§ 1 POWER: We've reached this far-bounded land of the earth,
This tract of Scythia, an untrodden wilderness.
[to Hephaestus] Hephaestus, you should pay attention to the orders
Your father Zeus gave you –- to grip this malefactor
§ 5 Onto rocks with steep cliffs
In unbreakable links of adamantine chains.
Because it was your flower, the blaze of all-skilful fire
That he stole and gifted to humans. For such
A crime he must pay the penalty to the gods,
§ 15 But I am not so bold as to bind by force
My relative, a god, to this wintry ravine.
Still, I absolutely must have boldness for this:
It’s dangerous to neglect Zeus's words.
[to Prometheus] Lofty-thoughted son of right-counselling Themis,
§ 20 We will both be unwilling when I nail you down
With difficult-to-release bronze to this crag far from mankind –
Here you won’t see either the voice or shape
Of any people, but scorched by the sun's bright flame
You’ll change the flower of your skin. You’ll be glad
§ 25 When Night in glittering dress hides away the light,
And when the sun once more scatters the frost of dawn:
The burden of your current pain will keep
Wearing you down –- but your rescuer is not yet born.
This is what you’ve gained for your humanity-loving ways!
§ 30 A god yourself, you didn't cower under the gods' rancour,
But instead gifted honours to humans beyond the natural order.
For this you’ll stand guard over this rock of no delight,
Upright, sleepless, without bending your knee:
You are going to utter many moans and groans
§ 35 In vain – Zeus's mind is implacable.
Every new ruler is harsh.
POWER: [to Hephaestus]
Come on! Why hesitate? What's the point of pity?
Why not hate the god who’s the enemy of the gods,
The one who gave away your prize to humans?
HEPHAESTUS: Family and association carry weight.
§ 40 POWER: I agree. But how can you not listen
To your father's orders? Aren't your more afraid of that?
HEPHAESTUS: You're always pitiless! Full of insolence!
POWER: Yes, because it's no cure wailing for him.
Don't waste your time with useless words.
§ 45 HEPHAESTUS: How I loathe my handiwork!
POWER: Why hate it? Put simply, the pains
He now has are not the result of your skill.
HEPHAESTUS: Anyway, I wish someone else had my job!
POWER: Everything is burdensome except to be commander of the gods:
§ 50 No-one is free except Zeus.
HEPHAESTUS: I recognise this, and can find no objection.
POWER: Aren't you eager to wrap him in chains,
So your father doesn't catch you slacking off?
HEPHAESTUS: The bridle's in my hand –- here, look!
POWER: Put your hands around it, and with your powerful strength
§ 55 Strike it with the hammer! Nail him to the rocks!
HEPHAESTUS: [He nails it around Prometheus]
It's gone right through – It's done its job.
POWER: Smash it more! Tighten it! Don't be slack!
He's clever at finding a way out of difficulties.
§ 60 HEPHAESTUS: This arm is fixed so he can't get free.
POWER: Now pin this one down as well, securely, so that
The expert may learn that he is slower than Zeus!
HEPHAESTUS: [pointing at the chains]
Except for this, no-one could justifiably find fault with me.
POWER: Use your strength to nail the ruthless jaw
§ 65 Of the unconquerable wedge right through his chest!
HEPHAESTUS: Oh Prometheus, how I cry out for your pain!
POWER: Are you reluctant again? Crying out for Zeus's
Enemies? Watch that you don't end up pitying yourself!
HEPHAESTUS: You can see – a sight hard to look at!
§ 70 POWER: All I see is him getting what he deserves!
Now put the harness around his ribs!
HEPHAESTUS: I'm forced to do this – don't keep ordering me so much!
POWER: I will keep ordering you! And I'll shout at you as well!
Move down now – encircle his legs by force!
§ 75 HEPHAESTUS: It's done now – it didn't take long.
POWER: Use your strength now to strike the links right through!
The foreman of this punishment is serious!
HEPHAESTUS: Your tongue matches your looks.
POWER: You're soft – so don't rebuke me
§ 80 For my ruthlessness and harshness of temper!
HEPHAESTUS: Let's go now – his limbs are completely bound.
POWER: [to Prometheus]
Commit outrages here now –- Steal the gods'
Gift and give it to the short-lived humans! How
Can mere mortals bail you out of this pain?
The gods were wrong to call you Prometheus,
§ 85 Meaning 'Forethought' –- you are the one that needs forethought,
As to how you can wriggle out of this handicraft!
[exit Power, Force, and Hephaestus]
PROMETHEUS: You, divine sky, and you, fast-winged winds!
Springs of rivers, and numberless laughter
Of ocean waves! I call on you, mother Earth,
§ 90 And on the all-seeing eye of the Sun!
Look at what I, a god, am suffering from the gods!
___See with what tortures
I will be worn down as I suffer
§ 95 During the myriad years!
The new commander of the gods has devised
For me this sort of shameful imprisonment.
Ah! I bemoan my current and future
Pain, not knowing when an end
§ 100 Of this suffering must come!
___And yet what am I saying? I have exact knowledge ahead
Of everything that will happen – no unexpected pain
Will come to me at all. I should put up
With this destined fate as easily as I can, as I know
That the power of brute force cannot be overcome.
§ 105 But I can't keep quiet, or not keep quiet,
About what has happened to me. Because I brought a gift
To mortals I am yoked, alas! in these constraints.
I hunted after fire's source, which I stole
§ 110 And filled a reed –- it has been the teacher to mortals
Of every skill, and a great resource.
For such misdeeds I am paying the price,
Pinned down by these chains high above.
[looks off stage]
§ 115 What sound or fragrance has flown to me invisibly?
Is it god-driven, human, or a mixture of both?
Has someone come to my faraway crag
To look at my pains? What do they want?
[twists toward the noise off-stage]
Can you see me, a prisoner, an ill-fated god,
§ 125 Like that of birds? The air is whistling
With the light beating of wings.
Everything that approaches frightens me.
___[Chorus enter riding on large birds above the stage. Then they hover.]
CHORUS: [Strophe A]
Don't be afraid: in friendship
Our company has come
With swift contention of wings
§ 130 To this peak, with difficulty
Winning over our father's mind.
The swift-bearing winds sent me here:
The clang of the beating of steel
Rushed through the depths of our caves, and struck
Away my grave modesty:
§ 135 I sped here without shoes in my winged vehicle.
