Prometheus was the son of the Titan Iapetos and the nymph Klymene), brother of Atlas and Epimetheus. His name means "Foresight", and that of Ephemetheus "Aftersight". He is closely connected with humans, but this connection takes different forms in different authors. Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and knowledge, and gave it to his beloved mortals on earth. Zeus did not punish Prometheus alone, but he punished the entire world for the effrontery of this rebel god.
Prometheus was a god long before Zeus took the Throne of Eternity. He fought for Zeus against the devising Kronos, but Prometheus never had true respect for Zeus. He feared that the new Olympians had no compassion for each other or the mortals on the earth below. To show his disdain, Prometheus prepared two sacrifices and, in an attempt to belittle father Zeus, he made one sacrifice of fat and bones and the other of the finest meat. The trick was, Prometheus had wrapped the fat in such a way that it looked to be the most sincere tribute of the two. Zeus saw through the trick and magnanimously controlled his anger. He warned Prometheus but did not punish him.
Zeus had many plans for the reshaping of creation. After the fall of Kronos and his confinement in Tartaros, Zeus took no interest in the mortal race of men on the bountiful earth, he intended for them to live as primitives until they died off. Zeus said that knowledge and divine gifts would only bring misery to the mortals and he insisted that Prometheus not interfere with his plans.
Despite Zeus’ warning, Prometheus took pity on the primitive mortals and again, he deceived Zeus. Prometheus gave the mortals all sorts of gifts: brickwork, woodworking, telling the seasons by the stars, numbers, the alphabet (for remembering things), yoked oxen, carriages, saddles, ships and sails. He also gave other gifts: healing drugs, seer craft, signs in the sky, the mining of precious metals, animal sacrifice and all art.
To compound his crime, Prometheus had stolen fire from Zeus and given it to the mortals in their dark caves. The gift of divine fire unleashed a flood of inventiveness, productivity and, most of all, respect for the immortal gods in the rapidly developing mortals. Within no time (by immortal standards), culture, art, and literacy permeated the land around Olympus. When Zeus realized the deception that Prometheus had fostered, he was furious. He had Hepheistos shackle Prometheus to the side of a crag, high in the Caucasus mountains. There Prometheus would hang until the fury of Zeus subsided.
Each day, Zeus’ eagle would torment Prometheus as it tore at his immortal flesh and tried to devour his liver. Each night, as the frost bit it’s way into his sleep, the torn flesh would mend so the eagle could begin anew at the first touch of Dawn.
Zeus’ anger did not stop there. He intended to give the mortals one more gift and undo all the good Prometheus had done. He fashioned a hateful thing in the shape of a young girl and called her Pandora. Her name means, “Giver of all” or “All endowed”. Hepheistos made her body, he gave her form and voice. Athene gave her dexterity and inventiveness. Aphrodite put a spell of enchantment around her head and Hermes put pettiness in her tiny brain. She was ready for the world. She was the first woman the gods made.
Zeus gave Pandora to Ephemetheus (brother of Prometheus). Ephemetheus knew better than to trust Zeus and he had been warned by Prometheus never to accept gifts from the Olympians, especially Zeus. One look at Pandora and Ephemetheus was rendered helpless. He could not resist her, he accepted her willingly. When the gift was opened, evil and despair entered into this world. Mistrust and disease spread over the wide earth. After Pandora was emptied of her curse, Hope was left inside. Unreasonable, groundless Hope that makes the curse of life into a blessing.
And so, Prometheus was destined to suffer at the hands of his own kind. Gods punishing gods. To him, the saddest part of his punishment was the implication that the gods (Zeus in particular) had lost their right to rule because they had lost touch with their hearts.
As Prometheus was hanging, shackled to the rock face, he spoke to Ocean and the river’s daughters. They were all shocked at Zeus’ excesses but Prometheus warned them not to speak out against Zeus, it would do no good. Zeus would soon fall from his throne and they had but to wait for that inevitable moment.
When Io, also being punished at Zeus’ will, came upon Prometheus and the daughters of Ocean, she wanted to know her future. Prometheus, even in his tortured condition, tried to spare the feelings of the poor girl. She had been transformed into a black and white heifer and was cursed to wander, prodded by an evil gadfly. Her future was only slightly better than his, she was lucky because she was mortal and would die and be rid of her earthly torment. He, on the other hand, was immortal. His torment would last forever.
The journey of Io was crucial to the release of Prometheus from his bonds. After her wandering journey to Egypt, Io was returned to her human form and had a glorious son named Epaphos. Thirteen generation later, Herakles climbed the mountain, killed the eagle and freed Prometheus from his shackles.