Greek mythology is filled with tales of many gods and heroes. Among them are the Titans, twelve elder gods and goddesses who ruled the heavens and earth in the golden age of Greek legend. They were later overthrown in a great war by twelve younger deities, known as the Olympians, with Zeus being chief among them.
Prometheus is one well-known figure in this colorful pantheon. He was the son of Iapetus, one of the twelve Titans, and thus he often appears as an antagonist to Zeus. He is most famous for stealing fire from Zeus and giving it to humanity, an act for which he was cruelly punished: he was chained to a rock, where his liver was eaten daily by an eagle, only to grow back the next day to be eaten again. His torment was ended when he was released by the hero Heracles.
These are the broad strokes of the story of Prometheus, but the poets and philosophers differ on the finer details. Hesiod, who first told the story, painted Prometheus as a trickster who deceived Zeus, and Zeus in his anger hid fire from mankind. Aeschylus, though, shows us Prometheus as a culture hero, bringing not only fire but all the arts of civilization to mankind, and preventing Zeus in his wrath from destroying humanity. Still other tellers of the tale provided more details, such as Prometheus’s creation of human beings. As in the Judeo-Christian tradition and many other traditions around the world, it is said that Prometheus mixed water and earth and fashioned humans with his own hands.
The many versions of this tale reflect humanity’s complex feelings about fire, civilization, and life itself. Was he a trickster, deceiving the gods and bringing down their wrath on humans, thus making our lives the cycle of toil and burden it is now? Was he a culture hero, the savior of humanity and originator of culture, our finest achievement? Perhaps he was both, like the fire he brought to us. Without fire we have no warmth, no light, no cooked food, no life. But out of our control, fire is a raging beast. Perhaps this is why Prometheus is so hard to define—because he represents the fire inside each of us, the fire that makes us human.
It is this fire of life that Promethean Candles seeks to capture. Take a closer look at that candle. The small flame at the end of the wick is the very same fire that Prometheus stole from the gods on Olympus and brought to us in the mists of legend, and the candle that houses that flame was made in the same way that Prometheus was said to have fashioned humans: with hands of artistry, dedication, and vision.