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Prometheus
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Prometheus

This article is about the mytholgical figure. For the moon of Saturn, see Prometheus (moon).

In Greek mythology, Prometheus, or Prometheas ("forethought") is the Titan chiefly honored for stealing fire from the gods in the stalk of a fennel plant and giving it to mortals for their use.

Table of contents
1 Worship
2 Myth
3 Comparative Perspectives
4 Promethean myth in culture

Worship

As a god of fire and craft, Prometheus had a small shrine in the Keramikon, or potter's quarter, of Athens, not far from Plato's Academy.

Myth

Prometheus was a son of Iapetus by Clymene (one of the Oceanids). He was a brother of Atlas, Menoetius, and Epimetheus. He surpassed all in cunning and deceit. He held no awe for the gods, and he ridiculed Zeus and Zeus's lack of insight by killing two bulls, filling one bull skin with nothing but the animals' bones and the other with the animals' flesh. He then offered Zeus his choice of "bulls" for sacrifice. Zeus picked the bull made of bones, and Prometheus took the fruit of the flesh sacrifice for himself. To punish Prometheus for this hubris (and all of mankind in the process), Zeus took fire away from the earth. In turn, Prometheus set out to steal fire back. He climbed Olympus with the help of Athena and stole fire from the chariot of Apollo.

To get revenge on Prometheus for this further offense, Zeus had Hephaestus (Vulcan) make a woman made of clay named Pandora. Zeus brought her to life and sent her to Prometheus, along with a box of all the valuable presents she had received from the gods. Prometheus was suspicious and would have nothing to do with Pandora, claiming that she was foolish (lacking foresight), but he made Epimetheus marry her.

Zeus was further enraged by Prometheus's escape and had Prometheus carried to mount Caucasus, where a vulture or an eagle named Ethon would eat out his liver; it would grow back each day and the vulture would eat it again. This punishment was to last 30,000 years. About 30 years into the punishment, he was freed by Heracles and returned to Olympus. As the introducer of fire and inventor of sacrifice he is seen as the patron of human civilization. Uncertain sources claim he was worshipped in ancient Rome.

He was the father of Deucalion with Celaeno. Epimetheus, the husband of Pandora, is his brother.

Comparative Perspectives

In mythography, Prometheus may be classed among the trickster gods, such as Loki in Norse mythology (who likewise is a giant rather than a god, is associated with fire (a fire god), and is punished by being chained to a rock and tormented by an animal (a viper dripping venom on him)).

The motif is believed, by some, to have been borrowed from the Nart sagas of the Caucasian peoples, but the analogies with Loki seem to reveal an older Indo-European source.

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.

Rockefeller Center in New York City is a virtual shrine to Prometheus. His golden statue stands at the head of the central fountain, with lines from Aescylus inscribed below.