This series is devoted to different pantheons that have captured the minds, souls, and imaginations of cultures throughout history. You can read about Egypt's gods here, and the Mesopotamian gods here. In this post we will consider the gods of Ancient Greece. Before Marvel's Thor movies and comics, I strongly suspect that, of the many pantheons throughout history, the Grecian gods are those who have captured the Western mind most fully. This is, perhaps, in part due to the Western fascination with Greek philosophy and culture. For us in the West, we see the Greek intellectual framework as something that has inevitably led to our own culture and society. From philosophy, to politics, to science, to human rights, to history, to cultural ideals, to artwork, to entertainment, Greece has paved the way by laying the foundation for our own world today.
And, at the foot of the Greek tree is the roots of the Greek religion. The gods of Greece are, in many ways, very similar to the gods of other cultures. However, due to the plethora of literature concerning them, the Greek pantheon is perhaps one of the most robust in terms of a clear conception and ideology. How the gods operated, thought, lived, worked, and indeed, why they created etc., is fairly simple to deduce. A fun and helpful resource for this topic is Mythos, by Stephen Fry.
For those of us who enjoy seeing the intersection of the Christian religion with the cultures around it, the Greek religion (and, later, the Roman articulation of that Greek religion) is as large an opponent as the Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Canaanite religions. The apostle Paul engages with the Greeks and Romans in numerous places. You can see the concepts of Roman and Greek religion in Christian writings and literature as they seek to demolish the theology of these pantheistic religions by articulating the Christian religion. An obvious example is the attempt to clarify and explain the vital Christian doctrine of the Trinity without falling into the error of tritheism. Christianity is not shaped by the Greek gods, of course, but it is nevertheless heavily engaged with proponents of Greek thought, Greek Gnosticism, Greek religion, and Greek philosophy.
Today, in our own culture, we may not worship the Greek gods such as the Romans did, for example. Nevertheless, the Greek philosophy that sprang from the Greek religion still permeates our world, our government, our education, today. This is not necessarily a negative thing; but it is something to be aware of so as to be able to understand our dependence on the Greek intellect, and how it shapes our thinking.
One of my favourite ideas about the Greek theology is found in the modern adaptation of the Iliad, the movie Troy. In it, Achilles, after capturing and seducing Briseis (a priestess of Apollo), says to her, 'The gods envy us.' Why? 'Because we are mortal.' Thus, he continued, 'our every moment is savoured more intently because it could be our last.' For an immortal, such pleasures as wine, food, sex, war...they fade because there is nothing special about them. In a startling reversal of what the Greeks truly believed, our modern movie writers want us to feel special compared with the gods. As greater, almost. This is not the view of the immortals that the ancients believed. The gods did not envy us. They barely pitied us. We were little more than their distractions.
With that being said, however, the gods did, often, enjoy their creation. They enjoyed us. They often lived amongst us. Certainly, they seduced humans, had children by them, taught them, cared for them, had expectations for them. But you could never say of the ancients that they were jealous of humanity, nor that they loved humanity. We are not that special.
There are some critical conceptions within the Greek pantheon and religion that needs to be grasped, however. Firstly, the gods are not the only celestial beings. Like the Egyptians, for example, there are earlier beings which are less anthropomorphic than the gods of the Zeus-led pantheon. This is also true of certain beings who are born parthenogenically - which means asexually -or chthonically - which means from the underworld or earth. There are many beings who have life without being born by the mingling of a male and female. This is not uncommon in the Greek corpus.
Secondly, the gods are very human in their behaviour. They are, however, unbound by the nature of human mortality. Thus they can be capricious, mean, cruel, compassionate, lustful, aggressive, and kind, but in a heightened manner compared with the emotions and actions of mere humanity. Their capricious nature is called phthonos. It means that the gods can, and will, use human beings as tools, or instruments, in their own political games. The mortals are not special to the gods as a species. Certain gods may have a predilection for a human being, or even a group of humans, but this is not indicative of a special bond between the gods and humanity: there is no such bond. Human beings, as in the Sumerian culture, are there to serve the gods by presenting offerings, ensuring that hospitality is maintained, and providing amusement for the immortal deities.
Another aspect of this is found in their willful confusions. Gods can choose to be very literal or conceited should their desire so rise. Thus, when asking for a gift from the gods, it can be, in reality, a curse because they may give you exactly what you wish for. The prophecies, especially, for example, are known to be intentionally vague and confusing - you can easily read what you want into the wording even if that is not the actual meaning. Dealing with the Greek gods can feel like you are playing chess with a grandmaster without knowing even the most basic rules of the game.
