Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Prometheus

In Greek mythology, Prometheus (Ancient Greek: Προμηθεύς, "Forethinker") is a Titan, the son of Iapetus and Themis, and brother to Atlas, Epimetheus and Menoetius. He was a champion of mankind, known for his wily intelligence, who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to mortals. Zeus then punished him for his crime by having him bound to a rock while a great eagle ate his liver every day only to have it grow back to be eaten again the next day. His myth has been treated by a number of ancient sources, in which Prometheus is credited with – or blamed for – playing a pivotal role in the early history of mankind. During the Greek War of Independence, Prometheus became a figure of hope and inspiration for Greek revolutionaries and their philhellene supporters.

The Prometheus myth first appeared in the late 8th-century BC Greek epic poet Hesiod's Theogony (lines 507–616). He was a son of the Titan, Iapetus by Clymene, one of the Oceanids. He was brother to Menoetius, Atlas, and Epimetheus. In the Theogony, Hesiod introduces Prometheus as a lowly challenger to Zeus's omniscience and omnipotence. In the trick at Mecone, a sacrificial meal marking the "settling of accounts" between mortals and immortals, Prometheus played a trick against Zeus (545–557). He placed two sacrificial offerings before the Olympian: a selection of beef hidden inside an ox's stomach (nourishment hidden inside a displeasing exterior), and the bull's bones wrapped completely in "glistening fat" (something inedible hidden inside a pleasing exterior). Zeus chose the latter, setting a precedent for future sacrifices; henceforth, humans would keep the meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods. This angered Zeus, who hid fire from humans in retribution. Prometheus in turn stole fire in a giant fennel-stalk and gave it back to mankind. This further enraged Zeus, who sent Pandora, the first woman, to live with men. She was fashioned by Hephaestus out of clay and brought to life by the four winds, with all the goddesses of Olympus assembled to adorn her. "From her is the race of women and female kind," Hesiod writes; "of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth."

Prometheus, in eternal punishment, is chained to a rock in the Caucasus, where his liver is eaten daily by an eagle, only to be regenerated by night, which, by legend, is due to his immortality. Years later, the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules) slays the eagle and frees Prometheus from his chains.

Hesiod revisits the story of Prometheus in the Works and Days (lines 42–105). Here, the poet expands upon Zeus's reaction to the theft of fire. Not only does Zeus withhold fire from men, but "the means of life," as well (42). Had Prometheus not provoked Zeus's wrath (44–47), "you would easily do work enough in a day to supply you for a full year even without working; soon would you put away your rudder over the smoke, and the fields worked by ox and sturdy mule would run to waste." Hesiod also expands upon the Theogony's story of the first woman, now explicitly called Pandora ("all gifts"). After Prometheus' theft of fire, Zeus sent Pandora in retaliation. Despite Prometheus' warning, Epimetheus accepted this "gift" from the gods. Pandora carried a jar with her, from which were released (91–92) "evils, harsh pain and troublesome diseases which give men death". Pandora shut the lid of the jar too late to contain all the evil plights that escaped, but hope remained in the jar.

Angelo Casanova, Professor of Greek Literature at the University of Florence, finds in Prometheus a reflection of an ancient, pre-Hesiodic trickster-figure, who served to account for the mixture of good and bad in human life, and whose fashioning of men from clay was an Eastern motif familiar in Enuma Elish; as an opponent of Zeus he was an analogue of the Titans, and like them was punished. As an advocate for humanity he gains semi-divine status at Athens, where the episode in Theogony in which he is liberated is interpreted by Casanova as a post-Hesiodic interpolation.

# Prometheus had a small shrine in the Kerameikos, or potter's quarter, of Athens, not far from the Academy. The Academy had its own altar dedicated to Prometheus. According to the 2nd-century AD Greek traveler Pausanias, this site was central to a torch race dedicated to Prometheus.
# Pausanias also wrote that the Greek cities of Argos and Opous both claimed to be Prometheus' final resting place, each erecting a tomb in his honor.
# Finally, Pausanias attested that in the Greek city of Panopeus there was a cult statue claimed by some to depict Prometheus, for having created the human race there

The two most prominent aspects of the Prometheus myth – the creation of man from clay and the theft of fire – have parallels within the beliefs of many cultures throughout the world:
The creation of man from clay

* In the Babylonian creation epic Enuma Elish, the goddess Ninhursag created humans from clay.
* In Africa, the Yoruba culture holds that the god Obatala likewise created the human race from clay.
* In Egyptian mythology, the ram-headed god Khnum made people from clay in the waters of the Nile.
* In Chinese myth, the goddess Nüwa created the first humans from mud and clay.
* According to Genesis 2:7 "And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
* According to Qur'an[23:12–15], Allah created man from clay.
* Mayan myth holds that Tepeu and Kukulkán (Quetzalcoatl) made the first humans from clay, but they were unsatisfactory.
* The Māori people believe that Tāne Mahuta, god of the forest, created the first woman out of clay and breathed life into her.

The theft of fire

* According to the Rig Veda (3:9.5), the hero Mātariśvan recovered fire, which had been hidden from mankind.
* In Cherokee myth, after Possum and Buzzard had failed to steal fire, Grandmother Spider used her web to sneak into the land of light. She stole fire, hiding it in a clay pot.
* Among various Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and First Nations, fire was stolen and given to humans by Coyote, Beaver or Dog.
* According to some Yukon First Nations people, Crow stole fire from a volcano in the middle of the water.
* According to the Creek Native Americans, Rabbit stole fire from the Weasels.
* In Algonquin myth, Rabbit stole fire from an old man and his two daughters.
* In Ojibwa myth, Nanabozho the hare stole fire and gave it to humans.
* In Polynesian myth, Māui stole fire from the Mudhens.
* In the Book of Enoch, the fallen angels and Azazel teach early mankind to use tools and fire.

Punishment

* In Norse mythology, the god Loki was bound to a rock. Above him is a large serpent which drips toxic venom upon him. His wife collects the poison in a bowl, but must empty it every time it gets full. As she is in the process of doing this, the snake proceeds to cover Loki in poison. Just as Prometheus gets his liver eaten only to have it grow back again, Loki is temporarily saved from venom only to have it drip on him once more.
* In Georgian mythology Amirani challenged the chief god and for that was chained on Caucasian mountains where birds would eat his organs.

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