Composers and their stage works 

Prometheus Bound (Prometheus desmotes)

Aeschylus - 466/459? B.C.

Probably the second play in a trilogy, now lost, of which the other plays were Prometheus the Fire Bringer and Prometheus Unbound. The satyr play produced with the trilogy is unknown.


Prometheus Bound deals with the conflict between brute force and rational intelligence.

Because Prometheus, a Titan, has stolen fire from heaven for the benefit of the infant human race, Zeus has had him chained to a rock in the Caucasus and later plunged him into the depths of Tartarus. Prometheus has subsequently been restored to the light of day, with the added punishment of a vulture that comes every day to devour his heart, which grows back at night. He has eventually won his freedom by revealing to Zeus that Thetis, whom Zeus had intended to wed, would bear a child mightier than his father. The actual liberation has been effected by Heracles, a descendant of Io and son of Zeus.

The plot of Prometheus Bound is simple in the extreme. It opens with the fastening of Prometheus to a lonely rock by Hephaestus, under the direction of the personifications of Strength and Might, the attendants of Zeus. The chorus of ocean nymphs (Oceanides) enters, and Prometheus tells them how by his counsel Zeus had been able to defeat the Titans. Then, to consolidate his newly won empire, Zeus had decided to destroy mankind, but Prometheus had saved humanity by the gift of fire from heaven. Oceanus enters, professing sympathy and urging Prometheus to submit to the greater power of Zeus. Prometheus rejects this advice. After the chorus sings a short ode, Prometheus speaks of his services to mankind, for whose sake he is suffering great tortures, until Io enters. Her beauty had attracted the love of Zeus and aroused the jealousy of Hera, who had turned her into a heifer eternally plagued by a gadfly. Arriving in the course of her wanderings, she tells Prometheus of her past adventures. In turn, Prometheus prophesies that she will soon find peace, when, upon reaching Egypt, Zeus will free her from her plight by his magic touch, and that his own deliverer, Heracles, will be the thirteenth in descent from her. He further tells her that Zeus will be overthrown, by a marriage against which Prometheus alone can warn him. The chorus sings of the dangers involved in union with the gods. Prometheus again foretells the downfall of Zeus at the hands of his own son. Now Hermes enters, sent by Zeus to learn Prometheus's secret. The defiant Titan refuses and mocks him. Hermes warns him of still greater tortures, and the chorus urges him to submit to the will of the stronger Zeus, but Prometheus, still defiant, is hurled into the depths of Tartarus with the Oceanides, who loyally refuse to leave him, amid an upheaval of all natural phenomena.