Summary: A box given to Pandora, believed in Greek Mythology to be the first woman on Earth that contained all the evils of the world.
The creation of Pandora.
The story of Pandora was written around 800 BC. The myth dates back to the first centuries of humanity, just after the Titanomachy, the Great War between the Titans and the Olympians.
In classical Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on Earth. At one time the only mortals on the earth were men. Prometheus had made them, Athene had breathed life into them and Zeus did not like them.
One day Prometheus was trying to solve a quarrel between the gods and the men. At a festival the men were going to sacrifice a bull for the first time. They asked him which parts of the bull should be offered to the gods and which should be eaten by men. Prometheus decided to play a trick on Zeus. He killed the bull, skinned it and butchered it. He split it into two portions; in one he put the best, lean meat. In the second he put bones followed by a thick layer of fat. Prometheus offered both to Zeus to take his choice. Zeus looked at both portions; one looked good but was rather on the small side, the other was much larger and covered in a layer of fat, which Zeus felt must cover the best, tastiest portion of meat. He chose that one. When Zeus realised that he had been tricked he was furious. He took fire away from man so that they could never cook their meat or feel warm again.
Prometheus reacted immediately flying to the Isle of Lemnos where he knew the smith Hephaestus had fire. He carried a burning torch back to man. Zeus was enraged. He swore vengeance and started making an evil plan to essentially punish mankind.
Zeus ordered Hephaestos (the god of craftsmanship) to create a clay woman with a human voice, who would be so dazzlingly beautiful she would be irresistible to both man and god. The Olympian Gods then gave gifts to Pandora; Aphrodite gave to her 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 gave 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 finally, Hera gave her curiosity. Her name, Pandora, in Greek means “the one who bears all gifts”
Zeus was pleased with what he saw, but he had purposefully made her as a trap. He named the woman Pandora and sent her as a gift to Epimetheus. Epimetheus had been warned by his brother Prometheus that he should never accept gifts from Zeus because there would always be a catch. However because of Pandora’s irresistible beauty Epimetheus ignored his brother’s warning, fell in love with Pandora and married 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 box of Pandora was a wedding gift from the Olympian King. Gods told her that the box contained special gifts from them.
Pandora was given the instruction not to open the box under any circumstance. Overcome by her curiosity given to her by Hera, when left alone Pandora opened it, and all the evil contained inside the box escaped and spread over the earth- disease, despair, malice, greed, old age, death, hatred, violence, cruelty and war. She quickly closed the container, but it was too late as all of the contents had already escaped, except for one thing that lay at the bottom, the Spirit of Hope named Elpis.
Pandora was saddened by what she had done, and was afraid that she would have to face Zeus’ wrath, as she felt she had failed her duty. However, Zeus did not punish Pandora, because he knew this would happen.
The details of this myth have been altered throughout time. This is very common for events that occurred so long ago, stories can be distorted through word of mouth and as we have no hard evidence it is hard to confirm what actually happened, hence the reason why Pandora’s Box is seen only as a myth. However, through art and various other methods of communication, for example the pottery below, people have been able to draw their own conclusions as to what happened. This is only one example of how art has been extremely important in the passing on of information through time.