PROMETHEUS: Ah me!
Offspring of fruitful Tethys,
And of your father Ocean
Who winds around the whole earth
§ 140 With his untiring wave!
Look at me, see the chains
They have pinned me down with, onto the heights
Overlooking this ravine!
I will have to endure an unenviable watch!
___CHORUS: [Antistrophe A]
I can see, Prometheus. A fearful
§ 145 Mist full of tears
Has rushed to my eyes,
When I look at your body
Wasting away on the rocks
With these steel-bound outrages.
Are in power in Olympus: with his radical
§ 150 Laws Zeus is ruling illegitimately.
Those who were once mighty he disappears. [lit. ‘makes invisible’]
[Note: ‘radical laws’ could refer to the several crucial laws of the 450s that Pericles oversaw as part of promoting the radical democracy. The last line might be referring to the ostracism and eventual death of Cimon]
PROMETHEUS: I wish he’d sent me underground beneath Hades
The Corpse-Receiver, to fathomless
§ 155 Bringing me there savagely with bonds not to be loosed:
Then no god, or anyone else,
Could rejoice in this!
As it is, I’m miserable from the sky's movements,
And suffer pains delightful to my enemies!
CHORUS: [Strophe B]
§ 160 What god could be so stern-hearted
As to find this delightful?
Who does not sympathise with your
Pain except for Zeus? He is still bitterly angry
As he imposes his unbending mind
§ 165 And subdues the family
Of Ouranos, and will not stop,
Until either his heart is satisfied, or by some throw
Someone seizes his difficult-to-catch empire. [lit. ‘rule’]
[the use of ‘arche’ is interesting: it came to mean ‘empire’ in Thucydides]
PROMETHEUS: Although I'm being tortured in these strong
Body-irons, the lord of the gods [lit. ‘official of the blessed’]
Will still need me, oh yes,
§ 170 To reveal the new plan by which
He is to be stripped of his sceptre and honours.
But I will not be softened by his honey-tongued
Chants of persuasion! I will never
§ 175 Cower under his harsh threats and
Make this known,
Until he releases me from these savage chains,
And consents to pay the penalty
For this outrage!
CHORUS: [Antistrophe B]
§ 180 No, it’s you who are wilful and do not soften
Because of your bitter pains.
You are too free-speaking!
But a piercing fear stirs my mind.
I am afraid for what will happen to you,
§ 185 Whenever it is fated for you
To reach and look upon an end
Of these toils. The son of Kronos has an unapproachable
Character, and a heart not to be persuaded.
PROMETHEUS: I know Zeus is harsh and keeps
§ 190 Justice to himself. Still, I think
He will one day
Be gentle-minded when he is crushed by this event.
He will stop his bitter fury,
And one day come to harmony
§ 195 And friendship with me, and we will both be eager.
[‘keeps justice to himself’ effectively describes Pericles’s various legal reforms of the 450s]
CHORUS: Reveal everything and tell us the story:
What is the reason that Zeus has seized you,
And now outrages you so shamefully and bitterly?
Tell us, unless speaking brings you any harm.
PROMETHEUS: It is painful for me even to speak of all that,
§ 200 But also painful to be quiet about it --- wretched either way.
As soon as the gods began their anger,
And strife was stirred up among each other, [also ‘civil war’]
There were some willing to throw Kronos from his throne,
So that Zeus might rule, but others were eager
§ 205 For the opposite, that Zeus would never rule the gods.
Then I, although I gave them the best advice, was unable
To persuade the Titans, offspring of Earth
And Sky. But putting no trust in my wily
Schemes, in their hard minds
§ 210 They thought they would gain mastery easily and by force.
But my mother Themis and Earth,
One form under many names,
Had foretold the future:
That it must not be by strength
§ 215 Or might, but by guile that we should defeat those in power.
That was what I revealed to them,
But they didn’t think it worth even looking at.
The best thing in those circumstances,
I thought, was to take my mother as a helper,
§ 220 And stand together alongside Zeus --- both of us would be willing.
It is by my plans that the black-deep lair
Of Tartarus hides the ancient-born Kronos
With all his allies. Although he owes
Me this, the tyrant of the gods
§ 225 Has given me this evil punishment in exchange.
Tyranny somehow has this
Disease --- not to trust one’s friends.
___As for what you’re asking, the reason
He tortures me, I’ll now explain.
§ 230 As soon as he was seated on his father’s
Throne, straight away he began assigning privileges to the gods,
Severally to each, and regularly apportioning
His realm. Of wretched humans he took
No account at all, but wanted to annihilate their
§ 235 Whole race, and plant a new one.
No-one opposed this except me.
But I dared to! I saved mortals
From being smashed to pieces and going to Hades.
That’s why I’m bent under tortures like this,
§ 240 Painful to suffer and pitiful to see.
Because I placed mortals ahead in pity, I myself
Was not thought worthy of obtaining it; pitilessly
Was I thus strung up, a sight to the discredit of Zeus.
CHORUS: They would have to be iron-hearted and made of stone,
§ 245 Whoever does not sympathise with your toils,
Prometheus. I would not crave to see this,
And now that I have, my heart is pained.
PROMETHEUS: Oh yes, to my friends I’m pitiful.
CHORUS: Did you perhaps go even further than that?
§ 250 PROMETHEUS: I stopped mortals from foreseeing their future.
CHORUS: What remedy did you find for that ailment?
PROMETHEUS: I established blind hopes in them.
CHORUS: That was a great benefit you gifted to mortals!
PROMETHEUS: As well as that I granted them fire.
§ 255 CHORUS: So now those beings of a day have the flame of fire?
PROMETHEUS: From this they will master all the arts.
CHORUS: So that is the reason that Zeus against you---
PROMETHEUS: Commits outrage and doesn’t slacken from evil.
CHORUS: Is there no end in the future for your toil?
§ 260 PROMETHEUS: None at all, except when he decides.
CHORUS: How will he decide? What hope is there? Don’t you see
That you made a mistake? That you did so is no pleasure
To me, and painful for you. But let’s drop
All this. Look for some release from your toils.
§ 265 PROMETHEUS: It’s easy for someone not involved in pain
To keep counselling and advising a person who’s doing
Badly. I knew all of that.
