Prometheus prōmē´thēəs [key], in Greek mythology, great benefactor of mankind. He was the son of the Titan Iapetus and of Clymene or Themis. Because he foresaw the defeat of the Titans by the Olympians he sided with Zeus and thus was spared the punishment of the other Titans. According to one legend Prometheus created mankind out of clay and water. When Zeus mistreated man, Prometheus stole fire from the gods, gave it to man, and taught him many useful arts and sciences. In another legend he saved the human race from extinction by warning his son, Deucalion , of a great flood. This sympathy with mankind roused the anger of Zeus, who then plagued man with Pandora and her box of evils and chained Prometheus to a mountain peak in the Caucasus. In some myths he was released by Hercules; in others Zeus restored his freedom when Prometheus revealed the danger of Zeus' marrying Thetis, fated to bear a son who would be more powerful than his father. Prometheus is the subject of many literary works, of which the most famous are Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound and Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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