Prometheus the Fire-Bearer


The play comprises 3 Acts:

Act 1

The Titanomachy has just come to an end, with Zeus being the new ruler. The play opens with Pan, who provides an extensive and vivid description of the events: the Titans’ rebellion, their attempt to mount into heaven, their defeat and imprisonment in Tartarus. Although still upset from the violent upheaval and elemental conflict, Pan calls his sons, the Panopoula, who form the Chorus, to rejoice at the rejuvenation of the earth. Their panegyric song is interrupted by the advance of Silenus, who has lost his sight because during the conflict he dared staring at Zeus’ thunderbolt, eager to discover ‘the secret of the world’. Prometheus then enters the scene, crying out thrice ‘No’. Pan asks why he has come alone and Prometheus furiously replies that ‘all human seed has gone’ (Ὅλος ὁ σπόρος χάθηκε τοῦ ἀνθρώπου p. 25). At that point Hermes arrives in order to officially announce Zeus’ victory. He hails Prometheus as ‘the great mind’ and beseeches him to put on a chain, a gift from Zeus symbolising ‘sweet submission and love’ (Σκλαβιᾶς δὲν εἶναι τούτη ἐδῶ ἁλυσίδα! / χαλκὰς ἀγάπης, ἔρωτας, καὶ δένει / γῆς κι οὐρανό, ψυχές, καρδιές, τὰ πάντα, / σὲ σκλάβα ἀντάμα λεύτερη ἁρμονία p. 29). Prometheus bluntly denies, reproaching Zeus for annihilating the human race and violating their agreement. He also openly expresses his intention to fashion a new human race, disregarding Hermes’ warnings that such an insolent act will be punished by Zeus, the new Lord and Father.   


Act 2

When Hermes departs, Prometheus ventures to put his plan into action, inciting Pan and the other sprites to assist with the gathering of the clay. Epimetheus, his brother, desperately strives to prevent him, advising blind obedience to Zeus. Unconvinced by him and spurning the thunderbolts that Zeus throws in order to intimidate him, Prometheus models the first two human beings  − a man and a woman − out of clay. The couple, however, is lifeless and Prometheus pleads Silenus to divulge to him the great secret of creation, in order to animate them. From Silenus’ response the Titan realises that in order to infuse soul within his creatures, he needs to get hold of Zeus’ fire, which he does by means of one of the thunderbolts that Zeus hurls to earth. Through the spark of fire, which he captures through a fair trial, the new-moulded creatures open their eyes and start moving and Prometheus rejoices at his accomplishment. Hermes returns to earth for a second time, demanding to know the creator. Prometheus takes full responsibility, and Hermes departs threatening him that he will be severely punished for his insolence.


Act 3

Delighted at his creation Prometheus seeks some rest. To the foreground now comes Pandora, beautiful and alluring. Prometheus and Epimetheus quarrel over her, since both believe that they are worthy of her love (an uncharacteristic moment of weakness for Prometheus) Pandora chooses Prometheus and openly expresses the desire to unite with him.  Her stance makes Prometheus realise that she is actually a bane − a trap sent from Zeus, so that their offspring is submissive to him, even though in the play Pandora’s role is wider, symbolising the Female. Accordingly, he cautions Epimetheus not to succumb to her charm, but he ignores his warnings. Prometheus declares that only Fire can be his wife, in so far as only with her he can beget children that will be free.  Consequently, Pandora chooses Epimetheus as her husband, and the two celebrate their union. The Act closes with a short dialogue between Prometheus and his Mother, Earth. Earth knows about her son’s future plight and Prometheus entreats her to tell him whether he will bear this with dignity. Earth reveals that his martyrdom will be endless, but ensures him that he will endure it with grace. Prometheus welcomes Earth’s revelation, because, as he points out, only suffering can lead to the culmination of his ‘Struggle’.



References to Kazantzakis’ Prometheus-trilogy will be by page number. These page numbers refer to the collective edition of Kazantzakis’ tragedies: N. Καζαντζάκη, Θέατρο: Tραγωδίες (Athens 1964).

Other quotations from Kazantzakis are taken from the following editions:

TόνταΡάμπα (Αthens 1969).

Ασκητική, Salvatores Dei (Athens 1985).

