THE MYTH OF PANDORA’S BOX
Famed from Greek mythology, Pandora was not only the first woman, but –as an instrument of the wrath of Zeus– was held responsible for releasing the ills of humanity into the world. The name Pandora means “gifts” and “all”. According to (and perhaps even invented by) Hesiod in his Theogony and Works & Days, Zeus had Hephaistos make Pandora, from earth and water. Zeus’ intention was to use the beautiful and lovely Pandora as a means to punish Prometheus who had stolen fire from the gods and given it to mankind, who would in turn be punished.
Before her departure, Pandora was given a range of divine gifts by each of the Olympian gods. Athena taught her all the fine crafts and dressed her in silvery robes, Aphrodite gave her grace and the means to create burning desire, and Hermes gave her “a dog’s mind and a thievish character” and in her breast “set lies and guileful words”. If that was not enough, she was adorned with fine jewellery by the Graces, crowned with a magnificent golden headband made by Hephaistos, and given garlands of spring flowers by the Seasons. Finally, Pandora was given a large storage jar to take down to earth which she was told she must never open under any circumstances.
Pandora, guided by Hermes, was sent to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus. Foolishly forgetting his brother’s advice never to accept a gift from the gods, the beautiful Pandora was made welcome in Epimetheus’ home and the two married, having a daughter, Pyrrha. One day, and fulfilling her destiny, curiosity got the better of Pandora and she lifted the lid of the storage jar which released all the evils of the world. These terrible things included disease, war, vice, toil, and the necessity to work for sustenance.
Pandora, realising her mistake, quickly replaced the lid but it was too late and only one thing remained inside, caught in the edge of the jar’s lip –Hope– so that humanity might somehow bear its sudden and eternal misfortune. “Hope” is the traditional translation from the Greek but actually may be better represented by “anticipation” which includes an expectation of both good and bad events. Through this punishment Zeus thus compensated for the theft of fire and restored the eternal division between gods and humans.
Source: Cartwright, M. (2015, July 27). Pandora. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://www.ancient.eu/Pandora/