Pandora and Prometheus - Greek Mythology

The story of Pandora and Prometheus


It is told in the ancient legends that they have been handed down to us, now in oral form, now in the written form by people so far away from us that even the memory of Prometheus, the wisest of the Titans, whose name means "he who is able to foresee."

Piero di Cosimo, (1515), oil on panel, AltePinakothek, Munich (Germany)

Prometheus was the son of the Titan Iapetus and the oceanine Climene (1) and lived with his brother Epimetheuswhose name means "he who understands late". Both were therefore part of the Titan family they had dared to challenge Zeus when he had fought against Cronus, his father, to seize the throne. Prometheus, however, unlike his brothers, had sided with Zeus and had participated in the fight only when it was drawing to a close. As a reward he had been able to freely access Olympus even if, in the depths of his heart, the feelings that Prometheus had towards Zeus were not friendly due to the fate that this had destined for his brothers (2).

Zeus, for the esteem he placed in Prometheus, gave him the task of forging the man whom he modeled from mud and whom he animated with divine fire.

At that time, men were admitted to the presence of the gods, with whom they spent convivial moments of great joy and serenity. During one of these meetings held in Mekone, a huge ox was brought, of which half was supposed to belong to Zeuse half to men. The lord of the gods entrusted the task of the partition to Prometheus who took advantage of the opportunity to take revenge on the king of the gods.

Prometheus creates man assisted by other gods
Roman sarcophagus III century. A.D.

Prometheus shaping man
III century. B.C.

Prometheus steals fire (1817)
Heinrich Friedrich Füger, oil on canvas, Liechtenstein Museum, Vienna (Austria)

In fact, he divided the big ox into two parts but in one he concealed the tender meat under a thick layer of skin and in the other, he ground together the bones and the fat which he covered with a thin layer of skin so as to make it seem the most succulent morsel. Zeus, as he was the first choice, opted for the apparently richer part. Immediately after realizing the deception, more angry than ever, he deprived the men of fire, bringing them back to Olympus. Prometheus, considered unjust the punishment, stole some spark from Olympus hiding it in a rush and thus brought the fire back to men.

Prometheus chained
Nicolas Sébastien Adam (1705 -1778), white marble, Louvre Museum, Paris (France)

Zeus, realizing the deception that Prometheus had perpetrated him, decided a punishment far greater than that which he had intended for his brothers: he ordered Hermes it's at Hephaestus to nail Prometheus to a cliff in the Caucasus (3), where an eagle during the day would have gnawed at his liver with its sharp beak while during the night it would be regenerated.

Here is how the cheerful Luciano tells the deserved (in his opinion) torture of Prometheus (Dialogues):
And then they tell me that Prometheus
“He didn't deserve to be nailed
To those cliffs? He gave us fire,
But nothing else good. It hurt,
For which, believe me, all the Gods have it:
Females formed! Blessed gods,
What an ugly breed! Now, get married; wife.
All vices with her enter your home ».


Zeus, not happy with the punishment he had inflicted on Prometheus, decided to punish the human race as well.

Since the woman Zeus did not yet exist in the world, he gave charge to Hephaestus to model a human image using water and clay that had nothing to envy to the beauty of the goddesses, for the unhappiness of mankind. Hephaestus was so good at modeling her that the woman who originated from it was superior to any praise and any possible imagination. adorn the body and a crown of gold while Hermes placed evil thoughts in his heart and on the curves of his lips, phrases as seductive as they are deceptive.

Hesiod narrates (The works and the days):
"He adorned it with the girdle
And some clothes, give her the Graces
And Pito venerable golden jewels,
And the most vague flowers of spring
Hours called, weave them crowns.
But the killer of Argos, Mercury, to her,
Because such of Jupiter was the will, the ingenuity
Cunning wiles and bland words
And fallacious customs ... ».

This creature was given a name Pandora(from the Greek pan doron "All gift") because every Olympian god had given her a gift.

Only the gift of Zeus was missing, which was superior to all other gifts. In fact, he gave the girl a jar (Pandora's box), with the prohibition to open it, containing all the evils that humanity did not yet know: old age, jealousy, illness, madness, vice, passion, suspicion, hunger and so on.

Then Zeus entrusted the girl to Hermes to bring her as a gift to Prometheus who, however, thinking of a deception, refused the gift. Then Zeus ordered Hermes to take her to Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus, who fell in love with her as soon as he saw her and accepted her as his wife despite the warnings of his brother who had recommended him not to accept any gifts from the gods.

Pandora, ancient sculpture

Pandora, Gibson, National Museums of Liverpool

Hesiod tells (The works and the days):
“He had Prometheus to him
It is forbidden to ever accept a gift
Coming to him from Jupiter, how fatal
This could be; but, of the brother
By forgetting Epimetheus the wise warnings.
I accept it, and of evil, when the gift
It was already his, he immediately noticed ".

Shortly after Pandora was on earth, taken by curiosity she opened the box. From there, all the punishments that Zeus had placed there ran like lightning on the earth: sickness, death, pain, and many others, hitherto unknown. The only good tone that Zeus had placed in the jar got stuck under the lid that Pandora had immediately closed: it was theElpis, the hope.

Legend has it that after thirty years Prometheus was freed from torture by Heracles (Hercules) who went up to the top of the Caucasus with an arrow and killed the eagle thus freeing Prometheus to whom Zeus allowed to return to Olympus (4).

Hesiod tells us (The works and the days):
"With his own hand uncovered the vase,
That the evils in itself closed, these spread
Among the mortals, and only inside remained
Hope is on the edge,
Because the woman, immediately, the lid
Rested, the flight fought for her. Such
It was the sign of Jupiter. From crowd to crowd
Meanwhile the evils wander, and it is filled with them
The land and the sea, and it is filled with it
The land and the sea; they attack the people
The night and the insidious and tacit night,
because the voice shrewdly the God
They preclude ».

In this way mankind was punished for not respecting the will of the king of the gods, ruler of every creature and every other thing on earth and in heaven.

Dr. Maria Giovanna Davoli

  1. Either of Iapetus and Asia or according to Aeschylus of Gaea and Themes
  2. The Titans after the defeat of Kronos were precipitated in Tartarus
  3. According to Hesiod to a stake
  4. Another version has it that it was Zeus himself who freed him or that it was Zeus who asked Heracles to free Prometheus.

Video: The myth of Prometheus - Iseult Gillespie

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