The myth of Prometheus - Iseult Gillespie | Summary and Q&A

November 14, 2017
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The myth of Prometheus - Iseult Gillespie

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The Greek Titan Prometheus played a pivotal role in the creation of humanity and their acquisition of fire. Despite Zeus' decree that humans remain subservient and denied the use of fire, Prometheus tricked Zeus, stole fire from Mount Olympus, and gifted it to humanity. This act catalyzed civilization's progress but also angered Zeus, leading to Prometheus being punished by eternal torment. Despite his suffering, Prometheus became a beloved figure, symbolizing resilience, rebellion, knowledge, and the potential of individual acts to ignite the world.

Questions & Answers

Q: What role did Prometheus play in the creation of humans?

Prometheus shaped the first humans out of mud, forming them in the image of the gods. However, Zeus decreed that humans remain mortal, subservient, and worship the gods from below.

Q: How did Prometheus trick Zeus and obtain fire for humans?

When Zeus asked Prometheus to decide how sacrifices would be made, Prometheus devised a trick. He divided a bull into two parts, concealing the succulent flesh and skin under the unappealing belly on one side, and hiding the bones under a layer of fat on the other. When Zeus chose the seemingly better portion, Prometheus angered Zeus with his deception. As a result, Zeus forbade the use of fire on Earth. Undeterred, Prometheus climbed Mount Olympus and stole fire from the workshop of Hephaestus and Athena, hiding it in a fennel stalk.

Q: How did the acquisition of fire by humans impact civilization?

Fire empowered humans to care for themselves, providing food and warmth. Additionally, fire enabled humans to forge weapons and wage war, rapidly progressing civilization. Prometheus's act of providing fire acted as a catalyst for the advancement of knowledge, technology, and power in human hands.

Q: What punishment did Prometheus receive for his actions?

Prometheus was punished by Zeus, who chained him to a cliff for eternity. Each day, a vulture would visit Prometheus, tear out his liver, and each night his liver would regenerate, only to be attacked again the following morning. Despite enduring perpetual agony, Prometheus never expressed regret for his act of rebellion.

Q: How is Prometheus depicted in art and literature?

Prometheus is celebrated as a beloved figure in mythology, embodying resilience, rebellion, and knowledge. Percy Bysshe Shelley portrayed Prometheus as a romantic hero who escapes and continues to spread empathy and knowledge in his drama "Prometheus Unbound." Mary Shelley also depicted Prometheus in her novel "Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus," cautioning against corrupting the natural order and addressing ethical questions surrounding science and technology.

Q: What does Prometheus symbolize?

Prometheus symbolizes humanity's capacity to harness the powers of nature and the potential of individual acts to ignite change. He represents resilience in the face of oppression, rebellion against authority, and the acquisition of knowledge and progress. Prometheus serves as a reminder of the transformative power of human actions.

Q: How has Prometheus influenced ethical questions surrounding science and technology?

Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus" alludes to the consequences of tampering with the natural order, reflecting current ethical concerns regarding the boundaries of scientific advancements. The cautionary tale of Prometheus remains relevant in contemplating the consequences of pushing the limits of science and technology.

Q: How does Prometheus embody both heroic and mischievous qualities?

As a trickster figure, Prometheus displayed mischievous and inquisitive traits by deceiving Zeus and stealing fire. However, his heroic qualities are evident in his desire to empower humanity, defy authority, and endure his eternal punishment with resilience and unwavering conviction.


The tale of Prometheus showcases the audacity of challenging authority, the potential of individual acts to shape the course of history, and the importance of knowledge and progress. By stealing fire from the gods and sharing it with humanity, Prometheus ignited civilization's rapid advancement. However, his actions incurred the wrath of Zeus, resulting in eternal torment. Prometheus remains a timeless symbol of resilience, rebellion, and the transformative power of humanity's endeavors. The ethical questions raised by his story continue to resonate, reminding us of the delicate balance between scientific progress and the potential consequences of disrupting the natural order.

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