The Bucket List Book Adventure: Book Six - Prometheus Bound

 Dear Henry,

Book Six, Aeschylus's Prometheus Bound, of the Bucket List Book Adventure (read about that here) is done! So let me tell you all about it.

Prometheus is my favorite Ancient Greek deity. Prometheus is also the one that most correspond to the Judeo/Christian concept of God. 

Despite seducing many of them, Zeus didn't like humans and worked very hard at the beginning of his reign to destroy them. However, Prometheus felt sorry for the poor humans and, contrary to Zeus's orders, helped humanity by giving them fire, agriculture, technology, and the ability to form a civilization.  

Oddly enough, before this, Zeus and Prometheus were allies and friends. Prometheus aided Zeus during the war to overthrow the ancient gods and establish Zeus's place as king of the gods. But Zeus deemed helping humanity unforgivable and sentenced Prometheus to be chained to a rock (some believe it is in the Caucasus mountains) to have his liver eaten out daily by an eagle because, as a god, Prometheus is immortal and has eternally regenerative organs, making this an eternally painful punishment.

An inter-related story is the tale of Io. Io, daughter of Ichaus, caught Zeus's eye. Somehow, during this courtship (either by Zeus trying to hide her from Hera or because Hera was acting like Hera always did), Io was turned into a cow. Then Hera, acting like Hera always did, decided to chase her around the world with a gadfly. Finally, Io approaches Prometheus while he is chained to the rock, but before he is cast into the earth's bowels for a prophecy, he learns that she will not remain a cow forever and that one of her descendants will free Prometheus.

Aeschylus picks up the story of Prometheus at the time of Prometheus's binding by Kratus and Bia.  Zeus is, of course, not about to appear himself. The Oceanids (who act as the chorus in this play)  come to express their sympathy but acknowledge their fidelity to Zeus and inability to fight his will. Oceanus also comes to Prometheus and promises to convince Zeus to let Prometheus go. Prometheus refuses to allow Oceanus to do this because of Zeus's retaliation against Oceanus. 

Amid all this, Io stops by, in heifer form, to find out if she will be a cow forever. Prometheus reassures her, tells her that Zeus's reign will someday end, and relates that one of her children's children's children will set him free. Hermes overhears and tries to pressure Prometheus into telling him the name of Io's offspring. Prometheus refuses. Hermes threatens Prometheus, and Prometheus still says no finally, there is "the earthquake," and Prometheus and the Oceanids, who refused to leave him, disappear into the earth. 

This play was originally one of a trilogy and the only one that survived the ages completely. The second play was Prometheus Unbound, where Hercules, the decedent of Io, frees Prometheus. In the third play, Prometheus the Fire Bringer, Prometheus warns Zeus not to get involved with Thetis, the nymph, because the union would produce a son to overthrow Zeus. Zeus marries Thetis off to the human Peleus, and their son Achilles dies at Troy. Zeus, grateful to maintain his Olympian throne, finally reconciles with Prometheus.

I mentioned before that Prometheus is probably the closest of the Greek pantheon to the Judeo/Christian God. Prometheus aided humans against other deities, particularly Zeus, and suffered tremendously on behalf of humanity. Another strong theme within the play is friendship. The Oceanids allow themselves to be trapped with Prometheus because of their relationship, and Oceanus tries to confront Zeus on Prometheus's behalf.   

It is a great myth and probably my favorite of Aeschylus's plays, although I still need to figure out if the interjection of Io's prophecy added much to the overall tale. 

I'll be leaving the worlds of Aeschylus now and heading to the works of Sophocles and the play Oedipus Rex.  

Stay tuned!

xoxo a.d. elliott


a.d. elliott is a wanderer, writer, and photographer currently living in Salem, Virginia. 

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