Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus

Prometheus Bound

I’ve never been a big fan of Greek mythology. But reading Prometheus Bound converted me!

Prometheus Bound, which is probably the oldest book I’ve ever read (I am yet to read The Iliad and The Odyssey), is an ancient Greek tragedy. The play has been historically attributed to Aeschylus (525 – 456 BC, however, the authorship is now disputed), and it is based on the tragedy of Prometheus, a Titan and the greatest benefactor of mankind.

The play begins with two servants of Zeus; Kratos (Might) and Bia (Force) tying Prometheus to a rock for the crime of stealing fire from Hephaistos (god of fire and metalwork) and gifting it to humans. Humans are a species Zeus wanted to expunge, but Prometheus defied Zeus with his commitment to mankind. Prometheus had previously gifted humans with the knowledge of writing, mathematics, medicine, architecture, and most importantly hope, so Prometheus’ latest exploit has Zeus subjecting him to eternal torment (even though the punishment begins with shackling Prometheus to a rock, by the end of the play its severity escalates, and according to Prometheus’ own prophecy he will not be saved for many years).

Prometheus Bound is essentially Prometheus’ lament. As the story goes on we learn that it is not only humans who were benefited by Prometheus. Prometheus had, in fact, helped Zeus to overthrow the Titans and come into power, and Prometheus is not even the only one wronged by Zeus in the play. There is Io, the mortal Zeus fell in love with, who is now facing the wrath of Hera, Zeus’ wife. So Zeus depicted in Prometheus Bound is a tyrant (I was fascinated by that portrayal because Zeus who is considered the King of Gods was a deity in ancient Greece), and Prometheus prophesies the downfall of Zeus.

Unfortunately Prometheus Bound is the only (and possibly the first) book that survives today from the trilogy, Prometheia, it would have been a treat to see this how this all ended. Inspired by Prometheia, in 1820 Percy Bysshe Shelley had published Prometheus Unbound, a closet drama (not intended to be produced on the stage). Needless to say, I look forward to reading it. And I recommend Prometheus Bound for anyone enamored of Greek mythology.


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