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Category Archives: Unusual Greek Myths

The Mystery of Plato’s Atlantis (part 2)

by June 12, 2013

Platopic2

Plato described the nation of Atlantis in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias

In a previous article we discussed the legend of Atlantis and how the ancient philosopher Plato, left us clues to the rise and fall of this island civilization. It is in Timaeus and Critias, two of Plato’s later dialogues, that we learn about the the nation of Atlantis that existed peacefully for generation,  and how it vanished beneath the waves after a failed invasion of Athens.

It is important to keep in mind that these essays by Plato are not historical texts, objectively verified and confirmed. In the same dialogue where Plato recounts the history of Atlantis, he also retells the story of the Phaëton, son of the god Helios, who drove a chariot of fire across the sky. It would be logical to assume that Atlantis is also myth. After all, it’s history is revealed to us by the character Critias who claims that his grandfather visited Egypt to meet with the the ancient Athenian law giver Solon. It is in Egypt that Solon reveals that the history of Atlantis is scrolled on an ancient piece of papyrus in hieroglyphs.

Essentially we are left with several thousand years worth of spoken history. It is a game of telephone  that has been played throughout countless centuries. And we must simply take it on faith that Plato knew what he was talking about. It leaves most skeptical, if not completely assured that Atlantis is myth. However, there is still one hypothesis that challenges these doubts with real archaeological evidence, and points to a very real location to the lost civilization.

santorini

Santorini is a Greek island that rests atop an ancient caldera

The island of Santorini, classically known as the island of Thera, is a very real land mass located in the southern Aegean sea. Santorini exist now as a crescent shaped island with a massive lagoon surrounded by 300 foot high cliffs. It existed once as a large rectangular island before it was absolutely demolished by an ancient volcanic explosion some 900 or 1000 years before Plato wrote about the lost civilization.

This volcanic explosion would be later known as the Theran eruption. The giant crater that now forms the lagoon of Santorini is actually the remnants of an ancient underground caldera that collapsed after it’s earth shattering eruption thousands of years ago. It is hypothesized that this explosion created huge tsunamis that devastated the neighboring island of Crete and lead to the destruction of the ancient Minoan civilization. The land, and any civilizations, atop the caldera would have collapsed and sunk beneath the sea, just as Plato describes.

fresco

This fresco found in the ancient civilization of Akrotiri. It depicts and early Greek civilization that existed on the island before the volcanic eruption.

The idea that Santorini may have been the location of an ancient Atlantis gained currency in the 1960’s when excavation began on the small town of Akrotiri. Akrotiri is an ancient settlement on Santorini that was destroyed by the Theran eruption and subsequently covered in thick layers of dust and ash. When excavation began, archaeologists discovered perfectly preserved fresco’s that depicted the life of ancient Santorini.

When the ash was peeled away, pictures of ancient people fishing and navigating by boat were discovered. In the backdrop there is an island overrun with vegetation and wildlife, just as Plato described in his ancient texts. Could it be that these ancient fresco’s are the sole remaining evidence of an ancient Atlantis?

Even if it is believed that Santorini is the location of Atlantis, there are still several discrepancies between this island and the one described by Plato. For instance, Plato described that Atlantis existed 9,000 years before his lifetime. Also the island was said to have been more massive than Asia minor and Libya combined. How could Santorini be the island described by Plato? And even for this, there is an answer.

According to Plato, the story of Atlantis was handed down to the Greeks by the ancient Egyptians. It is hypothesized that a translation error would have lead the Greeks to believe that the Egyptian word for “hundred” actually meant “thousand”. If this is true ,then the destruction of  Atlantis would have been only 900 years before Plato. Also, the size of Atlantis would have been shrunk considerably. If a translation error had occurred, the size of Atlantis would have been roughly the size of the crater on the modern island of Santorini.

