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Prometheus 1. Where in the world is Greece? If you travel east from the United States to the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, you can visit a very small country called Greece. Traveling from place to place in Greece can be a challenge because the land is filled with mountains and surrounded by water. Many rocky peaks tower as high as the clouds. In fact, the mountains form such great walls that some families in Greece have lived their entire lives near the sea without as much as a glimpse at it. 2. The Greeks have created many wonders throughout their history. Some carved statutes and built great temples from the marble dug out of the mountains. Some painted pictures, while others planted beautiful gardens. Others wrote books full of stories or myths that have been told over and over for thousands of years. 3. Myths are filled with ideas and beliefs that seem strange to those of us living today. For instance, long ago the Greeks believed that giants had lived among the mountain tops. These giants, called Titans or Mighty Ones, lived on Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece. Zeus, king of the Mighty Ones, sat on his throne and ruled over the earth from Mount Olympus. 4. Among the mighty giants were two brothers. The name of the older brother was Prometheus. His nickname was Forethought because he was always thinking ahead, preparing for what might happen tomorrow and years into the future. The younger brother was called Epimetheus -- or Afterthought -- because he was only thinking about the past and did not think about what might happen in the present or the future. 5. Those Titans who displeased Zeus were banished to the fortified prison of the Lower World and placed in chains. Unfortunately, the Titans who were still free wasted much of their time. They drank nectar, ate ambrosia, and boasted about themselves. 6. Through all of their idle talk and activities, the Titans become more and more discontent and grew angry with Zeus. They plotted to take the throne away from him. Prometheus begged them not to attempt such foolishness; nevertheless, they would not listen. 7. As part of their plan to overthrow Zeus, the Titans moved huge rocks to Mount Olympus. They piled them high toward the sky, above the clouds. But they did not know that Zeus was aware of their activities. Zeus waited until the giants had completed their pile and were ready for battle before he made his move. 8. Finally, thrusting out his hand at just the right moment, Zeus touched the great mountain of rock with a mighty blow. Instantly, the mountain of rock crumbled into rubble and plummeted toward the sea far below. Both rock and Titans plunged straight down into the water with a thundering crash. This created such a heavy splash that huge waves of water banged against the seashore for miles and miles. 9. Afterwards, Prometheus and his brother were the only Titans left on earth, and they eventually grew lonely. Since the brothers had not revolted against him, Zeus appointed them to a special task: to create humans and creatures from water and earth. Using some clay, Prometheus crafted animals and men while his brother, Epimetheus, bestowed them with gifts. For the animals, Epimetheus provided courage, swiftness, and strength by furnishing each with coverings. He granted feathers and wings to some, and, to others, fur, claws, or a hard shell. By the time he was ready to bestow gifts to man, there was no covering left. 10. Zeus volunteered, "I will provide a covering for man," and he did just that. Unfortunately, the people that Prometheus had created could not breathe. Zeus sent Prometheus to seek help from the god of the winds, Aeolus, who sent his son, North Wind, back with Prometheus. North Wind whistled in amazement when he saw the people of clay. His wisp of breath blew air into them so that the clay people began to breathe. 11. Over a period of time, Prometheus did not care to live among the immortal gods in the clouds on the mountain tops. He felt more comfortable around humans and preferred to live among them. Prometheus offered his help but soon discovered a reason to be filled with sadness. He saw his people dwelling in dark caves, shivering with cold, dying of starvation, and hunted by wild beasts. 12. Prometheus went to Aeolus in search of help a second time. South Wind and the zephyrs returned with him. South Wind brought green grass, flowers, and birds to the people. The zephyrs showed them how to laugh and cry and sing and dance. 