Prometheus Bound, a
tragedy traditionally attributed to the famous Athenian playwright
Aeschylus (c. 525 BC Ė c. 456 BC) is the most famous dramatic depiction
of one of the most important mythic figures among the ancient Greeks.
Prometheus, a Titan, one of the family of deities preceding Zeus, helped
Zeus overthrow his father, Cronos, and usher in the rule of the Olympian
gods. However, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven and gave it to
human beings, Zeus turned against him. In addition, Prometheus had
learned of a secret that would lead to Zeusí downfall. In order to
extract this secret, Zeus decides to inflict a horrific punishment of
Prometheus. However, the Titan will not give way and vows to defy Zeus
by not revealing his secret, no matter what the cost.
Aeschylusí play, apparently the first in a trilogy
(the other two plays are lost), depicts the beginning of Prometheusí
long punishment and is famous for the way it expresses the Titanís
unflinching defiance and emphasizes the harsh tyranny of Zeusí new rule
in heaven (not merely by what happens to Prometheus). These two
qualities help to define a characteristically tragic Greek heroic
attitude to suffering and divine rule, something very much at odds, as
Friedrich Nietzsche pointed out, with the important Biblical founding
myth of Adam and Eve.
Ian Johnstonís new translation is an accurate and
dramatically vivid version of this famous work. The text contains
explanatory footnotes for readers who need assistance with the mythic
and geographical references.