Whether Atlantis was a real civilization, or if it was merely myth, is a matter of debate. There were several of Plato’s disciples who defended him fiercely and claimed that Atlantis was, in fact, real. A neo-platonist Proclus wrote a response to Timaeus, where he states:

“As for the whole of this account of the Atlanteans, some say that it is unadorned history, such as Crantor, the first commentator on Plato. Crantor also says that Plato’s contemporaries used to criticize him jokingly for not being the inventor of his Republic but copying the institutions of the Egyptians. Plato took these critics seriously enough to assign to the Egyptians this story about the Athenians and Atlanteans, so as to make them say that the Athenians really once lived according to that system.” -Proclus (disciple of Plato).

Still, it is more popular to believe that Atlantis is fictional and may have been inspired by the events on Santorini. Plato told his philosophy through story. he discussed his ideas through the lens of myth and legend. And while the idea of an Atlantis is tantalizing, it is much easier to believe that Plato invented it as a means to discuss ethics of an ideal civilization.

We will never know definitively, even the ending of Plato’s own writings remain a mystery. In Critias, Plato describes the eventual moral downfall of Atlantis. They were once a proud civilization however “…human nature got the upper hand”.  Zeus would notice the decline of Atlantis and make plans to punish them. Plato writes:

“Zeus, the god of gods, who rules according to law, and is able to see into such things, perceiving that an honourable race was in a woeful plight, and wanting to inflict punishment on them, that they might be chastened and improve, collected all the gods into their most holy habitation, which, being placed in the centre of the world, beholds all created things. And when he had called them together, he spake as follows…” -Plato, from Critias

What Zeus said to the other gods, we will never know. The remaining text has been lost. Perhaps he devised a plan to sink Atlantis beneath the waves, punishment for their sins. We will never know what Plato’s final words were about the city of Atlantis. Much like the fabled civilization itself, the truth has been lost to the ages.

 

The War For The Universe and the Rise of the Olympians

by June 4, 2013

In order to properly understand the setting of this myth and to become familiar the birth of the Olympians , be sure you read In Be Beginning, which can be found here. 

Cronus

Cronus as the the King of Heaven

After Cronus overthrew his father and former ruler of heaven Uranus, he married his sister Rhea. Together they ruled over the universe and for a time, things were peaceful. However, the prophecy of Uranus deeply troubled Cronus. It had been predicted that a son of his would one day depose him and take his place as king.

The entire narrative was detailed by the poet Hesiod in his ancient poem, The Theogony. The poet describes how Rhea fears for her children, yet is in love with Cronus. Hesiod writes:

“But Rhea was subject in love to Cronos and bare splendid children”- Hesiod, from The Theogony

Rhea bore several children,  HestiaDemeterHera, Hades, and Poseidon, but Cronus feared that one of these children would be his downfall. And so, with each birth, Cronus captured the young infant and devoured the child to ensure that his reign as king was never opposed.

Rhea was terrified and deeply saddened to see her children mercilessly devoured by her husband. When it came time for Rhea to give birth to her youngest child, Zeus, she hid away to escape the wrath of her spouse. With the help of Gaia, the earth, she delivered her youngest child in a cave on the island of Crete, far from the eyes of her murderous partner.

eating children

Cronus devours his children
painting by. Peter Paul Rubens

The young Olympian Zeus was left on the island. His mother wrapped a stone in a blanket and presented it to Cronus. The titan devoured the substitue, believing it to be his son. Assured that the baby Zeus was no longer a threat, Cronus continued his rule, though unbeknownst to him, his youngest son was being raised in secret under the Aegean mountains. Some versions of the myth describe that the infant Zeus was raised on the island of Crete surrounded by armored dancers. These armored guardians would clap and sing whenever the baby would cry so that Cronus would not hear the screams and come to slay the infant god.

Zeus grew quickly, and when he came of age, he became determined to confront his father and take his place as ruler of the heavens. His grandmother, Gaia, gave him an emetic that would force Cronus to regurgitate the children he had devoured. Cronus bent over in agony and threw up all the children he had devoured. Poseidon, Hades, Hera, Hestia, and Demeter were brought to life again, now fully grown.  In some versions it is told that Zeus cuts open his fathers stomach with a dagger and his siblings come pouring out.

fall of the titans

The Olympians casts the Titans into Tartarus
painting by. cornelis van haarlem

It was at this point that a violent war waged for ten long years. On one side was the Olympians who were aided by the Cyclops, the Titans Prometheus and Epimetheus as well as the hundred armed  Hecatonchires. They waged war against the original Titans and the Giants that had been born from the blood of Uranus.