Willingly, yes willingly, I made a mistake, I won’t deny it.
Because I assisted mortals, I myself found pains.
§ 270 But I didn’t think that I’d be made to waste away
With this kind of punishment on crags high up in the air,
Neighbour to this deserted rock.
But don’t lament my current pains.
Step onto the ground and listen to my coming
§ 275 Fortunes, so you may learn everything through to the end.
Listen to me, please, listen to me. Feel the pain of one
Who toils now. Suffering in its wandering
Rests on different spots in succession.
CHORUS: We are most willing in what you are urging,
§ 280 Prometheus. So now, with our light feet we leave behind
Our swift-rushing seat,
And the air, that pure road of the birds,
And approach this rugged ground.
I crave to hear
§ 285 All your labours thoroughly.
[Chorus step down off their birds onto the stage. The birds fly off.
Enter Ocean riding a winged horse, which hovers above the stage.]
OCEAN: I have come to the end of my lengthy journey,
After passing here to you, Prometheus.
This wing-swift bird
I directed with my mind, without reins.
§ 290 Rest assured, I share in the pain of your misfortunes.
For our kinship, I think, thus
Impels me to you,
And besides family there is no-one to whom
I would apportion a greater esteem than you.
§ 295 You will know that this is true. It is not in me
To speak pleasingly to no purpose --- so come now!
Tell me what is needed to help you.
Never will you say that you have a more steadfast
Friend than Ocean.
§ 300 PROMETHEUS: Oh, what’s this I see? Have you also come to be a spectator
Of my pains? How did you have the courage to leave
The water with your name, and the rock-roofed
Self-built caverns, to come to this land,
The mother of iron? Have you come to observe
§ 305 My misfortunes, and sympathise with my treatment?
Then gaze on this sight: here was Zeus’s friend,
The one who helped establish his tyranny:
Under what sufferings am I bent by him!
OCEAN: I can see, Prometheus: I’m willing to give you
§ 310 The best advice, though you are skilful.
Know yourself and adopt new
Ways, as the tyrant of the gods is new. [or ‘young’]
If you hurl out such harsh and sharp
Words, soon even from his seat high above
§ 315 Zeus would hear you, and then your present crowd
Of miseries would seem like child’s play.
Come, unhappy friend, drop what anger you have,
And seek a removal from these agonies.
Old-fashioned, perhaps, these words seem to you.
§ 320 But such are the wages, Prometheus,
Of a tongue that speaks too loftily.
You aren’t yet humble, and don’t even yield to difficulties:
On top of your current ones you would add others!
If you would make use of me as a teacher,
§ 325 You won’t hold out your leg to the kicks, since you can see
That a harsh monarch rules without accountability.
[Note: the political term ‘euthunia’ could be suggested]
And now I’m going to try
If I can release you from these pains.
Keep quiet! Don’t storm with your mouth!
§ 330 Over-clever as you are, don’t you know precisely
That a penalty is inflicted on a thoughtless tongue?
___PROMETHEUS: I envy you for being outside the main cause,
You who so took part in everything and acted so boldly on my part.
So drop it now --- don’t trouble yourself about me.
§ 335 You won’t persuade him at all: he’s not easily persuaded.
Look out for yourself --- I’m afraid you may find pain on your journey.
OCEAN: You are much more sensible to those closest to you
Than to yourself. I can see the proof
In your actions, not in your words.
§ 340 When I’m eager to set off, don’t fight against me!
I boast, I do indeed, that Zeus will grant me
This gift --- to release you from these pains.
PROMETHEUS: Some things I praise you for, and I’ll never stop doing so.
You have lots of enthusiasm. But
§ 345 Don’t keep troubling yourself --- you’ll get no benefit
From troubling yourself for nothing, if you’re willing even to trouble yourself.
Keep quiet yourself! Keep out of the way!
If I suffer misfortune, it’s because of this --
That I wouldn’t want to bring pain upon others.
§ 350 No! Since the fate of my brother Atlas as well
Wears me down --- in the western region
He stands bearing on his shoulders the pillar
Of earth and sky, a burden difficult to grasp.
And when I saw that earth-born inhabitant
§ 355 Of the Cilician caves, I pitied him, a hostile monster
With a hundred heads, subdued by force,
Impetuous Typhon, the god who resisted the gods,
Hissing fear from his horrible jaws.
From his eyes he lightninged gorgon-faced flame,
§ 360 To obliterate by force the tyranny of Zeus.
But Zeus’s unsleeping bolt came upon him,
The descending lightning that breathes fire,
And it blasted him out of his lofty-speaking
Boasts. Struck to his very heart
§ 365 He was burnt to ashes, and his strength was thundered out of him.
And now useless and outstretched his body
Lies near the narrow neck of sea
Crushed under the roots of Mount Aetna.
On its high summit sits Hephaestus
§ 370 Beating in his forge; from there one day will burst
Rivers of fire devouring with their rabid jaws
The level fields of fruitful Sicily.
This is the anger that Typhon will boil up,
With hot bolts of unquenchable fire-breathing hail,
§ 375 Though he is turned to ashes by Zeus’s thunder.
You’ve had experience, you don’t need me
To tell you. Save yourself as you know how!
I’ll bail out my present misfortune,
Until Zeus’s heart rests from anger.
§ 380 OCEAN: Don’t you realise, Prometheus,
That words are the healers of a diseased fury?
PROMETHEUS: Provided someone is softened in their heart at the right time,
And doesn’t constrict their passion by force!
OCEAN: For being enthusiastic and bold, what
§ 385 Penalty do you see? Tell me that!
PROMETHEUS: Excessive labour and light-minded folly.
OCEAN: Let me remain in this illness, since
It is best for one who is sensible not to seem sensible.
PROMETHEUS: That offence will seem mine.
§ 390 OCEAN: So what you are saying is I should go back home?
PROMETHEUS: Yes! I fear that lamenting for me could make you an enemy---
OCEAN:--- of the one recently seated on the all-powerful throne?
[note: ‘recently’ perhaps refers to the 450s when Pericles instituted several important laws. ]
PROMETHEUS: Watch out for him! One day his heart may be aggrieved!
OCEAN: Your disaster, Prometheus, is my teacher.
§ 395 PROMETHEUS: Leave! Depart! Keep your current attitude!
