In Greek mythology, Prometheus (/prəˈmθiəs/; Ancient Greek: Προμηθεύς, [promɛːtʰéu̯s], possibly meaning "forethought")[1] is a Titan god of fire.[2] Prometheus is best known for defying the gods by stealing fire from them and giving it to humanity in the form of technology, knowledge, and more generally, civilization. In some versions of the myth he is also credited with the creation of humanity from clay. Prometheus is known for his intelligence and for being a champion of humankind,[3] and is also generally seen as the author of the human arts and sciences.[citation needed] He is sometimes presented as the father of Deucalion, the hero of the flood story.[4][5][6]

Titan of forethought and crafty counsel, culture hero, and trickster figure in Greek mythology
Personal information
ParentsIapetus and Asia or Clymene
SiblingsAtlas, Epimetheus, Menoetius, Anchiale
Prometheus depicted in a sculpture by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam, 1762 (Louvre)

The punishment of Prometheus as a consequence of the theft of fire and giving it to humans is a popular subject of both ancient and modern culture. Zeus, king of the Olympian gods, sentenced Prometheus to eternal torment for his transgression. Prometheus was bound to a rock, and an eagle—the emblem of Zeus—was sent to eat his liver (in ancient Greece, the liver was thought to be the seat of human emotions).[7] His liver would then grow back overnight, only to be eaten again the next day in an ongoing cycle.[7] According to several major versions of the myth, most notably that of Hesiod, Prometheus was eventually freed by the hero Heracles.[8][9] In yet more symbolism, the struggle of Prometheus is located by some at Mount Elbrus or at Mount Kazbek, two volcanic promontories in the Caucasus Mountains beyond which for the ancient Greeks lay the realm of the barbarii.[10]

In another myth, Prometheus establishes the form of animal sacrifice practiced in ancient Greek religion.[citation needed] Evidence of a cult to Prometheus himself is not widespread. He was a focus of religious activity mainly at Athens, where he was linked to Athena and Hephaestus, who were the Greek deities of creative skills and technology.[11][12]

In the Western classical tradition, Prometheus became a figure who represented human striving (particularly the quest for scientific knowledge) and the risk of overreaching or unintended consequences. In particular, he was regarded in the Romantic era as embodying the lone genius whose efforts to improve human existence could also result in tragedy: Mary Shelley, for instance, gave The Modern Prometheus as the subtitle to her novel Frankenstein (1818).

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