The violent war was fought for ten years with no clear victor. Zeus and his allies took up a stronghold on mount Olympus where Zeus cast his thunderbolts upon his enemies. After much battling, the Olympians were victorious over the Titans. Zeus cast his father and the other Titans into the depths of Tartarus, the prison of the underworld.  There they would remain for eternity, while their children ruled the universe. The prophecy of Uranus had been fulfilled, the age of the Olympians had arrived.

Hesiod’s Theogony: The Creation Of The World

by June 3, 2013

Gaia

Gaia, by. Anselm Feuerbach (1875)

The telling of the creation of existence and the rise of the gods is a tale that has survived through the writings of Hesiod, in his epic poem The Theogony. For the ancient Greeks this was their answer to the most fundamental question of existence. And as with all Greek mythology, the story of the creation of the world is shrouded in fantasy and wonder.

 It was said that in the beginning of time there was chaos. Chaos existed without form or purpose. And from chaos there came Gaia who was the earth and who created all the land. She was the primordial being of the earth and she would give birth to the heavens, who was known as Uranus. Gaia and Uranus who were the earth and the sky became husband and wife and together had many children.

The earth, Gaia, gave birth first to the mighty Titans. These creatures were immortal and possessed great strength and power. As Hesiod describes it:

“she lay with Heaven and bare deep-swirling Oceanus, Coeus and Crius and Hyperion and Iapetus, Theia and Rhea, Themis and Mnemosyne and gold-crowned Phoebe and lovely Tethys. After them was born Cronos the wily, youngest and most terrible of her children, and he hated his lusty sire.” – Hesiod, from The Theogony

Gaia then gave birth to the Cyclops’s, who were monstrous creatures with one bulging eye in the center of their foreheads. Then Gaia birthed the hideous  Hecatonchires, who were creatures with broad shoulders, fifty heads, and one hundred arms. Uranus saw the Cyclops’s and the Hecatonchires’s as vile creatures. With the birth of each, he would imprison them away beneath the earth. The imprisonment of her children saddened Gaia and she devised a plan to seek vengeance.

thecyclops

The Cyclops

Gaia gathered her children, the mighty Titans, and told them of her plan to overthrow her husband, Uranus. In Hesiod’s own words, Gaia declares:

`My children, gotten of a sinful father, if you will obey me, we should punish the vile outrage of your father; for he first thought of doing shameful things.’

However the Titans were very afraid of their father; at first, none would volunteer to overthrow the ruler of the heavens. Then it was Cronus, the youngest of the Titans who hated his father Uranus, who stepped forward to do the deed. Gaia gave to the youngest titan a sickle and told him to lie in wait for his unsuspecting father.

While Cronus hid away from his father,  Uranus was crossing the earth bringing the night. Uranus then appeared before Gaia, planning to lay with her, and it was then that Cronus struck. The young titan approached from behind and used the sickle to cut off the genitals of his father. He then flung them across the earth before they landed in the sea.

cronus and Urans

Cronus attacks Uranus

The blood from the detached member of Uranus mixed with the foam of the ocean. From the mist and the foam rose a beautiful figure. She was a goddess unmatched in beauty and grace, she stepped upon the land and the flowers and vegetation grew around her. She was Aphrodite, one of the original Olympians.

It was said that as Uranus lay bleeding upon the earth as Cronus stood over him. The blood spilled from the now deposed ruler of heaven and mixed with the earth, Gaia. Instantly several creatures were born from Gaia as her husband lay dying.

From this blood sprang the Giants, the Erinyes (the avenging Furies), the Meliae (the ash-tree nymphs). These creatures sprang from the blood of Uranus and then began to wander the earth.

Cronus was now the king of heaven. He had deposed his father and taken his place as ruler of the universe. However with the dying breath of Uranus, he prophesied a terrible fate for his traitorous son. Uranus predicted that one of Cronus’s children would overthrow him one day, just as he had overthrown his father. The prophecy would hang heavy on the head of the Titan.