Ancient Greek quotations are taken from H. Weir Smyth (1988) [1922], Aeschylus I: Suppliant Maidens, Persians, Prometheus, Seven Against Thebes [Loeb Classical Library], Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, and London.


Page 23

Prometheus’ genealogy  


Γίγαντα, γιὲ τοῦ ἀστρόφωτου Οὐρανοῦ μας

καὶ τῆς πολυτεκνούσας Γῆς, τῆς Μάνας,

Kazantzakis follows Aeschylus’ genealogy, according to which Prometheus is the son of Uranus and Themis (daughter of Uranus), who is identified with Earth (PV 209-10). Hesiod provides a different genealogy, presenting Prometheus as the son of Clymene, daughter of Ocean, and Iapetus (Theogοny 507, 528).


Pages 26-37 and 64-71

Prometheus and Hermes  

Hermes’ encounter with Prometheus echoes the corresponding scene at the end of Aeschylus’ Prometheus Bound (cf. Goethe’s Prometheus, Act 1). Hermes is presented as an obedient lackey of Zeus, and Prometheus taunts him for his servile attitude, refusing to submit to Zeus’ peremptory commands. In Aeschylus Hermes descends to earth only once, in order to force Prometheus to divulge the secret about the fatal marriage destined to lead to Zeus’ dethronement. In fact, Hermes threatens Prometheus not to compel him to come to earth for a second time (950-1). In Kazantzakis Hermes descends to earth twice: a) immediately after the great elemental conflict, in order to bring to Prometheus a chain − a gift from Zeus, symbolising Prometheus’ submission to him; b) after Prometheus’ creation of the second human race – the prometheian race.   


Page 26

Hermes to Prometheus


Τὸ μέγα νοῦ, τὸ στῆθος τὸ γεμάτο

παλικαριὰ καὶ φρόνεση κι ἀγάπη

μὲ σέβας χαιρετῶ, τὸν Προμηθέα.

In his first encounter with Prometheus Hermes compliments the Titan, calling him the ‘Great Mind’, and expresses his respect towards him. Whereas Prometheus boldly declares his denial to succumb to Zeus’ will, Hermes tries to make him change his mind. Even when Prometheus reveals his plan about the creation of a new human race, Hermes promises that he will not betray his plans to Zeus, because he loves him and feels sorry about him (περίσσια σὲ ἀγαπῶ καὶ σὲ λυποῦμαι, p. 33), exhorting Pan and Silenus to bring Prometheus to his senses (p. 34). This comes into contrast with the stance adopted by Aeschylus’ Hermes, who shows no respect or affection towards Prometheus. On the contrary, he reproaches him for being disobedient and defiant, calls him a sophist (PV 944), and compares him to a newly-harnessed colt that refuses the bit and the bridle (PV 1108-10). Hermes also threatens Prometheus that if he does not disclose the secret vis-à-vis Zeus’ fatal wedding, he will be severely punished by Zeus’ bird.

Hermes’ stance in Kazantzakis bears some similarities with Mercury’s attitude in Shelley’s Prometheus Unbound (Act 1), even though there he appears to admire Prometheus for summoning up the courage to rebel against Zeus.

Prometheus is allegorised as ‘Mind’ throughout the Prometheia; cf. Kazantzakis’ Odyssey 14.556-8 and Askitiki.


Page 27

Prometheus to Hermes


Μαντάτορας καινούριος εἶσαι ακόμα,

ἀμούστακος θεός, καὶ δὲν κατέχεις,

τὴ γλώσσα μὲ τὸ νοῦ νὰ συνταιριάζεις.

Κazantzakis’ Prometheus flagrantly repudiates Hermes as Zeus’ novice emissary and lackey (cf. Ἔ μὴ γελᾶς, χρυσαλυσίδωτέ μου p.31,  Ἔ δοῦλε ταπεινὲ κι εὐτυχισμένε p.32, Ἔ σκλάβε p.32,  καὶ σκλάβου ἐσὺ μαντάτορα σαντάλια, p.33). His repudiations echo his stance in Aeschylus; see, e.g. τὸν Διὸς τρόχιν 941, τὸν τοῦ τυράννου τοῦ νέου διάκονον 942,  ὡς θεῶν ὑπηρέτου 954, σὲ γὰρ προσηύδων οὐκ ἂν ὄνθ’ ὑπηρέτην 983.

