Discuss the similarities and differences among Prometheus and Heracles with reference to Aeschylus ' Prometheus Bound and Apollodorus ' Heracles.
Prometheus Bound written by Aeschylus and Heracles written by Apollodorus, are classical myths that have been published and have been carried out with time. They both are known to feature leading characters with quite complex personalities and always seeming to grasp the reader’s attention. The characters are, Prometheus, and Heracles, respectively. Both characters have stories of their own, each having different motives and reasons in their story, but yet seem to have good portions of similarities and differences among each other.
With regards to similarity, Prometheus and Heracles have a divine heritage, one being a god and other being a half breed of the mighty god Zeus. They have the similar characteristics of both being mightier than the mortal man, one is a powerful hero (Heracles) and the other is a highly gifted god (Prometheus). To express this further, when Heracles was a child “Hera, wanting to destroy the child, sent two serpents to his bed, but Heracles leapt up and killed the serpents” (Apollodorus Heracles, P70). The mighty Heracles had crushed the heads of the serpents with each hand, exhibiting his power at a young age. Similarly, when the titans were at war with the Olympians, Prometheus was an integral part to their success due to his gifts of foreseeing prophecies and also being highly intellectual. This stresses on the point that both Heracles and Prometheus were characters that had more power and divinity than the mortal man.
They both are heroes in their own ways with respect to their story. Both are benefactors to the humankind giving gifts in their own ways, with Prometheus giving mankind the gift of fire and the skill of metalwork, and Heracles showing compassion towards mankind. Even though both of them were givers to mankind, they both did it in a different way.
Prometheus had a fond liking of men, so much that he even sacrificed his freedom so that mortals could have a better life. “He stole and gave to mortal man” (Aeschylus Prometheus Bound, P311, Lines 8-12) exhibiting the qualities of compassion and kindness we spoke about earlier. Fire is an integral part of life, and by Prometheus disobeying his mighty leader, Zeus, he changed life for men even though he faced torture and hate from all the other gods and goddesses. Even with all the backlash Prometheus didn’t regret what he had done as he says “I gave great privileges and for that was yoked in this unyielding harness I hunted out the secret spring of fire, which when revealed became the teacher of each craft to men” (Aeschylus Prometheus Bound, P315, Line 107-112). Prometheus’s motives for this were because of the fact that he knew that Zeus was intended to destroy mankind as he says that Zeus had straightaway assigned powers and several privileges amongst the gods but for “the unhappy breed of mankind he gave no heed, intending to blot the race out and create a new.” (Aeschylus Prometheus Bound, P319, Line 230-240), once again showing qualities of compassion and kindness to mankind.
Heracles, also showing compassion and kindness to the mortal man similar to Prometheus, had done it in a different way. In his story he was on a journey to become an immortal and to do so he had to perform tasks that ultimately benefited the local inhabitants. His tasks were referred to as his 12 labors, he had to defeat a number of monsters and tyrants so that he could bring peace among his people. A case of this would be when he performed his second labor where he had to battle the nine-headed Lernaean Hydra which has been invading and destroying “the cattle and the countryside” (Apollodorus Heracles, P74). Another example of Heracles kindness would be when he had saved Thebans from a tribute they had to pay to King Erginus who had punished Thebes as Erginus was avenging his father.
Based on what’s been established, we can acknowledge that Prometheus and Heracles are brave. As for Prometheus, he could foresee the future and look back into the past and wasn’t scared to challenge Zeus’ mighty power, only to fight for the human’s welfare. While, Heracles had also shown these qualities through his power and courage by performing his twelve labors. Heracles shares a similar quality of Prometheus of not being scared of Zeus. When Heracles was performing his eleventh labor, fetching the apples of Hesperide, he had taken advice from Prometheus to complete his task successfully. In the process he had freed Prometheus which can be seen as him disobeying Zeus’ order of punishing Prometheus and once again exhibiting brave qualities. Brave because he went against Zeus’s order.
With regards to the ways in which Prometheus and Heracles are not similar, it is clear to see that they are different in two main aspects. First, with respect to their identities, Prometheus was one of the titans implying that he was born a god. He didn’t have to earn his warship and faith from mankind, unlike Heracles who is the son of Zeus and a mortal. Though Heracles is half mortal, he is a demi god – a hero. Unlike Prometheus, Heracles had to earn his faith from people and had only after he had completed each of his labors would he then become an immortal (Apollodorus Heracles, P73).
The next difference that we see between the two characters is how they are both treated differently by Zeus and all the other gods.