T h e G o d d e s s
A t h e n a
i n P l a t o ' s
P r o t a g o r a s
Once upon a time there were Gods only,
and no mortal creatures.
But when the time came that these
also should be created, the Gods fashioned them out of earth and fire and
various mixtures of both elements in the interior of the earth; and when
they were about to bring them into the light of day, they ordered Prometheus
and Epimetheus to equip them, and to distribute to them severally their
Epimetheus said to Prometheus: Let
me distribute, and do you inspect.
This was agreed, and Epimetheus made
There were some to whom he gave strength
without swiftness, while he equipped the weaker with swiftness; some he
armed, and others he left unarmed; and devised for the latter some other
means of preservation, making some large, and having their size as a protection,
and others small, whose nature was to fly in the air or burrow in the ground;
this was to be their way of escape. Thus did he compensate them with the
view of preventing any race from becoming extinct.
And when he had provided against
their destruction by one another, he contrived also a means of protecting
them against the seasons of heaven; clothing them with close hair and thick
skins sufficient to defend them against the winter cold and able to resist
the summer heat, so that they might have a natural bed of their own when
they wanted to rest; [321b] also he furnished them with hoofs and hair
and hard and callous skins under their feet.
others with claws and solid, bloodless hides.
Then he proceeded to furnish each
of them with its proper food, some with pasture of the earth, others with
fruits of trees, and others again with roots; and to a certain number for
food he gave other creatures to devour: to some he attached a paucity in
breeding, and to others, which were being consumed by these, a plenteous
brood, and so procured survival of their kind.
Thus did Epimetheus, being not so
wise as he might be, [321c] forgot that he had distributed among the brute
animals all the qualities which he had to give-and when he came to man,
who was still unprovided, he was terribly perplexed. As he was in this
perplexity, Prometheus arrived to examine his distribution, and saw that
whereas the other creatures were fully and suitably provided, man alone
was naked and shoeless, and had neither bed nor arms of defence; and already
the destined day was come, whereon man like the rest should emerge from
earth to light. Then Prometheus, not knowing how he could devise his salvation,
stole the mechanical arts of Hephaestus and Athena,
[321d] and fire with them -- since by no means without fire could it be
acquired or helpfully used by any -- and gave them to man.
Thus man had the wisdom necessary to the support of life, but political
wisdom he had not, since this was in the possession of Zeus; Prometheus
could not make so free as to enter the citadel which is the dwelling-place
of Zeus, and moreover the guards of Zeus were terrible: but he did enter
by stealth into the common workshop of Athena
[321e] in which they used to practise their favourite arts,
and carried off Hephaestus' art of working by fire, and also the art of
and gave them to man. And in this way [322a] man gets facility for
his livelihood, but Prometheus, through Epimetheus' fault, later on (the
story goes) stood his trial for theft.
And now that man was partaker of
a divine portion, he, in the first place, by his nearness of kin to deity,
was the only creature that worshipped Gods, and set himself to establish
altars and holy images; and secondly, he soon was enabled by his skill
to articulate speech and wordsand he also constructed houses and clothes
and shoes and beds, and drew sustenance from the earth.
to the top
©1999 Roy George