Prometheus also belittles Hermes calling him a ‘puerile’ god and a child (cf. Ἑρμῆ μου, νιοξεπούλιαστο κοκόρι p. 36), characterisations that allude to Aesch. PV 986-7, where Hermes complains that Prometheus taunts him as if he were a child; the Titan boldly replies that Hermes is even more witless than a child.  


Page 27

Prometheus’ contribution during the Titanomachy


Nικήσαμε, νὰ λές, παρακαλῶ σε.

[ ………]

Νικήσαμε, νὰ λές∙ ἐγώ, τὸ ξέρεις

μὰ δὲν τὸ μολογᾶς, μὲ τοῦ μυαλοῦ μου

τὶς πλήθιες τέχνες τοῦ ‘φερα τὴ νίκη,

τὸν ἄμαθό τοῦ κεραυνὸ ὁδηγώντας.

Kι ὄντας στὴ μάχη χόρευαν τὰ ζύγια

καὶ σκούζατε πνιμένοι ἀπ’ τοὺς Τιτάνες,

ἐγώ ‘μουν ποὺ ἄξαφνα πηδῶ καί, ρίχνοντας

στὴ ζυγαριὰ τὸ νοῦ μου, βιάζω ἀπόφαση

ἡ δίγνωμη μεμιᾶς νὰ πάρει Μοίρα.

Prometheus’ assertion that he was the one who assisted Zeus to outwit the Titans alludes to Aeschylus’ play (PV 211-3). Τhere Prometheus recounts to the Oceanids why he allied with Zeus, putting aside his brotherly concerns for the other Titans. As he reveals, according to a prophecy, it was destined that the victors would excel not in might, but in guile.

Whereas Kazantzakis omits reference to the prophecy, this is alluded to indirectly, when Prometheus says that, as soon as he put his mind into action, Fate was forced to return a verdict on the outcome of the conflict.


Page 30

Zeus reneges on his promise to retain the human race


Γιατὶ τ’ ἀγαπημένα νὰ σκοτώσει

τὰ πλάσματα τῆς λασπης, τοὺς ἀνθρώπους;

Μοῦ ὁρκίστη, ναί, καὶ πάτησε τὸν ὅρκο!  

Prometheus’ remark leaves it to be inferred that he allied with Zeus on the premise that the God would spare humans and would not harm them. However, it was proved that Zeus had no scruples at destroying the human race, thus violating his pledge to Prometheus. A similar ‘agreement’ between Zeus and Prometheus is alluded to in Aeschylus (PV 231-6). There Prometheus declares that Zeus wanted to annihilate the human race altogether and replace it with another, but that he prevented him from executing his sinister scheme.  


Page 30

Hermes explains the reasons that led Zeus to the destruction of the human race


Μὲ τοὺς τυφλοὺς Τιτάνες, μάθε,

θεληματάροι πῆγαν, καὶ τοὺς δεῖχναν

τ’ ἀπάτητα κρυμμένα μονοπάτια,

στὸν Ὄλυμπο ν’ ἀνέβουν νὰ τὸν κάψουν.

Μὴν τοὺς λυπᾶσαι, καὶ θεριά ‘ταν δίχως

ὑποταγὴ στὸ σπλάχνο τους κι ἀγάπη∙

τρίχες ἀπὸ κορφῆς, βαριὰ σαγόνια,

λαιμοὶ χωρὶς γλυκιὰ φωνὴν ἀνθρώπου,

μυαλὰ γεμάτα φονικὰ καὶ λάσπη.

Καινούριο ὁ νιὸς Θεὸς ἀνθρωπολόι,

φωτερό, καλοπόταγο, θα πλάσει∙

ἀντάρτες πιὰ κι ὀρθοὺς λαιμοὺς δὲ θέλει!

Hermes explains to Prometheus that Zeus annihilated the human race, because humans backed up the Titans, assisting them to mount Olympus. He also proclaims that Zeus envisions to create a new, obedient and docile human race. In Aeschylus’ version Zeus does not destroy the human race; we are, however, informed that he was planning to do so, even though his motives are not specified − did he form his plan at whim, or did he want to destroy everything associated with the old regime?


