The myth of Pandora’s box

The myth of Pandora’s box is considered one of the most descriptive myths of human behavior in Greek mythology. Ancient Greeks used this myth not only to instruct themselves about the weaknesses of humans, but also to explain several misfortunes of the human race.

Pandora, the first woman on Earth

Pandora was, according to the myth, the first woman on Earth. She was created by Gods; each one of them gave her a gift, thus, her name in Greek means “the one who bears all gifts”.

Pandora was created as a punishment to the mankind; Zeus wanted to punish people because Prometheus stole the fire to give it to them. Her gifts were beautifully evil, according to Hesiod. Hephaestus created her from clay, shaping her perfectly, Aphrodite gave her femininity and Athena taught her crafts. Hermes was ordered by Zeus to teach her to be deceitful, stubborn and curious.

Pandora’s box

Pandora's box
Pandora's box

Pandora was given a box or a jar, called “pithos” in Greek. Gods told her that the box contained special gifts from them but she was not allowed to open the box ever. Then Hermes took her to Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus, to be his wife. Prometheus had advised Epimetheus not to accept anything from the Gods, but he saw Pandora and was astonished by her beauty, thus he accepted her right away.

Pandora was trying to tame her curiosity, but at the end she could not hold herself anymore; she opened the box and all the illnesses and hardships that gods had hidden in the box started coming out. 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.

According to Hesiod Hope indeed stayed inside because that was Zeus’ will; he wanted to let people suffer in order to understand that they should not disobey their gods. Pandora was the right person to do it, because she was curious enough, but not malicious.

The myth of Pandora’s box has been fascinating people since ever, catching the imagination of countless artists, who created frescos, mosaics and sculptures depicting Pandora and the mythological elements. The myth itself though appears in many different versions; the most distinctive difference is that in some myths Hope does come out. The main purpose of the myth of Pandora though is to address the question of why evil exists in the world.

The birth of Pandora was represented on the pedestal of the statue of Athena situated at the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens.

57 thoughts on “The myth of Pandora’s box

  1. This has really helped me for my English paper on greek Mythology- Thank you so much! I appreciate it… 🙂

  2. THANK YOU!!!!! This article about Pandora’s box really helped with my presentation during our unit of Greek mythology.

  3. Like everyone else, thanks for the help on my History Assignment with this article!! It shall be referenced in my bibliography!

  4. No assignments, just wanted to clarify the myth, which I still haven’t, quite. If hope is still in the jar, does that mean man has no hope, or we live in hope of hope? The conundrum of mortality, versus immortality.

  5. gr8………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

  6. Hi, my name is actually Pandora and I have read numerous different versions of the Greek Myth. Thank you for your version. I liked it alot. It not only tells us why she was created but how and what really happened when she opened her box!

  7. I have a couple questions about what happened to Pandora after she opened the box. Did she get punished by the Gods at all? What about punishment from the citizens? What did her husband think of it? And finally, what happened to the box?

  8. @Ellie
    I can answer some of your questions 🙂
    firstly Pandora didn’t get punished as she was created to open the box.
    also Epimetheus gave the box to the Gods after the evils were returned inside of it, so that it would be safe.

  9. Thanks so much! You are one of the only sites I’m depending on for a powerpoint about Padora’s Box! All the info you gave here really helps! I have to cite the websites where I got my info and I will definetely not forget to cite this! And I love Greek Mythology and enjoy reading it so thanks for all you’ve done! =) I’m gonna put a shortcut to my desktop of this site! Thanks and Bye!

  10. @ Ellie I believe that in this myth, after Pandora opens the box she dies from it or something I can’t remember but I do remember that there was a flood and the only people left alive were I think, a little boy, a little girl, a baby (idk what gender) and a mother and father so I guess only a family lived after the flood. Idk if it was adam and eve or what. Question 2: Like Ethan said she was created to bring mankind all of the evil so the gods were most likely happy with her because she fulfilled her purpose. Question 3: I don’t remember the citizens punishing her but that’s probably because they didn’t know she brought evil into the world. Question 4: I think her husband told her not to open it and I think he was really mad afterward. (lol I don’t remember most of the details! XD) Question 5: I don’t know. I don’t think they said where the box ended up in the story I read. Well I know this was way too long (sorry 😮 ) but I hope this helps anybody with questions, especially you Ellie. Bye! ;D

    • no ITEMS came out
      but: sickness, suffering, diseases, war, hard labor, jealousy, greed, & hatred were the CHARACTERISTICS that came out btw lol(:)

  11. I read this article mainly because I have a close friend who constantly states that she has the curiosity and restraint of Pandora.
    I never truly LEARNED about Pandora or the “Box/Jar” and your write up really cleared the Myth up for me.
    Thank you.

  12. So, i didn’t figure…

    does it mean that Hope is something noxious to humankind? and since it wasnt’ released we, as humans, were forced to live with hope within and always?

    Hope is a bless, hopefully.. 🙂 Otherwise we would just give up so easy.

