Prometheus stole fire from Olympus and gave it to human beings. A Titan and a son of Tapetos, he had been put to work by Zeus to make men out of clay and water. Prometheus was appalled by the misery of the creatures he was creating, and out of pity presented man with the heavenly fire. Another version is that Zeus had been tricked by Prometheus over his share of a sacrificial ox, and therefore denied mankind the use of fire. For this offense, whichever one it was, Zeus had him chained to a rock where during the daytime an eagle ate his liver, which renewed itself each night, only to be eaten again the next day. Throughout his ordeal, Prometheus was sustained by a secret known only to him: that Zeus would father a son who would first overthrow him and then someday liberate Prometheus. After thirteen generations the prophecy was fulfilled as Heracales, son of Zeus by Alcmere, set him free.
Because of this legend, a rare-group metallic element was name promethium. Scientists predicted the element at the beginning of the twentieth century, reported it in 1926, and definitely identified it in 1945, as a radioactive form of the element. The name promethium was adopted by the International Union of Chemistry in 1945.
The word promethean became an adjective in the English language meaning that which pertains to fire or is capable of producing fire. Anything life giving — daringly original or creative — is also said to be promethean. Although the early friction matches changed its name through the years, the matches were first called promethean. Darwin in his Voyage of the Beagle (1839) wrote: «I carried with me some promethean matches, which I ignited by biting...».