Prometheus

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In religio-mythology, Prometheus (TR:9) (LH:3) (TL:11), or Προμηθεύς (Greek), from Προμη- "for" + θεύς "thought", from god (theos), meaning "forethought" (Smith, 1849)[1], refers to []

Overview

In 750BC, Hesiod, in his Theogony, introduces the character Prometheus as follows:[2]

“Now Iapetus took to wife the neat-ankled maid Clymene, daughter of Ocean, and went up with her into one bed. And she bore him a stout-hearted son, Atlas [Egyptian: Shu]: [510] also she bore very glorious Menoetius and clever Prometheus, full of various wiles, and scatter-brained Epimetheus who from the first was a mischief to men who eat bread; for it was he who first took of Zeus [Egyptian: Atum-Ra] the woman, the maiden whom he had formed. But Menoetius was outrageous, and farseeing Zeus [515] struck him with a lurid thunderbolt and sent him down to Erebus because of his mad presumption and exceeding pride. And Atlas through hard constraint upholds the wide heaven with unwearying head and arms, standing at the borders of the earth before the clear-voiced Hesperides; [520] for this lot wise Zeus assigned to him. And ready-witted Prometheus he bound with inextricable bonds, cruel chains, and drove a shaft through his middle, and set on him a long-winged eagle, which used to eat his immortal liver; but by night the liver grew [525] as much again everyway as the long-winged bird devoured in the whole day. That bird Heracles, the valiant son of shapely-ankled Alcmene, slew; and delivered the son of Iapetus from the cruel plague, and released him from his affliction—not without the will of Olympian Zeus who reigns on high, [530] that the glory of Heracles the Theban-born might be yet greater than it was before over the plenteous earth. This, then, he regarded, and honored his famous son; though he was angry, he ceased from the wrath which he had before because Prometheus matched himself in wit with the almighty son of Cronos. [535] For when the gods and mortal men had a dispute at Mecone, even then Prometheus was forward to cut up a great ox and set portions before them, trying to deceive the mind of Zeus. Before the rest he set flesh and inner parts thick with fat upon the hide, covering them with an ox paunch; [540] but for Zeus he put the white bones dressed up with cunning art and covered with shining fat. Then the father of men and of gods said to him: “Son of Iapetus, most glorious of all lords, good sir, how unfairly you have divided the portions!”

Other variants of this myth, supposedly, followed; told as plays.

Prometheus Bound

In 660BC, Aeschylus, in his Prometheus Bound, gave another interpretation of the Prometheus, which starts after Zeus has assumed control of heaven and learned about the fire theft.

“Yea, stored in fennel did I carry off a stolen fount of fire. I cannot keep silence, and yet I find it hard to speak and confess my fault. I find it hard to speak, because I stole the fire against Zeus’ will, and hard to be silent because I have benefited men.”
— Aeschylus (660), Prometheus Bound (pgs. #)[3]
The Poetry In Translation rendering of the dramatic characters of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound.[4]

The following are Aeschylus' main characters:[5][6]

  • Power: divine agent of Zeus [Egyptian: Atum-Ra]
  • Force: divine agent of Zeus
  • Prometheus: protagonist; shows that if ‘intellect’ and ‘force’ cannot work together, then intellect must oppose force, since it is useless if dominated by ‘power’[7]
  • Hephaestus [Egyptian: Ptah]: divine son of Zeus, the artisan god
  • Chorus: daughters of Oceanus
  • Oceanus: a god of the sea [Egyptian: Nun]
  • Io daughter of Inachus
  • Hermes: divine sun of Zeus

Curiously, here we see "god" divided between power, force, and intellect?

Other

In 450BC, Anaxagoras, supposedly, was associating the “Nous” [Egyptian: Nun], or “intellect”, which created order from disorder, with both Jupiter [Greek: Zeus] and Prometheus; the following is one take on this:

“We learn from Eusebius, that the person, whom Anaxagoras called Nous or ‘intellect’, and whom he represented as producing an orderly world out of universal disorder, was the same both as Jupiter and as Prometheus.”
— George Faber (1816), The Origin of Pagan Idolatry (pgs. 267) [8]

In 150AD, Pseudo-Apollodorus, in his Bibliotheca, told that Prometheus had molded men out of water and earth.