Thirdly, there is no dogmatic religious system of Greek religion, like you find in the Semitic religions. There is no single corpus of Greek texts that make up the doctrine of Greek belief such as in the Bible or the Quran. Thus, there are many different stories about the various gods that may be attributed to Zeus here and Poseidon there. This lack of rigidity is simultaneously a positive and a negative for the Greek religion. Positively, it can transcend the Greek borders by synergy and even theft (consider how the Romans 'adopt' much of the Greek religion, for example). Negatively, however, it can leave the Greek world with a noticeable instability. Just as you can never fully trust the stories about the gods, you are subsequently unable to truly trust the gods themselves. Thus, for many, the best thing for a Greek person was to be suitably disinteresting to the gods without being irritating. It was better to be ignored by all the gods than to be either favoured by one, or hated by another, god.
Fourthly, certain cities were key favourites of specific gods. Athens, for example, was beloved of Athena (hence the name). This distinction played into the phthonos of the nature of the gods: capricious. Athena would gladly face up to, and fight, Aphrodite, should a beloved of Aphrodite threaten her beloved Athens. But, if the gods were to choose between the mortals and their divine siblings, in the end, the mortals would be the ones to suffer. For the gods, life and civilization is a game. A spiteful game, to be sure, but a game nonetheless. Humans are, for all intents and purposes, temporary playthings that the gods can enjoy, but ultimately forget.
Fifthly, the gods sometimes are understood as beings, like humanoid divine specimens. They looked like us, they talked like us, they reproduced like us. But, at other times, they are understood as entities, such as the sky, or the earth. One can say of Poseidon, for example, that he was god of the sea, and yet he was also the sea. Or that Ouranos, the heavens, was indeed the heavens that envelops the earth, and yet who had genitals that enabled him to be castrated by his son. There is not, to my knowledge, any clear theological or philosophical delineation between the metaphysical understanding of the nature and apparition of the gods. It is simply a fact to be accepted, not a concept to be grasped.
Sixthly, one of the key aspects of Greek theology is that a curse from one god cannot be undone by another. It can be countered, but cannot be undone. Thus, even if one of the least divine beings crafts a curse or promise over a being or entity, Zeus himself cannot undo it. Nor, indeed, can one undo their own promise or words. Thus, the myths are littered with gods who rue their own pronouncements or those of their divine contemporaries.
Finally, there is a hierarchy within the divine structure. Obviously the gods are the top beings (though not necessarily in reality an 'obvious' fact). But there are, then, semi divine beings who are the offspring of the gods who mate with humans. They possess the same nature as the gods in certain aspects, but with humans in others. Mortals are the lowest on this spectrum of sentient beings. But there are celestial creator beings, there are the Titans, there are the gods, there are the many, many other beings (nymphs, monsters etc.), there are the semi-divine heroes, and there are the mortals. You and me. The runts of the created order.
With these critical points in mind (and there are many more nuances that could be said), let us dive into the pantheon themselves.
The Primordial Gods:
Gaia is mother earth. She came out of the chaos of the age of 'nothing' and became the world as we know it. She mothered the Titans and some of the gods with Ouranos, the heavens. Eventually, she turned upon her husband (who was also her son), which resulted in the gelding of Ouranos and the second order of the cosmos: the reign of the Titans.
Father Heaven, or Sky, was Ouranos. He was birthed by Gaia and became the husband to Gaia. They had children together, however, in due course he grew wary of his children and imprisoned them deep inside Gaia where they could not threaten him and his cosmic reign. In due course, Gaia grew deeply angry and pained by this treatment. She fashioned a sickle within herself and, quietly, sought one of her children to castrate Ouranos. Only Cronos accepted the challenge.
He was therefore gelded by his son while he was in the midst of coitus with Gaia. Cronos took his testicles and threw them into the sea. From the blood that flowed from the wound the giants, furies, and some nymphs were created, whilst from his severed genitals in the sea, Aphrodite, the goddess of sensual love and lust, was born.
In response to the violence from his youngest, and ambitious son, he cursed Cronos, so that he should know the fate of Ouranos himself - his own children will likewise depose him. Due to his gelding, he no longer came to meet with Gaia and thus never left the sky again; now he simply kept to his station above her.
With Ouranos deposed and in retreat, the Titans, under the leadership of Cronos, came to rule.
