Prometheus Ticks off Zeus, Part 4

Published August 20, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

For some demented reason, I neglected to start writing this until this morning.  So it’s not going to be as lengthy or involved as it should be.  Fortunately, this is the least lengthy or involved section of the ongoing battle of wits(?) between Zeus and Prometheus, so that at least isn’t as bad as it might be.  This picks up not too long after the previous section.

Since Zeus was only going to allow the new race of mortals to continue living if they worshiped the gods, Apollo chose out a few mortals to act as seers and began sending them divine visions, and Artemis taught others how to read the will of the gods in the flight of birds and other animal signs.

Once the mortals had chosen a leader, Hypnos sent him to sleep, and Morpheus gave him a special dream, explaining to him that if the mortals did not respect and worship the gods, with proper temples and sacrifices, then the mortals would be exterminated, because Zeus had little patience for mortals who didn’t repay the gods for their bounties.

The mortals were willing and eager to worship the gods–though it took them some time to fully grasp exactly what a god was, precisely–and began work on constructing temples in their honor.  In the meantime, they built altars on which to burn sacrifices, just as the dream had instructed, but on the day of the first sacrifice, the brand new priest hesitated before the altar.

“What is a sacrifice?” he asked, looking at his fellow mortals.  “Does anyone know?”

“Some kind of animal, isn’t it?” one of the men suggested.

“I think it’s a bird,” one of the women asserted.

“No, no, it’s a fish!” a fisherman insisted.

“Don’t be daft!  It’s a type of grain!”

“No, I think it’s a kind of vessel.  Send for the best potter in town!”

The argument continued so long, and became so loud, that it gave Zeus a headache on Mt. Olympos.  Most of the other gods were trying not to laugh–not wanting to make his headache worse–but Hermes didn’t bother fighting his laughter.  Zeus started yelling at Hermes in fury, so angry that his words were incomprehensible.

While Zeus was yelling, causing the sky to rumble with thunder, what seemed to be an old man approached the confused–and now frightened–priest before the altar.  Though the priest didn’t know it, this was no old man, but Prometheus the Titan in disguise.

“A sacrifice is a gift to the gods,” he told the priest.  “What you’re giving them doesn’t matter so much as the thought behind it, but it must be pure and fine.”

“How do you know this, old man?”

“Why, I’ve been around since before the Flood,” Prometheus laughed.  “I know a few things.  Now, the best thing to sacrifice is an animal.  You’ll only want to burn a little of it for the gods, and then you can all feast on the rest of the meat together.  Doesn’t that sound like a good plan?”

“It does, but how shall I know which cuts to give to the gods and which to keep for us?” the priest asked, sounding afraid.  A loud clap of thunder sounded overhead, telling Prometheus that they now had Zeus’ attention.

“Oh, we’ll let the gods decide that,” Prometheus chuckled.  “We’ll divide up the meat into two piles and set them on the altar.  Then let Lord Zeus pick the pile he wants by hitting it with a little thunderbolt.”

“That sounds dangerous,” the priest said, glancing up at the sky nervously.

“He has very good aim,” Prometheus assured him.  “He won’t hit anything but what he aims for.”

The priest took some more convincing, but eventually agreed to Prometheus’ suggestion.  Then they prepared a fine young bull for sacrifice, and carved it up into two piles.  In one pile went all the meat, and into another went the bones and entrails.

Just before they were finished, Prometheus signaled to some pretty young girls–among them his granddaughters–and they began dancing and playing, distracting Zeus’ attention.  Then Prometheus put the finishing touches on the two piles, covering up the bones and entrails with a layer of fat so that it looked like the more appealing pile, and hiding the meat under a layer of unappealing gristle.

Then Prometheus–while the priest and other mortals cowered away from the altar in fear–called upon Zeus to strike the pile he wanted as his share with a thunderbolt.

The tiny thunderbolt zipped down out of the sky and struck the pile of bones and entrails.

Smiling, Prometheus turned to the mortals behind him.  “There, you see?  Now you know that you can worship the gods by burning the bones and entrails of the animals you slaughter for food.  You’ll keep yourselves fed with the meat, and the smoke from the altar will keep the gods fed.  Happy endings all around.”

The mortals were all delighted with the outcome, and quickly roasted the succulent meat left behind, inviting Prometheus to join them in the feast.

Zeus, however, was less than delighted.  Why did Prometheus get meat, and he only get bones?

Just how much of this was he going to endure from that irritating Titan?

This is one of those myths that doesn’t really work in a fleshed out form, I’m noticing.   We’re told that Prometheus and Zeus are deciding the gods’ portion and the mortals’ portion in a sacrifice.  Why?  How?  When?  Where?  And then, of course, there’s the question of whether or not Zeus is actually fooled.  Different authors have different takes on that.  Given the over-all narrative I’m building, I had to have him tricked by it.



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