OCEAN: I’m eagerly setting out at your urging.
This winged horse is fluttering
On the smooth path of the sky: gladly
Would it bend its knees in its stalls at home.
[exit Ocean on his winged horse]
CHORUS: [Strophe A]
§ 405 Miseries with his own laws,
And reveals to the gods of old
His arrogant power.
[‘his own laws’: This possibly references Pericles’s laws of the 450s]
The whole land is already uttering its moans,
And people mourn the magnificent,
§ 410 Anciently outstanding
Honour of your brothers;
And all the mortals who dwell
In the neighbouring seat of holy Asia
Suffer together with your
§ 430 Supports the mighty vault of the sky
On his back and groans under the weight.
The ocean wave falling together
Shouts for you, and the deep mourns,
And Hades’ black nook thunders below,
§ 435 And the springs of pure-flowing rivers
Mourn your pitiful pain.
PROMETHEUS: Don’t think that it’s out of delicacy or wilfulness
That I’m silent. My heart is devoured with anxiety
When I see myself being insulted like this.
§ 440 And yet who else but I completely determined
Their privileges to these new gods?
But that’s enough of that --- you know
The story I could tell you. Now listen to the plight
Of human beings, how they were childish before,
§ 445 And I made them intelligent and possessed of mind.
I’ll tell you about them, not because I blame them at all,
But to explain the kindness I granted them.
First of all, though they could see, they saw to no purpose,
Though hearing they didn’t hear, but like
§ 450 Shapes in dreams in their long life
They muddled up everything at random. They didn’t know
Brick-built sunny houses, or wordworking;
But like ants that burrow, light as air,
They lived in the sunless corners of caves.
§ 455 They had no reliable sign of winter,
Flowering spring, or fruitful
Summer --- they did everything
Without intelligence, until I showed them
When the stars rose, and their settings that are hard to tell.
§ 460 I also invented for them numbers,
The most outstanding cleverness, and how to put letters together,
The recording of everything, working mother of the muses.
I first yoked the wild beasts
Enslaving them in harnesses and in pack-saddles, so that
§ 465 People might have a relief from their heavy
Burdens, and brought under chariots rein-loving
Horses, the adornment of proud wealth.
And no-one else but me invented the sea-wandering
Fabric-winged vehicles of ships.
§ 470 Although I invented all these devices for mortals,
Alas! I myself do not have a clever means whereby
I can escape my present distress.
CHORUS: The pain you’ve suffered is shameful. Having slipped away from your mind
You’re wandering, and like a bad doctor you’ve fallen
§ 475 Ill, depressed, and cannot find
The medicine to heal yourself.
PROMETHEUS: Listen to the rest and you’ll be more amazed,
What skills and means I devised.
The greatest was, that if anyone fell ill,
§ 480 There was nothing to protect them at all, either food,
Ointment or drink --- from lack
Of medicines they turned into skeletons, till I showed
Them the compounds of gentle curatives,
With which they warded off all their illnesses.
§ 485 I arranged in order the many types of prophecy,
And was the first to interpret what should come
From dreams while awake, and taught them obscure
Omens and signs when people are on the road;
And I precisely defined the flight of taloned
§ 490 Birds, both the ones that are favourable by nature,
And the ill-omened ones, and the way of life that
Each had, and the hostility that some showed
To each other and their affection and association.
I also defined the plumpness of the liver, and what colour
§ 495 It should be to please the gods,
The speckled beautiful shape of the gall and liver,
And I burnt the thigh-bones wrapped in fat
And the long loin, and set mortals on the road to a skill
That was difficult to discern; and I opened their eyes to signs
§ 500 In the flames that were hidden from their view before.
That’s what those things were like. But as for what was hidden under
The ground, things that benefited people --
Bronze, iron, silver and gold – who
Could say they had found them before me?
§ 505 No-one, rest assured, unless they wanted to babble foolishly.
In short you should learn that everything collectively,
All the skills mortals have, come from Prometheus.
___CHORUS: Now don’t benefit mortals beyond what is their due,
But then neglect yourself in your misfortune. Because I
§ 510 Have good hopes that you will yet be released from these
Chains, and not prove weaker than Zeus.
___PROMETHEUS: That isn’t how Fate, who somehow brings all to fulfilment,
Is destined to accomplish this, but only after being bent under myriad
Pains and miseries like this, am I to flee my chains –
§ 515 My skill is much weaker than Necessity.
CHORUS: Who then is the helmsman of this Necessity?
PROMETHEUS: The trio of Fates, and the Furies Who Remember.
CHORUS: What, is Zeus weaker than them?
PROMETHEUS: He wouldn’t be able to escape what’s fated.
§ 520 CHORUS: What’s fated for Zeus, other than ruling forever?
PROMETHEUS: I can’t tell you anymore – don’t keep asking.
CHORUS: This must be a serious matter you’re covering up.
PROMETHEUS: Mention some other topic – it’s not the time
To speak of this, but it has to be completely hidden
§ 525 As much as possible. By keeping it secret
I can escape these shameful chains and miseries.
CHORUS: [Strophe A]
May Zeus who apportions all
Not set his power in opposition to my mind,
§ 530 Nor may I cease going to the gods
With holy feasts
§ 535 Of slaughtered cattle beside my father Ocean’s inexhaustible stream,
Nor may I offend them with my words;
But may this remain with me and never melt away.
It is sweet for me to stretch out a long
Life with encouraging hopes, delighting
§ 540 My heart in apparent pleasures. But I
Shudder when I look upon you
Wasting away in myriad pains [one or two words missing].
You do not tremble at Zeus,
§ 545 But with your own judgement honour mortals too much, Prometheus.
Come, my friend, how is the favour not a favour?
Tell me, where or what is your defence?
What benefit is there from those who live for a day? Didn’t you see
The feebleness of little strength,
§ 550 Like a dream, in which the blind
Race of humans were shackled? Never
Will the plans of mortals surpass the arrangements of Zeus.
When I look at your ruinous fortunes
I have learnt this, Prometheus.
§ 555 This is an utterly different tune winging its way
To me from the one I sang in celebration
About the lustral font and your bed,
For your marriage, when with bridal-gifts you led
§ 560 Hesione, persuading her to be the wife that shares your bed.
[enter Io, with a cow’s horns sprouting from her head]
IO: What country is this? What people? Who is this
I can see wintering
In stony harnesses?
