusLuigi Nono, 1992, the "Prometeo" Suite
  • Prometheus − Jean-Pierre Nouvel, 2004, a symphonic poem
  • PrometheusTony Harrison, 1998, a feature film with poetic dialogue linking the myth to industrial decline
  • Prometheus on His CragTed Hughes, 1979, a series of poems reflecting on the Prometheus myth
  • Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire & DemiseEmperor, 2001, a black metal concept album
  • Prometheus RisingRobert Anton Wilson, 1983, a psychology guidebook
  • Prometheus − name adopted by Equality 7-2521 in Ayn Rand's novella Anthem after he attempts to bring forbidden knowledge to the people.
  • The independent comic book title, Digital Webbing Presents #26, featured a cover story by writer Ryan Scott Ottney and artist Joe Dodd, titled "The Prometheus Effect". The story used Prometheus as a Superman-figure who had to pay a great penance for using his amazing powers to help mankind. This story mirrors the original myth of Prometheus bringing fire to man, and ultimately suffering eternal punishment at the hands of Zeus.
  • In Garth Nix's series of novels, The Keys to The Kingdom, "The Old One" is very similar to Prometheus. He is punished for 'interfering with the secondary realms' by being chained to a clock and having his eyes gouged out each day only for them to grow back by next morning. One of the characters mentions that the punishment had changed, and he used to have his liver eaten by an eagle.
  • In Mark Jasobson's novel Gojiro Joseph Prometheus Brooks is the inventor of the A-bomb.
  • Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of Shakespeare's first plays, features a character named Prometheus, perhaps because of his two-sided, inconstant nature in the choice between two women.
  • In the computer game Earthsiege (and its subsequent sequels) Prometheus is the primary villain, and controller of the Cybrids. In the compendium included with the Starsiege game, it tells of Prometheus bringing a malevolent fire to humanity.
  • In the movie Superman Returns, the evil Lex Luthor (played by Kevin Spacey) compares himself to Prometheus, saying that he wants to "bring fire to the people".
  • Post-punk band the Pop Group's debut album, Y, included a song titled "Thief of Fire." The track is heavily informed by Promethean symbolism and the idea of bringing previously forbidden knowledge into the light of reason.
  • Prometheus − the best-known persona of psychedelic trance musician Benji Vaughan
  • The roleplaying game Promethean: The Created published in 2006 by White Wolf, Inc. features beings called "Prometheans", which are made from the dead and animated through ritual and a divine fire known as Pyros.
  • In The X-Files episode The Post-Modern Prometheus, a modern-day geneticist has created a hideously deformed human. The title of the episode is an homage and reference to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (The Modern Prometheus) as well as James Whale's film adaptation.
  • American Prometheus — biography of J. Robert Oppenheimer, written by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin. It received the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.
  • The band The Fire Theft pays tribute to the myth of Prometheus in their name.
  • Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus are key figures in the philosophy of Bernard Stiegler. Through these figures Stiegler discusses the relation between anthropogenesis and technogenesis.
  • In the novel Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein, the main character, Valentine Michael Smith, is compared to Prometheus in that he brings a wealth of Martian knowledge to humans. He later shares a similar fate as his comparison.
  • Prometheus Road by Bruce Balfour. Tom Elliot finds himself brought to finding a way to save his world from the "gods" — artificial intelligences — that rule his world. Using the titular "Prometheus Road" (a term for lucid dreaming) he must take the Jewel of Dreaming from the AIs and disrupt their reign.
  • In Jasper Fforde's novels The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear Prometheus appears as a secondary character. Long since released from the rock by Hercules, he now is hiding out in England seeking political amnesty from Zeus' wrath. He is a lodger in the house of protagonist Jack Spratt, where he enjoys being the subject of admiration by Jacks rebellious teenage son, and eventually marries Jack's daughter Pandora (not the mythical one). Humorously, he also reveals to jack that he actually dislikes Shelley's Prometheus Unbound, which he says is inaccurate; specifically, the idea that he married Asia and had a child with her (apparently the truth was that he had met her at a party, and that she was "myopic and couldn't pronounce her 'r's.")
  • In the non-canon Star Trek novel I, Q written by the John de Lancie who portrayed the character Q it was revealed that Q spent several centuries chained up to a rock on Earth with animals and early humans tormenting him. He then said that primitive humans assumed he was some sort of god and that he was inspiration for both Prometheus and Loki.
  • In the science-fiction TV show Stargate SG-1, the X-303 Prometheus was the first successful interstellar spaceship (after the failed X-301 from "Tangent") built by the U.S. Air Force. The ship incorporated advanced technology taken from aliens posing as gods; it was eventually destroyed in an episode entitled Ethon.
  • In Mega Man ZX, Prometheus is the name of one of the two mysterious antagonists that appear in the game.
  • Prometheus is the name used by Proto Man in the sprite comic Bob and George, when he lives in the future with Mega Man X and Zero.
  • Prometheus is one of the main characters in The Fire Thief Trilogy by: Terry Deary
  • Prometheus was one of the title characters in Prometheus and Bob, a segment on Nickelodeon's "KaBlam!"
  • Mount Prometheus at Tokyo DisneySea at the Tokyo Disneyland Resort is named after the titan
  • The blackened death-metal band Dissection refers to Prometheus in their song "God of Forbidden Light".
  • "Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse" was the first single released off the indie pop band Of Montreal's 2007 album, Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?. It was also released as a music video.[2]
  • In the book Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel, Theodore Grunel constructed a Prometheus Engine that created Helium from only air, water, and sunlight
  • In the Superman animated TV series, the episode The Prometheon features a huge humanoid who falls to Earth from space, and who can absorb any energy, including fire.
  • In the video game God of War II, protagonist Kratos kills Prometheus to free him from his torment, and is awarded with the Rage of the Titans power.
  • In the On-line Sci-Fi series: Project Terra, Prometheus was the first name given to Agent 122's Transport craft. Later re-writes renamed the ship Vesta after the Greek God for Earth.
  • Prometheus is the name for 2 Federation starships in the Star Trek Franchise.
  • Prometheus is also the name of Stargate SG-1's 121st episode.
  • Prometheus is one of the two aircraft carriers trapped inside the SDF-1 first spacefold attempt from Macross Island in the Robotech series. The carrier and its sister ship, the Daedalus, was attached to the SDF-1 and served as its arms when in Battle mode.
  • In the TV Series of X-men, Jean Gray's pet cat is named after Prometheus, shown during the "Dark Phoenix Saga".
  • Franz Kafka wrote about the myth of Prometheus in a short story.
  • Prometheus appears in the 1994 telemovie Hercules and the Circle of Fire (one of the five movies that led up to the series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys). He also appears in the episode also called "Prometheus" in Hercules spin off Xena: Warrior Princess, where he has a different appearance.
  • Prometheus Bound - Charles-Valentin Alkan, Grande Sonate: Les Quatres Ages, fourth movement (50 Ans)
  • In James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, a refrence is made to the Promethean Myth when in the first chapter Dante warns Stephen that if he does not stop endulging in flights of fancy, the eagles will come and poke out his eyes. This is similar to the situation Prometheus finds himself in as he is chained to the mountain top.
  • In Thomas Hardy's Novel, The Return of the Native , Hardy notes that "to light a fire is the resistant act of man when, at the winter ingress, a curfew is sounded throughout nature. It isndicates a spontaneous, Promethean rebelliousness against the fiat that this season shall bring foul times, misery, and death. Black chaos comes, and the fettered gods of the Earth say let there be light."