Saturday, November 23, 2013

TFBT: Prometheus Kidnapped Hephaestus

(Zeus) hid fire; but that the noble son of Iapetos stole again for men from Zeus the counselor in a hollow fennel-stalk, so that Zeus who delights in thunder did not see it. (Hesiod W&D)  But what was the source of the fire that Prometheus (son of  Iapetus) stole from the gods.  Suggestions are from the forge of Hephaestus or the charior to Helios.  Being inspired by the references below I suggest the former.  Let me point out that in Greek Epic “Hephaestus”, the name of the smithy god, son of Zeus is often a synonym of  “fire”. 

(Dionysius) raising high the fiery flame from the pine torch  bursts forth from the stalk [narthēx],” (Bacchae 145-147)   “Dionysus literally ignites the singing and the dancing as he leaps out, in an elemental burst of flame, from inside the fennel stalk or narthēx   (The Ancient Greek Hero in 24 Hours;  21.50)

Hephaestus refused to listen to any other of the gods save Dionysus -- in him he reposed the fullest trust - and after making him drunk Dionysus brought him to heaven."( Pausanias, Description of Greece 1. 20. 2-3)
In summary; Prometheus steals the fire and Dionysius returns it.


  1. Have you ever tried to reconcile the time sequence of these events?
    (1) Dionysus brings young Hephaestus to Olympus, hence before Dionysus, there must be no Hephaestus on Olympus; even if he is born, he should not work for Zeus.
    (2) Hephaestus takes part in creating Pandora, the first human woman, immediately after the theft of fire.
    (3) Dionysus is born by Semele, a human woman refined enough to attract the attention of Zeus, which means definitely a long time after the theft of fire.

  2. Maya,

    Trying to reconcile mythical timelines can be futile process, but let's see.
    1) Hephaestus was not necessarily young when Dionysus returned him to Olympus. It might have occurred after the second time he got tossed, but definitely he spent quite a while (ten years?) with Thetis and Eurynome.
    2) this sounds right.
    3) Semele is the daughter of Cadmus and Harmonia (daughter of Aphrodite and Ares) Remember Maya's Law; Zeus Doesn't like Real Women.

    None of this helps to definitively resolve the timelines, but it does make e wonder if Hephaestus getting tossed and Prometheus stealing fire, coincides.


  3. You are right of course that Semele is a biologically refined "heroine" (and Dionysus is not 50% human in origin as most people say but only 25%). However, here I meant cultural refinement. Making sex to a woman who eats raw meat and hasn't had a hot bath in her life requires Zeus to be braver than I imagine :-).
    However, if we put this little problem aside, if we move Cadmus back to the Bronze Age and do not consider Pandora the first human woman (I do not anyway), I think your scenario would make a good story:

    Zeus tosses Hephaestus out of Olympus for a second time just because he tries to protect his mother from domestic violence. Poor Hephaestus falls for a whole day (although, according to my calculations, it must have been less than a minute) and lands on Lemnos. He is barely alive, presumably with multiple fractures. The local humans give him first aid as they can. He feels grateful and is happy among them. He doesn't feel any nostalgia for Olympus - Zeus is abusive, Aphrodite has broken his heart, and the other gods mock him. He recovers and sets up a forge.
    On the island is also Prometheus who, for unspecified reasons, thinks it would be great if humans have fire. He steals the fire from the forge of Hephaestus. The latter allows the theft, the official version is - out of negligence (or turns a blind eye? Or actively helps it?).
    After some time, Zeus realizes that (1) Hephaestus may be a blot on the Olympian eugenic program, but his services are damn useful, and (2) there is some unauthorized technological proliferation happening on Lemnos. He calls the two gods to Olympus. Hephaestus refuses to return voluntarily and Dionysus has to bring him back drunk as a lord. His hypothesized role in the theft of fire is covered up - nobody wants him as co-defendant.

    (At any rate, some sources indeed say that Lemnos was the place where fire was stolen.)

  4. Maya,

    I stir up the placid surface of my thoughts on occasion trying to figure out "the Olympian eugenic program". One of the royal princes of Olympus is lame, the queen of Heaven nursed a couple of beasties from the brood of Echnida and is friends with the Sphinx and finally some passages in Hesiod discussing Typhon, sound positively erotic. For a society obsessed with physical beauty, the gods seemed to have no qualms around surrounding themselves with non-symmetrical non-humanoids. Hmm, maybe the humans were the ones obsessed with beauty, not the gods.


  5. I guess it depends on how you view things. Both Hera and Zeus can overcome their aversions when their interests require it. After all, Zeus owns his throne to six uncles with very non-standard anatomy, the Cyclopes and the Hundred-Handers. I find it noteworthy that the Hundred-Handers, whose role was more important, were never admitted to Olympus - this would be "awkward", as someone said. Instead, they are relocated to the gloomy and windy depths of Earth to guard the gates of Tartarus, which IMHO is not that much different from being locked inside. The only time when we see one of them among the Olympians is when Thetis (for mysterious reasons) urgently calls Briareus to prevent a revolution.
    Hephaestus was thrown out of Olympus twice, the first time seems to have been attempted murder. In the Iliad, immediately after he tells about the second time, he is used as laughing matter by the other gods. Not to mention the prologue of the Prometheus Bound where we see poor Hephaestus commanded and threatened by the thug Kratos as if the latter is an Olympian prince and the former is little more than a slave.
    Also, as you wrote, Olympians avoided interbreeding with the Nereids (granddaughters of Pontus whose progeny was known for strange appearance). Only Poseidon ventures to marry a Nereid - for political reasons, as you said - and the eugenic fears turn out to be justified: his son is malformed.

  6. Briareus guardian the Tartarian gate at the bottom of the sea, so that might be better than his brothers. Their other brothers the cyclops worked in hephaestus' forges under ground. So looks like you are right, the uncles didn't make to Olympus often.