For what misdeed are you being ruined with this punishment?
§ 565 Tell me where on earth I’ve wandered in my wretchedness!
[she flinches as if stung]
Some gadfly has stung me in my misery,
The apparition of earth-born Argos – Ah! go away! – I’m afraid
To look at the myriad-eyed herdsman!
He goes along with sneaky eyes,
§ 570 Which even after they’ve died are not hidden by the earth.
Coming from those underground he bloodhounds
Me in my misery, and makes me wander
Starving along the sands of the shore.
His wax-moulded pipe shrills
§ 575 As it sounds a soporific tune.
Oh no! Where are my far-flung
Wanderings leading me?
Son of Kronos, why, oh why, have you found
Me at fault and yoked me in
§ 575 These pains? Ah me!
Why are you afflicting me in my misery,
Crazed with a gadfly-driven fear?
Burn me now with fire, bury me in the earth, or
Give me as food to the teeth of the sea,
And don’t begrudge me
My prayers, Lord!
§ 580 Unstintingly my far-wandered wanderings
Have worn me down – I cannot know how
I am to escape my pain.
Can you hear the voice of a cow-horned young woman?
PROMETHEUS: How can I not hear the gadfly-whirled daughter
§ 585 Of Inachus? She warms Zeus’s heart
With desire, and now with overlong running,
Hated by Hera, she’s being worn down against her will.
Why are you uttering my father’s name?
Tell me in my misery who you are!
§ 590 Who are you, poor wretch, that can correctly address
Me like this in my wretchedness?
You have hit on the god-driven ailment that
Exhausts me by stinging me with goads -- oh! --
That make me roam about – ayee!
Rushing furiously with starvation
§ 600 From leaps and with outrages I have come, subdued
By Hera’s malicious schemes. Who
Among the unfortunate – aaayee! –
Suffers as I do?
But tell me
§ 605 Precisely -- what remains for me
To suffer? What device or remedy for my ailment?
Tell me if you know!
Groan it, declare it to the ill-wandered young woman!
PROMETHEUS: I’ll tell you precisely everything you want to know,
§ 610 Without weaving riddles, but simply,
As it’s right to open a mouth to friends.
You see before you Prometheus, the giver of fire to mankind.
IO: You who’ve been revealed as a shared benefit to mankind,
Wretched Prometheus – What’s the crime for which you’re suffering this punishment?
§ 615 PROMETHEUS: Just now I’ve ceased moaning about my pains.
IO: Wouldn’t you be able to grant me this gift?
PROMETHEUS: Tell me what you want – I’ll inform you of everything.
IO: Tell me who gripped you onto this gorge.
PROMETHEUS: The plan was Zeus’s, but it was Hephaestus’s hand.
§ 620 IO: For what crimes are you paying the punishment?
PROMETHEUS: It’s enough that I’ve made this much clear to you only.
IO: As well as that, tell me the end of my
Wanderings, when will that time be for me in my misery?
PROMETHEUS: Not knowing would be better for you than knowing.
§ 625 IO: Don’t hide from me what I’m going to suffer!
PROMETHEUS: I don’t begrudge you this gift.
IO: Then why are you hesitating to tell me everything?
PROMETHEUS: I have nothing against you – but I’m reluctant to upset your mind.
IO: Don’t be concerned for me any longer – as this is something I want.
§ 630 PROMETHEUS: Since you’re so keen for it, I must tell you. Listen then.
CHORUS: No, not yet! Grant to me as well a portion of pleasure.
Let us enquire first about her ailment --
[pointing at the horns on Io’s head]
Let her tell us about her disastrous misfortunes.
Then you can tell us the rest of her toils.
§ 635 PROMETHEUS: It’s up to you, Io, to grant them your favour,
Especially as they are your father’s sisters.
Since to bewail and moan about misfortunes
when someone is going to bring tears
From the listeners, is time worth spending.
§ 640 IO: I don’t know how I should refuse you,
So in clear speech you’ll find out everything
You’re asking for. And yet even as I tell you I’m ashamed
Of the god-rushing storm and the ruin
Of my appearance, which has flown to me in my wretchedness.
§ 645 Night visions kept visiting
My young women’s apartments, and addressing me
With smooth words:
Why so long a virgin, when you could obtain
The greatest marriage? Zeus is warmed with the dart
§ 650 Of desire for you, and wants to take up Aphrodite
With you – Don’t spurn Zeus’s
Bed, but go out to Lerne’s deep
Meadow, and the flocks and ox-stalls of your father,
So that Zeus’s eyes may rest from yearning.”
§ 655 With dreams like these every night
I was seized, poor wretch, until I steeled myself
To tell my father of my night-visiting dreams.
Then he sent word to Pytho and Dodona’s thick-leaved
Shrine, to find out what he should
§ 660 Do or say to act in a friendly way to the gods.
And they came back bringing oracles that were
Shifting in speech and without signs, and words that were difficult to discern.
At last an unmistakeable utterance came to Inachus
Swooping down clearly and ordering him
§ 665 To thrust me out of house and homeland,
And that let loose I was to wander around on earth to its furthest limits;
And if he was unwilling, from Zeus a fiery thunderbolt
Would come to disappear his whole family.
[this suggests the methods of a dictator, and has a political feel]
Persuaded by such oracles of Loxias
§ 670 He drove me away and shut me out of my house,
Though we were both unwilling – Zeus’s bridle
Forced him to do this against his will.
Straight away my appearance and mind were
Distorted; and horned, as you can see, and stung
§ 675 With a sharp-mouthed gadfly, leaping about madly
I rushed to the well-watered stream of Kerchneia
And the spring of Lerne. But the earthborn herdsman
Argos accompanied my untempered passion, watching
Over my steps with his clustered eyes.
§ 680 But then an unexpected and sudden fate
Deprived him of life. I goad-struck
By a divine whip am now driven from country to country.
You’ve heard what happened; if you can tell me what
Remains of my sufferings, inform me. Don’t out of pity for me
§ 685 Soothe me with false tales: because I say
That the worst disease is made-up stories.
CHORUS: Aayee! Keep away! Ah no!
I never never claimed that strange stories
Like this had come to my hearing,
§ 695 I shudder when I look at what has been done to Io!
