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Why was Zeus Angry with Prometheus?

By Andy Watkins


Updated on

One of the major stories of Greek mythology involves the God of the Olympians – Zeus, and the first women – Pandora.

There are a number of key characters in this story that you may be familiar with. The titan Prometheus, his brother Epimetheus, Hephaestos, Pandora and her box of course and many more of the Olympian gods.

It is a truly fantastic tale, so lets dive in, why did Zeus create Pandora?

Zeus was angry because he was betrayed by his adviser the titan Prometheus. Prometheus, along with his brother Epimetheus, was the creator of humans. Against the wishes of Zeus, Prometheus stole fire from the Olympian gods and gave it to humans along with a number of other gifts. As revenge, Zeus had Pandora, the first women, created and given to the human men. Pandora was made to be charming while also devious and manipulating. She also brought with her a box, sometimes described as a jar, which contained a number of great evils including disease, hatred, and greed to be release into the world of men.

As with all Greek myths there is always more to the story and there are many questions yet answered like – how did Zeus punish Prometheus directly? and why did Pandora open the box? So, let’s dive in further.

Zeus takes Revenge on Prometheus by Creating Pandora

In order to answer the key question in any detail we first need to introduce the main characters in the Zeus and Pandora saga.

  • Zeus – King of the Olympian gods and all round vengeful character who very much dislikes being wronged.
  • Pandora – The first human women. She had a number of very powerful traits gifted by the Olympian gods. Her name translates as all gifts.
  • Prometheus – A titan god who switched sides in the titanomachy to side with Zeus. He was thought to be very wise and his name translates as forethought.
  • Epimetheus – The brother of Prometheus who also sided with Zeus and the Olympians. He was a little dim and absent minded, his name translates as afterthought.
  • Hephaestos – The Olympian god of fire, metal working and most importantly for this story, sculpture.

Following the titanomachy, Zeus looked upon Prometheus as one of his closest advisers. One of the major tasks Zeus bestowed upon him and his brother was the creation of mortal humans and animals. Epimetheus, being the idiot he was, gave all the best physical traits to the animals including fur, wings, strength and shells. Prometheus, was therefore left very little to work with when it came to creating humans. The world was a very wild, harsh and unforgiving place. Prometheus reasoned that if they possessed fire they would have a good chance of survival.

He made the request of Zeus. But Zeus believed that humans with the ability to make fire would eventually look to challenge the gods so he denied the request of Prometheus. Nevertheless, Prometheus decided to give them fire anyway. He stole fire from the sun and took it to the earth and gave it to the men. He is also taught them other important survival skills like how to cook, how to make weapons and tools, how to sail and so on.

When Zeus found out what had happened he decided to punish both Prometheus and the human men. He ordered two giants to seize Prometheus and Hephaestos took him to a windy and snow covered mountain far away and he was bound to a rock. His punishment was to spend an eternity having his liver eaten by an eagle. In the night his liver would grow back and the torture would begin again the next day.

As revenge on human men, Zeus had Hephaestos create the first human women. She was given many gifts, abilities and skills by the Olympian gods including beautiful clothes, gracefulness, a lovely singing voice, and a passion for gardening. The last and most important gift was given by Hermes, it was a carved golden box and she was given instructions not to open it.

Pandora was taken to earth and she was given to Epimetheus as a wife. Prometheus had previously told his brother not to accept any gifts from Zeus but Epimetheus took no notice. He and Pandora were married and they lived together for a number of weeks. But, Pandora could not forget box. One day curiosity got the better of her and she opened the box. From the box escaped a number of troubles to plague mankind – disease, poverty, crime and so on. Zeus had had his revenge.

What Powers, Abilities, and Gifts Were Given to Pandora?

When Zeus tasked Hephaestos with the creation of Pandora a few of the other Olympian gods also took it upon themselves to give Pandora a number of different powers, abilities and gifts. These actually differ in different tellings of this myth. However, I have tried to put together a comprehensive list of all the powers, abilities and gifts I could find.

  • Hephaestos being the god of sculpture created the shape and form of the body of Pandora.
  • As king of the gods Zeus gave Pandora the gift of life.
  • Sagacity, beautiful clothes and the skill of Weaving were given by Athena.
  • Aphrodite gave Pandora the gift of beauty.
  • Apollo was able to gift singing and the power of healing.
  • Poseidon gave the power to effect the seas.
  • Hera gave Pandora the trait of curiosity
  • Hermes taught her how to speak, lie and cheat and gave her the box of evils.

This list is almost certainly not exhaustive but these are the major powers, abilities and gifts.

What Were the Evils in Pandora’s Box?

Pandora’s box also known as Pandora’s jar contained a whole host of different evils. Much like the traits above there are a number of different tellings of this story. But, some of the major confirmed evils are as follows.

  • Disease
  • Poverty
  • Misery
  • Death
  • Sadness
  • Hard toil
  • Strife
  • Crime
  • Greed
  • Hatred
  • And…Some small moths???

What Was the Last Thing That Came out of Pandora Box?

So, after all of these terriblly evil traits emerged from Pandora’s box there was one last thing to come out. This was the trait of hope.

Hope made everything else bearable. Hope allowed people to keep going and not give up despite all of the evils in the world. Hope was very important.

Did Prometheus Deserve His Punishment?

This is really a question of perspective. We can either look at this from the perspective of Zeus or from the perspective of Prometheus.

  • Zeus – To be honest Zeus was quite the paranoid god. He has overcome the titans in the titanomachy and had a solid position as king of the gods. He didn’t take kindly to people going behind his back. The betrayal by Prometheus showed disloyalty and empowered humans in a fashion that threatened Zeus. Prometheus had changed sides during the titanomachy and was pretty crucial in the Olympian’s success. Such a betrayal was damaging to the reputation of Zeus. Also, without fire, humans were little to no threat. With fire and the other skills Prometheus had taught them, humans were able to directly challenge the king of the gods. So, he had to make an example of Prometheus.
  • Prometheus – From the perspective of Prometheus, humans were in a dangerous predicament. They had few physical traits that would serve them well in the wilds of the world so they really needed the tool of fire. As the creations of Prometheus, humans were his responsibility so he obviously felt it justified to help humans in any way he could. He was doing what he must, so he surely must feel he didn’t deserve such a punishment.

How Did Prometheus Escape His Punishment?

Prometheus was left to endure his daily torture of having his liver eaten by a great eagle and for it to grow back each night. He spent many decades or centuries suffering in this fashion.

It wasn’t until he met Heracles, the son of Zeus, that he was freed. Heracles, the famous Greek demigod, was in the process of completing his 12 labours. It was during the 11th labour – the retrieval of the apples of the Hesperides, that Heracles encountered the great eagle.

He fought and killed the bird and freed Prometheus. The story goes that Zeus allowed this to happen because Prometheus had a secret that Zeus wanted to know. There is another version of the tale in which Zeus allowed it because he wanted his son to achieve the glory and adulation from having killed the great beast.

Final Thoughts

So there we have it, Zeus created Pandora in order to take revenge on both human men and Prometheus. Zeus is quite the character in Greek mythology and this is by no means his only vengeful act.

Humans, demi-gods and gods alike all can be subject to his unpredictable acts of cruelty. This time it was just the turn of Prometheus and mankind. Hope you enjoyed the articles, comments are welcome below!

About Andy Watkins

I have always been interested in mythology. From a very early age in Britain, I was known to sit at the breakfast table reading encyclopedias about many of the major world mythologies. Learn more about MythNerd's Editorial Process.

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