The Gods upon Olympos more than once made a race of men. The first was the Golden Race. Very close to the Gods was the Golden Race; the men of that race lived justly, although there were no laws to compel them. In the time of the Golden Race the Earth knew only one season; that season was everlasting spring. The men and women of the Golden Race lived through a span of life that was far beyond that of the men and women of our day, and when they died it was though sleep had become everlasting with them. They had all good things, and they had them without labour, for the Earth without any forcing bestowed fruits and crops upon them. They had peace all through their lives, and after they had passed away their spirits remained above the Earth, inspiring the men of the race who came after them to do great and gracious things and to act justly and kindly to one another.
After the Golden Race had passed away, the Gods made for the Earth a second race--the Silver Race. Less noble in spirit and in body was the Silver Race, and the seasons that visited them were less gracious. In the time of the Silver Race the Gods made the seasons--summer and spring, autumn and winter. The men of the Silver Race knew parching heat; they knew the bitter winds of winter, and snow, and rain, and hail. It was the men of the Silver Race who first built houses for shelter. They lived through a span of life that was longer than our span, but it was not long enough to give them wisdom. Children were brought up at their mothers' sides for a hundred years, playing at childish things. And when they came to years beyond a hundred they quarrelled with one another, and wronged one another; moreover, they did not know enough to give reverence to the immortal Gods. Then, by the will of Zeus, the Silver Race passed away as the Golden Race had
passed away. Their spirits stay in the Underworld, and they are called by men the blessed spirits of the Underworld.
And then there was made the Third Race--the Race of Bronze. They were a race great of stature, terrible and strong. Their armour was of bronze, their swords were of bronze, their implements were of bronze, and of bronze, too, they made their houses. No great span of life was theirs, for with the weapons that they took in their terrible hands they slew one another. And so they passed away; they went down under the Earth and they left no name that men might know them by.
Then the Gods created a fourth race our own--a Race of Iron. We have not the justice that was amongst the men of the Golden Race; we have not the simpleness that was amongst the men of the Silver Race; we have not the stature nor the great strength that the men of the Bronze Race possessed. We are of iron that we may endure. It is our doom that we must never cease from labour and that we must very quickly grow old.
But miserable as we are to-day, there was a time when the lot of men was more miserable. With poor implements they had to labour on hard ground. There was less justice and kindliness in those days than there is now.
Once it came into the mind of Zeus to destroy this fourth race and to leave the Earth to the nymphs and the satyrs. He would destroy it by a great flood. But Prometheus, the Titan who had given aid to Zeus--Prometheus who was named the Forethinker--would not consent to the race of men being destroyed utterly, and he considered a way of saving some of them. To a man and a woman, Deukalion and Pyrrha, just and gentle people, he brought word of the plan of Zeus, and he showed them how to make a ship that would bear them through what was about to be sent upon the Earth.
Then Zeus shut up in their caves all the winds except the wind that brings rain and clouds. He bade this wind, the South Wind, sweep over the Earth, flooding it with rain. He called upon Poseidon and bade him let the sea pour in on the land. And Poseidon commanded the rivers to put forth all their strength, and sweep dykes away, and overflow their banks.
The clouds and the sea and the rivers poured upon the Earth. The flood rose higher and higher, and in places where pretty lambs had
gambolled the ugly sea-calves now played; men in their boats drew fishes out of the tops of elm-trees, and the water-nymphs were amazed to come on men's cities under the waves.
Soon even the men and women who had boats were overwhelmed by the rise of the water--all perished then except Deukalion and Pyrrha, his wife; them the waves had not overwhelmed--they were in a ship that Prometheus had shown them how to build. The flood went down at last, and Deukalion and Pyrrha climbed up to a high and a dry ground. Zeus saw that two of the race of men had been left alive. But he saw that these two were just and kindly and had a right reverence for the Gods. He spared them, and he saw their children again peopling the Earth.
Prometheus, who had saved them, looked upon the men and women of the Earth with compassion. Their labour was hard, and they wrought, much to gain little. They were chilled at night in their houses, and the winds that blew in the daytime made the old men and women bend double like a wheel. Prometheus thought to himself that if men and women had the element that only the Gods knew of--the element of fire--they could make for themselves implements for labour, and they could build houses that would keep out the chilling winds, and they could warm themselves at the blaze.
But the Gods had not willed that men should have fire, and to go against the will of the Gods would be impious. Prometheus went against the will of the Gods. He stole fire from the altar of Zeus, and he hid it in a hollow fennel stalk, and he brought it to men.
Men, possessing fire, were then able to hammer iron into tools; they were able to cut down forests with axes, and sow grain where the forests had been. They were able to make houses that the storms could not overthrow, and they were able to warm themselves at the hearth-fires. They had rest from their labour at times. They built cities; they became beings who no longer had their heads and backs bent, but were able to raise their faces even to the Gods.
Zeus spared the men who had now the sacred element of fire. But Prometheus he did not spare. He knew that Prometheus had stolen the fire even from his own altar. And he thought on how he might punish the great Titan for his impiety.
He brought up from the Underworld, from Tartaros, the Giants
[paragraph continues] Kottos, Briareos, and Gyes. He commanded them to lay hands on Prometheus and to fasten him with fetters to the highest, blackest crag upon Caucasus. And Kottos, Briareos, and Gyes seized upon the Titan, and carried him to Caucasus, and fettered him with fetters of bronze to the highest, blackest crag--with fetters of bronze that may not be broken. They left the Titan stretched there, fettered, under the sky, with the cold winds blowing upon him and with the sun streaming down upon him. And, that his punishment might exceed all other punishments, Zeus sent a vulture to prey upon him--a vulture that tears at his liver each day.
And yet Prometheus does not cry out that he has repented of what he has done for man; although the winds blow upon him, and the sun streams upon him, and the vulture tears at his liver, Prometheus will not cry out his repentance to Heaven. And Zeus may not utterly destroy him. For Prometheus the Forethinker knows a secret that Zeus would fain have him disclose. He knows that, as Zeus overthrew his father and made himself the ruler in his stead, so, too, another will overthrow Zeus. One day Zeus will have to have the fetters broken from around the limbs of his victim, and will have to bring from the rock and the vulture, and even into the Council of the Olympians, the unyielding Titan, Prometheus.