Presbeutēs

Heinrich Friedrich Füger, Prometheus bringt den Menschen das Feuer, ca. 1817
Heinrich Friedrich Füger, Prometheus bringt den Menschen das Feuer (ca. 1817)

Εἰ δὲ δεῖ καὶ μῦθον λέγειν, δέδοικα μὲν ἐγὼ μὴ καὶ ταῖς γραυσὶν ἡμᾶς ἐξούλης ὀφλεῖν ἐπισκώπτων φῇ τις ἀνὴρ κωμικός. ἐρῶ δὲ οὐ μῦθον ἄλλως αὐτὸν εἰς αὑτὸν τελευτῶντα, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐνταῦθα ἡ παρὰ τῶν πραγμάτων προσέσται πίστις, ἵν’ ὡς ἀληθῶς καὶ τὴν τοῦ Ἀμφίονος ῤῆσιν ἀνταποδῶ καὶ πρὸς τὸν Ζῆθον ἀναμνησθῶμεν εἰπεῖν, εἰ μὴ κατὰ τὸν Εὐριπίδην εἷς ἀμφοτέρους ποιήσει τοὺς λόγους, ἀλλὰ κατ’ αὐτοὺς ἐκείνους διελώμεθα. νεωστὶ γὰρ τῶν ἀνθρώπων γεγονότων καὶ τῶν ἄλλων ζώων θόρυβος πολὺς ἦν κατὰ τὴν γῆν καὶ ταραχή. οὔτε γὰρ αὐτοί σφισιν εἶχον ὅ τι χρήσονται, οὐδὲ γὰρ ἦν οὐδὲν τὸ συνάγον, ἀλλ’ οἱ μείζους τοὺς ἐλάττους ἦγον, οὔτε τοῖς ἄλλοις ζώοις εἶχον ἀνταρκεῖν· πᾶσι γὰρ πάντων ἀπελείποντο ἄλλοτε ἄλλων, τάχει μὲν τῶν πτηνῶν ἁπάντωνὅπερ οὖν Ὅμηρος ἔφη τοὺς Πυγμαίους πάσχειν ὑπὸ τῶν γεράνων, πᾶσι τοῖς τότε ὑπὸ πάντων συνέβαινε τῶν ἀλκίμων ὀρνίθων κατ’ ἰσχὺν δ’ αὖ πόρρω καὶ τῶν λεόντων καὶ τῶν κάπρων καὶ πολλῶν ἄλλων ἦσαν· ὥστ’ ἀπώλλυντο σιγῇ. καὶ μὴν τῇ γε κατασκευῇ τοῦ σώματος οὐ μόνον τῶν προβάτων, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῶν κοχλιῶν ἀπελείποντο, οὐδεὶς αὐτῶν ὑπάρχων αὐτάρκης. φθειρομένου δὲ οὕτω τοῦ γένους καὶ κατὰ μικρὸν ὑπορρέοντος κατιδὼν ὁ Προμηθεὺς ἀεί πως ὢν φιλάνθρωπος ἀνέρχεται πρεσβευτὴς ὑπὲρ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, οὐχ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων πεμφθεὶς, οὐδὲ γὰρ πρέσβεις πέμπειν ἦν πω τότ’ εἰδέναι, ἀλλ’ αὐτὸς ἀφ’ ἑαυτοῦ. ὁ δὲ Ζεὺς τοῦ τε Προμηθέως ἀγασθεὶς δίκαια λέγοντος καὶ ἅμα καθ’ ἑαυτὸν εἰληφὼς λογισμὸν τοῦ πράγματος, τῶν αὑτοῦ παίδων Ἑρμῆν κελεύει ῤητορικὴν ἔχοντα ἐλθεῖν εἰς ἀνθρώπους. ὁ μὲν οὖν Προμηθεὺς καθ’ ἕκαστον ἅπασι τάς τε αἰσθήσεις καὶ τἄλλα μέλη τοῦ σώματος ἦν συμπεπλακὼς πρότερον, τὸν δὲ Ἑρμῆν οὐχ οὕτως ἐκέλευσεν ὥσπερ θεωρικοῦ διάδοσιν διελεῖν, ἵνα πάντες ῤητορικῆς ἐφεξῆς μετέχοιεν, ὥσπερ ὀφθαλμῶν καὶ χειρῶν καὶ ποδῶν, ἀλλ’ ἐπιλεξάμενον τοὺς ἀρίστους, καὶ γενναιοτάτους καὶ τὰς φύσεις ἐρρωμενεστάτους, τούτοις ἐγχειρίσαι τὸ δῶρον, ἵν’ ὁμοῦ σφᾶς τε αὐτοὺς καὶ τοὺς ἄλλους σώζειν ἔχοιεν. ἀφικομένης δὲ ῤητορικῆς εἰς ἀνθρώπους οὕτως ἐκ θεῶν ἠδυνήθησαν μὲν οἱ ἄνθρωποι τὴν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων δίαιταν χαλεπὴν ἐκφυγεῖν, ἐπαύσαντο δὲ ἐχθροὶ πάντες ὄντες ἀλλήλοις ἐν κύκλῳ, κοινωνίας δ’ εὗρον ἀρχήν. καταβάντες δὲ ἐκ τῶν ὀρῶν ἄλλοι κατ’ ἄλλα μέρη τῆς οἰκουμένης ἐπλησίασαν, τό γε πρῶτον ὕπαιθροι, μετὰ δὲ τοῦτο ἤδη λόγου νικήσαντος πόλιν τε κατεσκευάσαντο καὶ διεκρίθησαν οὐχ ὥσπερ πρότερον ὡς ἔτυχεν, ἀλλ’ εἴς τε συντάξεις κοινωνιῶν καὶ τοὺς πόλεων ἡγεμόνας νόμους ἔθεντο καὶ ἄρχοντας καὶ πολιτείαν ἐνόμισαν, καὶ θεοῖς χαριστήρια ἀνήγαγον, πρώτας ἀπαρχὰς ποιησάμενοι τὰς ἀπὸ τῶν λόγων, αἷς ἔτι καὶ νῦν χαίρειν μάλιστα τοὺς θεοὺς λόγος αἱρεῖ, ὅτι καὶ γνωρίσαι πρῶτον αὐτοῖς τοὺς θεοὺς ὑπῆρξεν ἐντεῦθεν. οὕτως ἄνθρωπος ἤρθη μέγας ἐξ ἀσθενοῦς καὶ σαθροῦ τοῦ κατ’ ἀρχὰς, καὶ πρόσθεν καταφρονούμενος ὡς οὐδὲν πρᾶγμα κύριός ἐστιν ἐξ ἐκείνου τοῖς ἐν τῇ γῇ, τοῦτο ὅτι βούλεται χρῆσθαι, πρόβλημα ποιησάμενος ἀντ’ ἄλλου φυλακτηρίου τὸν λόγον.
(Aelius Aristides, Or. 2.394-399)

