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15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Legend Of Pandora’s Box

High Life
15 Things You Didn’t Know About The Legend Of Pandora’s Box

It’s widely known that forbidden fruit is often the sweetest and the most tempting. What is it about our human make-up that instinctively causes us to want to do something after we’ve been specifically told not to? Pandora of Greek mythology knew about this struggle all too well. In fact, it served as the bane of her existence until she could resist it no longer. She was given a beautiful clay box (we’ll get into that a little bit later) and told never to open it but the mystery proved too much for her.

Greek mythology can be fun to learn about but it’s also a complex and tangled world to dive into. So if the story of Pandora’s Box has slipped from your mind since your school days or if you’ve never heard about it and you think this list is about the music app, you’re in for a treat. Because as an adult, there’s quite a lot to appreciate from Pandora’s tale. It’s jam-packed full of popular themes like temptation, arranged marriage and captivity. It also brings up issues like sexism and scapegoating. And in the midst of all that, there’s a creative and interesting tale about a Greek ruler, two spared Titans and a woman who was just trying her best to do the right thing.

15. Epimetheus And Prometheus – The Two Brothers That Started It All

The story of Pandora’s box all begins with these two charming brothers. If it were not for them, there would be no Pandora or her famous box of mystery. The brotherly duo were Titans and they served a very important purpose… at least to mankind. Epimetheus and Prometheus were representatives in a way, of mortal men. Backing up just a bit, after Zeus conquered the Titans, he decided to spare Prometheus, who represented forethought, as well as his brother, Epimetheus, who represented afterthought. It was Zeus’ idea to task the brothers with traveling from heaven to earth to create mankind. They did so but angered Zeus when Epimetheus hastily gave away Zeus’ limited number of gifts. It was Prometheus who asked Zeus for fire to give to the human men he created. Zeus refused but Prometheus went behind his back and did it anyway to help mankind. Angered by the betrayal (as he saw it), Zeus chained Prometheus to a mountain and decided to pull a shady move and give Epimetheus a passive-aggressive “gift” to get even.

14. Zeus Put Pandora To The Test (He Set Her Up For Failure)

Zeus was nothing if not temperamental as the legend goes. Sure, he was known to be a fiercely strong and impenetrable force, a protector and in some cases, a fair god but he was also known to rule his own people with an iron fist and didn’t like to feel that someone was getting one over on him. When Prometheus betrayed Zeus by being insistent on giving humans fire for survival, Zeus sought physical and mental torment as revenge on him by chaining him to the mountain and as for Epimetheus, well he had something much more premeditated in mind. He ordered that a woman be created and named her Pandora. He then brought her to life, told her she was to marry Epimetheus and gave her a box as a gift on the condition that she never, ever open it. From the tale, we can only assume that Zeus knew how great the temptation would be and how crazy it would drive Pandora. In some versions of the story, Pandora is “blessed” with the gift of curiosity. Though it’s not much of a gift in these circumstances and it seems like Zeus set Pandora up for failure. The punishment for Epimetheus aka Afterthought? The fact that his wife unleashed misery on mankind. But what did Pandora ever do to deserve this?

13. There Was Never A Box To Begin With!

It really was a jar but thanks to a mistranslation, we’ll probably forever refer to the legend as Pandora’s “box.” It is speculated that the jar was meant to be made of clay but it could have been made of bronze or another type of metal to symbolize an “unbreakable prison.” Unbreakable, only until the right curious woman came along.

The mistranslation occurred in the 16th century when a Catholic priest/humanist/scholar named Erasmus, known as Erasmus of Rotterdam decided that he would translate the legend of Pandora’s Jar into Latin so others could learn from it. While, Erasmus who wrote in a pure Latin style, was translating Hesiod’s famous tale of Pandora in his classic Works and Days, he confused the Greek word, pithos (meaning jar) with another Greek word, pyxis, which means box. That’s the story of the jar lost in translation.

12. Voices Calling From A Jar

As you can well imagine, seeing as how the tale of Pandora’s Jar is thought to have been written by Hesiod in 750 – 650 BC, there has been plenty of time from then until now for many versions of the story to have come into creation and along the hundreds and hundreds of years, it’s only natural that storytellers have taken liberties. One such is that Pandora was agonized by the many voices she heard calling from the jar she was never to open. In some versions, Pandora even heard the voices calling out to her by name and pleading for help. In those same versions, Pandora was confused as to why and how whatever/whoever was in the jar knew her name. If you go by this version, it’s kind of hard to blame Pandora for opening the jar as she was just a concerned citizen trying to be helpful. How hard would it be to not want to open a jar if you heard someone calling your name from it?

