Pandora’s Box in Greek Myths — The Myth of Pandora’s Box

Pandora’s Box in Greek Myths

The Myth of Pandora’s Box in Greek Mythology is a popular but intriguing one. This Greek myth is one that describes human personalities and behaviours we see today, which may be why human face the current terror we face today. Or is that the case? Let’s find out.

Who is Pandora in Greek Mythology?

PANDORA was the Greek Eve (the Greek equivalent to Eve in the bible), the bringer of all sorrows for humankind. Pandora means “all gifts” — the bad as well as the good. She was the first woman and was created by HEPHAISTOS (also known as Hephaestus), the smith god, on Zeus orders to upset PROMETHEUS, the Greek god of fire and friend of men.

Visual Representation of Pandora looking into the jar given to her by the gods

When she went to live among men, she was gifted a gift from the gods, a sealed jar that contained all the misfortunes of existence. But soon, Pandora’s great curiosity overcame a natural fear of what might be inside, and she broke the seal, releasing sorrow, disease and conflict. But what resulted in this?

The Prologue

“Hello sir, I have a special delivery for you,” said the mystery delivery man.

“I didn’t order anything,” said you.

“If you could just confirm your name for me, sir. I assure you this process will be very speedy.” Said the delivery man. “Fantastic, Mister. If you could please sign here. And here the package is all yours, sir.”

“Here is your box; whatever you do, the box must never be opened.” Said the Deliveryman

“Why not?” You said.

“I do not know, sir, I am just your simple, ordinary delivery man, and the instructions that came with the Box said, ‘DO NOT OPEN, EVER'” said the mystery delivery man.

“Well, do you know who sent it?” said you.

“No, I’m afraid I do not, sir. I have no idea nor who sent it nor what’s inside, but the message clearly says, ‘DO NOT OPEN’. I’d probably open it, but I am your ordinary, very average nosy delivery man. So, don’t let me sway your decision, sir. I mean, what is the worst that can happen?” Asked the mystery delivery driver.

“You open the box, and there’s nothing inside, or maybe you will unleash every known plague into evil upon mankind, bringing it to the brink of destruction and causing an eternity of suffering for countless generations that follow.” Mystery delivery driver continues,

“Or maybe it’s probably just a pair of keys, or maybe it’s filled with jewellery or, better yet, chocolate. I’ve heard humans do love that.” Said the mystery delivery man.

“What are you talking about?” you said.

“Anyway, I must be leaving you now, sir. There are far more packages of messages to deliver, and there’s a reason I’ve won best delivery man 2808 times in a row. But before I go, I believe I was supposed to warn you about a cat named curiosity, history repeating itself and some kind of panda. I don’t remember, but hopefully, that helps you, sir. I wish you the best of luck, sir; hopefully, your fate is not as bad as the last one. Have a wonderful day.”

So, would you open the box if the choice was yours?

The Story of Pandora’s Box

Pandora laying on her box gifted to her by the gifts - Pandora's Gift
Pandora laying on her box gifted to her by the gifts – Pandora’s Gift

At this point, I’d like to think that most of us are at least familiar with the name Pandora. The first human woman who opened the said box and cursed humanity forever. Sounds dramatic, I know. That’s because it is, and I’d expect nothing else from Greek mythology if I’m being honest.

For those unfamiliar with the story of Pandora’s Box, there’s no need to worry because we will recap it once more before discussing it any further.

Pandora’s box did start as a Jar. But over the years, due to the many different versions of the story, somewhere along the line, it got lost in translation and became a box. Which, in a more modern context, is certainly more alluring than a jar.

The story begins with most’s favourite god, Zeus, and the two Titan brothers Prometheus and Epimetheus.

Prometheus who created man and Epimetheus, who made the animals and gave them all of their positive traits, but Epimetheus had run out of features to provide when it was man’s turn. Zeus, not being the biggest fan of Prometheus’ creation, was intrigued to see how humankind survive. Or more so excited at the prospect of their inevitable demise.

Prometheus, however, was not ready to watch his creations suffer. So, he stole fire from Olympus and gave it to man—who would use it to thrive.

To Zeus, this was not only cheating but a challenge. So, rather than merely just taking fire away, he hatched an elaborate plan of revenge against Prometheus and his creation. Like how Prometheus created man from clay, Zeus would order Hephaestus to mould Pandora, the first woman.

