Things are stolen from burning people

How did people get fire? While modern science is based on lightning strikes, which prehistoric man made use of, the writers of ancient Greece had their own theory: The giant Prometheus should have brought fire to earth. The Prometheus myth inspired the poets and thinkers of the Christian West like hardly any other Greek legend.

Prometheus statue in New York - © Reto Fetz (swisscan) /

Who Was Prometheus?

The giant was considered the son of the titan Iapetus. The ancient sources are not entirely in agreement about who his mother was. The poet Hesiod calls the Oceanids Clymene.

Prometheus was considered to be Creator and important advocate of humanity. After sculpting people from clay, he endowed them with all sorts of skills that he took from animals. Finally, the goddess Athena even gave them reason. The only thing missing was fire.

Prometheus ‘fraud

When humans were supposed to bring an animal sacrifice to the immortal gods of Olympus, Prometheus betrayed these gods so that they only got the bones instead of the good meat. As a punishment, Zeus decided that the people should not receive a fire now. But once again Prometheus stood up for the beings he had created: he kept that Stems of a giant fennel to the burning sun chariot of the god Helios and stole the fire.

The literary detail of the giant fennel may irritate today's reader - but the Greeks actually use these plants to make and transport fires. The giant fennel (remotely comparable to the tinder fungus) has an easily combustible stem pulp, which is protected by a largely fire-resistant bark.

Zeus ‘vengeance

Legendary and world famous is Zeus ‘two-part revenge. The “father of gods” sent the proverbial to the people Pandora's box: When the box was opened carelessly, various evils came upon mankind, for example serious illness and death.

Prometheus himself became chained to a rock in the Caucasus Mountains. There he had to endure for thousands of years how an eagle ate a piece of his liver every day, but it grew back again immediately. Only the Greek hero Heracles finally freed the endlessly suffering. Since then, as a visible sign of his punishment, Prometheus has had to wear a ring to which a piece of rock from the Caucasus was still forged.

But the people were allowed to keep the stolen fire.