There are 12 Titans, six female and six male. Of these 12, the most important are Cronos and Rhea. The male Titans are: Oceanus, Coeus, Crius, Hyperion, Iapetus, and Cronos. The female Titanides are: Theia, Rhea, Themis, Mnemosyne, Phoebe, and Tethys.
Cronos was the leader of the Titans after the dethronement of Ouranos, his father. He finally married his sister, Rhea and together they had numerous children. However, the curse of Ouranos caused him great paranoia and his answer to the threat of being deposed by one of his own children was to eat them as soon as Rhea gave birth. He did this 5 times before Rhea, whose love had turned to a blind rage, managed to trick him by hiding Zeus. Cronos, tricked, swallowed a rock instead, and Gaia kept Zeus hidden until he was old enough to wage war against the Titans.
Eventually, Zeus overthrew Cronos, who subsequently vomited up his hitherto swallowed children, and a ten year cosmic war was waged between the sons of Rhea and the Titans. Zeus and his compatriots were eventually victorious (with the help of other supernatural creatures and monsters) and they imprisoned the Titans in Tartarus. Atlas, however, was one such warrior for the Titans whose vicious prowess in the battle was too great for mere imprisonment; he was charged with holding up the sky to ensure that he could not engage in subterfuge against the gods. Over time, the rain, ice, heat, and elements of the world caused him to become the Atlas Mountains.
Cronos, however, was destined by Zeus to count to infinity. This was, therefore, the beginning of Time and he grew to become the figure we associate with death. Note, for example, that death holds a sickle (the weapon he used against his father) and comes as a figure to bring death.
Rhea was the Titanide who, eventually, married the cold, paranoid, and cruel Cronos. Initially she was in love with him and was excited to be the Queen of the second cosmic order. However, as Cronos began devouring her children, her love turned to hatred and she sought help from Gaia to destroy her husband. Her actions ultimately led to the war of the gods. Her son, Zeus, became the king of the gods and presides over the Olympian order as we come to understand it.
There are many, many 'gods' in the Greek world. However, for the purposes of this post we will only consider the 12 Olympians. There are, of course, many other beings that could be considered godlike, but there is not space enough to consider them all. For the purposes of this post, and to help articulate the foundation for the Greek religious mindset, these 12 will more than suffice.
Zeus was the sixth-born child from the marriage of Rhea and Cronos. The others were: Demeter, Hestia, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon. Due to the curse of Ouranos, these five children were eaten by Cronos as soon as they were born, but when he lay with Rhea again, she determined to preserve the next child and would encourage him to overthrow her husband. She told Cronos that her child was finally born and she begged him to let this one live. He was undeterred, came to her side, took the child, and swallowed him whole, before storming out.
However, this time, Rhea had not yet given birth; instead, with Gaia's help, she had swaddled a rock in cloths and presented it to Cronos as if it were the child. Then, when Cronos left, she herself fled to Crete where she secretly birthed Zeus and hid him while he matured and grew into a great god.
He grew up and gave Cronos an emetic, forcing him to vomit the children out. Together, they went to war against the Titans. The war was difficult, and long. The new gods released the monsters that the Titans had imprisoned, such as the Hekatonchieres and the Cyclopes, the latter of whom forged Zeus's great thunderbolt for him. In due course, Zeus and his fellow gods eventually defeated the Titans and imprisoned them, before establishing their own throne over the universe on Mount Olympus.
There, Zeus, married to Hera, would preside over the Greek world specifically, whilst being rulers over all the cosmos more generally. He was the unequivocal king of the gods.
Perhaps the most well attributed factor concerning Zeus is not his mighty warfare and victory over the Titans, but his gargantuan sex drive; he lusted over men, women, nymphs, and even animals. When the red mist of desire fell over him, nothing would stop until that desire was quenched in the pools of sexual congress. This, obviously, would damage his marriage to Hera, who, although not necessarily faithful herself, saw the failure of Zeus's libido as an insult to the office of the king of heaven. The reputation of Hera as a jealous and cruel goddess is driven by Zeus's mistreatment of her. For my attempt to rethink Hera, however, see this post: here.
His many children included some of the other gods, such as Hephaestus, and some of the great heroes we know of such as Hercules. Even Alexander the Great claimed divine parentage from the king of the gods.
Hades is the god of the underworld. Despite being older than Zeus, there was little surprise that Zeus was the de facto leader of the third order of the cosmic beings. He was, after all, the one who wielded the gift of the Cyclopes, thunderbolts, and the leader of the revolution that ousted the mighty Titans.