PROMETHEUS: You’re too quick to moan, and full of fear:
Wait till you hear the rest.
CHORUS: Tell us everything you know – to people who are ailing it’s sweet
To accurately know in advance the pain that awaits them.
§ 700 PROMETHEUS: You obtained your first request from me
Easily --- for you wanted to hear from her
The story of her struggles from her own lips.
Now listen to the rest, what kind of suffering
This young woman must endure at the hands of Hera.
[to Io] And you, seed of Inachus, cast my words
§ 705 Into your mind, so you can learn the destination of your journey.
First of all, turn from here towards
The west, and come to unploughed lands.
You’ll reach the nomadic Scythians, who live under woven
§ 710 Roofs high up, on well-circling wheels,
And equipped with far-shooting arrows.
Keep away from them, but bring your feet close to
The sea-groaning shores and pass beyond that country.
On the left hand the iron-working
§ 715 Chalybes live, whom you should watch out for.
They’re untamed, and not even approachable to strangers.
Then you’ll come to the river Hybriste, not named falsely –
Don’t cross it, as it’s not accessible to cross,
Until you come to the Caucasus itself, seeing
§ 720 Its highest point, where the river pours out its might
From the brows themselves. You should pass beyond
Their peaks that neighbour the stars, and take the road
Towards the south, where you’ll come to the man-hating
Army of the Amazons, who will one day live
§ 725 In Themiskyra about the river Thermidon, where
The Black Sea’s harsh Salmydressian jaw
Is stranger-hating to sailors, and the stepmother of ships.
These women will show you the way, and very gladly.
Then at the narrow gates of the harbour you will come
§ 730 To the Cimmerian Isthmus, which you must with fortitude
Leave and then cross the channel of Maeotis.
Ever afterwards people will tell the great tale
Of your crossing, and it will be called after you Bosporus,
The cattle-crossing. You’ll leave the soil of Europe
§ 735 And come to the Asian mainland. [to Chorus] Don’t you think
That the tyrant of the gods is equally violent
In everything he does? It’s because the god wanted to mingle
With this mortal that he hurled these wanderings upon her.
[to Io] It’s a bitter suitor for your marriage, dear girl,
§ 740 That you’ve met with. As for the tale you’ve just heard,
Consider that for you it’s not even at the beginning.
IO: Oh no no, ayee!
PROMETHEUS: Still crying out and moaning loudly? What
Will you do when you find out your further sufferings?
§ 745 CHORUS: Surely you’re not saying she’ll have any further sufferings?
PROMETHEUS: Yes, a stormy sea of ruinous misery.
IO: What’s the good of living? Why don’t I quickly
Throw myself off this rugged rock,
So that I can rush to the ground and escape
§ 750 All my pains? Better to die once and for all
Than suffer terribly all my days!
PROMETHEUS: You’d find my reward hard to bear then,
As I’m not fated to die!
That would be the end of my suffering –
§ 755 But there’s no end in sight for my
Pains, until Zeus falls from his tyranny.
IO: What, is it possible that Zeus will one day fall from his rule?
PROMETHEUS: You’d be delighted, I think, to see that disaster.
IO: Of course! Seeing as I’ve suffered terribly from Zeus.
§ 760 PROMETHEUS: Then you can be certain that this is true.
IO: Who will rob him of his tyrant’s sceptre?
PROMETHEUS: Himself, by his empty-minded plans.
IO: How? Tell me, if there’s no harm in it.
PROMETHEUS: He’ll make a marriage, and one day be vexed by it.
§ 765 IO: A divine or mortal one? If you can speak of it, tell me.
PROMETHEUS: Why ask which? I can’t tell you anyway.
IO: Is it his wife that will drive him from his throne?
PROMETHEUS: She’ll give birth to a son greater than his father.
IO: Is there no way for him to turn aside from this fate?
§ 770 PROMETHEUS: None at all, except if I’m released from these chains.
IO: Who’s going to release you if Zeus is unwilling?
PROMETHEUS: It is fated to be one of your own grandchildren.
IO: What are you saying? A son of mine will get you out of this pain?
PROMETHEUS: The third generation after ten offspring.
§ 775 IO: This prophecy is no longer easy to put together.
PROMETHEUS: Don’t keep trying to know everything about your sufferings.
IO: Don’t hold this benefit in front of me, then snatch it away!
PROMETHEUS: I’ll grant you one of two accounts.
IO: What are they? Reveal them to me, then give me a choice!
§ 780 PROMETHEUS: I give you these – choose one: I shall tell you clearly
Either the remainder of your sufferings, or who will set me free.
CHORUS: Please grant the first favour to her,
But the second to me, and don’t dishonour my request.
Tell her what remains of her wanderings,
§ 785 Then tell me who will free you, as I’m longing to know.
PROMETHEUS: [to Chorus] Since you’re so keen, I won’t oppose you,
But will tell you everything you want to know.
[to Io] You first, Io – I’ll tell you about your much-driven wandering:
Write it in the remembering pages of your mind.
§ 790 When you cross the stream that borders the two continents,
[You will turn] to the flaming east, which is trodden by the sun,
Crossing the roar of the Black Sea, until you reach
The Gorgonian plain of Cisthene, where
The Phorkides live, those three long-lived
§ 795 Young women in the shape of swans, who share one eye
And one tooth – the sun never looks at them
With his beams, nor the moon at night.
Near them are their sisters, the three winged
Snaky-haired Gorgons hateful to humans,
§ 800 Whom no mortal can look upon and live.
That’s the kind of thing you should guard against.
But let me tell you about another difficult-to-handle sight:
Watch out for Zeus’s sharp-beaked unbarking
Dogs, the gryphons, and the one-eyed army
§ 805 Of Arimaspians on horseback -- they live
Around the gold-flowing water of Pluto’s stream.
Keep away from them. Then you’ll come to a far
Country, and a black tribe who live near
The springs of the sun, where the river Aethiops lies.
Go along its banks, until you reach
§ 810 A downward slope --- from those Byblian mountains
Flows the august well-watered stream of the Nile.
This will set you on the road to the triangular delta
Of the Nile, where it is fated for you, Io,
§ 815 And your children, to have a second home for a long time.
If any of this is obscure and difficult to understand,
Ask me again, and find out everything clearly:
I have more free time than I want.
