The story of Pandora came into prominence in Theogony, the epic poem of Hesiod, written in the 8th century BC. The myth dates back to the first centuries of humanity, just after the Titanomachy, the Great War between the Titans and the Olympians. It is interesting to note that the reference to Pandora's Box came only in the 16th century from Erasmus of Rotterdam. The bottom line is that the entire story about Pandora was fabricated. It may be considered as a misogynist stand that the creation of woman was the harbinger of all evil on this world.
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Discover the myth of Pandora, the first woman
The creation of Pandora
All started from a gathering of the gods, where the Titans were also invited. The gathering had been organized to decide who would be favored with the better portion of a sacrifice. Prometheus, the Titan who later stole the fire from the Gods and gave it to humanity, had deviously presented the sacrifice in such a manner that Zeus chose the portion that looked more appealing when in fact it was just bones presented in a tempting manner.
Outraged at this mockery, Zeus decided to take revenge and get even with Prometheus. Zeus charged Hephaestus, the god of smiths and master of crafts, with creating a dazzlingly beautiful woman, one that would appear irresistible to either god or man. To accomplish this feat Aphrodite, the goddess of love, posed as a model for the creation of the statue.
The woman was molded of earth and water and once the body was ready, the Four Winds breathed life into it. She was then given gifts from all the Olympian gods. Aphrodite gave to her unparalleled beauty, grace and desire. Hermes, the messenger god, gave her a cunning, deceitful mind and a crafty tongue. Athena clothed her and taught her to be deft with her hands. Poseidon bestowed on her a pearl necklace that would prevent her from drowning. Apollo taught her to play the lyre and to sing. Zeus gave her a foolish, mischievous and idle nature and last but not least, Hera gave her the wiliest gift, curiosity.
Thus, the first mortal woman was born and she descended down to earth. Her name was Pandora, meaning all-gifted, implying all the gifts she had received from gods. Along with her, Hermes gave a gilded and intricately carved box, a gift from Zeus with an explicit warning that she must never open it, come what may. Draped in raiment fit for the gods, she was presented to Epimetheus, Prometheus' half-brother.
Opening the box
Epimetheus had been told by his brother never to accept any gift from Zeus. Prometheus was well aware that Zeus was still angry with him for his effrontery at the gathering and would try to get his revenge. However, one look at Pandora was all it took for Epimetheus to fall in crazy love with her and marry her without thought or consideration. He was truly enchanted with her.
To congratulate them, Hermes came to the wedding ceremony and told Epimetheus that Pandora was a gift from Zeus, a peace-offer signifying that there were no more ill feelings between the chief of the gods and Prometheus. He also told Epimetheus that the gilded box of Pandora was a wedding gift from the Olympian King. Being a bit credulous, Epimetheus believed the words of Hermes to be true. Unfortunately, Prometheus' advice had fallen on deaf ears.
The days were passing quickly and the two were leading a happy, married life but one thought was still at the back of Pandora's mind: what was in the box that Zeus had given her? She kept thinking that maybe the box had money in it, nice clothes or even jewelry. Without thought or reason, she would find herself walking past the box and involuntarily reaching out to open it.
Every time, she was reminding herself that she had vowed never to open the box. Hera's gift of curiosity had worked and one day, unable to take it any more, she decided to have just a brief look inside. When nobody was around, she fitted a golden key hanging around her neck to the lock on the box. Turning the key slowly, she unlocked the box and lifted the lid only for a while. Before she knew it, there was a hissing sound and a horrible odor permeated the air around her. Terrified, she slammed the lid down but it was too late.
Pandora had released all the wickedness and malevolence that Zeus had locked into the box. That time, she understood that she was a mere pawn in a great game played by the gods. In that gilded box, Zeus had hidden all everything that would plague man forever: sickness, death, turmoil, strife, jealousy, hatred, famine, passion... everywhere the evil spread.
Pandora felt the weight of the world on her shoulders and looked at the gilded box that had turned rusty and hideous. As if sensing her need, a warm and calming feeling shrouded her and she knew that not all was lost. Unknown to her, along with the evil feelings, she had also revealed hope, the only good thing that Zeus had trapped inside the box. From now on, hole would live with man forever, to give him succor just when he felt that everything was coming to an end.
The modern phrase "Pandora's Box" derives from this myth. It is used to say that a certain action provoked many evils, just like Pandora's action to open the box released all the evils of humanity. However, despite these evils, we humans still have hope to encourage us. This phrase was produced by the Dutch humanist and theologian Erasmus of Rotterdam in the 16th century, when he translated the poem of Hesiod.
Pandora and Eve
In this myth, we can observe some similarities with the Christian story of Adam and Eve. Just like Pandora in ancient Greece, Eve was known as the first woman on earth in Hebrew history. Even the creation of the two women is similar: Pandora was made of earth and water and Eve from the rib of Adam, the first man on earth, who was in his turn made of slay.
Another similarity is that they both disobeyed god: Pandora opened the box and unleashed evil in the world and Eve tempted Adam to eat the forbidden apple, against God's will. Some accounts maintain that Pandora tempted Epimetheus into opening the box. However, both women brought ruin and misfortune upon men who had so far lived in a paradisiacal world, free from all sins.
Pandora and Eve are considered as the progenitors of the human race and because of their curiosity, the world is cursed today. Interestingly, Pandora was created with vicious intentions but not so Eve, who was simply created to be Adam's companion. The treachery lay in the role of Hermes and the Snake respectively. In Pandora, Hermes instilled that she must never open the box and had Hera not gifted her curiosity, it may have remained closed forever.
In the Garden of Eden, the Snake tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit from the Tree of Knowledge and Life, bringing about realization and shame. From these two stories, we can imply that women have forever been seen as perpetrators of all that is deceitful and therefore women are to blame for every evil on this world.