Have you ever wondered where the imperfections of humans originated, or possibly where the phrase “to open Pandora’s box” came from? The Ancient Greeks wondered exactly that, where the emergence of our shortcomings were realized, and looked to their mythology for the answer in ancient times. For this, they looked to Pandora, the all-gifted, first mortal woman. Her tale tells the story of a woman who was simply curious of something she knew she shouldn’t be about, and of that same woman who eventually gave into the curiosity.
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The Creation of Pandora
Her story begins with Prometheus. He was supposed to give each creature a gift after their creation; however, when he reached humans, he was unsatisfied with the choices he was given, so he stole fire from heaven and gave it to them, causing Zeus to view Prometheus as contemptible forevermore. This was because Zeus, then, was still trying to instill his power over the rest of the gods and Greece. When someone disobeyed him, he wasn’t very forgiving. He was now planning to exact revenge on Prometheus and mankind for what had been done. Nonetheless, to do this would require more than just brute force to work.
The creation of Pandora, as represented by the Ancient Greeks themselves. Zeus decided to exact his revenge through creating the first mortal woman. He ordered Hephaestus (god of crafting, blacksmithing, and fire) to make this first woman out of clay, with Aphrodite (goddess of beauty) as a model to make her beautiful. Each god gave her a gift to perfect her, some examples of such being these: beauty and grace from Aphrodite, the inability to drown from Poseidon, clothes and manual dexterity from Athena, upon others. But, Zeus had given her foolishness, mischievousness, and an idle nature, while Hera gave her curiosity, working to the advantage of Zeus’ plan later. This was where her name (which translates to all-gifted) was derived. http://www.theoi.com/image/img_pandora.jpg
Pandora’s Jar and Children
Pandora was offered to Epimetheus, a titan and half-brother to Poseidon. Prometheus was skeptical, considering what he’d done to anger the king of gods himself and using his ability of foresight to see something amiss. Prometheus knew that Zeus wouldn’t give up that easily, and warned Epimetheus not to accept anything from him because of it. Epimetheus didn’t care, though; he had seen Pandora and was enchanted by her beauty. It only took one moment after seeing Pandora for Epimetheus to make his decision on marrying her, which he did.
At Pandora’s wedding party on Mount Olympus, she was given a wonderfully crafted jar by Hermes and told to never open it. Now realize that the quality of curiosity had been bestowed unto her before by Hera, making the nights she spent with it unbearable. She kept wondering what was in the jar; she thought that maybe it was nice clothes, or even jewelry awaiting her within. She had to know what was in there, but she knew she mustn’t open it.
Day after day, Pandora was happily wedded to Epimetheus. But every day, the urge that pestered her mind became more and more tempting to give into. Eventually, she gave in to that urge and grabbed the jar, knowing that resistance was futile. This was the moment she’d finally know what the gods had given her. The golden key around her neck would finally have use as she turned it and slowly opened the ominous jar to peek inside.http://www.avrev.com/images/stories/news/Feb2010/pandora.jpg
Pandora opening her box for the first and final time.Instantaneously, before she could even react, all of the evils of the world flew out at that one moment. Jealousy, insanity, sorrow, death, old age, and a profusion of other ills were released. They would plague mankind for the rest of their existence, leaving only one good thing in their wake acting as the reparation to the species: Hope. She then closed the box and left it, never to touch it again.
Keep in mind that her intentions in doing this were not malicious, but were motives of curiosity. Zeus was the one who wanted revenge on man, and Hera was the goddess who gave curiosity to Pandora. Pandora herself was merely a pawn of Zeus’ vengeance. You could say this was curiosity killed the cat before the tale even existed!
Since death now existed for humans, they had an actual reason to reproduce. Pandora and Epimetheus had a daughter-Pyrrha-who was the first mortal child born. Pyrrha and her husband survived the Great Deluge, and had to repopulate the earth. They threw stones over their shoulder; stones thrown by Pyrrha created women, while those thrown by Deukalion (her husband) formed men.
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Impacts of the Ills
“The Greeks also used Pandora’s story as a scientific explanation to why humans were imperfect. She was the reason that humans were not immortal, nor free of sickness.”
In ancient Greek society, women were nowhere near having the equality of Sparta (which treated women almost as equals to men), with women exhibiting little to no control over what happened in their own lives. From an early age, women were controlled by their fathers, and after their husbands were chosen for them, their husbands were the ones ordering them around. The Greeks’ justification for this was the story of Pandora. It was supposedly proof that women were deceitful, and as such, deserved the treatment they got.
Pandora also had a relatively large impact on the arts. There are a few jars from ancient times that have been preserved, and some show Pandora’s creation on them. During the Renaissance era, there was a profusion of paintings made depicting Pandora (always with her box, of course). Her myth inspired stories and other visual artistic pieces through time after her myth had first been told and promoted in Hesiod’s and Homer’s works (specifically, in The Iliad and the Theogony).
The Greeks also used Pandora’s story as a scientific explanation to why humans were imperfect. She was the reason that humans were not immortal, nor free of sickness. In other words, Pandora was the science of humans’ negative traits, and how those came to be. It was a science before true science, to be frank.
To summarize, Pandora was not a goddess, hero, titan or monster. She was the first mortal woman, sent by Zeus to release each of the evils of mankind to the world. But was this punishment truly justified? An eternity of death, age, and sicknesses would seem to be a cruel punishment, especially for something that was completely out of the humans’ control. Then again, Ancient Greece’s values and morals differ greatly to ours, so it could have seemed reasonable to them, but not us. Regardless, this story will remain in its original form, providing inspiration to artists and authors alike, while satisfying the myth-loving population with its entertaining premises.
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