Who Was the Father of Prometheus?
Prometheus is one of the most famous Titans in Greek mythology. He was famously punished for giving mankind the gift of fire, and according to some legends had even created humans himself.
While Prometheus, some of his children, and even one of his brothers loomed large in the mythology, his father was mentioned far less often.
So who was the father of Prometheus, and how did he fit into the Greek creation myth? Keep reading to find out the origins of the most famous Titan of them all!
When most people refer to the Titans, they are referring to the original twelve gods of Greece. In their mythology, the Titans came before Zeus and the gods of Mount Olympus.
The first gods were primordial deities. Gaia and Uranus, the earth and the heavens, gave birth to the twelve Titans.
While Gaia and the other primordial deities were gods, they were much different than those who came after. The Titans had human-like forms, specific domains of power, and complex characteristics and relationships.
Prometheus, however, was not one of these first twelve Titans.
The early gods went on to have more children. After their father Uranus was overthrown, they were free to expand both their powers and their families.
Some gave birth to beings much like themselves, second-generation Titans. Others had nymphs, rustic gods, or even monsters.
The Titan Iapetus married his niece, one of the many daughters of Oceanus.
Now Iapetos (Iapetus) took to wife the neat-ankled maid Klymene (Clymene), daughter of Okeanos (Oceanus), and went up with her into one bed. And she bare him a stout-hearted son, Atlas: also she bare very glorious Menoitios (Menoetius) and clever Prometheus, full of various wiles, and scatter-brained Epimetheus.
-Hesiod, Theogony 507 ff (trans. Evelyn-White)
Prometheus and his brothers belonged to the second generation of Titans. Their powers were more specialized than their parents’, but also more limited.
Iapetus was one of the six male Titans born to Gaia and Uranus at the dawn of time. His name meant “the piercer.”
Many myths say that the youngest of the Titans, Chronos, was alone in challenging Uranus. When the personification of the heavens cruelly imprisoned six of Gaia’s younger children, the mother earth asked her son to help her get revenge.
A few stories, however, say that Iapetus and the other Titans played an important role in bringing about the end of their father’s rule. When Chronos castrated Uranus the other brothers, with the exception of Oceanus, held the dome of the sky aloft so Uranus could never come down and touch Gaia again.
Some early versions of Greek cosmology believed that the sky, seen as a great bronze dome, was held above the earth by four pillars. Placed at each corner of the world, the pillars ensured that the massive bronze dome could never crash down.
The four Titan brothers symbolized these pillars. Standing at each of the cardinal directions, they played an important rule in ensuring that the cosmology of the Greek world functioned – that the heavens never crashed down onto the earth.
Like many aspects of the Greek creation myth, there was never real agreement as to how this worked. Some stories implied that the brothers continued holding the heavens aloft until their eventual defeat in the Titanomachy, while others said that they did so only until the pillars could be put in place.
If Iapetus, Hyperion, Crius, and Coeus did hold up the sky themselves, their burden was not carried for long. Soon, a younger generation of gods would give them a new duty.
The sons of Iapetus would soon find themselves on opposite sides of a terrible war.
When Zeus freed his siblings and challenged his father, he began a war between the generations of gods. Known as the Titanomachy, it pitted the younger gods against their parents’ generation in a battle for control of the universe.
At the beginning of the conflict, Zeus offered an incentive for others to join him and his siblings. He swore that any god who came to their side would enjoy greater power under his leadership than they had under his father’s.
This enticed many of the younger Titans to his side. With Chronos in charge, their powers and opportunities had been limited.
Others, however, remained loyal. They fought for their fathers against the younger rivals.
The four sons of Iapetus were divided during the war. Atlas and Menoetius remained loyal to their father and his brother, while Prometheus and Epimetheus joined Zeus’s rebellion.
The Titanomachy lasted for ten years. The stalemate was only broken with Zeus and his brothers released the Hecatonchieres and Cyclopes, the monstrous children of Gaia that Uranus had imprisoned so long before.
The Cyclopes gave Zeus the gift of his famous thunderbolts, one of which struck down Menoetius. Sometimes considered a god of either anger or hubris, he was sent to the pit of Tartarus.
Atlas famously inherited the task once assigned to his father and uncles. The general of the Titans was doomed to hold the weight of the heavens on his shoulders and single-handedly ensure Uranus never fell.
Iapetus himself was punished as well. The only one of the elder Titans to escape confinement in Tartarus was Oceanus, who had remained neutral in the war and given shelter to noncombatants from both generations.
Prometheus and Epimetheus, however, were allowed to take their place as allies of the new gods. For a time, they would be considered mankind’s greatest benefactors.
In many myths, Prometheus had a hand in the creation of mankind.
A few myths claimed that the Titan himself had created the first men in the image of the gods.
Others said that he and his brother were given the task of handing out gifts to all the animals in creation. Epimetheus, lacking foresight, failed to leave any natural weapons for humans so Prometheus gave them intelligence and fire to make up for their inherent weaknesses.
Whether he created them or simply gave them a great gift, Prometheus was always seen as a champion of humanity. When he helped them save the best food for themselves by tricking Zeus into accepting a lesser sacrifice, the king of the gods punished mankind by taking away the gift of fire.
Again, Prometheus ensured fire would help humans survive without fur to keep them warm, sharp teeth to tear uncooked meat, or natural weapons to defend themselves. He stole fire back from the gods and, in doing so earned Zeus’s wrath.
Zeus and the gods created Pandora and sent her to Prometheus’s foolish brother Epimetheus. Mankind was punished when she released all matter of ills upon them, ending humanity’s Silver Age.
Prometheus was chained to a mountainside, tortured for ages by having his liver continuously ripped from his body.
He still managed to save humanity once more, however. When Zeus sent a great flood to destroy the wicked men of the Bronze Age, Prometheus’s son Deucalion was one of the few survivors.
Deucalion and his wife proved their devotion and goodness by praying to all the gods for help in restoring mankind. They were instructed to create a new race of men and women by casting stones over their shoulders, giving rise to the ancestors of the Greeks and their neighbors.
In all his stories, therefore, Prometheus was seen as not just a friend of humans but also as the source of their creation. He had possibly formed some of the earliest human himself, and his son had become the ancestor of the entire race.
Iapetus was largely forgotten, imprisoned with the rest of the Titans in Tartarus through many ages. But because of his son, he was acknowledged as the ancestor of all mankind.
Prometheus was a member of the second generation of Titans, one of four sons of the elder Titan Iapetus.
Iapetus was one of the six Titans sons of Uranus and Gaia. When his brother overthrew Uranus, Iapetus and his brothers held the dome of the sky up so it would never reach down to the earth again.
During the Titanomachy, Iapetus and two of his sons fought against the new gods led by Zeus. Prometheus and Epimetheus, however, took the side of the Olympians.
When the Titan war ended, Iapetus and his fellow Titans were imprisoned in Tartarus to keep them from ever fighting the new gods again. They would eventually be freed, but only after many ages of confinement.
Prometheus became a great benefactor of mankind. Tricking Zeus on their behalf and then stealing fire to help them, however, earned him a long and excruciating punishment.
While both Iapetus and his son were imprisoned for different reasons, they became revered as the ancestors of all mankind. Through Prometheus, the legacy of Iapetus was carried by men from the Age of Heroes onward.