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In Greek mythology, Pandora ("all gifted") was the first woman, fashioned by Zeus as part of the punishment of mankind for Prometheus' theft of the secret of fire. According to the myth, Pandora opened a container releasing all the miseries of mankind—greed, vanity, slander, envy, pining—leaving only hope inside.
The myth of Pandora is very old, appears in several distinct versions, and has been interpreted in many ways. In all literary versions, however, the myth is a kind of theodicy, addressing the question of why there is evil in the world. Hesiod, both in his Theogony (briefly, without naming Pandora outright, line 570) and in Works and Days, ca. 700 BC, has a very early told and literary version of the Pandora story.  In modern times, Pandora's Box has become a metaphor for the unanticipated consequences of technical and scientific development. The evidence of the vase-painters reveals another, earlier aspect of Pandora.
 The Myth According to Hesiod
The titan Epimetheus ("hindsight") was responsible for giving a positive trait to each and every animal. However, when it was time to give man a positive trait, as Prometheus, his brother, had taken much longer to create man, there was nothing left. Prometheus ("foresight"), his brother, felt that because man was superior to all other animals, man should have a gift no other animal possessed. So Prometheus set forth to steal fire from Zeus and handed it over to man.
Zeus, enraged, decided to punish Prometheus. To punish Prometheus, Zeus chained him in unbreakable fetters and set an eagle over him to eat his liver each day, as the eagle is Zeus's sacred animal. Prometheus was an immortal, so the liver grew back every day, but he was still tormented daily from the pain, until he was freed by Heracles during The Twelve Labours. Another possible reason for Prometheus' torment was because he knew which of Zeus' lovers would bear a child who would eventually overthrow Zeus. Zeus commanded that Prometheus reveal the name of the mother, but Prometheus refused, instead choosing to suffer the punishment.
However, Zeus also had to punish mankind. The punishment was woman. More specifically, Pandora, her name meaning 'all gifts'. Pandora was given several traits from the different gods: Hephaestus molded her out of clay and gave her form; Athena clothed her and the Charites adorned her with necklaces made by Hephaestus; Aphrodite gave her beauty; Apollo gave her musical talent and a gift for healing; Demeter taught her to tend a garden; Poseidon gave her a pearl necklace and the ability to never drown; Hera gave her curiosity; Hermes gave her cunning, boldness, and charm. In the mind of this girl, Zeus gave her insatiable curiosity and mischievousness. Thus the name Pandora—"all gifts"—in Hesiod's version derives from the fact that she received gifts from all deities.
The most significant of these gifts, however, was a pithos or storage jar, given to Pandora either by Hermes or Zeus. Before he was chained to the rock, Prometheus had warned Epimetheus not to take any gifts from the gods. However, when Pandora arrived, he fell in love with her. Hermes told Epimetheus that Pandora was a gift to the titan from Zeus, and he warned Epimetheus not to open the jar, which was Pandora's dowry.
Until then, mankind lived life in a paradise without worry. Epimetheus told Pandora never to open the jar she had received from Zeus. However, Pandora's curiosity got the better of her and she opened it, releasing all the misfortunes of mankind: "For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills [kakoi] and hard toil [ponoi] and heavy sickness [nosoi argaleai] which bring the Keres [baleful spirits] upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly" (Hesiod, Works and Days). once opened, she shut it in time to keep one thing in the jar: hope 1. The world remained extremely bleak for an unspecified interval, until Pandora "chanced" to revisit the box again, at which point Hope fluttered out. Thus, mankind always has hope in times of evil.
In another, more philosophical version of the myth, hope (Elpis) is considered the worst of the potential evils, because it is equated with terrifying foreknowledge. By preventing hope from escaping the jar, Pandora in a sense saves the world from the worst damage.
 Problems and mistranslation
Most scholars 2 contend that Pandora's "box" is a mistranslation, and her "box" may have been a large jar or vase, forged from the earth, perhaps because of similarities in shape between a jar and a woman's uterus 4. There is also evidence 3 to suggest that Pandora herself was the "jar".
The mistranslation is usually attributed to the 16th Century Humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam when he translated Hesiod's tale of Pandora. Hesiod uses the word "pithos" which refers to a jar used to store grain. It is possible that Erasmus confused "pithos" with "pyxis" which means box. The scholar M.L. West has written that Erasmus may have mixed up the story of Pandora with the story found elsewhere of a box which was opened by Psyche 5.
