The philosopher Protagoras c 49o c 4zo ncr captured the spirit of the age when

The philosopher protagoras c 49o c 4zo ncr captured

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The philosopher Protagoras (c. 49o- c. 4zo ncr) captured the spirit of the age when he claimed that "man is the measure of all things," placing human beings above the gods. Yet in the Agora, Athenians still marched in religious parades (such as the Panathenaia [Chapter 6.r]) and worshipped gods at altars. In this intellectually, politically, and religiously vibrant city, Prornetheus Boundwas first staged. A close reading of its depiction of the conflict between Prometheus and Zeus suggests that ihe play reflects theological, religious, and political concerns alike, at a time when the nature of divinity was being publicly debated on city streets. Zeus's rule as a king, and as the sole ruler of Olympus, may have offered a vision of the divine world that no longer mir- rored Athenian democracy.ln Prornetheus Bound, the kingship of Zeus is crit- icized. This skepticism, however, should not be considered unusual; earlier representations ofZeus, as we have seen, were not considered sacred. Indeed, myths about Zeus (along with all Greek divinities) compose a historically con- ditioned, imaginative, and emotionally resonant network that the Greeks used to understand themselves and their world. The Greek understanding of Zeus evolved over time to accommodate the ideals and needs of a changing society. Any individual myth or ritual offers us only a partial view of him. We can attempt to combine these fragments, stitch- ing together a homogenized picture of Zeus with a list of his attributes, activi- ties, and rituals. But a more productive approach would be to try to understand what people who recounted myths as well as worshippels were trying to ex- press about the moment Zeus's thunderbolt touched earth and inspired a story. This is the approach offered in the following introduction to Prornetheus Bound. T-
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3.I HISTQR* ORDER AND REBELLION AE $ e f{YtU S, {i {t*}vg F& #&dE Y.f-gE trS "E * U N-D Prom.etheus Bound was part of a trilogy, along with Proruetheus Unbound and Prometheusthe Fire-Bringer. The order of these plays, as well as their dating and authorship (they are most often attributed to Aeschylus), has been debated. Most scholars agree only that this trilogy comes from the fifth century ncr after the Persian Wars, and that the trilogy's resolution involved some sort of reconciliation between Zeus and Prometheus. In Prometheus Bound, generally considered to be the first play of the trilogy, Zeus is a cruelly methodical ru1er, whereas Prometheus is a sympathetic (if self,congratulatory) protector of human beings who has disobeyed Zeus and is punished on a 1one1y mountain in Scythia. Those who visit him assess the fair- ness of his punishment; in so doing, they contemplate Zeus's nature and rule. Io, the only mortai in the p1ay, arrives on Prometheus's mountain in the form of a cow. Driven from her home by Zeus, transformed by Hera into a cow, and pursued by a stinging gadfly, Io's great suffering testifies to the cruelty of Zeus and his indifference to human beings.
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