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Chapter 5

ENGL 2500 Chapter Notes - Chapter 5: Kingu, Animal Husbandry, Cronus

Course Code
ENGL 2500
George Harrison

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CH.5 Myths of Creation II: The Origin of Mortals
Prometheus, Maker of Mortals
- Prometheus, the Titan who took Zeus’s side in the battle against his cousin
- Like Cronus, and like Zeus, Prometheus was known for being clever, the
inventor of many things, including the race of mortals
- The Roman poet, Ovid, tells us that Prometheus made the human race by
mixing primeval earth and water because the earth contained divine seed,
the human was a superior being
- Ovid’s optimistic vision of man’s superiority is rather opposed to the version
in the Enuma elish where human beings were made from the blood of Kingu
to be servants of the gods, which is why humans are disposed to wickedness
and why they must work constantly
Prometheus, Protector of Mortals
- Prometheus’s father, Iapetus, was a first generation Titan, brother of Cronus
- Prometheus’s essential quality is encoded in his name – “foreleaner”
- Prometheus is the folklore trickster who delights in outwitting those who
appear more powerful
- Prometheus has a brother Epimetheus “afterlearner,” or “dummy
- Zeus was particularly jealous and fearful of Prometheus
o When gods and mortals were gathered to feast at Meconê,
Prometheus, trying to hoodwink Zeus’s wits and attention, butchered
and served the flesh of an ox
o For Zeus, he concealed bones in shining fat but Zeus saw the bones
wrapped in the tempting fat enraging him
o Ever since then, men of every race on the face of the earth burn the
white bones on the altar in sacrifice to the immortals
- Hesiod excuses Zeus’s stupidity by explaining that he had really seen through
the trick all along and made the wrong choice only to justify the pain he was
planning to inflict on humans
- Zeus was so angered by what happened at Meconê that, to punish
Prometheus’ favourites, he removed fire from the trees where it had lurked
before; Prometheus pitied his beloved mortals and stole fire from heaven by
hiding it in a fennel stalk with a soft inflammable pith and a hard fire-
resistant coat
- Ever since Prometheus’ theft, human beings have enjoyed the permanent
possession of fire
- Zeus now turned on the Titan himself; Zeus ordered Strength (Kratos) and
Violence (Bia), children of the underworld river Styx, to bind Prometheus to
a pillar in the Caucasus Mountains at the eastern end of the Black Sea

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o In real life vicious criminals were taken to the boundaries of a
territory, stripped naked, nailed to a post, and allowed to die
- Prometheus, being immortal, can never die; his liver grows back each day,
and image of everlasting intolerable torment, he did for us
- Aeschylus says that early humans were rude, witless, savage, and lacking
self-consciousness Prometheus taught them brickmaking, woodworking,
the calendar, numbers, writing, animal husbandry, and seafaring
o The highest human skills are the gifts of Prometheus: medicine,
metallurgy, and prophecy from dreams, the shape of intestines, and
astronomical phenomena he made human life what it is
- The hero Heracles killed the devouring eagle eating away at Prometheus and
freed him Zeus didn’t object, by that time, Prometheus did him a great
o When an oracle declared that child greater than its father would be
born to a certain woman, only Prometheus knew the oracle referred
to the Nereid Thetis, whom Zeus admired
o While bound in chains, Prometheus the forelearner revealed to whom
the prophecy referred and Zeus backed off from Thetis and compelled
her to marry a mortal instead Peleus, father of Achilles
Zeus punished Prometheus for stealing fire, but he also punished man by imposing
women (what Hesoid regarded as the greatest infliction of all
- The folktale of Pandora, like the biblical story of Adam and Eve, is etiological
to explain the origin of woman, marriage, and suffering in the world
- Prometheus offered Zeus something that looked good on the outside, covered
in glistening fat: within were only bones Zeus now offered a similar
deception: looked good on the outside, but within was filled with lies, and
swindles, and all sorts of thievish behaviour
o Still have Hope contained in a jar
- Prometheus introduced the arts of civilized life he was fine with
reproduction in a unisexual world until Pandora opened the jar of Hope
o Now life is labour, misery, and disease, with death at the end
- Pandora’s descendants, the “Race” of women, are a species apart who
contribute nothing to the production of foot yet consume vast quantities of it
- The male is the food producer, the female the unproductive consumer
- Pandora’s name as reflecting the fact that every god and goddess endowed
her with charm, “all gifted”, but the name probably means “all giver” – a
name for a mother goddess, like Gaea
Observations: Women as Containers
- Pandora has ajar, and in Greek society women daily carried water to the
house in jars with big bellies called hydriae, “water jars” – such jars often
have pictures on them revealing scenes from women’s daily lives
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