The Myth of Daedalus and Icarus

by May 28, 2013

Theseus_Minotaur_Mosaic

Theseus slays the Minotaur
Ancient Greek mosaic

The story of Daedalus and Icarus is a popular myth that recounts the escape from Crete by the crafty inventor Daedalus and his son Icarus. It is a story that is often attributed to the Roman poet Ovid in his magnum opus Metamorphoses.

The general theme of the story involves the ingenuity and brilliance of man, and the misuse of that brilliance that can often lead to our own downfall.

Daedalus is mentioned in the story of Theseus as the inventor of the labyrinth that housed the Minotaur. He was described as an inventor and a scholar whose ingenuity and intelligence was unmatched by any other.

The labyrinth was said to have been one of his greatest creations. It was constructed in such a way so that any man sent into the labyrinth would become hopelessly lost and unable to escape. It was only with the help of Ariadne, the princess of Crete, that Theseus was able to navigate the labyrinth, slay the Minotaur and escape. Ariadne had been told the secrets of the labyrinth by Daedalus and in this way Theseus was able to leave the maze.

Icarus 1

Daedalus constructs wings for Icarus
painting by. Andrea Sacchi

After Theseus escaped the island, King Minos was so enraged that he locked the inventor away in a tower for his part in helping the Athenian hero escape. Other versions of the story tell that Daedalus was put away long before the arrival of Theseus, so the secrets of the labyrinth would not be known to the public.

Daedalus and his son, Icarus, spent their days locked up in a tower, unable to escape by land or sea. All the ships leaving the island were carefully monitored by King Minos, who was determined to not let Daedalus escape. So the inventor decided that if he could not escape by sea, then he would escape the island of Crete by riding on the winds. The original Roman poem describes this inspiration when Daedalus states:

“Tho’ Earth and water in subjection laid,
O cruel Minos, thy dominion be,
We’ll go thro’ air; for sure the air is free.”

Daedalus collected the feathers of the numerous birds that roosted in his tower prison. He constructed a set of wings that could be worn by a man by using candlewax and thread to hold the feathers in place. He then constructed wings for his son Icarus, who had been cast away in the tower as well. When the wings were complete the father and son prepared to jump from the tower and fly to freedom. Before they did so, Daedalus warned his son not to fly too low to the sea, as the mist would dampen his wings and cause him to fall. He also warned the young boy not to fly too high as the warmth from the sun would melt the wax that held the feathers and cause him to fall to earth. Daedalus warns:

To wing your course along the middle air;
If low, the surges wet your flagging plumes;
If high, the sun the melting wax consumes:

Daedalus and his son leaped from the tower and soared across the land and out to sea. The farmers and herders stopped their work and looked up at the duo flying like birds. The citizens of Crete thought that the pair were gods, never before had they seen such a miraculous sight.

icarus 2

Mourning for Icarus
painting by. Herbert James Draper

The two flying men traveled at peace for some time. They passed the islands of Samos and Delos and eventually flew past Lebynthos. All the while they were careful not to fly too low or too high. However, Icarus eventually would leave the guidance of his father and begin to fly higher and higher as if too reach heaven.

True to his father’s predictions, Icarus flew too high and the heat from the sun began to melt the wax holding the feathers in place. Soon, the wings disintegrated entirely and Icarus plummeted down through the air. He screamed in fear as he tried to fly away, yet his wings were no longer capable of flight. He splashed into the sea and drowned.

Daedalus looked for Icarus diligently. He would cry out “Icarus, Icarus where are you?!” He finally found his body floating among the waves, feathers strewn about the surf. Daedalus lamented the death of his child and buried his body in the nearby land. Daedalus named the land Icaria, in memory of his son.

The inventor would later travel safely to Sicily, where he would build a temple to Apollo. He hung up his wings to the god as an offering. He never took them down; Daedalus would never fly again.

