Ancient Athenian Drama

Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound

5th century BC, Ancient Greek.

'I am one whom Zeus cannot kill,' cries Prometheus, as the eagle pecks away at his liver in another cycle of agony and regeneration.'

'The Olympian gods get a pasting in some of these ancient Athenian plays,' said Miranda. 'A dung beetle goes up to heaven to pull Zeus's chariot.'

'Aristophanes, Peace,' said Quintin.

'Apollo is accused of inciting murder.'

'Euripides, Andromache.'

'The very existence of the gods is denied.'

'Aristophanes, The Clouds,' said Quintin.

'The Olympian gods have all their power taken away.'

'Aristophanes, The Birds.'

'Oedipus seeks sanctuary at a grove outside Athens sacred to ancient goddesses. Sophocles, Oedipus at Colonus,' said Miranda, answering her own question. 'The titan Prometheus predicts the demise of Zeus...'

'Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound,' replied Quintin quickly, reaching for a paperback copy of Aeschylus’s play. 'The titan Prometheus is nailed to a rock high up in desolate mountains on the orders of Zeus, following the war between the Olympian gods and the giants. He cries out – O divinity of sky, and swift-winged winds, and leaping streams, O countless laughter of the sea’s waves, O Earth, mother of all life!'

'A chorus of goddesses then enters the stage,' interrupted Miranda. 'Children of fertile Tethys, daughters of Oceanus... They look on, incensed at the fetters and shackles that bind Prometheus to the rock. They complain of Zeus, crying – A new master holds the helm of Olympus... and the great powers of the past he now destroys.'

'They cry: In this pitiful sight...' interrupted Quintin again, leafing quickly through his copy, 'Now every country cries aloud in grief; the peoples of Europe mourn for you and the Titan race, your glorious, ancient rule... But Prometheus tells us that he has seen two dynasties fall through pride: And I shall see the third, today’s king, fall to earth, more shamefully than his precursors, and more soon.'

'I am one whom he cannot kill, cries Prometheus,' interrupted Miranda, 'as the eagle pecks away at his liver in another cycle of agony and regeneration.'

Story fragment retold from: Vellacott, Philip, 1961. Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound, The Suppliants, Seven Against Thebes, The Persians (Penguin Classics). Translated from Ancient Greek with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. Prometheus Bound, pp 20–52.

See for yourself

Aeschylus – Wikipedia

Prometheus – Wikipedia

Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound – English translation, Internet Classics Archive (download the text-only version)


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