- Pronunciation: pan-DOOR-ah
- Origin: Greek
- Role: Mortal
- Husband: Epimetheus
- Child: Pyrrha
- Symbol: Box
- Other Name: Heracles
Who Is Pandora?
Greek mythology mostly tells the stories of gods and goddesses. But Pandora was the first mortal woman. She was created by the gods to fulfill Zeus’ requests and then was sent to Earth to punish Prometheus.
Prometheus had stolen the gift of fire and given it to humans. Zeus was angered by this and asked Hephaestus, the blacksmith god, to create the first mortal woman. Zeus wanted to send her to Earth with several enticing gifts that would complicate the lives of humans.
Pandora is mentioned in Theogony, the poem of Hesiod. It was written in the 8th century BC. The timeline puts the story of Pandora just after the Titanomachy. Historians have noted that the evil roots behind the creation of the first woman can be classified as misogynistic.
Legends and Stories
The story of Pandora has been told through poems, stories, and even modern day films. The moral of the story is still applicable today. Here is the version closest to the original Greek myth.
There once were two brothers, one named Epimetheus and the other Prometheus. The brothers irritated the gods, especially Zeus. Zeus was accustomed to humans aggravating him and had punished them in the past by taking away their ability to make fire. Humans were unable to keep warm with the heat from a fire or cook their food.
But Prometheus was very smart and he knew where to find Hephaestos, a blacksmith. He also knew that because he was a blacksmith, his fire would always be burning. Prometheus went to pay the blacksmith’s residence a visit and when Hephaestos wasn’t looking, he stole fire back for his fellow man.
Zeus was furious when he learned of what had taken place. Since he had taken fire away from humans the first time as punishment, he knew that punishment for this offence must be worse.
Zeus thought long and hard about what he could do and eventually came up with a plan to punish first the brothers and then the rest of the mortals. Hephaestos, who was angry at the brothers as well, created a woman from clay. She was the first mortal woman. Athena breathed life into the clay figure while the other gods and goddesses gave her physical and emotional traits to make her human. Zeus named her Pandora and sent her to Earth as a gift to Epimetheus, who wasn’t as smart as his brother.
Prometheus became suspicious right away and warmed his brother to not accept anything the gods were trying to give him, especially Pandora. But Epimetheus began to fall in love with Pandora and eventually asked her to marry him.
Zeus’ plan was falling into place. He sent Pandora a wedding gift. It was a beautiful box, decorated like it was meant for a goddess. But Zeus told her that if she was to keep such a box, she must never open it. Even though she was curious, Pandora agreed to the arrangement. She accepted the box and promised not to open it.
But as time went on, all she would think about was the box. She was dying to know what was inside and didn’t understand why Zeus would give her something and then tell her to leave it alone. Finally, she decided to open it.
She waited until Epimetheus was gone, as she knew he would disapprove. Then she slowly opened the top and looked in. But instead of seeing jewels and gold like she had assumed would be inside, she saw the complete opposite. Instead of the nice wedding presents she had imagined, all of the evils of the world were inside the box. Humans had been spared from such things as disease and poverty, but now they escaped from the box and entered the world. There was also misery, sadness, and death.
Pandora quickly slammed the box shut but the damage was done. She began to weep and her husband heard her cries. He came in and asked her what was wrong. She told him that her curiosity had gotten the best of her. As he was consoling her, they heard a voice from inside the box asking to be let out. They discussed what to do and decided that nothing could be worse than what had already escaped.
Together, they opened the lid and allowed the final of Zeus’ gifts to escape. It is a good thing they did. The last gift was hope. It flew from the box and began to heal the carnage that was already sweeping over the world. So, while Pandora was responsible for releasing evil into the world, she also helped to give the world hope.
The moral of the story focuses on how curiosity can get the best of us but it is important to remain honest and strong, as we never know what the consequences might be.
Because Pandora was created by the gods, she did not have parents in the traditional sense. She was married to Epimetheus and had one child named Pyrrha.
In artistic representations of Pandora, she is shown as a young and beautiful woman. Her hair is dark and she is usually shown holding onto a box. In some pictures, she is longingly staring at the box, fighting the urge to open it.
Pandora is mostly associated with either a box or a jar, whichever is believed to have held Zeus’ gifts for mankind. She is also associated with the gifts given to her by the gods when she was created. For example, Aphrodite gave her beauty, desire, and grace while Apollo taught her how to sing and play the lyre. Hera instilled curiosity in Pandora and Zeus made her out to be foolish and mischievous.