The Creation of Man by Prometheus

Source Document

According to Plato, in some traditions (but not recorded in Hesiod or Aeschylus) Prometheus shaped the whole race of mankind out of clay and water, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure. Prometheus had assigned Epimetheus (his brother) the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man, Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man.

So Prometheus decided to make man stand upright as the gods did and to give them fire. According to Hesiod, this age was the Golden Age when mankind, though mortal, lived a very long life and communed with the gods.

Prometheus and Epimetheus were spared imprisonment in Tartarus because they had not fought with their fellow Titans during the war between Chronos and the Olympians.

When Zeus decreed that man must present a portion of each animal they sacrificed to the gods, Prometheus decided to trick Zeus. From an ox he created two piles, one with the bones wrapped in juicy fat, the other with the good meat upon the hide but covered by the ox's stomach. He asked Zeus to pick his portion. Zeus picked the bones. Since he had given his word, Zeus had to accept the bones as his share for future sacrifices.

In his anger, he took fire away from man. However, Prometheus lit a torch from the sun and brought it back. Zeus was enraged. He decided to inflict a terrible punishment on both man and Prometheus. To punish man, Zeus had Hephaestus create a mortal of stunning beauty.
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Hephaestus threw himself to work almost instantly. He mixed some earth with water and fashioned from the mixture “a sweet, lovely, maiden-shape, like to the immortal goddesses in face.” Athena dressed this new being in a beautiful silvery gown, and taught it needlework and weaving. Then, Aphrodite joined in, adding some elegance and longing to the mix. The Graces and Peitho (Persuasion) gifted the being with golden necklaces, and the rich-haired Horae placed a flowery garland upon its head. Finally, Hermes put in it the voice of humankind and, at the will of Zeus, contrived within this voice many lies and crafty words. It was a masterwork for the ages this being, so beautiful and devious at the same time that wonder took hold of the deathless gods themselves! They called it Pandora, meaning the “All-Endowed,” because each of the gods who dwell on Olympus gave it some kind of a gift. Of her, writes Hesiod “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.” The Jar of Pandora (“Pandora’s Box”) Now, it seems that the “sheer guile” of Pandora wasn’t enough of a punishment for mankind. So, the gods also bequeathed her with numerous other gifts – plagues and evils to men who eat bread – which they packed neatly in a beautiful jar, her supposed dowry. With the jar in hand, Pandora was given in marriage to Epimetheus, Prometheus' brother, who accepted the divine gift despite his brother's warnings to never take a gift from Olympian Zeus. One day – out of curiosity and not out of malice – Pandora lifted the lid of the jar, thus instantaneously releasing all evils and diseases into the world. Shocked by what had happened, she quickly tried to put the lid back, managing to merely trap Hope inside it. That is why Hope is the last thing that dies in man: even though deceitful from time to time, it is the only consolation humans have for all the troubles Pandora let loose on the world. This event ended the trouble-free Golden Age of Man, and the beginning of the Silver Age, the second of the five Ages of Man. After some time, Pandora bore Epimetheus a daughter named Pyrrha who was subsequently given in marriage to Prometheus’ son, Deucalion. Deucalion and Pyrrha were the only two mortals who survived the Great Flood sent by Zeus to end the third Bronze Age. Afterward, Pyrrha and Deucalion repopulated the earth by fashioning men and women out of stones.
Zeus was also angry at Prometheus for refusing to tell him which of Zeus's children would dethrone him. With respect to that matter, while various children (Athena, Apollo, Hera) tried, none were ultimately successful. But back to Prometheus, Zeus had his servants, Force and Violence, seize Prometheus, take him to the Caucasus Mountains, and chain him to a rock with unbreakable adamantine chains. Here he was tormented day and night by a giant eagle tearing at his liver. Zeus gave Prometheus two ways out of this torment. He could tell Zeus who the mother of the child that would dethrone him was. Or meet two conditions: First, that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus. Second a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him. Eventually, Heracles (Hercules in Roman mythology) killed the eagle and unbound him. And Chiron the Centaur, wounded by Hercules, took on mortality.

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