The Prometheus Academy - Who is Prometheus?

Sharing the fire of learning

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The Prometheus Academy Story

The Prometheus Academy has its origins in the Homeschool Connection program at Eastfield College, where a teacher taught science classes and labs.  In Spring of 2009, Eastfield College changed administration and decided to cut several programs, including discontinuing the very effective Homeschool Connection program.  After consulting with many DFW homeschooling parents, we recruited teachers and started The Prometheus Academy in July, 2009.

We have grown in eight years to 97 students, continue to expand class space, and offer diverse classes to DFW home schooling families.  Our teachers prepare students for dual-credit classes and college.  Our continuing goal is to create an environment where students enjoy taking classes as much as we enjoy teaching them!

The Greek God

Prometheus (proh-mee'-thee-uhs), also called Iapetus, is a figure of rebellion and endurance from Greek mythology; plus he is the primary benefactor of humankind.  He is the wisest of the Titans, the twelve Elder Gods who preceded the Olympians.  His wisdom led him to fight on the side of Zeus as Zeus overthrew Cronos and established himself as the lord of all.  After Zeus's victory, Zeus's enemies were punished severely—Atlas, you may remember, was condemned to bear the weight of the world forever.  Prometheus, however, had gained the favor of Zeus, so he was free to participate in reshaping the World, a world which was now cleared of monsters and ready for the creation of mankind.

Creation

According to one creation account, Zeus delegated the creation of mankind to Prometheus, whose name means "forethought," and to his impulsive, scatterbrained brother Epimetheus, whose name means "afterthought."  Before mankind had been created, Epimetheus foolishly gave out all of the best gifts to the animals—feathers and talons, cunning and swiftness, all that had been allotted to earthly creation was gone.  Prometheus, wiser even than the gods, set himself the task of fashioning a superior being, in spite of the lack of available gifts.  First, he fashioned them with a nobler form—they would walk upright as the gods did. Then, to aid them in protection (without claws), shield them from the cold (without fur), and allow them cooking, metallurgy, and many other arts, Prometheus went to Olympus and asked Zeus if he might give fire to mankind.  When Zeus refused, Prometheus stole fire for the benefit of humankind.  He returned from heaven with the fire—far better than fur, feathers, or any other gift—and gave it to humans, though he knew that he would suffer for his generosity.

Zeus' anger

As angry as Zeus was, his anger was mitigated by the aroma of the burnt offerings that men had begun to leave for him.  It seems that once humankind had fire, they began to gather around it, following the smoke heavenward with their eyes.  In these moments they began to wonder.  As a consequence of Prometheus's gift, then, humans began asking questions and seeking answers; the offerings to Zeus were clear evidence of such developments.  Prometheus, though, was frustrated that men, who worked so hard for their sustenance, were offering the best parts of their animals to the gods.  He traveled to the land of men, slew an ox, and divided it into two parts.  In one pile he put all of the best meats, wrapped in the hide, and covered in a layer of entrails.  In the other pile he carefully placed all of the bones, disguised by a thick layer of shining fat.  He invited Zeus to come down and choose what he would have as his sacrifice for all time. Zeus was deceived and chose the craftily hidden bones, and in his anger he swore to punish both Prometheus and mankind.  The suffering he devised for Prometheus was great, but Prometheus refused to yield.

Prometheus' endurance

Of course, it deserves mention that Zeus's anger was considerably greater for more personal reasons.  Prometheus alone, with his foresight, knew which woman would give birth to the son who the soothsayers foretold would overthrow Zeus and drive the gods from Olympus.  Zeus offered to release Prometheus from his torment if Prometheus would tell him the woman's name.  That is why his endurance and refusal to submit to injustice and such abuses of power is legendary.  He is Prometheus the stubborn, and "His name has stood through all the centuries […] as that of the great rebel against injustice and the authority of power."(1)  After withstanding much suffering for the sake of upholding his values, Prometheus is freed without yielding. Chiron, an immortal centaur, recognizes the worth of Prometheus and agrees to die on his behalf, and Hercules unchains him.

Mankind's benefactor

Of all the Greek gods, Prometheus is by far humankind's greatest benefactor and best role model.  As a consequence of his compassion, humans walk upright with dignity, as he formed them, and have all of the security, comfort, and crafts that derive from fire, which he gave to them.  That same gift of fire also gave rise to the very human sense of wonder and search for truth.  He consistently exemplifies some of the most admirable (and most difficult) human qualities, including generosity and endurance, resistance and rebellion, and foresight and wisdom, all of which we hope will be an integral part of this learning academy.

1 A modified and abridged version of the many accounts of Prometheus, given in Edith Hamilton's Mythology (Boston: Little, Brown: [1942] 1998), from which this quotation is taken.
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