Prometheus was, perhaps, the wiser of the two. His visions and speech were those of a prophet, and he saw far into the future. He even knew of events which were to take place on Mount Olympus, and could foretell the deeds of Zeus himself. One day he looked down upon the earth, and saw that men were neither as wise nor as happy as they might be; and he determined to help them by doing a daring deed.
This was neither more nor less than the stealing of the fire which the gods held sacred. Prometheus saw how, in many ways, it would help and benefit mankind, and without hesitation, he took it to the earth, and gave it to the savage men who were living in cheerless caves, and were cold and hungry, unloving and unloved. After they had received the gift of fire, these savage men began to grow wiser, and to build better houses, eat better food, and dress in better clothing. Soon Zeus saw that a great change had taken place in the lives of the people of the earth; but instead of being glad, he was very angry, for he thought that Prometheus desired to take his place as ruler over the gods. He was angry, too, because Prometheus had stolen the sacred fire.
So he planned a terrible punishment for the kind-hearted giant, who had never dreamed of doing an injury to Zeus. Two heartless giants, Force and Strength, were called, together with the mighty blacksmith. Hephaestus, before the throne of Zeus; and the three were commanded to chain Prometheus to the rocks which overlooked the angry seaways. Not content with thus making a captive of the good giant. Zeus sent a vulture to torment him with its beak and talons. It was hard to suffer thus for doing what he had thought was right and good. Force and Strength riveted the chains upon Prometheus' arms and ankles, as if they enjoyed the work; but Hephaestus had a kind heart, after all. for he said. ' I dread to bind a kindred god to this wild cliff, but I must steel my soul and dare. Zeus' high commands require a prompt obedience."
They left Prometheus alone, with only the sky and sea for company; but the sky was pitiless, and the waves sighed and moaned, as also did Prometheus, but not because of the pain he was forced to withstand from the cruel bands and savage vultures. His greatest pain was the thought of the ingratitude of Zeus; for once, when the angry Titans had planned to drive him from his throne, Prometheus had, by his counsel, changed their designs.
While Prometheus lay chained to the rocks, a group of water-nymphs came up out of the ocean, and sang to him songs of comfort and sympathy. " Why art thou here, great Prometheus?" they sang. "Tell us, for what offence does Zeus inflict this punishment?
Then Prometheus told them how he had stolen the fire from heaven, and had given it to men; how he had put Hope into their hearts, and had given them memory; how he had taught them to watch the stars, the changing seasons, and the varying winds; how to yoke the ox, and train the steed to whirl the rapid chariot.
"I taught them to build the tall bark, and to guide its course while lightly bounding over the waves; how to search deep into the earth for her treasures; how to chase each pale disease and soften pain; and, in a word, Prometheus taught each useful art to men, yet have I not the art which shall free me from these chains." The nymphs again and again came to bring solace to the unhappy Prometheus; and you will be glad to know that he was freed at last, after much suffering; for thus do freedom and right always triumph.
The Myth of Prometheus
|Gods and Deities|