In Greek mythology, Prometheus is a Titan god of fire. 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, and is also generally seen as the author of the human arts and sciences. He is sometimes presented as the father of Deucalion, the hero of the flood story.
In the trick at Mecone, a sacrificial meal marking the "settling of accounts" between mortals and immortals, Prometheus played a trick against Zeus. He placed two sacrificial offerings before the Olympian: a selection of beef hidden inside an ox's stomach, and the bull's bones wrapped completely in "glistening fat". Zeus chose the latter, setting a precedent for future sacrifices. Henceforth, humans would keep that meat for themselves and burn the bones wrapped in fat as an offering to the gods. This angered Zeus, who hid fire from humans in retribution. In this version of the myth, the use of fire was already known to humans, but withdrawn by Zeus.
Prometheus stole fire back from Zeus in a fennel stalk and restored it to humanity (565–566). This further enraged Zeus, who sent the first woman to live with humanity (Pandora, not explicitly mentioned). The woman, a "shy maiden", was fashioned by Hephaestus out of clay and Athena helped to adorn her properly (571–574). Hesiod writes, "From her is the race of women and female kind: of her is the deadly race and tribe of women who live amongst mortal men to their great trouble, no helpmeets in hateful poverty, but only in wealth" (590–594). For his crimes, Prometheus was punished by Zeus, who bound him with chains and sent an eagle to eat Prometheus' immortal liver every day, which then grew back every night. Years later, the Greek hero Heracles, with Zeus' permission, killed the eagle and freed Prometheus from this torment (521–529).
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). His liver would then grow back overnight, only to be eaten again the next day in an ongoing, infinite cycle. According to several major versions of the myth, most notably that of Hesiod, Prometheus was eventually freed by the hero Heracles. 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.
In another myth, Prometheus establishes the form of animal sacrifice practiced in ancient Greek religion. 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.
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.