Page 34

Prometheus as man-maker   


Kι ἂν μάνητα μὲ πιάσει γιά κι ἀγάπη

καὶ πλάσω ἐγὼ μὲ γῆς δική μου ἀνθρώπους,

ὅπως ἐγὼ τοὺς θέλω θὰ τοὺς κάμω,

καὶ δὲ ρωτῶ∙ περήφανους, ἀντάρτες,

μὲ ὀρθὸ λαιμὸ καὶ μέγα μέτωπο, ὅμοιους

μὲ μένα, πεισματάρηδες!

Here Prometheus openly and boldly expresses the wish to fashion a new human race. This is not a theme that we find in the literary or artistic works of the archaic and classical period, even though we do encounter a couple of references in the fourth century. The idea of Prometheus as creator of humankind is more extensively attested by the Latin poets of the Augustan period (see, e.g., Hyginus Fabulae, Ovid Metamorphoses). The idea of man’s creation out of clay, widely known from the biblical story of Adam and Eve, is to be found already in Plato’s Protagoras 320d and Aristophanes’ Birds 686. 

Prometheus’ role as creator and the way in which he describes his human creations (i.e. as proud, steadfast, stubborn and akin to himself) clearly echo the last strophe of Goethe’s poem ‘Prometheus’:

Here I sit, forming men

In my image,

A race to resemble me:

To suffer, to weep,

To enjoy, to be glad −

And never to heed you,

Like me!   

(Translated by Michael Hamburger, in C. Middleton (ed.), Goethe, Selected Poems (1983).


Pages 34-84

Prometheus and Epimetheus  

Epimetheus is not included among the characters of Aeschylus’ play. He is, however, associated with Prometheus’ myth in Hesiod’s Works and Days, Plato’s Protagoras and Goethe’s tragic fragment, on which Kazantzakis seems to draw. Kazantzakis’ Epimetheus is a cowardly and opportunistic figure, willing to succumb to the new rulers (cf. his stance in Goethe). In this respect Epimetheus somewhat resembles Ocean in the Aeschylean play, a malleable figure and a ‘warner’. In contrast to Ocean, though, Kazantzakis’ Epimetheus is much nastier and malignant, and appears to be particularly contentious and stern with his brother.  He has a Satanic aura, well in tune with the Christian echoes surrounding the figure of Prometheus.


Page 56

Fire as Soul


τὴ στράτα τοῦ Θεοῦ θ’ ἀκολουθήσω,

τοῦ κεραυνοῦ πιθώνοντας τὸ σπόρο

στὴ λάσπη, ἡ λευτεριὰ νὰ ρἰξει φύτρο∙

σὺ κεραυνό, κι ἐγὼ ψυχὴ τὴ λεω.

In Aeschylus Prometheus steals the fire in order to improve human life. As he points out in PV 110-1, the fire “proved a teacher to mortals in every art and a means to mighty ends” (διδάσκαλος τέχνης πάσης βροτοῖς πέφηνε καὶ μέγα πόρος.) Kazantzakis’ Prometheus, on the other hand, takes Zeus’ fire first and above all in order to animate and enliven his inert human creations.


Pages 64-71

Hermes’ second encounter with Prometheus

As soon as Prometheus moulds the first human beings, Hermes arrives for a second time at Zeus’ behest, in order to find the agent of the profane act. This time Hermes adopts a different stance, very similar to the one we come across in Aeschylus’ play.


Page 66

The Stealing of Fire


Ποῦ βρῆκες καὶ τὸ σκλάβωσες στὸ τζάκι

τὸ θεῖο πουλὶ τὸ μυστικό, ποὺ μόνο

κουρνιάει στὴ φούχτα τοῦ Θεοῦ, δικό του;

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ: Τὸ βρῆκα∙ φτάνει.

ΕΡΜΗΣ: Τὸ ‘κλεψες!


                                        Tὸ πῆρα!

Μοῦ χύθηκε, παλέψαμε, χτυποῦσε

τὰ κόκκινα φτερά του νὰ μὲ κάψει∙

ἀπ’ τὰ μαλλιᾶ πηδοῦσε στὸ λαιμό μου,

στρηνιάζοντας μοῦ ξέσκιζε τὰ στήθια∙

μαδιοῦνταν τὰ φτερά του καὶ μοῦ καῖγαν

τ’ ἀκροδαχτύλια, κοίτα! καὶ τὶς φτέρνες∙

μὰ ἐγὼ μὲ βιὰς τὸ φούχτωσα ἀπ’ τὰ πόδια

καὶ τὸ ‘ριξα στὴ γῆς, καὶ μὲς στὶς πέτρες

τὸ μάντρωσα καὶ τοῦ ‘δωκα νὰ φάει∙

τὸ πῆρα μὲ τὸ μπράτσο μου, δικό μου!

