The third creation myth also starts with humans fashioned out of inanimate material. This time, Zeus, angry at the wickedness of the world, sends a great flood to destroy it. Only two mortal beings survive: Prometheus’s son, Deucalion, and Epithemeus and Pandora’s daughter, Pyrrha. After the flood, a voice in a temple orders the two to walk about and cast stones behind them. These stones become the first ancestors of the humans now inhabiting the earth.
These next stories come from a wide variety of Greek and Roman sources. We pick up again with Prometheus, who, chained up in the Caucasus, has occasion to comfort a dazzling white heifer. It turns out to be no ordinary cow but a woman named Io whom the perpetually unfaithful Zeus has seduced and then transformed into a cow to hide his transgression from Hera. Not so easily deceived, Hera asks Zeus to give her the cow and then imprisons her. Hermes, sent by Zeus, frees Io. Hera retaliates by sending a gadfly to annoy Io endlessly, forcing her to wander all over the world. At last encountering Prometheus, weary Io learns she will soon be turned back into a human, will bear Zeus a son, through whom she will be the ancestress of Hercules—the hero who eventually frees Prometheus.
Europa is another victim of Zeus’s lust. He spies the lovely maiden in the fields one day and then transforms himself into a beautiful, friendly bull. Charmed, she climbs on the bull’s back, but he suddenly becomes frenzied and charges over the sea. Taking Europa to Crete, away from Hera’s watchful eye, Zeus returns to his form and seduces her. Her descendants include two of Hades’ judges—Minos and Rhadamanthus—and the continent of Europe is named for her.
Another famous casualty of justice is Polyphemus, one of the Cyclopes, the one-eyed monsters who were the only original children of Earth not banished by the Olympians after their victory. They are also the forgers of Zeus’s thunderbolts. Best known for his encounter with Odysseus, Polyphemus is also the victim of a tragic infatuation, as Galatea, the beautiful, cruel sea nymph, never returns his feelings.