After their victory, the brothers were given an opportunity to choose their own area of authority. In short, they gambled and Hades was given authority over Hades, the kingdom of the dead. His domain was dark, frightening, but necessary. Until death was created, however, after the creation of the mortals, his realm was empty. But now, with the birth of the mortals, all of whom must die, he oversees the only expanding kingdom in all of the Greek cosmos. Arguably, therefore, and in his own mind, his realm is the greatest, outside that of Zeus himself.
His wife, Persephone, was tricked by Hades into marrying him. This trickery also led to the creation of the seasons as we know them. Hades, having been taken by the youthful beauty of Persephone kidnaps her and brings her to the underworld where he seeks to woo her and win her heart. However, Persephone's mother, Demeter, is heartbroken and her lifegiving passion is taken from the earth - everything dies. Just like it's Winter.
Eventually the gods hear of the kidnapping and set an ultimatum for Hades to return Persephone to the overworld. He submits to them but asks for one more night to try to convince her. He brings her pomegranate seeds and encourages Persephone to eat. He tries, once again to woo her with sweet words and offers of love but she is hesitant. Nevertheless, he holds the seeds to her and he watches as she sucks on some of them. He smiles. One of the laws of the universe is that once someone eats or drinks in the Underworld, they are his.
Zeus, however, is appealed to by the gods. While he cannot undo the law of the Underworld, he does come up with a clever idea. For six months, the number of seeds she enjoyed, Persephone will reside with Hades and be his bride, the Queen of the Underworld. In these months, Demeter will mourn her absence, vegetation will die, and there will be cold and death throughout the natural realm. But for the other six months, she will return to Olympus and Demeter's joy will cause the vegetation to grow once again. Spring will come. Thus the Greeks understood the seasons as the annual traversing of Persephone to the underworld. And, contrary to what may be expected, the myths suggest that she grew to enjoy being wife to Hades. She saw her task as queen as something very important and grandiose. Almost on a par with Hera, the Queen of Heaven.
It is, frankly, one of the few happy tales of the Greek myths.
The other brother was Poseidon. He ended up as monarch over the seas and oceans. His story is much less fun or exciting, though he wields immense power and authority over the Greeks, especially the Athenians and Corinthians who were sea faring city states.
He is perhaps best known for his trident.
Apollo was the twin brother of Artemis. He is perhaps the most complex and multi-faceted of all the gods, being given governance over music, prophecy, truth, healing, diseases, and even sun and light. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto (so, noticeably, not Hera). His presence as one of the Twelve Gods of Olympus was a constant reminder to Hera of Zeus's infidelity.
As the sun god, whose chariot draws the sun over the world, he is also seen as the most beautiful and radiant of all the gods. His beauty is noticeable because he is unbearded and in perpetual youth. He gives light and ensures the order of the days.
Likewise, he is the god of archery and pastoral shepherding. These tasks seem disconnected but they create the agricultural society that Greece was built upon. Coupled with this societal building, he encouraged the human mortals to expand, build cities, develop a sophisticated culture that enjoyed music, logic, rigour, philosophy etc.
Another unique aspect of his was god of prophecy. He was the delphic oracle giver and could in many ways see and read the future, sharing wisdom to the mortals with carefully worded prophecies that would help them strategize for the future.
Hermes is the youthful messenger of the gods. He is swift of foot, travelling across the realms for the gods. His youthful zeal, his gentle and pleasant disposition, was well received by the gods and he was the last of the twelve to be enthroned.
Hephaestus is a son of Zeus and Hera. He was, however, a horrible disappointment to Hera who had hoped her firstborn son would be a son worthy of the position of King and Queen of Heaven. So horrified by his mangled club foot and generally ugly disposition that when she saw him, she threw him off Olympus!
Hephaestus, however, is a genius with metallurgy and, despite being thrown out by Hera he managed to trick her. For her coronation, she was gifted a beautiful throne. Unknown from whence the gift came, she nevertheless sat upon it only for it to lock her tightly. She was restrained, and the more she fought against the binds, the tighter they gripped her. She appealed to Zeus her husband, and to many others to free her. All failed. Even Ares, who was at this time betrothed to Aphrodite, with all his mighty strength, could not free the queen.
