Prometheus is an extremely popular character in Greek mythology and plays a significant role in many myths. According to the myths he is a Titan who represents fire. Some sources claim he created humans out of clay. Others say that he was the father of Deucalion, the only survivor of the great flood that wiped out all of humanity and marked the beginning of the bronze age of humans. But all sources consistently show that Prometheus loved humans and always tried to make their lives better.
The first question that you may have about Prometheus is his status as a titan. After all, didn’t Zeus lock up all the titans in Tartarus after the great war where he defeated Cronus and seized the throne? Well, Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus actually sided with the Gods of Olympus during the titanomachy. As a result, they were allowed to sit with the gods on Olympus and also roam the mortal world.
The Story of Zeus and Prometheus
The relationship between Zeus and Prometheus began to deteriorate after an incident known as the “trick at Mecone”. The gods and humans assembled at the city of Mecone to decide what portion of animal sacrifices must be given to the gods and what can be kept for human consumption. The “moderator” of this negotiation was to be Prometheus, who was neither a god nor a human but an ally of both.
But Prometheus’ love towards humans was stronger than his loyalty towards Zeus. The titan wanted humans to live in such a way that their quality of life matched that of the Gods, so he planned a trick.
Prometheus killed an Ox and split it up into 2 piles. The first pile had the best steaks and muscles of the ox, but they were hidden inside its intestines. The second pile had just the bones of the Ox, but those were wrapped in the thick fat of the Ox’s belly, making it look like a pile of choice meat.
Prometheus asked Zeus to pick one pile for the Gods, and he jumped at the opportunity to pick the pile of bones covered in fat. This set a precedent that required humans to burn an animal’s fat and bones as a sacrifice to the gods, while keeping the meat to themselves. Zeus was furious at being tricked and decided to get revenge on humanity. He took away their fire, plunging humans into an age of cold, darkness and uncooked food.
Naturally, Prometheus could not stand by while the humans he loved suffered so terribly. So, the titan secretly stole some fire from Hephaestus’ workshop and carried it to the humans, hidden in a fennel stalk. The next day, Zeus looked upon the world to see the humans still enjoying the warmth of fire. He felt betrayed and insulted by Prometheus and decided to punish him instead.
Zeus chained Prometheus to a rock near the volcano which is currently known as Mount Elbrus. Every day, an eagle would soar down from the sky and tear out Prometheus’ liver as he lay there helplessly. As the day passed, Prometheus’ wounds would heal and his lover would grow back, only to be torn out by the Eagle the next day. Prometheus would suffer like this for many years until he was finally rescued by the great hero Heracles.