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FIRE FROM HEAVEN
HE Greeks believed that this earth, on which we live, was
once a great heap of matter, in which land and water
and air were all mixed together. There was no light or
life anywhere except among the gods in heaven.
After a while the gods agreed to put this heap into
shape and order. They separated the air from the earth
and water. The air being lightest flew up, and formed
the sky. The earth being heavy sank down, but the
water flowed all around it and held it up, so that it
should not sink entirely away.
Then the gods gave form to the earth. They lifted up
the mountains, and that left valleys. They dug paths
for the rivers; they set islands in the sea, they made
the world look as it now does.
They also fashioned the sun and moon and stars, and
these gave light. The mountains were soon covered with
young trees; grass and flowers grew on the plains; fish
were in the sea, birds flew in the air, and animals
moved about on the dry land.
All these living creatures were made by two lower gods
called Titans. Their names were Prometheus and
Epimetheus. They also created man, nobler than the
animals, because he walks upright and looks toward
 while the other creatures walk on four feet and look
downward to the ground.
Epimetheus did the work, and Prometheus was the
overseer. The animals had different gifts. The ox was
very strong, the horse could run fast, the owl was
wise, the fox was cunning, the eagle had wings, lions
and bears had teeth and claws to fight with, the snake
had poison to kill its victims or its enemies.
Birds had feathers, and beasts had fur, or wool, or
hair, to keep them warm. Even oysters and clams had
little houses of shell in which they could shut
themselves up tight. But man had no feathers, or fur,
or wool, or shell, and not a great deal of hair. When
his turn came to receive some special gift there was
nothing for him. Though he was noblest of all
creatures he was really weakest and most helpless of
The two Titan brothers stood and looked at each other.
"What shall we do now?" said Epimetheus. "Everything
has been given out."
"Is nothing left?" said Prometheus.
"Nothing at all," answered his brother.
They looked all around, but no help came. Then they
looked up at the shining sun.
"Oh, I know!" said Prometheus. "Stay here and wait for
"Where are you going?" asked his brother.
"You will know when I come back," answered Prometheus.
Then he went to the highest mountain and climbed to its
top. There Athene, the goddess of wisdom, met him
 and helped him the rest of the way up to the sky. On
the mountain top he had broken a branch from a pine
tree. This he took with him, and as the sun came
driving by in his chariot of fire, Prometheus touched
the branch to the burning wheels. The green leaves
snapped and crackled in the flame, the pitchy wood took
fire. Prometheus hurried back from the sky and ran
down the mountain. All the way he took care to keep
the branch burning.
FIRE FROM HEAVEN
When he reached Epimetheus, he said, "Hurry and get a
pile of branches. Here is a fire from heaven. This
shall be our one best gift to man. By this he shall
conquer all the other creatures and be master of earth
and sea and air."
Epimetheus ran and gathered branches and piled them in
a heap. Prometheus threw his torch among them. The
twigs caught fire at once, and soon there was a bright,
roaring cheerful, comfortable blaze. Then the brothers
called the man and said, "Come here and be warm;" for
the night was falling, and the air was growing chilly.
The man stretched out his hands toward the fire and
laughed. "This is not a plaything," said the Titans,
"You must keep it as your servant, and be very careful
that you never let it become your master. Use it
rightly, and it will make you ruler over everything in
So the man was glad, and kept the fire burning. When
the winter came he did not have to travel south, like
the birds, or go to sleep in a hollow tree, like the
bears. He made a fire in his hut, and was comfortable
 he learned to cook his food instead of eating it raw.
He found stones which would melt, and which we call
ores,—lead ore, tin ore, zinc ore, copper ore, gold
ore, silver ore. He melted gold and silver, and with
stone hammers pounded out rings and bracelets and
earrings, which he wore. He melted copper and zinc
together and made bronze. This he hammered into spear
heads, which he fastened on long sticks. Then he could
fight the lion and the bear, keeping out of reach of
their claws. With these spears he could also catch
fish. Afterwards he made bronze hooks for fishing. He
learned the use of the bow, and tipped his arrows with
bronze. So he could shoot flying birds, or running
deer, or crawling snakes. He made bronze bits for
horses, and axes for cutting down trees, and plowshares
for tilling the ground. Thus he had much better tools
of every kind than the stones he used at first.
Long afterwards men found out how to melt and shape
iron, which was better and more useful than bronze. So
the fire from heaven gave men mastery over every
animal, and made them rulers of the earth.