In both Aeschylus and Kazantzakis Prometheus takes the fire, a divine prerogative, from Zeus. However, the way in which this is achieved differs greatly in each particular case. In Aeschylus Prometheus steals the fire from Olympus and brings it to earth by smuggling it within a fennel-stalk: “I hunted out and stored in fennel stalk the stolen source of fire that has proved a teacher to mortals in every art and a means to mighty ends. Such is the offence for which I pay the penalty, riveted in fetters beneath the open sky” (PV 109-11).

Ιn Kazantzakis Prometheus gets grasp of the fire while being on earth, from one of the thunderbolts hurled by Zeus in order to intimidate him. Unlike his Aeschylean (and Hesiodic) counterpart, Kazantzakis’ Prometheus does not steal the fire using guile, but struggles in order to get hold of it. Interestingly, he even confesses that he got hurt during the process. Accordingly, when Hermes accuses him of having stolen the fire he steadfastly replies: ‘I took it’. Prometheus’ struggle to get Zeus’ fire is extensively and figuratively described also in pp. 59-62.


Page 70

Zeus’ future dethronement


Ἕτσι οἱ θεοὶ ἀπαντοῦνε δίχως σέβας

στὴν πιὸ βαθιὰ λαχτάρα τῆς καρδιᾶς μας∙

μὰ τὸ ἄδικο φουντώνει, καὶ μιὰ μέρα

πέφτουν κι αὐτοὶ στὰ τάρταρα τοῦ νοῦ μας.

Ἀθάνατοι οἱ θεοί; Τὸν Κρόνο ρώτα,

τὸν Οὐρανό, τοὺς γέρους κοσμοκράτες∙

θα ‘ρθεῖ, θὰ ‘ρθεῖ ἡ σειρὰ καὶ τοῦ καινούριου!

Prometheus leaves it to be inferred that Zeus’ sovereign will soon come to an end, even though he does not specify how this will be actualised. Prometheus’ assertion alludes to Aeschylus PV 755-68, where the Titan reveals to Io that Zeus’ reign will be threatened by a fatal marriage (cf. 167-71, where the idea is vaguely introduced for the first time). In Kazantzakis the detail about this marriage is omitted. 


Pages 75-84

Prometheus and Pandora

Pandora does not form part of Aeschylus’ play and Kazantzakis here seems to draw on Hesiod (Works and Days 42-89, Theogony 570-93), where Pandora is closely associated with the myth of Prometheus (cf. Goethe’s dramatic fragment). As in Hesiod, Pandora is a tempter, whose charm and beauty one can hardly resist. Even Prometheus is enticed − albeit momentarily − by her charm (Ἄχ, χρόνια σὲ περίμενα, γυναίκα! p. 76 / Δική μου! Παραδίψασε ἡ καρδιά μου∙ / νὰ πιῶ κι ἐγὼ νερὸ νὰ δροσερέψω! p. 77). Accordingly, Pandora is one of Prometheus’ mental tormentors (the other being Epimetheus), in so far as any emotional/physical attachment to her threatens to put his ‘Struggle’ under jeopardy and hinder his ‘ascent’. In Kazantzakis Pandora  symbolises the Female, the quintessential Temptation.

In Aeschylus Prometheus is said to be married with Hesione (PV 560); in Kazantzakis the Titan utterly rejects love of a woman, proclaiming that he is wholeheartedly devoted to his ‘Struggle’ and that only ‘Fire’ can be his wife (Ὤ θυγατέρα τ’ οὐρανοῦ, Φωτιά μου, / σὺ νὰ γενεῖς γυναίκα μου ταιριάζει −  / γυναίκα,  συνεργάτισσα, κυρά μου, p. 83).


Page 81

Pandora as a ‘trap’


Mὴν ἁπλώσεις, ἀδερφέ μου,

τὸ χέρι σου στὸ σῶμα της ἀπάνω∙

παγίδα τοῦ Θεοῦ, καὶ θὰ μᾶς πιάσει!