11. The Story Was Written For The People

If you’ve read the original story and found it to be hard fiction to relate to, know that its author, Hesiod was really Greek poet so that can account for the poetic flow and narration. The story’s target audience was people living in Greece in 750 – 650 BC who strongly believed in Gods and Goddesses which most did. The majority of Greece feared the Gods and wanted to do anything to please them. People who read Pandora’s Jar truly believed with all of their heart in what they were reading and took the morality warnings that the story teaches as valuable life lessons. It’s something like this that can help bridge the gap between now and ancient history. Throughout time, mankind has always enjoyed and learned from storytelling, just as we do today!

10. Pandora Was The First Woman Ever – And Made Of Clay!

The story goes that Pandora was the first human woman created (female goddesses were already in existence). Man had been created earlier for Earth by Prometheus and Epimetheus had created animals, angering Zeus by using up his special gifts (such as shells, claws and other protective means) so quickly. For his unique idea to be created, Zeus called upon the god, Hephaestos, a blacksmith, to form her out of clay. Zeus had thought out the idea of creating this special woman very carefully. In fact, her name means “all gifts.” He enlisted the help of goddess, Athena, to breathe life into her and for Aphrodite to give her beauty. Lastly but playing a very important role was Hermes to provide her with the skills to be charming and deceitful – all part of Zeus’ plan to get revenge of Epimetheus for giving away the aforementioned special gifts so quickly.

9. Pandora’s Beauty And Charm

The depictions of Pandora are plentiful and they vary. Sometimes her hair is dark brown, almost black and in some artwork, her hair is light, either red or light brown bordering on blonde. But she is always painted or drawn as beautiful. That’s because Pandora’s beauty was a big part of the story. Zeus made sure that Aphrodite spent extra time to ensure that Pandora was pretty enough to entice Epimetheus. And being pretty wasn’t merely enough. Her beauty had to be in such a way to convey her innocence.

That is because before Prometheus was dragged by Zeus to a mountain where he was to be chained, he warned his brother not to trust or accept any gifts from the gods as they might be tricks. Zeus, being the all-knowing ruler, knew this and made sure that Pandora looked the part. Zeus ordered Hermes to make sure that Pandora knew how to be charming and deceitful. Zeus’ master plan worked. Epimetheus was so taken by Pandora’s beautiful looks and her charming personality, he believed that she couldn’t cause any harm despite his brother’s warnings.

8. Why The Evil Miseries Had To Be Brought Into Our Mortal World

In a perfect world, there would be no death, no sadness, no misery, no despair, no poverty and zero diseases for any living being. So then why is there if, according to Greek legend, all of mankind and all of what we know, was created by gods and goddesses? I imagine that way back when, people who took in the words of Hesiod’s Works and Days must have felt frustration to think that everything bad in life we owe thanks to a twisted punishment Zeus doled out and to one woman’s curiosity. But perhaps, the people also understood that this is a way to accept the bad things in life. Because when the bad things in life can be overcome, we can truly appreciate and fully experience the great, wonderful things that life also has to offer. Maybe that still doesn’t take the sting out of the negative aspects that we all have to deal with in some range but it’s still a nice little reminder to enjoy and be thankful for what we have.

7. What Pandora Really Thought Was In The Jar

Some of the more simplified versions don’t go into detail about specifically what Pandora thought was in the jar. It’s just implied that she was curious enough to find out what the secret was, no matter what it could be. Many of us should be able to relate to that feeling. Even if we’re told we may not like what we find or that it’s really no big deal, the need to solve the mystery behind things can be too great to ignore at times.

In more complex versions of the story, Pandora fantasized that in the jar, there were gold bracelets, necklaces and oodles of gold coins plus fine silks and priceless beautiful dresses fit for goddesses… basically, one of the treasure scenes from The Pirates of the Caribbean ride stuffed inside of a jar. What isn’t implied is that Pandora opened the jar out of greed but more out of pure wonderment. Personally, I prefer this version to the plain version where Pandora opened the jar for the sake of curiosity. Even though she wasn’t greedy and couldn’t have known the consequences, something had to be the driving force behind the risk, right?

