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Chapter 4: Zeus’ Rise to Power: The Creation of Mortals


 Read the Commentary for Chapter 4 and pay particular attention to the problematical conception of Pandora as the first woman.


Pergamon and the Great Altar of Zeus
Explore the site of ancient Pergamon and view the details of the Great Altar of Zeus, especially the image of Zeus Battling a Titan, which is representative of Zeus’ defeat of the older generation of gods in the Titanomachy and Gigantomachy.


You have read significant excerpts from Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound. How do this poet’s conceptions of Prometheus and Zeus differ from that of Hesiod? Why has the poet chosen to bring Io into such a prominent role in the play? Compare Hesiod and Aeschylus with Aristophanes’ Prometheus in The Birds.

Read Apollodorus’ account of Zeus’ rise to power. Compare his version with that of Hesiod.

Read Shelley’s “Prometheus Unbound” and contrast his view with that of the ancient sources.

Explore the Promethean archetype in the Western tradition by consulting Carl Kerenyi, Prometheus, Archetypal Image of Human Existence.

Consult MLS, Chapter 4, n. 2s. Read selections for evidence of the Flood motifs in Alan Dundes, The Flood. Why is this archetype so widespread?

Compact Discs and Videos

Listen to Franz Schubert’s songs: “Der Atlas” and “Prometheus” and give thought to the meaning of the texts and the appropriate beauty of the music.

You may want to explore some of the other music inspired by Prometheus that is discussed in the Commentary to this chapter.


Read Ovid’s version of the story of Lycaon and contrast it with those found in Apollodorus and Pausanias.


Study how Atlas and related words Atlantic, atlantes, and Atlantis have come into English. What is a Pandora’s box? A typhoon? What do the words Prometheus and Promethean connote? What sort of person would you call an Argus?


Look at the constellations of Aquila. Identify and explain some of the etiological motifs in the myths of this chapter.

Essay Questions

  1. Explain the following statement: Prometheus is often viewed as a “culture god.”

  2. What is your interpretation of the myth of Pandora?

  3. In Hesiod, the punishment of Prometheus, though seemingly cruel, is a necessary consequence of a righteous and majestic Zeus. In Prometheus Bound, the focus has shifted. How does the playwright contrast the figures of Zeus and Prometheus? Does our view of Zeus suffer from the contrast? What role might Io’s suffering play in our final understanding of Zeus?

  4. Discuss the Five Ages of Man and the distinctive features of each according to Hesiod.

  5. Identify and explain some of the etiological motifs in the myths of this chapter.

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