"Oceanus addresses the chained Titan Prometheus “Now the whole earth cries aloud in lamentation . . . lament the greatness of the glory of your time-hallowed honor, the honor that was yours and your brothers’.” (Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound 407-410)
What was so great about the Iapetides? Hesiod lists, stout-hearted Atlas, glorious Menoetius, sly Prometheus and scatter-brained Epimetheus. The last brother’s epithet is not great, glorious or honoring. Let’s see what we know about them;
- Atlas was leader of the revolting Titans. (Hyginus, Fabulae 150) Apparently he “discovered” or invented astronomy (Suidas). Atsma says, “He personified the quality of endurance (atlaô).”
- “Menoitios was outrageous (hybristes), and far-seeing Zeus struck him with a lurid thunderbolt and sent him down to Erebos (Erebus) because of his mad presumption and exceeding pride." (Hesiod, Theogony) Atsma suggests that Menoitios’ duties in the Underworld was herding Hades cattle.
- Prometheus famously created man, stole fire and betrayed Atlas during the Titanomachy. Apparently he also discovered scholarly philosophy. (Suida)
- Epimetheus wed Pandora as we all know. He discovered music according to Suida; Aesop gives him credit for creating animals.To better understand Prometheus and his brother, we need to better understand their father Iapetus and his own brothers. Atsma says of the previous generation of Titans“Iapetus and his three brothers (Hyperion, Coios, and Crius) probably represent the four pillars of the cosmos which are described in Near-Eastern cosmogonies holding heaven and earth apart. Iapetos himself would have been the pillar of the west, a position later held by his son Atlas.”Atsma figures a primordial cosmology with the four named brothers above on the cardinal points, Cronus in the center and Oceanus circling outside this world. My own assumption that the replacement of Iapetus by Atlas next to the mountains named for him, corresponds to Prometheus bound to the Causcas’ in a position just made for the fallen Hyperion. Astma says “Koios' alternate name, Polos (of the northern pole), suggests he was the Titan of the pillar of the north.” Which of the Iapetides in the following generation took his roll I cannot say.