Spotlight on Mythology: Theseus and the Minotaur

by May 21, 2013

Theseus_Minotaur_Ramey_Tuileries

A statue depicts Theseus slaying the Minotaur

Theseus is a popular hero in the mythology of ancient Greece. He was the son of Aegus, king of Athens, and Aethra, daughter of the king of Troezen. In some versions of the story of Theseus, it is told that he was the son of Poseidon and Aegus; this is possible only after Aethra slept with both the king of Athens and the god of the ocean in one night. This detail of having two fathers is common in Greek mythology, and it was said to have blessed Theseus with both mortal and immortal qualities.

Theseus grew up in Troezen, the small town outside of Athens where his mother was queen. his father had departed to Athens before Theseus was born. Before he left, Aegus placed his sword and sandals under a large stone. He stated that once Theseus had reached manhood, he would roll away the stone, collect the tools underneath and present himself in Athens to be accepted as a prince.

When Theseus reached his adolescence, he was lead to the stone by his mother. He rolled it away with ease and collected the shoes and the sword. As Theseus prepared to leave for Athens, Aethra begged him to travel by sea because the roads were treacherous and infested with thieves and murderers.

painting-theseus

Theseus and Aethra, by Laurent de La Hyre

Theseus, perhaps with a rebellious, teenage spirit, decided to travel to Athens by road, paying no heed to the warning of danger. Theseus had heard the tales of  Heraclesthe Greek hero whose heroic exploits had gained him fame at this time. Theseus was determined to prove his worth as a hero by traveling the perilous road alone.

Theseus encountered and defeated many villains on the way to Athens. He defeated a murderer named Periphetes, who was known for assaulting travelers with his iron club. Theseus conquered the monster and took his weapon as a trophy.

He then crushed a man named Procrustes, or the stretcher. This murderer would tie travelers to his iron bed. Any migrant who was shorter than the bed would be stretched to painful lengths. If they were too tall for the bed, the victim would have parts of his or her limbs chopped off by Procrustes. Theseus slew him as well and began to gain a reputation as a hero.

After overcoming the perils of the road, Theseus arrived in Athens to face new dangers.  Medeathe sorceress who had fled from Corinth after her separation with Jasonhad married Theseus’ father and feared the return of prince Theseus. She worried that with the coming of her husband’s son, her influence over the king would weaken. She convinced king Aegus to be wary of the young stranger and present him with a  cup of poison. 

However as soon as Theseus stepped forward to drink the elixir, his father recognized the sword that hung from the young man’s belt. The king slapped the cup from his son’s hand and accepted him as the rightful heir of Athens. Medea is said to have fled, in fear of the certain repercussions of her treachery.

Minotaur statue

Minotaur statue

Theseus’ reunion with his father was short lived. The Athenians were in a state of peril and great affliction. Every year, Athens was forced to send seven maidens and seven young men to the island of Crete. The youths were presented to King Minos who demanded human offerings to be fed to his monster, the Minotaur.

The Minotaur was a vicious creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man. It was said to possess great strength and feed on the flesh of humans. The Minotaur was locked in a labyrinth constructed by Daedalus, the brilliant inventor who would one day create wings of flight for himself and his son IcarusThe labyrinth was said to be so artfully contrived that anybody caught in it, would never find an escape unassisted. The victims caught in the labyrinth would wander helplessly, deeper and deeper into the maze until they were eventually caught and devoured by the Minotaur.

Theseus, hearing the tale of the Athenian tributes and the fate that awaited them, swore to defeat this monster and prove himself a worthy hero. At the outset of his journey, Theseus boarded a ship with black sails headed for the island of Crete and the Minotaur. He swore to his father that upon his triumphant return, he would fly white sails so that all of Athens would know of his victory.

When Theseus arrived at Crete with the other tributes he was brought before King Minos and his daughter AriadneThe young princess was deeply enamored with Theseus and decided to help him in his task to defeat the Minotaur. In the dead of night, Ariadne came to the prison where the Athenian tributes were being held. She freed Theseus and presented him with a sword and a ball of thread so that he might successfully navigate the labyrinth. Theseus swore that if he was successful, he would bring the princess with him on his return to Athens.

Ariadne lead Theseus to the entrance of the labyrinth where he tied one end of the thread to the door post, brandished his sword and entered to labyrinth to slay the monster. Daedalus, the creator of the labyrinth, had previously instructed Ariadne on the proper way to navigate the labyrinth. Theseus followed these instructions, heading straight down and never left or right.

