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Gods and Heroes

Life Stories for Young People

Ferdinand Schmidt

313 pages
Library of Alexandria
Zeus (Jupiter), the mighty divinity, overcame the Titans and became the master of the heavens and the earth. But notwithstanding his hard struggle, he would not have been victor had not Prometheus, the Titan, aided him. At last Zeus, ruler in the skies, became the enemy of Prometheus, who originated the hated race of the Titans, and only awaited an opportunity to punish him. He soon found the opportunity, for Prometheus was attached to mankind, whom Zeus intended to destroy, in order to people the earth with a race of older creation. Prometheus endeavored to dissuade him, but Zeus persisted in his purpose. Then Prometheus said: “Have you forgotten that the curse of the dethroned Cronus rests upon you and that by the decrees of destiny a mortal only can deliver you from that curse?” When Zeus heard this, he decided to spare the race of mortals. They were leading a wretched life and were unconscious of the spiritual or intellectual gifts conferred upon them by their creator. They knew not how to fell the trees and build houses to protect them against wind, rain, and the heat of the sun. Like the beasts, they lived in dens and caves which no ray of light penetrated. They knew none of the signs of the approach of the fruit-bringing Autumn, nor of Winter, nor blooming Spring. Destitute of purpose or perception, they lived like strangers in a barren world. Prometheus pitied them. He explained to them the rising and setting of the stars and taught them how to recognize their orbits. He computed for them their numbers, a marvellous feat, gave them the power of recollection and the gift of writing, that highest of the sciences. He made the ox a useful servant to the race by placing the yoke upon it and harnessing it to the cart. He bridled the wild horse and showed them how to use it for riding and drawing the wagon. They also learned from him how to build vessels and manage sails. He disclosed the depths of the earth to them with its treasures of iron, silver, and gold. Up to this time, men had no knowledge of plants or their healing qualities. Prometheus taught them how to avail themselves of this knowledge so as to relieve pain and cure disease. He also imparted to them a knowledge of what was transacted in the councils of the gods and taught them to observe the flight of the eagle. One element of comfortable living, however, was lacking for mankind. It was fire. Prometheus resolved to bring it to them from heaven, but the ruler of the skies ordered him to desist. Watching his opportunity, Prometheus soared aloft, approached the chariot of the sun, and stuck a rod which he carried in his hand in its blazing wheels. Then descending like a falling star, he brought to men the blessing of the fire. Hermes (Mercury), the swift messenger of the gods, saw this and at once brought the news to the god father, Zeus. The all-powerful one wrathfully directed Hermes: “Up, hasten to Hephaestus (Vulcan) and say that the ruler of the gods needs his service.” Vulcan, god of fire, was also god of all the artificers who are engaged with fire. He was honored as the discoverer of all the implements of the chase, the house, the field, and war, and was also famous as the builder of the gold-gleaming dwellings of the gods. So great was his skill that he constructed bellows which could make the flame stronger or weaker, as he wished, as well as sumptuous couches which, at a sign from him, were placed in the assemblies of the gods for their use. When Hephaestus appeared before the ruler of the skies, he was requested to make a maiden of gold. He set about the work at once and when Apollo, the next morning, mounted his flaming chariot to shed the heavenly light both upon gods and men, a splendid image was finished which in appearance, speed, and movement resembled a beautiful mortal.