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Iapetus was linked to Japheth () one of the sons of Noah and a progenitor of mankind in biblical accounts. The practice by early historians and biblical scholars of identifying various historical nations and ethnic groups as descendants of Japheth, together with the similarity of their names, led to a fusion of their identities, from the early modern period to the present.
Iapetus ("the Piercer") is the one Titan mentioned by Homer in the Iliad as being in Tartarus with Cronus. He is a brother of Cronus, who ruled the world during the Golden Age.
Iapetus' wife is usually described as a daughter of Oceanus and Tethys named either Clymene (according to Hesiod and Hyginus) or Asia (according to Pseudo-Apollodorus).
In Hesiod's Works and Days Prometheus is addressed as "son of Iapetus", and no mother is named. However, in Hesiod's Theogony, Clymene is listed as Iapetus' wife and the mother of Prometheus. In Aeschylus's play Prometheus Bound, Prometheus is son of the goddess Themis with no father named (but still with at least Atlas as a brother). However, in Horace's Odes, in Ode 1.3 Horace writes "audax Iapeti genus ... Ignem fraude mala gentibus intulit" ("The bold offspring of Iapetus [i.e. Prometheus] ... brought fire to peoples by wicked deceit").
The sons of Iapetus were sometimes regarded as mankind's ancestors[by whom?], and as such some of humanity's worst qualities were said to have been inherited from these four gods, each of whom were described with a particular moral fault that often led to their own downfall. For instance, sly and clever Prometheus could perhaps represent crafty scheming; the inept and guileless Epimetheus, foolish stupidity; the enduring, strongest and powerful Atlas, excessive daring; and the arrogant Menoetius, rash violence.
^Alexander, Philip (1988). "Retelling the Old Testament". In Carson, D. A.; Williamson, H. G. M. (eds.). It is Written: Scripture Citing Scripture: Essays in Honour of Barnabas Lindars. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 99-121. ISBN9780521323475.
^Haaland, Gunnar (2011). "Convenient Fiction Or Causal Factor? The Questioning Of Jewish Antiquity According To Against Apion 1.2". In Pastor, Jack; Stern, Pnina; Mor, Menahem (eds.). Flavius Josephus: Interpretation and history. Leiden: Brill. pp. 163-175. ISBN978-90-04-19126-6.