CHORUS: If you have anything remaining or passed over
§ 820 To say of her ruinous wanderings,
Tell us – but if you’ve said everything, grant us in turn
The favour we’re asking. You remember it I suppose.
PROMETHEUS: She’s just heard the end of her journey:
But so she may know what I’m saying is true,
§ 825 I’ll tell her everything she’s suffered before coming here,
Providing this as proof of my tale.
[to Io] I’ll leave out the greater mass of words,
And go straight to the end of your wandering here.
When you came to the Molossian territory,
§ 830 And around steep-ridged Dodona, where
Zeus’s oracular seat of Thesprotus lies,
And the incredible marvel, the speaking oak-trees,
You were quite clearly, and not in riddles,
Addressed by them as “she who was going to be
§ 835 The famous wife of Zeus”. [Io reacts] Does any of this please you?
Stung from there by the gadfly you rushed
Along the sea-shore road to the great Gulf of Rhea,
From where you were tossed about in back-wandering runnings.
But in future times that nook of the sea,
§ 840 Rest assured, will be called the Ionian
By all people, in memory of your passage through there.
These are the tokens of my mind,
That it sees more than what has been revealed.
As for what remains, I’ll share it with you and her,
§ 845 Starting from the same trail as my story earlier.
There is a city called Canopus, the furthest north in Egypt,
At the silted mouth of the Nile --
There Zeus will bring you back to sanity
By merely touching and brushing against you with his hand that’s not frightening.
§ 850 You’ll then give birth to a son named after Zeus’s fathering,
Dark Epaphos, meaning ‘Brush Against’, who will reap crops
From all the land that the broad-flowing Nile waters.
The fifth generation after him, composed of fifty children,
Will come back unwillingly to Argos,
§ 855 All of them women, escaping familial marriage
With their cousins. Then these men, excited in their minds,
Hawks not long left behind by doves,
Will come hunting after marriages
That shouldn’t be hunted – but the god will deny them those bodies.
§ 860 The Pelasgian land will welcome them with the conflict of women
Committing murder, when the men are defeated with boldness by watching in the night.
Each woman will deprive her husband of life
By dipping her two-edged sword in slaughter –
May Kypris come against her enemies like this!
§ 865 But love will soften one of the daughters so that she doesn’t
Kill her partner – she’ll be blunted
In her resolve. She’ll want one of these two things:
To be thought of as weak, rather than bloodthirsty.
She’s the one who’ll give birth to a royal family in Argos.
§ 870 I’d need a long tale to go through all this precisely.
From her seed will be born a brave man
Famous for the bow, who will free me
From these pains. Such was the prophecy that my ancient-born
Mother, the Titan Themis, related to me.
§ 875 But as for the manner and means, this would need a long tale
To tell you, and you won’t gain anything by knowing it.
[note: a clear reference to Aeschylus’s Suppliants, particularly with the metaphor of hawks hunting doves. This might mean Suppliants was only a few years earlier, which fits the idea that it is one of Aeschylus’s last plays. The question then arises: was Aeschylus’s son the author of this play?]
IO: Under me spasms and mind-striking
Madness are causing heat! The gadfly’s point
§ 880 Is stinging me without fire!
My heart is kicking my mind with fear!
My eyes are whirling around,
And I’m being carried outside my course by insanity’s
Furious breath, with my tongue unbridled!
§ 885 My muddied words are crashing in chaos
Against hateful waves of ruin!
CHORUS: [Strophe A]
How wise, oh wise he was
Who first pondered this in his judgement
And spoke this reasoning with his tongue:
§ 890 That marrying within your own status is best by far,
And that a poor person shouldn’t desire a marriage
With those weakened by wealth
Or made great by their family.
Never, oh never,
§ 895 May you goddesses the Fates see me
Sleeping in the bed of Zeus!
And may I not approach any bridegroom from among the gods in the sky!
I’m afraid when I look at Io’s maidenhood,
As yet unloved by a man, obliterated
§ 900 By the suffering of her evil-wandering journeys caused by Hera.
But as for me, when a marriage is equal,
It’s without fear. I’m not afraid. May the desire of more powerful gods
With its inescapable eye not look upon me!
That would be a war that is no war, and a difficulty easy to overcome.
§ 905 I don’t know what would become of me –
I don’t see how
I could escape Zeus’s skilfulness.
PROMETHEUS: Indeed one day Zeus, although wilful in mind,
Will be softened, so great will be the marriage
He is preparing for himself, which will banish him
§ 910 From his throne and disappear him. The prayer of his father
Kronos will at that time be completely fulfilled,
The one he prayed for when he fell from his long-lived throne.
As for how to avoid such pains, none of the gods
Except me could clearly show him.
§ 915 I know that, and the means. In regard to that,
Let Zeus be seated in confidence, trusting in his aerial
Thunder, and shaking fire-breathing lightning bolts in his hands.
Nothing will be strong enough to stop him
From falling in dishonour in an unbearable fall.
§ 920 He is preparing against Zeus
A wrestling match like this, a monstrous thing most difficult to fight.
He will find a fire stronger than his lightning,
And a boom more powerful than his thunder.
He will scatter that marine disease that shakes [the earth],
§ 925 The trident, which is Poseidon’s spear.
After stumbling against this evil Zeus will learn
What a huge difference there is between ruling and being a slave.
CHORUS: Surely you’re abusing Zeus with this outcome that you want!
PROMETHEUS: I’m telling you what will happen – it’s not just what I want.
§ 930 CHORUS: Should we expect that someone will be master of Zeus?
PROMETHEUS: And because of that, his neck will feel the pain.
CHORUS: Aren’t you afraid to let rip a speech like that?
PROMETHEUS: Why should I fear anything, when it’s not my fate to die?
CHORUS: He might reward you with something even more painful than this!
§ 935 PROMETHEUS: Let him do it then – I’ve foreseen everything!
CHORUS: Those who worship Adrasteia are wise.
[ie, the Inevitable]
PROMETHEUS: Keep revering, praying to, and flattering the one in power!
For Zeus I care less than nothing.
For this short time let him do what he likes,
§ 940 Let him wield power. But he won’t rule the gods for long.
Ah -- I can see Zeus’s message-boy coming,
The lackey of the new tyrant.
No doubt he’s come to announce some news.
HERMES: Hey you, clever one! The bitterly over-bitter one!