The depiction of Pandora as a ‘trap’ in conjunction with Prometheus’ warnings to Epimetheus echo Hesiod’s Work and Days (86-8), where once again Prometheus warns his brother never to accept any gift from Zeus.


Page 89

Mother Earth reveals to Prometheus his future torture by Zeus’ bird


Γιέ μου, τὸ ἄγριο τ’ ὄρνιο

χτυπάει μὲ τὸ ραμφί, μὲ τ’ ἀκρανύχια,

ξαναχτυπάει, συντρίβει τὰ πλευρά σου

καὶ χώνει τὸ λαιμὸ βαθιὰ στὶς σάρκες.


Τὰ σπλάχνα σου ὅλα τ’ ἀντρειωμένα

μὲ λύσσα τὰ ξεσκίζει καὶ τὰ τρώει

μπουκιὰ μπουκιὰ, καὶ πασπατεύει ὁλοῦθε

σκώτι, νεφρά, καρδιά, μήν ἀπομεῖναν.

Prometheus’ torture by Zeus’ bird − here disclosed by Mother Earth − alludes to the end of Aeschylus’ play, where Hermes reveals to Prometheus that Zeus’ eagle will tear his body into shreds for years and years (PV 1021-9). Yet, whereas in Aeschylus Hermes threatens Prometheus that the eagle will peck on his liver (“Then indeed the winged hound of Zeus, the ravening eagle, coming an unbidden banqueter the whole day long, with savage appetite shall tear your body piecemeal into great rents and feast his fill upon your liver until it is black with gnawing”), Kazantzakis includes all of Prometheus’ intestine, making specific reference to his liver, heart and kidneys.  

Mother Earth is a character most likely derived from Shelley, although there are some indications that such a character might have been present in Aeschylus’ Prometheus Unbound, presumably in a conciliatory role. It should be noted that the figure of Mother Earth also occurs in Costas Varnalis’ ‘The burning light’.


Page 90

Prometheus welcomes his torture  

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ: Ἅγια δροσάτη Νύχτα, εὐχαριστῶ σε,

ποὺ θρέφεις κι ἀνανιώνεις τὴν καρδιά μας,

γιὰ νὰ ξανάρθει τ’ ὄρνιο νὰ μᾶς φάει∙

ποτέ, ποτὲ νὰ μὴ σκολάσει ὁ πόνος!

Ναί, τοῦτος εἶναι ὁ δρόμος.

MANA: Ποιός;


ὁ μυστικός, μὰ μὴ ρωτᾶς πιὸ πέρα.

 In Aeschylus Prometheus is not daunted by Hermes’ grim description of his future torture by Zeus’ bird. In Kazantzakis not only is Prometheus not daunted, but he accepts the news with excessive joy in so far as, according to him, the perpetual ‘Struggle’ is the only path that leads to freedom. This is one of the kernel ideas that permeate Kazantzakis’ oeuvre; that freedom can only be conquered through continuous struggle.



Page 32


Μισερό ‘ναι τὸ γένος τῶν ἀθανάτων! (Weak and pitiful  is the race of the immortals!)

Cf. Aesch. PV 975-6: ἁπλῶι λόγωι τοὺς πάντας ἐχθαίρω θεούς / ὅσοι παθόντες εὖ κακοῦσί μ’ ἐκδίκως  (“In one word, I hate all the gods that received good at my hands and with ill requite me wrongfully”).

Just to note that, apart from the ancient legacy of θεομαχία, Kazantzakis’ Prometheus seems to be invested with some of the quality of Milton’s initially idealized and sympathetic Satan and, of course, Shelley’s Prometheus, who harks back to Milton in a certain degree.


Page 32


Καμιὰ ψυχὴ δὲν εἶναι                                                                                                                

παρὰ ὁ Θεός ἐλεύτερος στὴν πλάση!

Cf. Aesch. PV 50, where Might utters the exact same words; ἐλεύθερος γὰρ οὔτις ἐστὶ πλὴν Διός (“Νoοne is free but Zeus”).


Pages 33, 34

νιὸς Ἀφέντης  / καινούρια ἀφεντικά  /  νιὸ ἀφεντικό

Τhe emphasis that Prometheus lays upon the ‘newness’ of Zeus’ reign alludes to his portrayal in Aeschylus; see, e.g., PV 955 (νέον, νέοι κρατεῖτε) and 960 (νέους θεούς).