The Gifts Bestowed Upon Pandora

To bring Pandora to life and build somewhat of a personality, each god and goddesses bestowed a gift upon her.

  • From Athena, she was given the gift of craftsmanship, needlework, and weaving.
  • From Aphrodite, she was given beauty and the ability to feel a range of emotion.
  • From Hermes, she was given craftiness and deviousness, and he would also name her Pandora.
  • It then fell to Zeus to give her her final two gifts; curiosity and a mysterious box that she was told never to open.

And once she was ready, Zeus would send Hermes to deliver Pandora to Epimetheus as his bride-to-be.

Despite Prometheus warning his brother never to accept a gift from Zeus, Epimetheus ignored his brother and married Pandora anyway. What then follows the marriage is what we can only assume as a calm period as Zeus’s plan of revenge was long-term.

What Came Out of Pandora’s Box?

What Came Out of Pandora's Box?

As each day passed, Pandora grew more and more curious as to what was inside the box. Until when she could wait no longer.

On that fateful day, she gave in to the curiosity that Zeus had given her and opened the box.

Inside of the box, Zeus had placed every known evil. Pandora had just unleashed Greed, Suffering, Illness, and Hardship upon humanity.

Prometheus’ creation of man would be brought to the brink of destruction. Pandora, who felt a pang of immense guilt for what she had done, opened the box one last time in the hope that there was something good inside.

There was one last thing inside, Hope. It was this hope they gave humanity the strength to endure their hardships and continue surviving.

Why Would Zeus Gave Pandora A Box and Told Her Not to Open It?

There are some elements to this story that I noticed that some people missed or failed to understand. I think the most common, being Zeus is, intent. What I saw very often was along the lines of, “why would Zeus give Pandora a box that she was never allowed to open?”, “why would he give her curiosity and then a mysterious box?”

Zeus may have told Pandora never to open the box, but make no mistake, he always intended and planned for the Box to be opened. If you say to a child or even an adult, in most cases, not to do something without then explaining why they shouldn’t, most of the time they will give in to their curiosity, and they will do that very thing you told them not to.

When Prometheus stole the fire from Olympus, Zeus could have easily destroyed him and his creation right there and then. Instead, Zeus wanted some kind of revenge. The type of revenge that he found amusing. The kind that was filled with irony, and so he played the long game.

He had something created, which in this case was a woman, the counterpart to Prometheus’s creation. And it would be this creation that he intended to destroy humanity, or at least caused a tremendous amount of suffering.

So, to answer the question, “why would Zeus gave Pandora a box and tell her not to open it?” Zeus felt like it would be a fun way to watch humanity suffer and teach Prometheus a lesson, even though he would be punished again later.

Why Is There Hope in Pandora’s Box?

This hope in Pandora’s box can be seen as a good thing, but it’s much more likely that it was intended as false hope. Despite all this suffering, the constant belief that one-day things will get better when in reality, he never intended them to.

You can also argue that Zeus never wanted to destroy humanity, and so hope was him being merciful. Several poets interpret the story in this way, but given that everything inside the box was evil and the box itself was meant for revenge, it certainly feels like Zeus had the last laugh.

The Different Version of Pandora’s Box’s Stories

Almost every poet of a note has covered the story of Pandora’s Box throughout the years. Theognis of Megara tells of a somewhat different story —where the jar was filled with blessings instead of evil. This jar, however, would not be opened by Pandora. Instead, it was an unnamed man who would open the jar out of curiosity, releasing all of the blessings which would then be lost to humanity.

This version of the story also heavily influenced the Aesop’s fables—where Zeus is described as gathering all of the good things and placing them in a jar. When humanity then opened the jar, all of the excellent stuff flew back up to the heavens, and only one thing remained hope—promising that one day it will bestow upon us everything that had been lost.

One of Aesop’s reasons in terms of ‘why bad things happen to us’, is because they are all around us. Whereas the right things must descend from heaven, and that is why they are much rarer.

It was also believed Pandora’s husband might have opened the jar as well as an unnamed man. So, there are several versions of the story where the blame isn’t placed on Pandora.

Some of you may have also noticed the similarities with the biblical story of Adam and Eve. The individuals involved may differ, but there is the recurring theme of curiosity being humanity’s downfall and the inability to follow a basic command without it being explained.

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