§ 945 I say you made a big mistake in regard to the gods when you gave
That gift to mortals – you’re the thief of fire!
My father commands you to tell me about the marriage you’ve
Been boasting about – the one by which he’ll fall from power.
Don’t speak in riddles now –
§ 950 Go through each point. Don’t make me come here
Again, Prometheus – you can see that
Zeus is not softened by words like that.
PROMETHEUS: Your speech is pompous and full
Of arrogance, as expected from a servant of the gods!
§ 955 You young, oh young ones are in power, and think
You live on the heights free from grief. Didn’t I
Perceive that two rulers had already fallen from here?
And I’ll see the third, the current one, fall
Very shamefully and quickly. Do you think
§ 960 I’m afraid and cowering before these young gods?
Far from it – not at all. Go on,
Scurry back the way you came:
You won’t find out anything you’re asking me about.
HERMES: It was this kind of wilfulness before
§ 965 That got you into these pains!
PROMETHEUS: Rest assured, I wouldn’t exchange
My misfortune for your servile position!
HERMES: [sarcastically] Oh, I think it’s so much better to serve on this rock
Than be a trusted messenger for my father Zeus!
§ 970 PROMETHEUS: That’s just how insulting people should deliver insults!
HERMES: You seem to be revelling in your current position.
PROMETHEUS: Revelling? I wish I could see my enemies
Revel like this. And I include you in that.
HERMES: Surely you’re not blaming me for your disaster?
§ 975 PROMETHEUS: Put simply, I hate all the gods
Who were treated well, but then did me wrong unjustly!
HERMES: I hear you – you’re raving with a huge mental illness!
PROMETHEUS: I may be sick – if it’s sick to hate your enemies!
HERMES: You’d be unbearable if you were doing well.
PROMETHEUS: Oh no!
‘Oh no’? Zeus doesn’t understand that.
§ 980 PROMETHEUS: But ageing Time teaches me everything.
HERMES: And yet, you know you’re still not clever.
PROMETHEUS: No – or I wouldn’t be talking to you, a subordinate!
HERMES: It seems you won’t tell my father anything he wants to know.
§ 985 PROMETHEUS: What? Because I owe him and should repay him that favour?
HERMES: You’re taunting me like I was a child!
PROMETHEUS: Well, aren’t you a child, and even more brainless than one,
If you expect to find out anything from me?
There’s no torture or device by which
§ 990 Zeus will persuade me to speak,
Until he loosens these ruinous chains.
On top of this, let him hurl the blazing flame!
With white-winged snow and earthy
Thunders let him stir and throw everything into confusion!
§ 995 None of that will bend me so as to tell him
Who is fated to drive him from his tyranny!
HERMES: See if that’s of any help to you!
PROMETHEUS: It’s been seen and planned for a long time.
HERMES: Steel yourself, you fool, steel yourself one day
§ 1000 To think properly about your current pains!
PROMETHEUS: You’re wasting your time pestering me – you might as well be persuading a wave.
Let it never enter your mind that I
Will fear Zeus’s character and become woman-minded,
Or beg the one who is most hated,
§ 1005 With my hands upturned like a woman’s,
To free me from these chains. I am very far from that!
HERMES: It seems that by speaking a lot I’ll only be wasting my time.
You’re not softened or soothed by any entreaties
Of mine: you’re champing on the bit like a newly-yoked
§ 1010 Foal and being violent, and you’re fighting against the reins.
But you base too much on a weak argument:
For wilfulness in one who isn’t sensible
In itself has less strength than anything.
If you’re not persuaded by my words, see
§ 1015 What a great storm and triple wave of evils
Will come against you inescapably. First of all my father
Will tear apart this jagged gorge with thunder
And lightning-flame, and will bury your
Body, and will hold you in its rocky arms.
§ 1020 After completing a huge length of time
You’ll come back into the light. But Zeus’s
Winged hound, the murderous eagle, will furiously
Dismember the huge rag of your body,
An uninvited banqueter coming every day,
§ 1025 Who’ll feast on the black meat of your liver.
Don’t expect an end to your pains
Until one of the gods arises to take the place
Of your misery, and is willing to come to beamless
Hades, and about the gloomy deeps of Tartarus.
§ 1030 Consider this as well – that this is no made-up
Boast, but has been spoken only too true.
Zeus’s mouth doesn’t know how
To lie, but everything he commands will happen.
Look around you and reflect, and never regard
§ 1035 Stubbornness as better than sound judgment.
CHORUS: [to Prometheus]
To us Hermes seems to be saying things
That are timely. He’s asking you to drop
Your stubbornness, and seek the wisdom of sound judgement.
Listen to us – it’s shameful for a clever person to make a big mistake.
PROMETHEUS: [to Chorus]
§ 1040 I understand this message
He’s shouting at me. But it’s no shame
For an enemy to be treated badly by his enemy.
On top of this, let the two-edged curls of fire
Be hurled against me! Let the sky
§ 1045 Be roused to fury by thunder and the spasm
Of wild winds! I wish the gale would shake
The earth from its foundations, roots and all,
And the ocean’s wave with a harsh roaring
Would heap together the pathways
§ 1050 Of the heavenly stars! I wish he’d hurl my body
Up, and then into black
Tartarus, with rugged whirlings of force!
But he won’t kill me, absolutely not!
HERMES: These are the thoughts and words
§ 1055 Of madmen!
How does his boasting fall short
Of being crazy? How will he cease from insanity?
With his pains,
§ 1060 But move out of here quickly,
For fear the hard bellowing of thunder
Upset your minds!
CHORUS: [to Hermes]
Say and exhort me to something else
In which you’re likely to persuade me. This is
§ 1065 Intolerable, this speech you’ve just swept out!
How can you order me to practise bad behaviour?
I’m willing to suffer whatever must happen after this.
I’ve learnt to hate traitors,
And there’s no disease
§ 1070 I detest more than this!
HERMES: [to Chorus]
Then remember what I’m saying in advance,
And don’t blame me for your misfortune
Of being hunted by Ruin; never say
That Zeus threw you
§ 1075 Into an unforeseen pain. No, you’ve done it
To yourselves. You knew,
And neither suddenly nor secretly
You’ll be entangled by your folly
In the inescapable net of Ruin!
[Thunder and lightning]