Prometheus and the First Finger Ring

A Shen Ring from Egypt, Ptolemaic Period (1569-31 BCE). On view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo Public Domain. A Shen Ring from Egypt, Ptolemaic Period (1569-31 BCE). On view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Photo Public Domain.

In Volume 6 of Natural History, Pliny the Elder includes a chapter called "The Origin of Gold Rings." In this section, Pliny briefly discusses the legends of Prometheus and Midas, as well as the practices of the Romans and the Greeks. It is this account, more than any other, that appears to corroborate the legend of Prometheus and the First Finger Ring, although Pliny is not entirely certain the ring was worn on the Titan's finger.

The story goes something like this:

Prometheus was hailed as the benefactor and protector of mankind. He is well-known for his trickery against Zeus, beginning with arranging for Zeus to choose the worst of sacrifices for the gods, leaving the best meat for men. In retribution, Zeus punished man by revoking from men the use of fire. Soon after, Prometheus stealthily recovered fire for men, so Zeus sent Pandora (woman) to earth as further punishment.

On that same day, Zeus chained Prometheus to Caucasus, a rock in the Kazbek Mountains, and ordered a eagle (some say a vulture) to eat Prometheus's liver every day. By the next morning, the Titan's immortal liver would grow back just in time for the bird's return. His punishment was slated to continue for all eternity.

Respite came for Prometheus when Hercules braved the stormy heights to ascend the mountain. After killing the bird, he heaved a mighty blow upon Prometheus's iron chains and set the Titan free. As a concession, Zeus ordered that Prometheus wear upon his finger a link of his chain into which a piece of the rock was set, thereby ensuring that Prometheus would ever carry the weight of his punishment.