In Greek mythology, Epimetheus (//; Greek: Ἐπιμηθεύς, which might mean "hindsight", literally "afterthinker") was the brother of Prometheus (traditionally interpreted as "foresight", literally "fore-thinker"), a pair of Titans who "acted as representatives of mankind" (Kerenyi 1951, p 207). They were the 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 (320d–322a), 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.
Prometheus decided that mankind's attributes would be the civilizing arts and fire, which he stole from Zeus. Prometheus later stood trial for his crime. In the context of Plato's dialogue, "Epimetheus, the being in whom thought follows production, represents nature in the sense of materialism, according to which thought comes later than thoughtless bodies and their thoughtless motions."
According to Hesiod, who related the tale twice (Theogony, 527ff; Works and Days 57ff), Epimetheus was the one who accepted the gift of Pandora from the gods. Their marriage may be inferred (and was by later authors), but it is not made explicit in either text.
In modern culture
Carl Schmitt, in his book Ex captivitate salus describes himself as a Christian Epimetheus. Ivan Illich devotes a chapter of Deschooling Society to the Rebirth of Epimethean Man. 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.[clarification needed] According to Stiegler, it is significant that Epimetheus is entirely forgotten in the philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Les Amis, in his book Commemorating Epimetheus (2009), reinstates the value of Epimetheus. He is credited with bringing to the world our knowledge of dependency on each other described phenomenologically in terms of sharing, caring, meeting and dwelling and loving.
- Kerenyi, Karl, 1951. The Gods of the Greeks, pp 209ff.
- Graves, Robert, (1955) 1960, The Greek Myths 39.a–j
- Amis, Les, 2009. Commemorating Epimetheus.
- Media related to Epimetheus at Wikimedia Commons