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Greek Gods and Goddesses



Prometheus, giver of fire


The Story of Prometheus

            Prometheus, a young Titan, was not a great admirer of Zeus, and had no trouble asking him many questions, even though he knew Zeus hated explicit questions.  One day he went to Zeus asking him why he did not give the race of man the gift of fire.  Zeus replied that man is happy now, and will be as long as no one persuades him that he is unhappy.

            Prometheus would not leave well enough alone, however, so he continued to question Zeus.  Zeus’s response was, “Do you not know, Prometheus, that every gift brings a penalty?  This is the way Fates weave destiny—by which gods also must abide.  Man does not have fire, true, nor the crafts which fire teaches.  On the other hand, he does not know disease, warfare, old age, or that inward pest called worry.  He is happy, I say, happy without fire.  And so he shall remain.”

            Prometheus asked Zeus what separates man from beasts, to which Zeus replied, “He has another quality, the capacity for worship.  An aptitude for admiring our power, being puzzled by riddles and amazed by our caprice.  That is why he was made.”  Zeus refused to discuss the matter further, so Prometheus left him.  He decided that if Zeus would not give man fire, he would just have to do it himself.  He stood tiptoe on Olympus and stretched a reed in his hand to the eastern horizon when a spark started, and he came down from the mountain, with the reed in his tunic.

            Men were frightened by the gift of fire, so much, that they asked Prometheus to take it away.  But then, when they saw what it could do to raw meat, they decided to keep it.  Zeus, looking down from the mountain one day, was amazed at what he saw.  Man had come out of his cage, and huts and villages had popped up.  They were carrying fire everywhere, and when Zeus saw this, he became enraged and was about to punish them for what they had done when a different thought occurred to him.  He would let them destroy themselves, which would be interesting to watch, he decided.  He then had Prometheus seized and chained to a mountain where two vultures were to hover over him forever, tearing at his belly and eating his liver.

            Prometheus was not rescued until another hero was born brave enough to defy the gods, and untie Prometheus.  His name was Heracles.

Created by Angie Briese