Almost every one of us has heard the name of Pandora. We usually use the phrase “open Pandora’s box” – when we want to say that some of the acts we perform in life will bring us misfortunes. The ancient Greek myth says, Pandora opened her box and brought evils into the world. When she opened it, all kinds of bad things were released into the world and ended the golden age of man by throwing them to a life of death and rebirth. Pandora was the first woman created by God and was sent into the world as a punishment. At first, Pandora was seen as the life-giving goddess like Athena or Demeter. But with time, she became the sign of evil roots.
Pandora unleashes evil to mankind
The story of Pandora became prominent in Theogony, the poem of Hesiod written in the 8th century BC. In this version, we see Pandora as an unfortunate woman who became terrible for the world. According to myth, Pandora was the first woman made by the gods Athena and Hephaestus. Zeus was the one who requested to make her as a punishment for mankind as the result of the evildoing of Prometheus. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and then gave it to mankind. The god Hephaestus made Pandora from the earth just like the gods created the first man. All the gods gave Pandora some unique gifts. Pandora means “all-gifted.” Athena tough her crafts while Aphrodite gave her femininity, and Hermes taught her to be stubborn and curious.
When she was sent to humanity, she carried a pithos with her (an ancient Greek vessel) which is known as her box. The vessel contained all the pain, evils, and diseases that were unleashed into the world. The myth says that when Pandora saw the evils coming out of the box, she tried to stop it by covering the lid but she left one thing behind and that is HOPE. The golden age of man finished there, and the death began. Women brought birth, death, and rebirth into this world.
|“Pandora Opens the Box” 1892 painting by Walter Crane ( Public Domain )|
Another myth says that Zeus sent Pandora to earth and married her off to Prometheus’s brother Epimetheus. Maybe, he did that as a part of his bigger plan. Prometheus warned his brother no to get any gift from the gods beforehand, but Pandora’s beauty made Epimetheus crazy so he couldn’t stop himself. Zeus gave the key of Pandora’s box to her husband. Pandora asked her husband to give it to her, but he refused. Pandora then quietly took the key when Epimetheus was sleeping and unlocked the box. Again in another version it says, Pandora broke the seal of the pithos.
Pandora the Demi-Goddess
The name Pandora often comes with the epithet “Anesidora” meaning “ who sends up gifts” and it is a variation of Pandora’s meaning “all- gifted.” Some say Pandora doesn’t mean all – gifted; rather it means all- giving. The epithet Anesidora was commonly used for Gaea and Demeter. Pandora was also at first seen similar to these goddesses. Classical scholarship indicates that female deities can break themselves to create deities with lesser powers. The great goddess had the power to produce goddess with specialized features like Demeter, Artemis, Gaea, and more.
|Demeter, Greek goddess of the agriculture, grain, harvest, nourishment, and growth – (public domain)|
Pandora was also a creation of the breakdown. There was documentation that indicated Pandora as the deity of fertility, and she was beneficial for mankind. The documentation is not here now, but we can see it from the 5th century BC pottery. And scholars have been working to discover Pandora’s original functions prior to Hesiod.
It is possible that Hesiod demonstrated the myth to shift the power of women.
We are aware of the role of Pandora from an all-giving goddess to the all-gifted woman. Hesiod first wrote the myth of Pandora, and he didn’t include the previous mythology about Pandora where her role was a life-bringing goddess. Some argue that Hesiod was well aware of the power of Pandora and all the good she did, but he intentionally avoided those and portrayed Pandora as all evil. So, it is believed that Pandora’s myth written by Hesiod is not an authentic myth. Hesiod played the role of an anti-feminist as he knew he was shifting the power of women.
Hesiod tried to shift the power from matriarchy to patriarchy by writing the myth of Pandora which was also his way of showing the world how women couldn’t handle the power. Pandora was widely described as anti-Athena. Athena did everything she could to defend the male domination where Pandora showed the need for male control.
Pandora and Eve: Two First Ladies
In the Christian book of Genesis, there is strong collateral between Eve and Pandora. The two were the first woman in the world and each of them had a major role to play in the world’s transition. One destroyed the peace and the other brought death and suffering. Both of them were given one prohibition, and both of them violated it. They just destroyed the paradise they were living in by bringing all kinds of evil. Not only, they destroyed the peace of themselves but also for mankind, and they became the evil subject.
|“EVE” – 1528 painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder (public domain)|
One significant difference between the two women is, Eve was made by God for helping Adam whereas, Pandora was made out of wrath and as a punishment. The gods created two women for two purposes, but they did the same thing. According to some myths, the stories of the two women have been told over the centuries to make them look more similar.
#1 A Concise Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Pierre Grimal, Stephen Kershaw
#2 Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion by Jane Ellen Harrison
#3 Theogony: And, Works and Days by Hesiod