TheseusVictorOfTheMinotaur

Theseus Victor of the Minotaur, 18th century painting by Charles Edouard Chaise.

In the dead of night Theseus came upon the sleeping Minotaur in the heart of the Labyrinth. The beast awoke and a great battle ensued. Theseus stabbed the monster in the throat with his sword and then decapitated its head completely. Following the thread, Theseus found his way to the exit and escaped that very night with the Athenian tributes and the princess Ariadne.

What happens next is of some dispute. Some versions of the myth say that Theseus left the princess on the beaches of Crete and sailed off without her. Other, more popular, versions describe how Theseus abandoned Ariadne on the island of Naxos while she slept. It was said that the goddess Hera had appeared to the Athenian hero in a dream and commanded him to leave the young woman behind. The god Dionysus would later witness the young woman crying on the shores of Naxos and marry her.

Theseus sailed to Athens, still distraught over abandoning Ariadne. the hero was so deeply upset that he forgot to replace the black sails with white ones, as he had promised his father. The king of Athens was waiting on a cliff as the ship approached. Upon seeing the black sails he was so overcome with grief, believing that his son was dead, that he cast himself off the cliff and onto the rocks below.

Theseus would become the king of Athens, returning home as a triumphant hero. The story of his slaying of the Minotaur remains a popular story to this day. It has been retold and re imagined over the years, making an appearance in several forms of media. Most recently the battle of Theseus and the Minotaur was reinvented and retold in the 2011 film The Immortals. 

Prometheus The Creation of Man and a History of Enlightenment

by May 20, 2013

The story of Prometheus, Epimetheus and Pandora is a popular myth of ancient Greece. It has been told and retold through the ages with several variations. It is a tale of Prometheus, the son of a titan who was punished for playing his part as the benefactor for mankind. It is a myth that recounts the creation of men and women as well as the birth of enlightenment and the unleashing of misery.

The story goes that during the creation of the universe, the earth formed out of chaos. The air collected and became transparent while the land and seas became solidified and structured. As the earth became suitable for life, the gods decided that it would be wise to bestow upon the planet creatures of life that might thrive and live through the graces of the gods.

Prometheus creates man

Creation of Man

The task of creating man and beasts was awarded to the titan brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus, whom had not been imprisoned with the other titans by Zeus. Prometheus was said to be wise and possessed the gift of foresight and often considered what would be needed several years in the future. Epimetheus was said to be rash and impulsive, unable to plan for the future and instead only cared for what had happened in the past.

The brothers set about creating life upon the earth. Epimetheus swiftly created several creatures that would live in the forests, swim in the seas and rivers, and fly through the air with the gift of flight. Epimetheus was so impulsive that he bestowed upon these creatures several gifts. Swiftness for some beasts, flight for others and the gift of strength and frightening claws for the most terrifying of creatures.

While his brother foolishly crafted creatures with little thought, Prometheus toiled diligently over the creation of man from a lump of clay. Prometheus shaped man after the image of the gods and allowed him to walk upright so that he might look towards the heavens. In some versions it is said that Epimetheus created man and Prometheus merely provided guidance. Regardless of whom the architect was, man was designed to be nobler than any other beast and was constructed so as to resemble the gods.

However upon completion of man, Prometheus discovered that his rash brother had bestowed all the gifts from the gods upon animals and had left none for humans. While the beasts possessed strength, swiftness, hardened shells and warm coats, man was left naked and weak with no means to live prosperously.

Prometheus was overcome with sadness for his creations, whom were living painfully and harshly on earth. Prometheus devised a plan to bestow upon man a great gift that will make them formidable against the beasts of the earth.

Prometheus steals fire

Prometheus steals fire

Prometheus defied the will of Zeus and traveled to Mount Olympus and stole fire from the gods, a gift that before was unknown to mankind. Some versions of the story describe how Prometheus was aided by the Goddess Hera. Other stories recall that Zeus stole fire from men and Prometheus took the fire back in defiance of Zeus.

