Prometheus, the god who brought fire (knowledge) to men was punished by being tied to a rock in order to have Zeus’ eagle eat away his liver daily, after it grew back. Once this eternal punishment is handed out by Zeus, king of the gods, the hero is visited by many people who pity him. In writing “Prometheus Bound”, Aeschylus wants us to understand the feelings these people (and some gods) have for Prometheus, and therefore the playwright records him, in the very last speech on the play, as saying:
“An end to words. Deeds now. The world is shaken. The deep and secret way of thunder is rent apart. Fiery wreaths of lightning flash. Whirlwinds toss the swirling dust. The blasts of all the winds are battling in the air, and sky and sea are one. On me the tempest falls. It does not make me tremble. O holy Mother Earth, O air and sun, behold me. I am wronged.”
Sacrifice makes the hero; that is clear enough. However, let us consider this: heroism does not come only when one attempts a heroic deed and succeeds, but also in accepting the punishment handed out by those in power; for heroism is often most found when injustice abounds. The hero knows that a punishment, no matter how unjust, must be bore for the great deed accomplished. Thus, says the immortal Hamlet in the famous Shakespearean play: “Conscience does make cowards of us all.” The true hero, knowing full well the sacrifice due both prior and post heroics, will indeed walk the path that will lead him to suffering; this is the price to be paid for the benefit of mankind. Prometheus knew his suffering prior to his deed and also his chastisement once accomplished. Thus, Aeschylus has him say: “All that has come I knew full well… Nothing do I deny.”
You may consider Mythology to be fiction; but this is what heroes are, and what Prometheus represents. If we take this lesson and apply it to our lives we will find a hero in all of us so long as we understand that it is not all capes and superpowers or fame and glory in the end, but suffering and consequences. Therefore, Prometheus, Bringer of Knowledge, All Suffering, All Enduring, became our first example of heroics. Prometheus was our first hero.