In 310AD, Iamblichus described things as follows:

“Hence, they call the monadPrometheus’, the artificer of life, because, uniquely, it in no way outruns or departs from its own principle, nor allows anything else to do so, since it shares out its own properties.”
Iamblichus (c.310), The Theology of Arithmetic (pg. 38)

In 1600, Shakespeare refereed to the "heat of Prometheus" was being though of as principle of life:

“I know not where is that Promethean heat, that can thy life relum.”
William Shakespeare (1603), Othello, the Moor of Venice [9]

In 1808, Ludwig Beethoven composed his The Creatures of Prometheus, wherein Prometheus is cast no longer as the rebellious, fire-stealing liberator of humankind, but instead as an artist, creating man and women from clay and using his stolen fire as the ‘spark of life’.[10]

In 1818, Mary Shelley, in her Frankenstein: the Modern Prometheus, told a tale of a "Victor Frankenstein", the protagonist, Italian-Swiss scientist, modeled on a mixture of Percy Shelley, Luigi Galvani, and Paracelsus, who brings a "dead" human to "life", via electrical re-animation.

In 1820, Percy Shelley, in his Prometheus Unbound, retells Aeschylus’ version of the play, with the twist that there is no reconciliation between Prometheus and Jupiter (Zeus) at the end.[11]

In 1910, in Britannica, in the "fire" section, the Prometheus myth, had become the story that Prometheus “animated a figure of clay by putting into it a spark of [divine] fire”, which brought the first humans to life, or something to this effect.[12]

In 2006, the online Myth Encyclopedia gave the following synopsis:[13]

“Prometheus was given the task of determining how sacrifices were to be made to the gods. He cut up a bull and divided it into two portions. One contained the animal's flesh and skin, but they were concealed beneath the bull's stomach, the least appetizing part of the animal. The other consisted of the bones, wrapped in a rich layer of fat. Prometheus then asked Zeus to choose a portion for himself, leaving the other for humans. Fooled by the outward appearance of the portions, Zeus chose the one containing the bones and fat. Prometheus thus ensured that humans got the best meat.  Angered by this trick, Zeus punished humans by withholding fire from them so that they would have to live in cold and darkness and eat meat raw. Prometheus promptly went to Olympus, stole a spark of fire from Hephaestus [Egyptian: Ptah], and carried it back to humans. When Zeus discovered what Prometheus had done, he swore revenge. He ordered Hephaestus to create a woman from clay, and he had the winds breathe life into her. Athena and other goddesses clothed the woman, whose name was Pandora.”

Here, Hephaestus (or Ptah) is the keeper of the sacred life fire, and is the one that shapes the humans, and breaths life into them?

Egyptian equivalent

The Egyptian equivalent, basis, or god syncretism or rescript behind the Greek character (see: god character rescripts)[14] of Prometheus, is a bit of a complex decipherment.

Ptah | Hephaestus

Firstly, we know that Hephaestus is the Greek god rescript of Ptah:

“The god Enki and the goddess Ninhursag made human beings from clay, and in Egypt the gods Knumn and Ptah threw the forms of men and women on the potter's wheel.”
— Anne Baring (1993), The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image (pg. #) [15]
Khnum [Khnumn], a fourth important divinity of the South, is styled Lord of Nubia ; and is called by Maspero the Niiegod of the cataracts. Khnum was called ‘builder of men’, ‘maker of the gods’, the ‘father from the beginning’, ‘creator of things which are, or shall be’, etc. He supported the heaven upon its four pillars in the beginning ; the earth, air, sea and sky are his handiwork. Our idea is that Khnum is the divinity of the South Pole, and contemporary with Ptah. The axis on which the universe turned had two pivots, and the southern god contributed to the work of creation as much as the northern god. We are told that Khnum laboured with Ptah in carrying out the work of creation ordered by Thoth; and again that Ptah was assisted in his work by the seven Khnumu or Architects. We remember the seven sons of Ptah. Ptah, besides being the fire-god, turning a drill and creating the flame of the sun, was conceived of as a ‘divine potter’, having power over the clay, and shaping things on his wheel. Ptah had modeled men with his own hands, and Khnum had formed them on a potter's table. At Philae[16] and at Dendera, Ptah is represented as piling upon his potter's table the plastic clay from which he is about to make a human body. According to Bunsen, he is even stated to have formed on his wheel the divine limbs of Osiris. Khnum is sometimes represented as molding the ‘egg of the universe’ out of the matter furnished by Ptah.”
— George Clair (1898), Creation Records Discovered in Egypt (418-19) [17]

Thoth | Prometheus?

