Prometheus, the myth and its interpretations

Pervivencia de la mitología en el cine
El mito de Prometeo
El mito de Pandora
Relación Pandora y Prometeo
El mito de Perseo

L'ètica en la medicina

Prometheus and his influence on culture and scientific advances


Prometeus and his influence on culture

The myth of Prometheus has been very inspiring in all ages, either for the characteristics we have already mentioned or for other features he has been given. Once we have seen the Greek authors who wrote about him, we must refer to Latin literature, where, apart from Ovidio, Lucrecio, Cicero and Horacio mentioned the titan in some of their works. In painting, we find decorations in Greek ceramics of the 7th century that represent his punishment in the Caucasus or his liberation by Heracles, who unties his chains and kills the eagle. It is not until the Middle Ages and the philosophical Christian tradition with St Augustine (354-430 a.C) or Tertuliano (155-220 a.C) that Prometheus is presented again as the benefactor of mankind, but now as the predecessor of Christ, who dies because of his philanthropy, or related to God (when warning Noah about the flood) or to Adam (who after tasting the fruit of the tree of knowledge is expelled from paradise, his divine nature taken off and the cause of man’s sufferings but also of his progress).

During the Renaissance, his intellectual and progressive sides are valued, as well as his cleverness. He is praised by Bocaccio in his De Genealogia Deorum, and valued by many philosophers because he represents the independence of spirit: Giordano Bruno, Francis Bacon, Juan Pérez de Moya in his Philosophia Secreta... His influence is even greater during the Baroque period, both in painting and literature. We find then a very positive vision of the titan, his intelligence is greatly valued as well as his sufferings in favour of scientific and technological advance (we must bear in mind that there is a scientific revolution in the 17th century, when maths and physics progress incredibly), and also the fact that he is the bearer of fire, light and science. Romantic poetry portrays him as a sufferer and so is taken to the world of love, while Pandora is the symbol of sin: Prometheus carrying the fire by Rubens, Prometheus and his destiny (1550) by Titian, The Statue of Prometheus (1669) by Calderon de la Barca, who praises the fire of Prometheus and warns about the dangers if it falls in the wrong hands. During the 18th century we find two very different positions about him: on the one hand he is blamed for the misfortunes of mankind, like Rousseau and Discourse on Science and Art , and on the other, the modern idea of the myth as the symbolic figure that does not fear authority and also of moral rebellion begins to appear. It is the case of Voltaire and Pandora (1740) and the German literary movement "Sturm und Drang" with works such as Traumgespräch mit Prometheus (1770) by Wieland, Herder (1802), Schlegel (1797) or Goethe and his Prometheus (1773), where the titan is presented as a ruler in a fair society. As to music, the pre-romantic Beethoven writes a ballet, Prometheus, in 1801.