6. Pandora’s Helplessness And Despair

Poor Pandora. She thought she had been created to provide companionship (that’s a whole different topic on its own) and she tried so hard to please. But in the end, her need to know won out and ultimately had long lasting painful effects. Many think that the helplessness and despair that Pandora experienced after releasing the evil miseries is relatable to all of us at some point in our lives. As soon as she realized her mistake, it was already far too late. As much as Pandora tried to capture the bad things back into the jar, they were like smoke, impossible to catch. It’s important to know that there’s a (somewhat) happy ending to this story. Maybe the lesson is to know that no matter how bad things get, everything will be okay in the end.

5. Zeus Was Overly Vengeful And On A Bit Of A Power Trip

Zeus

Not to be disrespectful to a Greek God but doesn’t it seem that Zeus should have had some better and more important things to do than to plan attacks and set traps for Titans serving on his own team? I know that these stories were meant to entertain and more than that, teach but still… reading that Zeus was happy to see Epimetheus and Prometheus in misery does not seem very God-like, does it? More than that, he set Pandora up to unleash massive negativity on humans and then had the nerve to get mad at her for it! Even after, in some versions of the story, he gave Pandora the trait of curiosity. In today’s world, Zeus might have benefitted from a management workshop. And perhaps popping on over to an ethics workshop afterward wouldn’t hurt either while we’re on the subject.

4. Pandora’s “Wicked Curse” Gave Us Hope

One of the many lessons to be learned from this story is that hope is a gift in itself. Hope is free, available to all of us and always there if we know where and how to look for it. Imagine Pandora’s darkest moment. She had just accidentally freed death, sadness, despair, disease, poverty and all of the other evil miseries. From now on, mankind had Pandora to thank for this massive and permanent spell of terrible luck. On top of everything, she had greatly disappointed her husband, Epimetheus whom she loved with her whole heart. Her world had just imploded. And in spite of all that tragedy, she found hope literally calling to her. With hope, she found the courage to face Epimetheus and Zeus and ask for forgiveness. In our darkest moments, we may not hear hope literally calling for us but we can remember that it’s always there for us when we need it.

3. Pandora Opened The Jar More Than Once

With the basics of the story, we understand that Pandora opened the jar/box and all hell quite literally broke loose. But if you read different extended versions of the story, she battled her curiosity with the box, actually going so far as to unlock it more than a couple of times. In one version, the jar was on a high shelf and Pandora climbed up to get it one day when Epimetheus was gone. She found the key and unlocked it. But before opening it, she had a sudden change of heart, not wanting to disappoint her husband. The story goes that she did this more than once before finally giving in to her out of control curiosity. And in all of the versions, Pandora opens the container at least twice. Once is when she releases all of the evil miseries before closing it again. The second time is when she hears Elpis (representing hope) calling out to her.

2. Pandora Is The Curious Cat In All Of Us

Okay by now you can see that this story, being a fable of sorts, was written to teach us mere mortals a lesson. While there are many themes and valuable teachings to be found in the multiple versions of Pandora’s Box, the overwhelming theme is not to let your curiosity get the best of you lest you will suffer the consequences. It’s meant to quell the curious cat in all of us. In today’s modern times, one can’t help but question this lesson. Now granted, these were different times and sometimes in the B.C. days I can see where it would not be wise to rock the boat, so to say, in many kinds of situations. But in re-telling this story, is it good to teach younger generations not to follow through on their curiosities? I think Albert Einstein put it best when he said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” I’m with ya on that one, Al.

1. Pandora Was A Punishment, Not A Gift

Just to dig a little deeper into the fact that Pandora was created for the sole purpose to be given as a wife, the motivation behind this is quite disturbing if you really look at the trouble Zeus went to. No physical trouble of course, since Hephaestus handled that part by [order of Zeus and the various other gods and goddesses were ordered to help create her as well but this punishment for Epimetheus was long in the making. First of all, he and Pandora were married for some time. In that time, it’s a given that they created a marital bond. Secondly, Epimetheus loved mankind just as his brother did. For Zeus to create a sentient being that he knew would eventually be blamed for wreaking havoc on mankind forevermore, the mankind that her husband adored so much is just a bit creepy on Zeus’ part. But then again, the story was written in a time where gods and goddesses were to be feared. Mission achieved.

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