In Greek mythology, Epimetheus (Greek: Ἐπιμηθεύς) (“hindsight”, literally “hind-thought”) was the brother of Prometheus (“foresight”, literally “fore-thought”), a pair of Titans who “acted as representatives of mankind” (Kerenyi 1951, p 207). They were the inseparable sons of Iapetus, who in other contexts was the father of Atlas. While Prometheus is characterized as ingenious and clever, Epimetheus is depicted as foolish.

According to Plato‘s use of the old myth in his Protagoras, where he puts it in the mouth of the old philosopher, (in most myths Prometheus alone creates man from clay) the twin Titans were entrusted with distributing the traits among the newly-created animals; Epimetheus was responsible for giving a positive trait to every animal, but when it was time to give man a positive trait, lacking foresight he found that there was nothing left (also Epimetheus is in most stories already out of traits when Prometheus made man). His brother Prometheus then stole fire from Zeus and gave it to man, and was punished for his impiety by being strapped to a mountain top and visited by an eagle who ate his liver every day. Since Prometheus was a Titan and therefore practically immortal, his liver grew back every day, so the eagle had to come back, keeping Prometheus in constant pain. As further punishment, Zeus created Pandora, the first woman, for Epimetheus, knowing that he would fall in love with her despite the warnings of his brother, the embodiment of foresight, who told him never to accept a gift from the Olympian gods, with whom the primordial Titans, sprung from Mother Earth, were ever at odds.

In most versions, Prometheus is the one who fashions man from inert clay only to find his brother has used up the positive traits.

According to Hesiod, who related the tale twice, (Theogony, 527ff; Works and Days 57ff) Epimetheus and Pandora were married. Pandora had been given a covered pithos, or storage jar, by Hermes and was instructed never to open it. However, Hermes also gave her curiosity, so she opened it anyway, releasing all the misfortunes of mankind. She shut it in time to keep one thing in reserve: hope. Thus mankind always has hope in times of evil.

The daughter of Epimetheus and Pandora was Pyrrha, who married Deucalion and was one of the two who survived the deluge.

Epimetheus plays a key role in the philosophy of Bernard Stiegler, and in particular in terms of his understanding of the relation between technogenesis and anthropogenesis. According to Stiegler it is significant that Epimetheus is entirely forgotten in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger.


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