Pages 26-37

δοῦλε ταπεινὲ κι εὐτυχισμένε / ἔ σκλάβε / καὶ σκλάβου ἐσὺ μαντάτορα σαντάλια

Kazantzakis’ Prometheus calls Hermes a ‘slave’, employing the adjectives δοῦλος and σκλάβος. Τhis characterisation brings to mind the noun ὑπηρέτης (servant), assigned to Hermes in Aesch. PV 954 and 983. Kazantzakis’ predilection for the two adjectives instead of the noun ‘ὑπηρέτης’ might be explained by the fact that in Modern Greek the adjectives σκλάβος and δοῦλος express more emphatically and profoundly the notion of ‘servitude’. In Aeschylus ὑπηρέτης is a mere taunt. In Kazantzakis’ play Hermes’ wicked subordination is accentuated especially by means of the golden chain that the god is obliged to wear.


Pages 41-2


ΕΠΙΜΗΘΕΑΣ: Πάντα σου ἐσὺ τὸ σκληροτράχηλο Ὄχι

περίσσια ἀπὸ περφάνια τὸ ἀγαποῦσες

ΠΡΟΜΗΘΕΑΣ: Ἀρσενικὸς ὁ λόγος, καὶ μοῦ ἀρέσει!


Prometheus defines his resistance and denial to succumb as a ‘masculine’ response, thus leaving it to be inferred that any compromise is effeminate. (cf. Kazantzakis, Prometheus Bound, p.130: Περήφανη ἡ σιγή ‘ναι, ἀντρίστικη, ὅντας / ὀχτρὸς άναρωτάει καὶ φοβερίζει).  

Ιn fact, this is a recurrent idea in Aeschylus (see, e.g. PV 29, 908, 936-7, 188, 379). Prometheus’ characterisation of his discourse as ‘masculine’ brings to mind (a contrario) the adjective ‘θηλύνους‘, which his Aeschylean counterpart renounces in PV 1003:  “Never think that, through terror at the will of Ζeus, I shall become womanish (θηλύνους) and, with hands upturned, aping woman’s ways, shall importune my greatly hated enemy to release me from these bonds” (1002-6).

See also the paradigm of Male and Female as established in the Askitiki.



Pan, Chorus consisting of little Panes (Panopoula), Silenus, Prometheus, Hermes, Epimetheus, Pandora, Mother (=Earth)

Pan, his sons (Panopoula), and Silenus are not traditionally associated with Prometheus. As far as we know, the only association seems to have occurred in Aeschylus’ satyr-play Prometheus Pyrkaeus (= Prometheus the Fire-Kindler), and it is highly possible that Kazantzakis was inspired from this. It should also be noted that Shelley includes a Chorus of Spirits and Fauns in his Prometheus Unbound.     


As in Aeschylus’ play, Zeus does not appear in Kazantzakis’ trilogy, except through his agents (Violence, Wrath, Eagle, Hermes, Athena). Moreover, he is enslaved by Fate (Moira) and cannot escape. Our first impression is that Zeus is an oppressor and stern tyrant; he destroyed the human race in order to create one that would be submissive to him, he enchains Prometheus on Caucasus, he sends his bird − agent of his wrath − to devour the Titan’s intestine, he demands that everyone would yield to his reign. Yet, this impression gradually changes, as Zeus is subsequently transformed into a rather ‘fatherly’ figure, that takes delight at the mankind’s progress and wants to reconcile with Prometheus. 


Unlike Hesiod’s Prometheus, who is a devious figure and a trickster, Kazantzakis’ Prometheus shares many similarities with his Aeschylean counterpart: he is a rebel (ἀντάρτης), stubborn and defiant, the benefactor of humankind, and the inventor of all arts and sciences. Kazantzakis though also moves a step further; his Prometheus is a man-builder and the creator of the ‘prometheian’ race. Ηe is also the personification of human ‘Mind’ and a power that struggles to transubstantiate Flesh (Matter) into Spirit. One could argue that he is the Great Ascetic, another instantiation of the Odysseus-paradigm, which incorporates some elements of the  Nietzschean Übermensch. Finally, it is important to stress that his struggle in Kazantzakis, as in Shelley, is internalised. The Titan is the creative impetus that brings Freedom nigh.


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