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Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound



In addition to Hesiod's account, Aeschylus' play Prometheus Bound is fundamental for an understanding of the archetypal Prometheus.

Aeschylus powerfully establishes Prometheus as our suffering champion who has advanced human beings, through his gift of fire, from savagery to civilization.

Furthermore, Prometheus gave us the hope denied to us by Zeus, which, however blind, permits us to persevere and triumph over the terrible vicissitudes of life.

Prometheus is grandly portrayed as the archetypal trickster and culture-god, the originator of all inventions and progress in the arts and the sciences.

At the end of the play, Prometheus is still defiant, chained to his rock, and still refusing to reveal the secret of the marriage of Thetis.

The conflict between the suffering hero and the tyrannical god was resolved in the lost plays of Aeschylus' Prometheus trilogy (i.e., group of three connected plays).

In that resolution, Aeschylus presumably depicted Zeus as a god of wisdom who, through the suffering of Prometheus, established himself in the end as a triumphant, almighty god secure in his supreme power, brought about through his divine plan for reconciliation.

Io

This divine plan of Zeus for reconciliation with a defeated Prometheus entailed the suffering of Io, a priestess of Hera who was loved by Zeus.

Hera found out and turned Io into a white cow. She appointed a guard to watch over Io, a very good one indeed, since he had many eyes (perhaps as many as one hundred), and his name was ARGUS - PANOPTES ("all-seeing").

Zeus rescued Io by sending Hermes to lull Argus to sleep and cut off his head. Henceforth Hermes was given the title ARGEIPHONTES ("slayer of Argus").

Hera set Argus' eyes in the tail of a peacock, her favorite bird, and continued her jealous persecution of Io by sending a gadfly to drive her mad.

Frenzied, Io in her wanderings over the world encountered Prometheus. In Aeschylus, these two "victims" of Zeus commiserate with each other.

We learn, however, that Io will find peace in Egypt, where she will be restored to her human form and bear a son, EPAPHUS [ep'a-fus] or EPAPHOS, a name that means "he of the touch".

Io had become pregnant, not through sexual rape, but by the mere touch of the hand of god, and among the descendants of Epaphus would be mighty Heracles destined to bring about the release of Prometheus.

The fulfillment of the will of Zeus was in the end accomplished.




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