Prometheus and Epimetheus, two Titans, were spared imprisonment in Tartarus after the Titanomachy, the War between the Titans and the Olympians, because they had not fought alongside the other Titans. Instead, they were given the task of creating man. Prometheus shaped man out of mud, and Athena breathed life into his clay figure.
Prometheus assigned Epimetheus with the task of giving the creatures of the earth their various qualities, such as swiftness, cunning, strength, fur, wings. Unfortunately, by the time he got to man, Epimetheus had given all the good qualities out and there were none left for man.
So Prometheus decided to make man stand upright just like the gods did and to give them fire.
Prometheus loved man more than the Olympians, who had banished most of his family to Tartarus. So when Zeus decreed that man must sacrifice a portion of each food to the gods, Prometheus decided to trick Zeus. He created two piles, one with bones wrapped in juicy fat, and another with the finest meat hidden inside a hide. He then asked Zeus to choose one of the piles; Zeus, unaware, chose the bones and since he had given his word, was forced to accept the bones as his share for future sacrifices. In his anger over the trick, he took fire away from man. However, Prometheus lit a torch from the sun and brought it back again to man. Zeus was enraged that man again had fire. He decided to inflict a terrible punishment on both man and Prometheus.
To punish man, Zeus had Hephaestus create a mortal of stunning beauty. The gods gave the mortal many gifts of wealth. He then had Hermes give the mortal a deceptive heart and a lying tongue. This creation was Pandora, the first woman. A final gift was a jar which Pandora was forbidden to open. Thus, Zeus sent Pandora to Epimetheus, who had decided to live amongst men.
Prometheus had warned Epimetheus not to accept gifts from Zeus, but Pandora's beauty was too great; so, he let her stay. Eventually, Pandora's curiosity about the forbidden jar overwhelmed her; she opened it, releasing all evils upon the earth. Only one thing was left in the jar when Pandora managed to close the lid again - hope.
Zeus was angry at Prometheus for three things: being tricked on sacrifices, stealing fire for man, and for refusing to tell Zeus which of Zeus's children would dethrone him. Zeus commanded his servants, Force and Violence, to seize Prometheus, take him to the Caucasus Mountains, and chain him to a rock with unbreakable, diamond chains.
There, he was tormented day and night by a giant eagle tearing at his liver. Zeus gave Prometheus two ways out of this torment. He could tell Zeus who the mother of the child that would dethrone him was. Or meet two conditions: first, that an immortal must volunteer to die for Prometheus. And second, that a mortal must kill the eagle and unchain him. Eventually, Chiron the Centaur agreed to die for him and Heracles killed the eagle and unbound him.
See Also: The Creation, The Creation II, Birth of Athena, Ages of Man
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