Prometheus and Epimetheus: A Tale of Two Brothers

After Kronos defeated Ouranos, he called together all of the Titans and he said: “Now that the power of Creation is ours, let us create. Let us cover our Mother with all manner of living things to Her glory.” And he called upon the brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus to fill the Earth with living creatures that crawl and swim and fly.
Prometheus and Epimetheus put their heads together and Prometheus said, “I know that all of these creatures will need to survive, so let us give each a gift or two that will help them survive this world we are creating.” And so Epimetheus thought of all the creatures that Gaia had made and he thought of the Hecatonchires and made the gift of many arms, and many legs and the gift of great ferocity and speed to bestow on some creatures. And he thought of the strength and cunning of the Cyclopes and he created gifts of strength and speed, and he thought of the Muses and created the gifts of graceful dances and beautiful voices and of the Gigantes and created the gifts of enormous size and he thought of the Erinyes and fashioned gifts that would allow a creature to track its quarry over great distances.
And Prometheus thought, “Some of these creatures will need to escape others who might eat them, so I will give some the gift of the ability to dig deep holes to hide in, and some the gift of camouflage so they can hide from their enemies. And they will need a way to subdue other creatures so they can eat them, so some creatures I would give a poison bite, and others sharp claws.
And when they had finished, the two brothers put all their gifts into a jar and
Prometheus said “I will fashion these creatures from clay and you will give them each a gift or two and send them on their way.” And Epimetheus agreed to this division of labor.
And so it was that Prometheus fashioned many creatures of many different shapes and and Epimetheus granted them each a gift or two and the creatures were released into the world and spread across the Earth. Finally, Prometheus made man and he turned to His brother and said “What gift will be give to man?”
And Epimetheus looked into the jar and said, “There is nothing left. The last gift has been given.”
“But” Said Prometheus, “We can’t release this creature into the wide world full of sharp teeth and claws and poison stings and great strength and cunning with no gift at all. It will surely be killed and eaten before the day is up.”
And Epimetheus replied, “You speak wisely brother, as you always do and surely it falls to me to right this wrong as I gave away the gifts carelessly with no thought toward the final creature. Let me give to this Man a gift of myself, let me give him the ability to remember his history and learn from the past and to pass that knowledge on through story.”
“That is generous of you, brother, but do not take all of the blame.” Said Prometheus, “Are we not building these creatures together? The fault is as much mine as yours as I continued building with no thought to how many gifts you’d already given away. Let me also give a gift to the man. I shall give him my ability to anticipate and plan for the future.”
And so the man was gifted and weak and naked though he was, without thick fur to keep him warm and sharp claws to kill his prey, he was able to anticipate his future needs and to learn from his mistakes and pass the learning on to his children.
And in that time of Creation, Kronos doted on Man and all of the other creatures that the brothers had created and kept the Earth always in fruit so that they knew no want. And all the men and all the other creatures lived in harmony because everyone had everything they needed and none needed to compete with any other for food or shelter.
But when the mighty Zeus and his brothers and sisters rose up against Kronos, the Golden Age of Plenty was ended, for the new King of the Gods cared little for humans and delighted in violent storms that left the humans shivering in the cold and as the seasons changed, they knew long periods of hunger and they began to fight among themselves and kill each other over the smallest scraps of food and Prometheus and Epimetheus looked upon their favorite creations and knew pity and sorrow.
“If this goes on much longer,” Said Prometheus, “Mankind will cease to exist. Something must be done!”
And so he went before the mighty Zeus and he said, “Lord Zeus, I ask you to grant me
permission to present mankind with the gift of fire so that they may warm their homes and create tools as your smith Hephaestus does.”
Zeus replied, “Why would I want man to have fire? Then they will think they are as mighty as the Gods and perhaps challenge us.”
“Ah.” Said Prometheus, “Let us then make fire the means by which mankind honors the Gods. Let us require mankind to present offerings of gratitude to the Gods by burning a portion of their meat on the fire so that its fragrance drifts up to You, that You may smell it and know the honor of Man.”
Zeus liked this idea, “Very well.” Said he, “But what portion will men give to us and which will they keep for themselves?”
And Prometheus replied, “Let us a gather at a great festival, men and Gods together, and we will decide the matter.”
And so the Gods and men gathered at a place called Mecone and a great ox was slaughtered and Zeus called upon Prometheus to divide up the portions for the Gods and for the men. So Prometheus skinned the carcass and cut away the meat and wrapped the meat in the stomach of the ox and wrapped several bones in fat and lay them side by side and bid Zeus choose which he wished for the Gods portion.
And so Zeus chose the portion that shimmered with glistening fat over the portion covered with slimy and unappetizing stomach.  We do not know if Zeus knew that he was being deceived and chose to leave the portion to mankind that he knew it could best use, or if he really was tricked by Prometheus, but he was angry that Prometheus made the attempt, whether it succeeded or not.
“I have changed my mind.” Zeus decided. “I have no desire to give a gift of such value to the people beloved of such a trickster. This incident foreshadows a future when your pet creatures disrespect me as much as you do. I withhold the gift of fire.”
And he returned to Olympus.
Prometheus would not be denied. He stole fire and delivered it to humanity in a great fennel stalk. He taught them how to shelter it and how to bring it to life if it died. He taught them how to use it to make strong, sharp tools and to cook their food and he warned them: “Remember our agreement, fire is a tool for man, and the mouth of the Gods. Feed the Gods through fire, that they will continue to smile upon you.”
Then Prometheus went to his brother, Epimetheus and said, “Zeus will not let this act go unpunished. Though you had no part in the theft, I fear you will not escape retribution, though you won’t be punished outright. Be wary and accept no gifts from Zeus.”
It was not long before Zeus smelled the smoke of the fire and even though it was scented with the fragrance of burning bones offered to the Gods in thanks, he was enraged that Prometheus had the gall to trick him a second time. He seized Prometheus and chained him hand and foot to a rock on a cliff overlooking the sea and here a great eagle visited him every day and ate his liver and each night it grew back to be eaten again the next day, so Prometheus knew torment for millennia.
Epimetheus went to live among the humans as a storyteller and taught them the history of the Gods to ensure that they not forget to honor them so that the Gods would continue to smile upon them.

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