An illustration of Khnum making man, out of clay, on his divine potter's wheel, with Thoth, who directs or orders the creation, standing behind him, recording the numbers of years of existence the clay man shall be allotted via the number of markings on his rod.[18]

Some have conjectured that Prometheus is a rescript of Thoth:

Thoth is the Egyptian Prometheus.”
— Ronna Burger (1980), Plato’s Phaedrus [19]

Quotes

The following are related quotes:

Prometheus, who made men, they say, should have been a blacksmith, and animated them with fire; for what’s made in fire must properly belong to fire.”
Herman Melville (1851), Moby Dick (§108: Ahab and the Carpenter)[20]
Prometheus, the great reformer and benefactor of mankind, son of the goddess Clymene, was stretched in a cruciform position on the rocks, and tormented by his father, Jupiter [Amen-Ra], who at length consented to allow Hercules [Horus] to liberate him, when he gained immortal fame for having by his agony procured light and knowledge for men. He was said to have formed the first man and woman out of clay, and afterwards to have animated them with the fire, which he stole from the chariot of the sun.”
— Herbert Hardwicke (1884), The Popular Faith Unveiled (pg. 49) [21]
“In appreciating the treatment by Aeschylus of the Prometheus myth we must remember that to the Athenians Prometheus was not one of the important deities. Though associated in their worship with their patron goddess Athena on the one hand and with Hephaistos on the other, he was looked upon simply as the ‘god of civilization’ (Wecklein, 1893), and the giver of fire to men. In commemoration of the latter at the annual festival of Προμηθεια [Procurement] was held a torch race run from the suburb, where Prometheus was worshiped, to the city.”
— Reginald Haines (1896), “Notes to Prometheus Bound” [3]

End matter

References

  1. Prometheus – A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology (Smith, 1849).
  2. Hesiod. (750BC). Theogony (translator: Hugh White) (§:507-540). Cambridge, 1914).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Aeschylus. (660BC). Prometheus Bound (translator: Reginald Haines) (fire, 19+ pgs; quote, pg. xxx). Sonnenschein, 1896.
  4. Prometheus Bound – PoetryInMotion.com.
  5. Aeschylus. (660BC). Prometheus Bound (translator: Herbert Smyth) (txt). Cambridge, 1926.
  6. Aeschylus. (660BC). Prometheus Bound (translator: Ian Johnston) (pdf). Vancouver Island University.
  7. Prometheus Bound – SparkNotes.com.
  8. Faber, George. (1816). The Origin of Pagan Idolatry (pgs. 267). Publisher.
  9. Shakespeare, William. (1603). Othello, the Moor of Venice (Act V, Scene 2) (txt). The Oxford Shakespeare, 1914.
  10. (a) The Creatures of Prometheus – Wikipedia.
    (b) Caeyers, Jan. (2020). Beethoven: a Life (pg. 153). Publisher.
  11. Prometheus Unbound (Shelley) – Wikipedia.
  12. Anon. (1910). The Encyclopædia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, and General Literature, Volume 9 (§:Fire, pg. 201). Publisher.
  13. Prometheus (WB) (2006) – MythEncyclopedia.com.
  14. God character rescripts – Hmolpedia 2020.
  15. Baring, Anne; Cashford, Jules. (1993). The Myth of the Goddess: Evolution of an Image (pg. #). Penguin.
  16. Philae – Wikipedia.
  17. Clair, George. (1898). Creation Records Discovered in Egypt: Studies in the Book of the Dead (§4: Khnumn, the South Pole, pgs. 418-19). Nutt.
  18. Budge, Wallis. (1904). The Gods of the Egyptians, Volume Two (image, pgs. 50-51). Dover, 1969.
  19. (a) Burger, Ronna. (1980). Plato’s Phaedrus: a Defense of Philosophic Art of Writing (pg. 90). University of Alabama Press.
    (b) Covino, William A. (1994). Magic, Rhetoric, and Literacy: an Eccentric History of the Composing Imagination (pg. 19). SUNY.
  20. Melville, Herman. (1851). Moby Dick: the Whale (txt). Publisher.
  21. Hardwicke, Herbert. (1884). The Popular Faith Unveiled (pg. 49). Publisher.

External links

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