In Greek mythology, the Titan Prometheus was known as something of a cunning trickster. He is best known for bestowing upon humanity the gifts of fire and metalworking, for which he was punished by Zeus, who made sure that each day an eagle devoured the Titan’s liver while he was helplessly chained to a rock.
Zeus commanded the Olympian gods and the Titans in a conflict that is claimed to have lasted ten years. Prometheus, whose name means “Forethought,” was one of the commanders of this conflict. Yet, when the Titans refused to heed his counsel to utilize deception in the conflict, Prometheus changed sides and sided with the triumphant Olympians.
The myth of Prometheus and fire causes us to really consider what mankind may have done if Prometheus hadn’t stolen the fire from Zeus. Nevertheless, the cheeky Titan of Greek mythology stole it, and while the mortals rejoiced, the God of all Gods mercilessly punished him.
The Mighty God had Prometheus imprisoned to the rock where the eagle was to consume his perpetually replenished liver each day since he regarded his deed as one of the largest crimes ever, even though it was not the first time Prometheus had deceived Zeus.
What a battle between the living and the dead! What a fantastic story for artistic expression and stage performances! Most importantly, the story of Prometheus and Zeus was not over after that punishment. However, let’s go back to the beginning.
Zeus and Prometheus
One of the Titans, Prometheus, was eventually consigned to Tartarus by a furious Zeus who objected to the Titans opposing him in the renowned Titanomachy Battle of the Titans.
Zeus released Prometheus from Tartarus and gave him the task of creating a man out of water and dirt despite the fact that he had no active involvement in the conflict. Prometheus succeeded in his mission, but as he was creating it, he developed a soft spot for people. The Gods and their hierarchy didn’t interest him at all, and despite how well they treated him, he felt much more at ease around immortals.
Zeus’ plan, in any event, was not to have men with extraordinary abilities. Nevertheless, Prometheus had different ideas and chose to take one of the divine abilities that particularly offended Zeus: fire.
In Hesiod’s Theogony, Prometheus’ parents are identified as Iapetus, Clymene, and Atlas. Prometheus’ brothers are identified as fellow Titans Epimetheus (Afterthought or Hindsight), Menoetius, and Atlas. One of Prometheus’ offspring was Deucalion, a reincarnation of Noah, who with his wife Pyrrha established the human species by surviving a catastrophic flood by sailing in a large chest for nine days and nights.
Prometheus Steals The Fire
It was simple to imagine stealing fire, but the reality was a little trickier. The cunning and intelligent Prometheus immediately devised a plan to fool the goddesses by tossing a golden pear (or, in some versions, an apple) into the courtyard with the inscription, “For the most beautiful goddess of all.”
The gods thoroughly enjoyed the scene as the goddesses got into a battle over the fruit, and it all went according to plan. Prometheus had little trouble stealing the fire from Hephaestus’s workshop because everyone was preoccupied. The Greek deity of fire, Hephaestus, was one of his many attributes. In a hollowed pumpkin or reed, depending on the story, Prometheus took the fire with him when he exited the Gods’ playground, brought it to Earth, and gave it to humans.
Zeus was furious, my word. Zeus decided it was enough after Prometheus repeatedly disobeyed him. But, he forced Hephaestus to bind Prometheus to Mount Caucasus so that the eagle would consume his liver indefinitely.
The Prometheus Punishment
Due to Prometheus’ theft of fire, Zeus sentenced the Titan to an endless torment by having him sent far to the east, maybe to the Caucasus. Here, Zeus dispatched an eagle to consume the Titan’s immortal liver while Prometheus was bound to a rock (or pillar). Even worse, the liver kept growing every night, and the eagle kept coming back to haunt Prometheus every day. Happily for the protector of mankind, but after many years, the hero Hercules shot down the eagle with one of his arrows as he passed by during one of his illustrious labors.
According to the Greek poet Hesiod, Zeus punished man for taking the fire by giving Hephaistos the order to make the first woman, Pandora, out of clay, who would bring upon the human race all the unfavorable aspects of life—labor, disease, battle, and death—and finally sever humanity from the gods.
In Athens, Prometheus was revered, especially by potters (who naturally needed fire in their kilns), and an annual torch race was organized in his honor. A Spartan ivory from the seventh century BCE and some Greek ceramics from around depict Prometheus for the first time in Greek art. 600 BCE, and was typically punished. Prometheus Bound by tragic poet Aeschylus dealt with the myth of Prometheus and his horrific punishment by Zeus.