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May 9, 2012


In Greek mythology, Pandora (Also called Anesidora: the sender of gifts) was the first human woman on earth, apart from the gods, goddesses, and human males. Zeus ordered Hephaestus (also spelt: Hephaistos; Roman equivalent: Vulcan) to create her to punish both Prometheus and humankind for the theft of fire from the chariot of Helios (Roman equivalent: Sol). Hephaestus moulded a perfectly shaped beautiful female figure with earth and water while Aphrodite (also called: Cytherea; Roman equivalent: Venus) posed as a model.

Then Zeus breathed life into the clay statue. Zeus ordered all of the gods each to give her a gift. Accordingly, Aphrodite gave her unparalleled beauty, grace and desire. Hermes (Roman equivalent: Mercury), the messenger god, gave her a cunning, deceitful mind and a crafty tongue. Athena (Roman equivalent: Minerva) dressed her in a silvery gown, covered her face with an embroidered veil and adorned her hair with bright garlands of fresh flowers and an ornate silver crown. Besides, Athena also taught her needlework and weaving. Poseidon (Roman equivalent: Neptune) presented her a pearl necklace that would prevent her from drowning. Apollo taught her to sing sweetly and play the lyre. The Graces and Peitho (Roman equivalent: Suadela) gave her necklaces of gold. Zeus (Roman equivalent: Jupiter, also called: Jove) gave her an imprudent, mischievous, and idle nature. Hera (Roman equivalent: Juno) gave her the wiliest gift, curiosity. Finally, Hermes named her Pandora, which means “the one who bears all gifts", because each god gave her a unique gift. With all such splendid gifts and luxurious attire, Pandora almost looked like a goddess of Olympus. She was indeed the most beautiful mortal woman ever created.

pandora carried off by mercury

Ahead of sending her to earth, Hermes presented Pandora with an artistically crafted golden box. He told her that the box contained special gifts from Zeus. But he strictly forbade her to open the box under any circumstance. Zeus then ordered Hermes to take Pandora to Prometheus and offer her as his wife. Prometheus, who had the gift of foresight, became suspicious about Hermes’ grand entrance with lovely Pandora. Therefore, Prometheus refused to accept her under the excuse that she lacked prudence. Then Hermes took her to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus, to be his wife. Prometheus warned Epimetheus not to accept anything from the Gods. But upon first sight of Pandora, Epimetheus was totally enthralled by her beauty and forgot his brother’s warning. Consequently, he accepted her as his wife and the couple settled down for a happy conjugal life. But Pandora always wondered what was in the box. Pandora tried to repress her curiosity for long but subsequently failed to hold it anymore. She opened the box, and from it flew hate, anger, sickness, poverty, and every bad thing in the world. Pandora was scared, because she saw all the evil spirits coming out and tried to close the box as fast as possible, closing hope inside.


Variations in the Story:

This popular myth appears in numerous versions. For instance, difference is seen with the box’s presenter, presentee as well as its opener. In some accounts it is mentioned that once Prometheus captured all the evil things in a box and gave it to his brother Epimetheus’ custody for its safekeeping. One day his wife Pandora found it and out of curiosity opened it. Thus she accidentally released all the evil things. However, few other tales recount that it was Epimetheus who opened the box not Pandora. Variations are also seen in the nature of the contents of the box. In some variants, Zeus actually sends Pandora with great gifts or blessings for mankind rather than evils. According to these views, all the good things of the world were inside the box, just as they were inside humans. When Pandora released the good things, they left humans as well. They would have been preserved for the human beings if they not been lost through the opening of the box. The only thing that stayed forever is hope, because Pandora managed to capture hope before it flew from the box as well. However, there are still some accounts where hope did escape from the box.

Influence on Art and Literature:

The legend of Pandora has been a valuable inspiration for numerous works of arts. The legend is captured in pottery and carvings from ancient Greece as well as in classical paintings, frescos, mosaics, and sculptures. Many modern paintings and sculptures too are inspired by this myth. This myth also reflected in works of classical Greek literature. In literature, the Pandora myth first envisaged in Theogony (Genealogy of the Gods), an epic poem written by the Attic poet Hesiod written circa 8th–7th centuries BC. Then it appeared more explicitly in Works and Days, a didactic poem by the same poet. Archaic and classical Greek literature seem to make no further mention of Pandora, though Sophocles wrote a satyr play Pandora, or The Hammerers of which virtually nothing is known. Sappho may have made reference to Pandora in a surviving fragment. In the 21st century this popular legend was adopted in the motion picture of Lara Croft Tomb Raider: the Cradle of Life (2003). In this movie the Pandora’s Box has been portrayed as an ancient relic.


















Did You Know?

In earlier accounts Pandora’s Box was actually a jar, called “pithos” in Greek. This jar became a box in the 16th century, when the Renaissance humanist Desiderius Erasmus translated a story of Pandora from Hesiod's work. In his endeavour, Erasmus mistranslated the Greek term pithos into the Latin word pyxis, meaning "box". And the jar remained as a box till these days.

Significance of Pandora’s Box

The Pandora myth chiefly describes the emergence of all sorts of evils on earth which was engendered by the creation of women. In this way, the Pandora myth reverberates the theological story of Adam and Eve. The story metaphorically explores the dangers of curiosity and disobedience. Pandora’s Box is also seen as the symbol of female sex organs. This is because there is a popular belief that women can utilize their sex organs to lead men to all sorts of trouble. These days the term Pandora’s Box symbolizes something that holds or releases evil. Opening Pandora's Box implies creating serious trouble that cannot be undone.


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