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The Titan Epimetheus in Greek Mythology

Updated on March 24, 2018

Epimetheus in Greek Mythology

Epimetheus is the name of one of the gods of the ancient Greek pantheon, although today it is one that goes unrecognised by most people.

In Greek mythology though, Epimetheus was a figure who played an important role in the creation and development of mankind, and also the world in which man found himself.

The Titan Epimetheus

Epimetheus was a Titan god of the Greek pantheon, or rather more specifically a second generation Titan, for Epimetheus was the son of two other Titans, Iapetus and Clymene.

As a son of Iapetus, Epimetheus was a brother of Atlas, Menoetius and Prometheus; with Atlas and Prometheus being prominent characters in Greek mythology.

Epimetheus and the Titanomachy

Epimetheus’ name first comes to prominence in Greek mythology during the Titanomachy, the War of the Titans.

Zeus would lead his siblings in an uprising against their father Cronus, and the other ruling Titans.

In response Cronus would himself raise a fighting force of Titans and allies, with the commander of the Titans being Atlas, and a ten year war would commence.

Atlas though was not joined by his brothers, Epimetheus and Prometheus, for Prometheus had the gift of prophecy (the name Prometheus meaning foresight). Prometheus foresaw the probable outcome of the war, and convinced Epimetheus not to take up arms against Zeus in what was inevitably a lost cause.

After ten years of fighting Zeus was of course victorious in the war, and after he took up dominion over heaven and earth, the Olympian god punished those who had opposed him.

In most cases this meant that the Titans were imprisoned within Tartarus, but not having fought against Zeus, Epimetheus and Prometheus remained free, and they lived amongst the other Greek gods and goddesses.

Pandora and Epimetheus

Epimetheus and Pandora - Paolo Farinati - PD-art-100
Epimetheus and Pandora - Paolo Farinati - PD-art-100 | Source

Epimetheus and the Creation Myth

With the Olympians now in charge of the cosmos, Zeus now decided it was time to populate the earth with man and beast.

In some versions of the tale from Ancient Greece, it is Epimetheus and Prometheus who crafted man from clay, but in most versions, the two brothers simply had the task of distributing skills and characteristics to the god's creations; these characteristics having been crafted in the workshops of the gods upon Mount Olympus.

Epimetheus would persuade Prometheus to allow him to distribute these characteristics, whilst Prometheus would check the work of his brother, before the creatures were released into the world.

Epimetheus set about his work with relish, and the Titan actually did a good job in distributing skills and characteristics fairly amongst all of the creatures. Some of these creatures were quick, some could climb trees, some could burrow in the earth, some could fly, and some had fur to keep them warm.

A problem though did arise for Epimetheus did not have the foresight of his brother Prometheus; the name Epimetheus means afterthought, and so when it came to attributing skills to man, Epimetheus found he had none left to give.

Prometheus would not allow man to go out into the world unprotected, and so Prometheus went into the workshops of Athena and Hephaestus, and from these two Olympian deities, the Titan would steal wisdom and other skills. The theft of these gifts, as well as the later stealing of fire, would see Prometheus named as “benefactor of man”; although of course Epimetheus the lack of foresight makes the Titan seem rather foolish.

Pandora

Pandora's Box - John William Waterhouse (1849–1917) - PD-art-100
Pandora's Box - John William Waterhouse (1849–1917) - PD-art-100 | Source

Epimetheus and the Punishment of Man

Prometheus knows that his actions will anger Zeus, and so he warns Epimetheus about the likely retribution of the supreme god, and tells Epimetheus not to accept any gifts from Zeus and the other Olympian gods in the future.

Eventually, for his many misdemeanours Prometheus would be punished when he was chained to a mountain in the Caucasus’s, where an eagle would daily come to eat his liver.

Zeus had no issue with Epimetheus though, but the supreme god was also devising a punishment for man, a punishment that would involve Epimetheus.

Zeus would have Hephaestus, the metalworking god, craft a woman, once this woman was crafted, Zeus himself then breathed life into her and the woman would be named Pandora.

Zeus presented Pandora to Epimetheus as a potential wife; and Epimetheus, either ignoring or forgetting the warning of his brother, readily accepted the god’s gift.

Pandora though came with a box as a wedding gift, a box that Pandora was told not to open, but the curiosity of Pandora would see her open the box, releasing all of the known evils into the world.

Epimetheus as a Father

Epimetheus and Pandora’ story from Greek mythology is not quite finished though, for the pair would live happily together, and the pair would become parents to a daughter named Pyrrha. Pyrrha would wed the son of Prometheus, Deucalion, and it would be Deucalion and Pyrrha who survived the Deluge that Zeus sent to wipe out man.

Pyrrha and Deucalion

Deucalion and Pyrrha - Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640)  - PD-art-100
Deucalion and Pyrrha - Peter Paul Rubens (1577–1640) - PD-art-100 | Source

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  • Colin Quartermain profile image
    Author

    Colin Quartermain 2 years ago

    Chantelle Many thanks for reading and commenting.

  • Chantelle Porter profile image

    Chantelle Porter 2 years ago from Chicago

    I enjoy reading about mythology and look forward to more.

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