The Creation of Man
Now we come to the creation of mankind.
According to Hesiod there were five ages:
- The Age of Gold, where the gods of Olympus created a golden race of mortals that lived in a state of bliss until the earth swallowed them. Their spirits still remain on earth.
- The Age of Silver, where a race was created that was arrogant beyond ken and refused to worship the gods. Zeus hid them below the earth where they still dwell.
- The Age of Bronze, where bronze warriors destroyed themselves.
- The Age of Heroes, the race of Men that fought in the Trojan and Theban wars. Mighty and just warriors, some of whom were immortalised.
- The Age of Iron, the race of Men that lived during Hesiod’s time, a mix of good and bad, bound for eternal damnation.
Ovid describes only four and omits the Age of Heroes.
The dominant tradition, however, tells us that Prometheus, son of the titan Themis, created mankind from clay and Athena breathed their divine spirit into them. Prometheus is even said to have created all life there is, his first experiments may have been a little simple, like worms and snakes, but they got more and more complex as time went by. Some of them he forgot and traces of these can be found in the rocks. Finally he created monkeys in all their shapes and sizes, and after monkeys he created Man.
Other sources state, Prometheus only created men and Zeus later created woman, Pandorra.
Prometheus clearly took the side of humanity in their struggle with the gods of Olympus. In mankind he put bits of all the other creatures he’d made before, so man would by brave like the lion, but also mischievous like the monkey. He saw, however, than without fire, Man would remain not much more than an animal, so he tried to convince Zeus, that fire should be given to Man.
Zeus refused and war broke out between Man and Zeus who wanted to cleanse the Earth of them. Prometheus intervened and made Man sacrifice to Zeus, however, he wrapped the meat in skin and the bones in fat and greedy Zeus chose the fatty good looking parcel. He was not amused when he found all that was wrapped in the fat were the bones. Again he denied Man fire and Prometheus came and stole it in a hollowed stick of fennel.
Next he started to teach man cooking and firing pottery. He taught them about the stars and the Arts, but took away their knowledge of the future and gave them blind hope in return. Prometheus then went out and gathered all that was evil and bad and put it in an urn he gave to his brother, Epimetheus, for safe keeping. He warned his brother about Zeus and told him to be careful.
Zeus found out that Man had gotten hold of Fire and, rightly, blamed Prometheus. Together with Hephaistos, his son, they moulded a woman out of clay as beautiful as Aphrodite, as modest as a maid. Athena dressed her, Aphrodite gave her grace and Hermes gave her a lovely voice and a tricky mind. This woman they named Pandorra, All-Gifts, and sent her to Epimetheus.
Now Epimetheus, whose name means Afterthought, where Prometheus means Forethought, was not a clever man. Pandorra beguiled him with her looks and her voice, and gave this mix of sweetness and deceitfulness to all other woman. Pandorra opened the urn and all that was bad escaped in to the world. When Prometheus found out he was very sad, a last look in the jar showed him that all was left was hope, which he shook out and sent out in to the world, to give solace to Man.
Zeus wrath wasn’t finished for he chained Prometheus to Mount Caucasos, and sent an eagle to pick out his liver. The creature returned every day as the god’s liver would grow back each day.
Meanwhile the world grows miserable and Zeus decides it needs to be destroyed. He saves a Deukalion and Pyrrha, children of Prometheus and his brother Epimetheus, by putting them in a boat before he floods the world. They arrive on Mount Parnassus, where, with the help of the titan Themis, Prometheus mother, they turn stones into people and repopulate the world.
One of their children is named Hellen, who gives rise to the Hellenes, or ancient Greeks.