Horrified and humiliated, she begged Zeus to free her, whereupon he offered his daughter, the luscious, beautiful, sexually provocative Aphrodite to whoever could free his own beloved before the wedding and coronation. Ares tried his luck, but failed. Suddenly, from the shadows a long, slow, limbering gait could be heard making its way to the front. Hephaestus asked Zeus to confirm his promise publicly before unlocking the mechanism that he himself had created.
Thus, although he knew she would be unfaithful to him, the ugliest of the gods married the most beautiful of them all. In due course, through his skill of metallurgy, he won all the gods over to him and they appreciated his humour and his armour-crafting skills. He even won Ares over by providing him with a suit of armour and weaponry that was beyond stunning in its glean and glistening under the sun.
Ares is the violent counterpart to the wisdom of Athena. Where she is strategic, thoughtful, and wise, he is fierce, violent, bullish and unthinking. He is, in my opinion, boring for his simplicity and ferocity, but nevertheless he is the god of war.
Dionysius is the most playful of all the gods because he is the god of wine and fertility. Often drunk, he often times appeared insane, giving him the governance over the mad as well as the drunk. He is also the god of fertility, which is unusual because he is a god not a goddess. He is often seen as the god who mediates or communicates between the living and the dead.
Hera is the Queen of heaven and wife of Zeus (as well as his sister). She is often unfairly portrayed (in my opinion) as jealous and controlling. Perhaps this is partly true, yet nevertheless it cannot be forgotten that Zeus was her philandering and unkind husband. She was regal and the consummate queen who sought a dignity for the throne that Zeus did not share.
She had been swallowed by her father before being freed by Zeus, marrying him, and planning an eternal reign with him. Hers is a story of pathos and jealousy, and, sadly, disappointment. Even the greatest of the gods cannot keep his wife happy but is, ultimately, disappointing.
Aphrodite is the oldest goddess, being the offspring of Oceanus and Ouranos' genitals. She is not, therefore, a natural child of male and female relationships. She is best known as the capricious goddess of erotic desire and lustful passions. Initially she was engaged to Ares, the God of War, but ended up married to Hephaestus. Like most gods and goddesses, she was unfaithful to her spouse but still came back to him time and again.
She was a beloved goddess of Zeus and probably a lover of his at one time. She is the goddess Paris chose in the competition of the goddesses and gave Helen of Sparta to him, thus leading to the Trojan War. This is an example of the gods using mankind for their own games; no matter which of the three goddesses Paris would have chosen, the others would have screwed him over. Rather than power, or military prowess, he chose love and lust: the most beautiful woman in the world was his. But only for a short season and the journey afterwards was one of catharsis and tragedy.
Hestia is the virginal goddess of the home, or more literally, the 'hearth'. She is the goddess who oversees the house, the community, and the hospitality of the people. Although this appears rather small in the grander scheme of things, for the Greeks a hospitable disposition was of the utmost importance for public reputation. If one were to dishonour Hestia by refusing hospitality for little reason, or even worse, betraying it, they were effectively ostracised from the community.
She is the eldest daughter of Cronos and Rhea.
Athena is my favourite of all the Greek pantheon. She is fiery, courageous, smart, beautiful, violent and aggressive, yet also sensitive and authoritative. She is also the Greek goddess who was specifically linked with Athens (hence the name). This was seen as the force behind the strategy of Athens in prioritizing strategy over brawn (such as at Sparta).
Her birth narrative is fascinating, however. Zeus engaged in sexual relations with Metis (who was, by some accounts, his tutor and wife, before Hera, who was his seventh wife; other accounts suggest she was raped). She became pregnant with Athena but Zeus grew fearful because Ouranos and Gaia prophesied that his firstborn would be wiser than him. Thus, in a flirtatious game, he managed to swallow Metis whole. In his mind, literally, he felt the problem had diminished. There is no risk if there is no Metis.
However, in due course he developed the mother of all headaches. No balm, no salve, no amount of alcohol or ambrosia could reduce the pain. It grew so bad that the other gods could literally see his forehead throbbing. Zeus thought he would die. The throbbing grew unbearable. Eventually he begged another god (depending on the source it could be Prometheus, or Hephaestus, or even Poseidon) to hit him on the head. I like to think it was Hephaestus.
Regardless, after getting struck on the head, his head split open and before the amazed gods, the amazing, fully-grown goddess appeared, armed as for war. She was radiant. The sun chariot stopped in the sky. The gods were amazed. Even the earth shuddered before her vision. Thus she was born, of Zeus, and specially beloved by him.
