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“Zeus, most glorious and greatest of gods eternally living,
choose for yourself of these helpings the one that your heart desires.” – Prometheus, Hesiod’s Theogony

The myth of Prometheus stealing the fire from Zeus first appeared in  Hesiod’s Theogony (late 8th century BC). Prometheus was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the brother of Menoetius, Atlas, and Epimetheus. In Theogony, Hesiod introduces Prometheus as a lowly challenger to Zeus’s omniscience and omnipotence.  In the trick at Mekone, a sacrificial meal marking the “settling of accounts” between mortals and immortals, Prometheus played a trick against Zeus. He placed two sacrificial offerings for Zeus to choose from: a selection of excellent beef hidden inside an ox’s stomach (so that it looks less appetizing), and the bull’s bones wrapped completely in “glistening fat” (so that they look more appetizing to Zeus). Zeus was fooled and chose the the bones wrapped in fat, setting a precedent for future sacrifices where humans would keep that meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods.

This eventually angered Zeus, who hid the fire from humans in retribution. In this earlier version of the myth, the use of fire was already known to humans but it was taken away from them by Zeus. Prometheus, however, stole fire back and restored it to humanity. This further enraged Zeus, who – in yet another a version of the story – sent Pandora, the first woman, to live with humanity. In this early myth, Pandora was created 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.”

The myth of Prometheus and Pandora

The myth of Demeter, Persephone and Hades

The myth of Pentheus and Dionysus

The myth of Aphrodite and Anchises

The myth of Demeter and Triptolemus

Prometheus, in eternal punishment for stealing fire from the gods, is chained to a rock in the Caucasus. His liver eaten daily by an eagle, only to be regenerated by night, because Prometheus was immortal. Years later, the Greek hero Heracles (Hercules) slained the eagle and set Prometheus free from this torment.

Hesiod revisited the story of Prometheus in the Works and Days. There, Hesiod expands on the story and expands upon Zeus’s reaction to the deception of Prometheus. In this version Zeus withhold fire from humanity, and he also wihhold “the means of life,” as well. As Hesiod recounts in Workds and days,  if Prometheus had not provoked Zeus’s wrath, “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 revsitis and expands the story of the first woman, now specificly called Pandora (“all gifts”). According to this expanded story,  Zeus sent Pandora to earth as “gift” from the gods, in retaliation after he realized that Prometheus stole the fire from the gods. Despite Prometheus’ warning, his brother Epimetheus accepted this “gift” from the gods. Pandora carried with her a jar (known as Pandora’s box) , from which were released “all evils, harsh pain and troublesome diseases which give men death”. Pandora managed to close the lid of the jar too late to contain all the evil plights that escaped, but hope remained in the jar.

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