At any rate, fire was bestowed upon mankind by Prometheus and with it came the beginning of civilization. Prometheus taught man how to craft tools from iron ore. He showed them how to plant crops and live through agriculture. Man learnt to craft weapons to defend themselves from wild animals. With fire they learnt to survive cold winters and defy the seasons. With fire man began to thrive and became superior to the animals of the wild.

Zeus was outraged by this transgression. He set in motion plans to punish Prometheus and mankind for their obstruction of the gods’ will. The punishment he devised was twofold.

First, Zeus commanded Hephaestus, the blacksmith for the God’s, to craft a creature so beautiful that it would plague the hearts of men. From a lump of clay, Hephaestus created the form of a woman. This woman was bestowed with gifts like a pleasing voice and unmatched beauty by the gods. They named her Pandora and she was commanded to marry Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus.

Pandora's box

Pandora’s box

Pandora was the first woman, bestowed with beauty and grace. She is described by the Greek poet Hesiod in less than flattering terms when he wrote…

“From her is the race of women and female kind:
of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who
live amongst mortal men to their great trouble,
no helpmates in hateful poverty, but only in wealth.”

Epimetheus married Pandora despite Prometheus’ warnings to be wary of accepting gifts from Zeus. The warning was well placed. Before Pandora departed Olympus she was given a box or, in some versions of a story, a jar. She was warned by the gods to never open the box under any circumstances.

At first Pandora abided by this rule, however her curiosity was soon overwhelmed. She opened the box out of blind curiosity, so that she might see what it held.

Immediately, innumerable evil creatures flew out of the box and began to disperse themselves across the earth. Creatures like disease, famine and plague sprang from the box and began to wander the earth and haunt mankind. Pandora, in her fear, quickly shut the box. She closed the vessel on one last creature before it could escape, Hope.

As a result, it is said that while evil haunts this world, mankind will still have hope.

Prometheus

Prometheus

Prometheus was punished as well. He was sentenced by Zeus to spend eternity chained to a mountain where each day an eagle will devour his liver from his body. Prometheus was an immortal, so each night his liver regrew and his wound healed, only so that it may be ripped from his body the next day.

Prometheus spent thousands of years suffering this punishment, having his flesh devoured by a ferocious bird. It is said that he was chained to the mountain for so long that he eventually became one with the rock; all the while he looked on in agony as his creations, mankind, suffer the plagues that were released from Pandora’s box.

Some versions of the myth of Prometheus describe how he was eventually rescued by the hero Heracles. In some versions it is a vulture, not an eagle that feasts on the liver of Prometheus. Regardless of the details, the theme is a powerful one. It is a theme that has been revisited and examined by artists and writers for centuries to come.

Prometheus has often been viewed as a metaphor for human enlightenment and the disasters that can come from overreaching our limits. There are allusions to his legend in several later works of literature. Mary Shelly’s classic 1818 novel Frankenstein is subtitled “The Modern Prometheus”. It has been generally understood that this was done in an attempt to accentuate the theme of scientific progress and the dangers that may come with it.

In the 1937 novel Anthem by Ayn Rand, there are references to Prometheus and the bringing of fire. The novel depicts a dystopian future society which is characterized by being devoid of individualism, emotions or technological advances. The main character defies the laws of the elders and explores the arena of science in secret. He creates a rudimentary light bulb with the intent of sharing it with the world. This character is punished for his defiance of the tyrannical rulers and for his creation of light. After escaping the society, the character renames himself Prometheus, a very obvious tribute to the original benefactor of man.

As can be seen in Anthem, the story of Prometheus can also be viewed as a symbol of defiance of tyranny and authority. Comparisons have been drawn between Prometheus’ defiance of Zeus and the French revolution. His mission of helping humanity despite his own sufferings is often compared to the story of the crucifixion of Christ.

The story of Prometheus remains one of the most popular of the Greek myths. The original creator of man, he sought to help us live plentifully even while he heroically suffered the consequences. He is a reminder that human progress often comes from the selfless actions of others; that, with every advancement, there are often those who accept outrageous sufferings on our behalf.

“Prometheus the Creation of Man” was written by Van Bryan