In another story, a mortal man stumbled upon her whilst she was bathing. He couldn't resist and stared at her. She found him and, in a fit of anger and mortification, she had him turned into a horrific animal. She may be beautiful, but she was certainly not tame!
Demeter is the goddess of the harvest who oversees the annual crop production and the rules and laws of the agricultural world of ancient Greece. She is the mother of Persephone who became the wife of Hades. Consequently, because of her governing the natural cycles of agriculture, she is also attributed with the life cycle of life and death.
Artemis is the goddess of the hunt and the twin of Apollo. If Apollo is a male god of gold, she is the female goddess of silver. Some have suggested she is a lesbian because she came to Zeus with a request. She asked for a bow like that of Apollo and other warrior accoutrement. However, the main thing she asked of Zeus was that she would never be taken by a man: she would forever be a maiden, like Athena.
Despite this, she is also the goddess of childbearing.
The creation myth has been largely discussed above, but for clarity I will briefly retell it here. In the beginning there was darkness and chaos. Out of the chaos, in some way, there came Gaia, the mother earth. She birthed, without aid or participation of any other being (unless you accept the tradition that said Aether copulated with Gaia), Ouranos, the heavens. In due course Ouranos lay with Gaia and became her husband. He gave birth to many monsters and beings, the most prominent of such being the Titans. Noticeable children were the hekatonchieres (the 100-handed beings), the cyclopes (the one-eyed beings) as well as others.
These beings were not appreciated by Ouranos. In fact, he hated them. The youngest children he imprisoned deep inside Gaia. This caused her pain and so, unbeknownst to Ouranos, she approached her children and asked if they would destroy their father. All refused the request except Cronos, who bore the sickle and, when Ouranos came down for his nightly love making with Gaia, he gelded him, and threw his genitals into the sea. From the blood that spattered across Gaia sprang the giants and the Furies. From his genitals which were in the sea came the goddess of love and lust, Aphrodite.
Thus castrated, Ouranos fled to the skies and never again came to his wife: he was defeated. But he cursed Cronos, his youngest son. His own children shall overthrow him and he shall be humiliated, just as Ouranos has been humiliated by Cronos.
The Rise of the Gods
Cronos led a season of reigning and authority over creation. He married his sister, Rhea, who saw an eternity of reigning as the Queen of the Cosmos beside her demure and boring (but powerful) husband. However, Cronos was more interested in sex and being king of the Titans than in love and family. Thus, in paranoia, he consumed his own children. Five of them, in fact, before Gaia helped Rhea trick him.
She fed him a rock instead of Zeus who, in due course, fed Cronos a medicament to cause him to vomit up his other five children. From there, war was declared, and the Titans, though fighting greatly and mightily, were eventually overthrown by Zeus and his compatriots. They forgave some of the Titans, but others they forced into submission and imprisonment. Cronos himself was cursed to count to infinity, thus creating time.
Zeus and the Twelve gods and goddesses mentioned above began the third order of the gods by ruling from Mount Olympus and reigning over the creation of mankind. They created humanity to worship the gods and enjoy them.
The Independence of Humanity
There are many different stories of humanity in the Greek world, but the third generation are the ones without the heroes of the Greek world, such as Hercules and Perseus. What happened, however, to create this independence from the gods was the result of Zeus's best friend, Prometheus. Prometheus was, technically, a Titan, not a god, but he was on the side of the gods in the war and Zeus loved him.
In due course, however, Zeus and Prometheus created mankind. Zeus saw them as playthings, but Prometheus was convinced of their potential. Despite Zeus's refusal to give them fire, Prometheus snuck into the cavern of Hephaestus and stole the fire of the gods. And he gave it to mankind. In the original myths, it is almost certainly merely a gift of actual fire, but I agree with Fry that we can suppose the fire was the fire of curiosity, the fire that sparked the Greek mind towards philosophy, science, art, metallurgy, creativity. Things that would, ultimately, lead to the mortals no longer needing the presence and power of the gods and goddesses.
The consequence of Prometheus' action was to turn Zeus against him. This led to Zeus tying him to a large rock on a mountain and, each day, vultures would come down and eat most of his liver. Then, over night, it would grow back again, ready to be eaten once again. This was the cost of the sacrifice of Prometheus. He knew it would happen and he was content with it. He gave himself for humanity.
The story doesn't end here however. In due course, he is freed by one of the many heroes of ancient Greece and Zeus forgave him. Thus humanity is saved by the gift of Prometheus.
I hope that you enjoyed this excursion through the Greek pantheon. If you have any questions or comments please leave them below!