Prometheus - The Gift of Fire and the Skill of Metalwork

By Ben Collinson

Prometheus - The Gift of Fire and the Skill of Metalwork

We are in the process of collaborating with our friends at The Alchemy Lab on our first videos.  The forthcoming project is inpired by Greek mythology, specifically the tale of the Titan Prometheus who was renowned for his cunning.  He had a reputation as being a clever trickster and he famously gave the human race the gift of fire and the skill of metalwork, an action for which he was punished by Zeus, who ensured everyday that an eagle ate the liver of the Titan as he was helplessly chained to a rock. 

Prometheus was one of the ringleaders of the battle between the Titans and the Olympian gods led by Zeus to gain control of the heavens, a struggle that was said to have lasted ten years.  Prometheus did, however, switch sides and support the victorious Olympians when the Titans would not follow his advice to use trickery in the battle.

According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Prometheus’ father was Lapetus, his mother Themis and his brothers and fellow Titans Epimetheus (Afterthought or Hindsight), Menoetius, and Atlas. One of Prometheus’ sons was Deucalion, an equivalent of Noah, who survived a great flood by sailing in a great chest for nine days and nights and who, with his wife Pyrrha, became the founder of the human race.

Jan Cossiers - Prometeo Trayendo El Fuego (1637) 

In some traditions, Prometheus made the first man from clay, whilst in others, the gods made all creatures on Earth, and Epimetheus and Prometheus were given the task of endowing them with gifts so that they might survive and prosper. Epimetheus liberally spread around such gifts as fur and wings but by the time he got around to mankind, he had run out of gifts. Lamenting for mankind’s weak and naked state, Prometheus raided the workshop of Hephaistos and Athena on Mt. Olympus and stole fire, and by hiding it in a hollow fennel-stalk, he gave the valuable gift to mankind, which would help the mortals in the struggle of life. The Titan also taught man how to use their gift and so the skill of metalwork began; he also came to be associated with science and culture.

Zeus was outraged by Prometheus' theft of fire and so punished the Titan by having him taken far to the east, perhaps the Caucasus. Here Prometheus was chained to a rock (or pillar) and Zeus sent an eagle to eat the Titan’s liver. Even worse, the liver re-grew every night and the eagle returned each day to perpetually torment Prometheus. After many years of torture and torment the legendary hero Hercules, when passing one day during his celebrated labours, killed the eagle with one of his arrows. In Hesiod’s Works & Days we are told that Zeus punished man for receiving the fire by instructing Hephaistos to create the first woman, Pandora, from clay and through her all the negative aspects of life would befall the human race - toil, illness, war, and death - and definitively separate mankind from the gods.

Peter Paul Rubens - Prometheus Bound (1611-1612)