If a myth is needed too, I am rather afraid that some comic poet may say that I am laying myself open to prosecution by the old wives for illegal occupation of their property. Nevertheless, what I am going to tell you will not be just an idle myth that begins and ends with itself; it too will be supported by the evidence of the facts, so that I really will give Amphion’s speech in reply and remember to answer Zethus—even if it will not be one person who is responsible for both speeches, as with Euripides, but we divide them between those two. When mankind and the other animals had only just come into existence, there was uproar and confusion on earth. Human beings did not know what to do with themselves, because in the absence of anything to unite them the stronger harried the weaker, and they were unable to put up any resistance against other creatures, because utterly inferior to all of them, in different respects in different cases: in speed they were inferior to all creatures with wings—so what Homer said the cranes did to the Pygmies was in this period done to the whole human race by birds of prey collectively—and again in strength they were far inferior to lions and boars and many other kinds of creature. As a result they perished unknown. Moreover in the way their bodies were equipped they were worse off not only than sheep but even than snails, because none of them was self-sufficient. Seeing that the human race was being worn down like this and wasting away little by little, Prometheus, who was always something of a friend to them, went up to heaven as an ambassador on their behalf, not because they had sent him, since at this stage they could not yet know about sending ambassadors, but on his own initiative. Impressed by the justice of Prometheus’ words, but also because he had thought the matter through for himself, Zeus ordered Hermes from among his own sons to go to mankind with the gift of oratory. Prometheus had previously fashioned the senses and the other parts of the body for all of them individually, but Zeus told Hermes not to distribute oratory like this, as if it were a handout from the festival fund, so that everyone without exception should have some oratorical ability, as with eyes and hands and feet, but instead to pick out the best and the most noble and those with the strongest constitutions, and to entrust the gift to them, so that they could keep both themselves and other people safe. When oratory had thus arrived among men, they were enabled by the gift of the gods to escape their harsh life among the animals, ceased from the reciprocal hostility that made all enemies to all, and invented the beginnings of sociability. Descending from the hills they banded together in different parts of the inhabited world. They did so in the open air at first; then subsequently, when reasoned argument won through, they founded cities and distributed themselves not randomly as before but into organized communities, and made laws to guide their cities, and took on the practice of having magistrates and a settled constitution, and began to make thank offerings to the gods. The very first offerings they made were in the form of words, in which to this day the gods take the greatest pleasure, as stands to reason, since this was the means by which men were first able to recognize them. It was in this way that human kind rose to greatness from its weak and defective beginnings, and from having previously been despised as of no consequence has since this time become master of the earth, to make use of as it sees fit; and it is oratory that it has taken as its shield in preference to any other form of protection. (tr. Michael Trapp)

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