Pandora

In Greek mythology, who was the first woman on Earth?

And the answer: Pandora.

Photo courtesy: Public domain. Painting by Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1836-1912).

The Greek god of fire and craftsmen, Hephaestus, was asked by Zeus to create a woman out of clay. The result was Pandora, who was gifted a jar containing all the miseries and evils of the world. Out of curiosity, Pandora opened the jar and accidentally released a swarm of evil spirits, but she was able to put the lid back on before Hope escaped.

After Hephaestus breathed life into Pandora, each Greek god bestowed gifts upon her. From Aphrodite, she received the capacity for deep emotion. From Hermes came the gift of language. Athena gifted skills of craftsmanship, and attention to detail. Also from Hermes, finally, came her name: Pandora.

Zeus, the most powerful of the gods, had other plans. He bestowed two gifts unto Pandora. The first was the trait of curiosity. The second was a pithos, a storage container similar to large jar or vase (often mistranslated as a box), with a lid screwed tightly shut. The contents, he told her, were not for mortal eyes. She was not to open the box under any circumstance.

Over time, Pandora became infatuated with the box. Her curiosity drove her forward; her cunning and intelligence drew her back. Eventually, Pandora relinquished, and cracked open the box. Evils swarmed out irreparably – Zeus had given the box to her to avenge the betrayal of Prometheus, who had stolen the fire of the gods and given it to humanity. However, Hope remained and persevered.

Today, "Pandora's Box" represents the extreme consequences of tampering with the unknown. But, Pandora's burning curiosity suggests the duality that lies at the heart of human inquiry: are we bound to investigate everything which we do not know? Or are there mysteries better left unsolved?

Learn more about the plight of Pandora and her box below.


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