  13. That was awesome to read and also nice to know that you have helped a lot of people with their assignments …

    I do believe that hope stayed or was trapped in the jar to be a lesson to all mankind .. when things are tough, or bad things are happening, we have hope to believe in ..

    where’s there’s hope, there’s a chance and if hope was let out of the jar, there would be nothing left for us to ‘wish’ hope for 🙂 xxx

  14. its great to see that so many people depend on this site for good grades!! i just did my english play for end of year exams and if i had known about this site i would have totally have used it, but because i didn’t know it existed i kinda had to get the story out of a book for children from 7 to 9 and im in yr 7 and 13 it didnt go to well for me, but now i know the real deal. thank you so much !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    xx <3

  15. Hejab, whether the story of Adam and Eve as actual individuals is allegory, myth, or history, no one can say authoritatively; however, looking at the dates of the Adam and Eve story in the biblical account in the Book of Genesis (dated somewhere between 1440 BC and 1400 BC) and the account presented in the Quran (dated over a supposed 23 year period of revelation as attributed in the Islam faith given to Mohammed from God starting in 610 A.D.), we are talking about the biblical account being written almost 800 years earlier than the writing of the Quran. Since it is well accepted fact that Mohammad was totally illiterate, he could not have personally written the Quran himself. If the Quran were written by Mohammed’s associates, why would they have copied it from 800 year old Hebrew Scriptures? If it really were dictated by God to Mohammed, why then wouldn’t God dictate the Quran to someone who could write Arabic? That makes no sense. Reviewing and comparing the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures to the Quran, it is lucidly obvious that much of the Quran was copied from them, with “political” changes of some details. Looking at the history of the Quran itself is quite eye-opening, when it comes to its historicity and reliability as a historical document.

  16. @hejab

    That is interesting! I knew that in Christianity Adam and Eve were the first humans, but I did not know that this was also so in Islam.

    But to answer your query: This is a story from the Greco-Roman religion. You could call it a myth; most do. I do as well. But in my opinion, as an atheist, it has about the same validity as any other tale from any other religion. It is true that people no longer believe in this ancient religion, but it still has a set of values, many explanations for phenomena unexplained at that time, and establishes such things as what happens after death, if anything is to happen.

    However, this is not your religion. Thus, you may apply to it the same validity as you may apply to Hindi, Native American, Buddhist, Christian, Wiccan, or any other religion’s, tales. The only validity I yield from it would be the psychology behind the creation of the story, but someone else may think otherwise.

    Religion is an interesting thing, and who is to say who is right and who is wrong, or what is right and what is wrong?

    This was a fun tangent I have drawn from your question, and I thank you for asking it, Hejab.

  17. This was a great help to me. My name is also Pandora!!! Me too. I thought the first people that came to this worls was Adam And Eve then they had many children and that is how we were born. I know that was a myth because people was formed from gorillas/apes. Ayway thanks for the amazing article! 🙂 😀

  18. This ariticle is amazing thumbs up for whoever created it :)….This really helped me on my project to help understand the true meaning of pandora’s box

  19. Alexandre, you ask a great question! It seems odd, doesn’t it, that something that seems as positive as hope would be considered one of the world’s evils? Yet there it was in the jar.

    My understanding of this myth is a bit different. You know, myths are not intended to convey facts, like a history lesson. They are stories meant to illustrate profound truths that are not easily perceived by people, and transmit those truths over thousands of years and hundreds of generations.

    The truth that I believe is being conveyed here is that when the world is perceived through duality (man/woman, evil/good, fear/courage, ugly/beautiful) we begin to seek knowledge instead of truth (symbolized by Pandora’s curiosity). Evil is then unleashed in the world.

    They myth is saying that there is a more profound truth about human existence that is not born of duality. There is a way to experience this truth of noon-duality that transcends the human mind and its perception of a world fragmented into opposites.

    This is why there are recurring myths of spiritual saviors who come from “virgin births,” i.e., from a place that is beyond the duality of man/woman. The concept of “beyond duality” is beyond the mind’s ability to understand, so the mind pursues knowledge about what it perceives as truth, not what is actually truth. So the spiritual saviors come to tell mankind that looking at the world in this way is creating suffering, and that there is a deeper truth.

    This deeper truth is referred to in various religions and belief systems throughout history. Buddha called it the dharma, Lao Tse called it the Tao, Christians call it our Christ-like nature or holy spirit, etc. All of the descriptions of this truth note its ineffable nature – too sacred to decribe! That is why you need a myth to convey the concept.

    So, what does this have to do with hope? At the core of hope is fear. If we know that we in our truest natures are this ineffable spirit, then we see unity in everything, we know we cannot really be harmed and cannot really die. In this way of being, there is no need to hope. The experience of this ineffable truth about who we are extinguishes fear.

    So although hope seems like a good thing, in fact it may be something that the mind clings to in order to avoid really facing our fears. The mind would rather perceive duality and struggle, since it thrives on these.

    hejab, the myth of Adam and Eve first appears in the Torah, not the Qu’ran. Judaism, Christianity and Islam share many of the exact same myths. In addition, myths in general have similarities – they are all talking about the same truths. It can be really very interesting to study the apparently different creation myths, for example, and see that the stories are in fact much more similar than they are different.

  20. @hejab everyone has their own religion and this is the ancient Greek religion.
    Everyone has a right to believe what they want to and nobody is right or wrong ( hope this answers your question )

    • Hi Matt;

      I’m a little confused can you explain to me, what is hope doing in the jar? Is it evil too? If it’s evil, why is it stopped at the jar’s edge?

      In “Prometheus Bound”, Prometheus says “gave the (mankind ) blind hope”. Can you please explain?

  21. i liked how your mentioned its a jar and not a box like the bad translations go… but don’t forget Epimetheus accepted because his name means ‘Afterthought’ he acts before the thinks, that’s the main reason arguably why he accepted, not plainly because Pandora was beautiful.

    -i know this story because i’ve majored my Bachelors in Greek and Roman Mythology

  22. Geez, this is probably the most descriptive myth on Pandora this has really helped me write my research report on greek mythology.

  23. This was a great article about the myth of Pandora’s box. It really helped with my Greek mythology project. Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 🙂

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