13. Finally, Prometheus realized that there was only one thing that could truly help his people. “If only they had fire,” he thought to himself. Zeus kept fire burning around his throne all of the time because it was his most precious possession. So Prometheus decided to ask Zeus about sharing fire with man. 14. The next day, Prometheus boldly approached Zeus in the garden. Prometheus begged Zeus to offer fire as comfort to men but this made Zeus boil with anger. "I have already given too much to your people," he said. "I would rather have them shiver in cold, dark caves to live like beasts than become strong and wise like ourselves. They should not become competitors for our kingdom but remain poor and ignorant so that we Mighty Ones thrive. Let them help themselves." 15. This reaction from Zeus brought even more sadness to Prometheus because he loved his people. Determined to help Mankind, Prometheus twirled around and walked out of the garden, hoping never to see Zeus ever again. Prometheus had to move quickly; Zeus must not find out about his plan. 16. Prometheus dashed straight to the throne room on Mount Olympus before Zeus arrived. He grabbed a stalk from a fennel plant and touched its tip on the eternal flame. This created a fiery torch. Now Prometheus could carry fire to his people. 17. “Mankind shall have fire,” he said to himself. 18. Prometheus carried the flame to the dwelling place of man. Shouting loudly, he called to the shivering men, “Oh, people, come out of your caves. I have something for you – something you need. Prepare to receive your gift of fire.” The people were astounded to see the glowing stick. 19. From the rising of the sun in the east to its setting in the west, Prometheus distributed fire from family to family. 20. Over time, Mankind grew wiser. Prometheus built a fire and instructed them how to warm and cook for themselves. Eventually, he showed them how to dig, melt, and shape metal such as copper and iron ore. This metal could be used to make tools. Then he taught them how to locate and work with wood. Also, he showed them how to tame cattle and protect themselves from winter storms and wild beasts. Prometheus continued to teach them specific tasks using these skills: how to build houses, sail ships, grow crops, and store food for the winter. 21. Prometheus saw how the gift of fire spread happiness throughout the world. Then he yelled, “A new Golden Age has dawned, far brighter and better than the old!” 22. Things might have gone well with the Golden Age if it had not been for Zeus. He happened to peer down upon the earth as he rode his chariot across the evening sky. He saw that the earth was speckled with hundreds of small fires. Examining more closely, he could see people living in houses, herds of animals eating grass on the hillside, and fields of grain growing in the valleys. All of this made him seethe with anger. 23. “Who has done all this?” he asked. Someone replied, “Prometheus!” 24. Zeus was furious. “What! That thief!” he yelled. “I will punish Prometheus so terribly that he will wish he had been imprisoned with the other Titans.” But Zeus knew he could handle this matter with Prometheus later. 25. “As for Mankind,” Zeus roared, “I will make their lives ten times more miserable than before they ever received my fire.” 26. So Zeus decided to afflict Mankind first. He devised a plan of indirect methods. He ordered Hephaestus, his blacksmith, to mold a woman from a lump of clay. Hephaestus worked in the crater of a burning mountain and began working on this assignment right away. When finished, Hephaestus carried the lifeless body to Zeus who said, “I will give this woman life.” Zeus granted her beauty, a pleasant voice, and, most important of all, curiosity. He was very pleased to see that the woman was beautiful and so did everyone on Mount Olympus. Zeus decided to call her Pandora. 27. Zeus beckoned for Hermes, the swift messenger who delivered news across the heavens. He asked Hermes to deliver Pandora to the door of Prometheus. But before telling both of them good-bye, Zeus gave Pandora a large box as a going-away present. He told her that this box held many precious things. 28. Doing as he was told, Hermes raced down the mountain side but who did he find when he arrived? Prometheus was not at home; however, his younger brother, Epimetheus, greeted Hermes at the doorway. Prometheus was busy toiling for the betterment of Mankind. 29. Hermes said to Epimetheus, “Here is a beautiful woman for you. Zeus has sent her to be your wife.” 30. Now Prometheus had often cautioned his brother to beware of gifts from Zeus. But Prometheus was not the only one who distrusted Zeus. The wise Athena, the queen of the air, warned Pandora never, ever to open or look inside the box that Zeus had given to her. 31. When Epimetheus saw Pandora’s beauty, he forgot all of his brother’s warnings. Epimetheus took her as his wife. And when Prometheus returned home that evening, he was pleasantly surprised to see that Pandora was so lovely. 