The Myth Of Metametheus
How Hope is the gift we all need now…
In the times before humanity, there was a Great War that ravaged the world. Called the Titanomachy, the struggle was between the Titans, great beings led by Cronus, and the Olympians, led by his son Zeus.
The story of the conflict between Cronus and Zeus has been well documented, and of course eventually the Olympians were victorious, the Titans imprisoned for eternity within Tartarus, deep within the Hades’ realm.
Even though he had fought on the side of the Titans, Atlas was banished to the edges of the world and bidden to forever hold the sky on his shoulders.
The other two brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus had chosen to side with Zeus during the war, and so were favoured by him, and allowed to remain in the world.
Prometheus was given the task to create humanity, which he did by fashioning Man (Andros) out of the clay of the earth. Athene the wise and chaste then breathed life into them.
But Prometheus was unhappy with his creation, and wanted his creation to thrive. He stole the divine fire from Olympus, gifting it to Mankind. With this gift, Man now had the divine gift of creation themselves, and were able to produce art, technology, and complex consciousness.
Zeus was unhappy that Humans had been given fire, and enraged by Prometheus’ betrayal. He captured Prometheus and chained him to the cliff side of Mt Parnassus, where an eagle would come every dawn and consume his liver.
He also devised a plot to punish Man for taking the fire, by creating the first Woman, Pandora. The Olympian goddesses each bestowed her with their divine attribute: Hera gave her curiosity, Athene gave her dexterity and taught her the arts of weaving, Aphrodite gifted her beauty, Artemis taught her to love the wilderness and how to tend to all beasts, Demeter taught her the secrets of plants and flowers, Hestia how to tend to the hearth-fire.
Before sending her to live with Man, Zeus gave her a jar filled with ‘gifts’ and instructed her to never open the jar. He charged her with the sacred mission to hold and protect these gifts so long as she lived with Man. Which she did.
Epimetheus fell in love at the sight of Pandora, and immediately took her as his wife, giving up his life in Olympus in exchange for a life with Humans. One day, his curiosity got the better of him and while Pandora was out he opened her jar, releasing the evils in the world:
“…burdensome toil, sickness that brings death to Man, disease, and a myriad of other pains”
— Hesiod, Theogony.
Pandora returned and sealed the jar, but too late as all the ‘gifts’ had been released…. All except for one…
Meanwhile, the demigod Heracles, with his teacher Chiron, the Healer and scientist of the Centaurs, freed Prometheus from his imprisonment. Because Chiron was immortal, he took Prometheus place on Parnassus, and forever endured the torture that had been met upon Prometheus.
Prometheus returned to Olympus, and was forgiven by Zeus. Having learned about Pandora and his brother’s departure from the home of the gods, he travelled to the world of Men and Women to see how his creation had thrived since his incarceration. What he found instead was the human world ravaged by what had been released. He was angered by the actions of his brother, and jealous also, for Pandora was beautiful, wise, and powerful. One night while his brother was out, Prometheus came to Pandora and they became lovers for a time, as she was attracted by his intelligence and wit. She secretly bore him a child, who they named Metametheus.
To prevent bringing any shame to Epimetheus — for they both conceded he was a decent person and did not deserve the shame — Metametheus was taken to live to the polis (city), where the child was brought up as human and learned art, music, philosophy, mathematics, physics, biology, and warfare.
He learned oration and rhetoric from the Sophists, studied medicine at the Asklepion, and even learned the secrets of the Eleusininan mysteries, and apprenticed with the oracle at Delphi. He travelled to distant lands and learned of their ways and their religions. He sat and received wisdom from kings and sages, herded beasts in the mountains with herding folk, learned hunting and gathering of exotic foods, and the erotic mysteries and secrets of seduction from the sacred harem temples.
He continued to live through the ages and witnessed the fall and rise of many human empires. He witnessed war, famine, and plague. And even once all the gods disappeared from the world, he stayed and lived with and watched humans as their civilisation grew and expanded around the world.
As human civilisation grew, and their knowledge of the world grew, so too did the escaped gifts from his mother’s jar. The bigger the human world got, the more intense the ills did too.
Finally, the human world was on the brink of disaster and collapse. As the last god Metametheus knew that it was up to him to do something to aid the people who had taught, nourished, and loved him for aeons. He stole his mother’s jar from its hiding place, recalling that there was one last gift that had remained after Pandora had re-sealed it:
For Zeus, all those aeons ago, had a plan. Wielding the divine fire would ultimately bring destruction to humanity, for they were not gods, which is the reason he had withheld it from them in the first place. He knew that human curiosity would get the better of them, and the gifts contained within Pandora’s Jar were strategically placed to challenge humanity, to temper their hubris, and teach them the great responsibility that goes hand-in-hand with the great power that comes with divine fire. Hope remained as the antidote to all the ills of the world.
And so, he returned to the human world with Pandora’s lost gift, releasing it with the hope that the creation of his father would receive the gift and save themselves.
And this is where our story begins…