32. Just as Epimetheus did not heed warnings, Pandora did the same. Although Pandora was very happy in her new home, her curiosity about the box that Zeus had given to her became the focus of her attention. “Jewels must be inside this box,” she said to herself.” Then she imagined how these jewels could make her more beautiful. “If only I could wear them,” she thought. “Why did Zeus give these jewels to me if I cannot use them or even look at them?” 33. With each passing day, Pandora had more thoughts about the contents of the large box. The more she pondered upon this, the more curious she became. Every day she gently stroked her fingers across the top of the lid, trying to think of ways to peek into the box without opening it. No workable plan came to mind. 34. Finally, one day, Pandora could not take this torment any longer. She asked herself, “Why should I pay attention to what Athena told me? The jewels that must be in this box would not be of any use to her. It won’t hurt to just peek inside. Besides, Athena will never know. In fact, nobody in the world but me will ever know.” She made up her mind. She would surrender to her intense curiosity. 35. Slowly and carefully, Pandora moved the lid just a little bit. The lid creaked at the hinges. But this creaking sound was soon replaced by whirring and rustling noises that surrounded the room. Before Pandora could shut the lid, out dashed ten thousand strange creatures with gaunt faces and hideous appearance. The world had never before seen such frightening creatures. They soared around the room before flying out the window to find new dwelling places. 36. Unnoticed, these dreadful creatures flew into every house and nestled among the men, women and children who lived there. All joy ended because these dreadful creatures were disease, poverty, war, and troubles. Until this time, Mankind had only experienced health, prosperity, and peace. Ever since that day, the dreadful creatures have been flitting and creeping, unseen and unheard, over all the land, bringing pain and sorrow into every household. 37. For the welfare of Mankind, it was a good thing that Pandora had shut the lid so quickly. If she hadn’t, things would have grown much worse. She closed the lid just in time to prevent the last of the dreadful creatures from getting out of the box. The name of the creature that was not able to escape was called Foreboding. He was half-way out when Pandora pushed him back into the box and shut the lid tightly. If Foreboding had managed to escape into the world, Mankind never would have been able to experience any joy or hope. 38. Once these events had unfolded as planned, Zeus was ready to punish Prometheus for stealing his fire. Zeus called two servants -- Strength and Force -- to seize Prometheus and carry him to the highest mountain peak. Then he sent the blacksmith Hephaestus to bind Prometheus with iron chains. Zeus said, “Prometheus must remain bound until he apologizes for what he has done. I expect him to return the fire to heaven.” Although he was a friend of Prometheus, Hephaestus did not dare disobey Zeus. 39. And so it was that the great friend of Mankind – Prometheus -- was chained to the mountain peak. The shrieks of fierce eagles filled his ears as their cruel claws tore his body. At times he grew faint-hearted but, as a Titan, his body healed overnight. Yet, each day, Zeus sent the eagles to torment him. Prometheus lived like this through many blazing summers and icy winters. He grew faint-hearted but, even though he endured much suffering, he did not beg for mercy. Year after year passed by but Prometheus still refused to say that he was sorry for what he had done. 40. One day, after many ages had passed, Prometheus looked down from the mountain top and spotted a traveler. Staring more closely, Prometheus asked himself, “Is the traveler just passing by, or is he walking toward me? Prometheus felt so weak that he could hardly tell. 41. The traveler climbed the rugged mountain. After reaching the top of the mountain, the traveler straightened his legs to stand up straight. At that moment, Prometheus realized that this traveler was Heracles, the son of Zeus. 42. Heracles had come to free Prometheus and ask for his help in solving a problem. He found Prometheus surrounded by the fierce eagles. Heracles clutched his gold arrow. With a mighty blow, he slew the eagles and snapped the chains with his bare hands. Finally, Prometheus was liberated! Now he was free to help his rescuer – the mighty Heracles – as well as Mankind.
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