The original Greek text from 700 BC of Hesiod's Works and Days, whence we get the earliest extant story of Pandora and the jar, does not specify exactly what was in the box Pandora opened. 7
M.L. West has written that the story of Pandora and her jar is from a pre-Hesiodic myth, and that this explains the confusion and problems with Hesiod's version and its inconclusiveness. He writes that in earlier myths, Pandora was married to Prometheus, and cites the ancient Catalogue of Women as preserving this older tradition, and that the jar may have at one point contained only good things for mankind. He also writes that it may have been that Epimetheus and Pandora and their roles were transposed in the pre-Hesiodic myths, a "mythic inversion". He remarks that there is a curious correlation between Pandora being made out of earth in Hesiod's story, to what is in Apollodorus that Prometheus created man from water and earth. (Apollodorus, Library and Epitome, ed. Sir James George Frazer. ) 8
The story of Pandora's Box can be interpreted in more than one way, but is often thought to be a version of "curiosity killed the cat".
Various feminist scholars believe that in an earlier set of myths, Pandora was the Great Goddess, provider of the gifts that made life and culture possible, and that Hesiod's tale can be seen as part of a propaganda campaign to demote her from her previously revered status. For an alternate view of Pandora, see Charlene Spretnak's Lost Goddesses of Early Greece; A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Mythology, 1978. The presence of hope in a jar full of evils for mankind raises questions about whether Hope is a comfort for the evil mankind experiences, or whether the hope for something better must be interpreted as the damnation of mankind.
 Pandora as depicted by the vase-painters
Jane Ellen Harrison turned to the repertory of vase-painters to shed light on aspects of myth that were left unaddressed or disguised in literature. The story of Pandora was repeated on Greek ceramics. on a fifth century amphora in the Ashmolean Museum (her fig.71) the half-figure of Pandora emerges from the ground, her arms upraised in the epiphany gesture, to greet Epimetheus. A winged ker with a fillet hovers overhead: "Pandora rises from the earth; she is the Earth, giver of all gifts," Harrison observes. on another vase showing the fashioning of Pandora she is inscribed with her alternative name: [A]nesidora ("who sends up gifts"). "Pandora is a form or title of the Earth-goddess in the Kore form, entirely humanized and vividly personified by mythology." Harrison notes (p. 281), and she quotes a scholium on a passage of Aristophanes mentioning a sacrificed white-fleeced ram to Pandora: "to Pandora, the earth, because she bestows all things necessary for life". Thus Harrison concludes "in the patriarchal mythology of Hesiod her great figure is strangely changed and minished. She is no longer Earth-Born, but the creature, the handiwork of Olympian Zeus." (Harrison, p 284)
1 C.H. Moore, p.37: the word for "hope" in Greek, Ελπις, "elpis", and its context in Hesiod's Works and Days, line 96, Moore claims is better translated as "anticipation of misfortune" rather than simply "hope". It is presumed that Moore is saying that mankind could avert some misfortunes by anticipating them with what was left on the rim of Pandora's jar. Some Greek lexicons yield some support to Moore's observation. Moore's exact words on the subject, on page 37, are: "She [Pandora] opened a jar containing every kind of evil, which straightaway flew out among mankind. only Ελπις [elpis] remained therein --- a word hardly equivalent to our Hope, but rather meaning 'anticipation of misfortune'. It is then the only plague to which man is not subjected. He is obliged to suffer, having been involved in the original sin of Prometheus, who wished to cheat Zeus of the sacrifice due him. Such is the sacred tale offered as an explanation of the presence of evils on earth". M.L. West also has an exposition and commentary on the word used, on p.169 of his Works & Days / Hesiod, edited with prolegomena and commentary. Pietro Pucci, in his Hesiod and the Language of Poetry, also addresses the full meaning of Ελπις, p.124, ff.51 and says "Ελπις properly means a larger set of expectations than our 'hope', for it implies hope, expectation, and even fear as in Homer's Iliad 13:309, 17:23, etc." Pucci goes on to write on p.104, that Hope was not always considered simply good for mankind, citing Works and Days by Hesiod, line 498 , "Hope [Ελπις] is a bad companion for the man in need who sits in an idle place, when he has no sufficient livelihood".
2 Hesiod, Works and Days, translation of the word as jar, not box. The word in the Greek text is πιθου ("pithou", from the base "pithos") which describes "a very large jar, usually made of rough-grained terra cotta, used for storage".  The classics scholar M.L. West writes about this issue on p.168, in his translation and commentary on Hesiod's Works and Days, confirming it was a jar, and not a box, and the many implications of that. For example, it was likely a jar as large physically, if not larger than a person. Cf. the original text of Hesiod, lines 90, 95. " For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sicknesses which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands  and scattered, all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds.  But the rest, countless plagues, wander amongst men; for earth is full of evils, and the sea is full. Of themselves diseases come upon men continually by day and by night, bringing mischief to mortals silently; for wise Zeus took away speech from them". 
3 Padraic Colum, Orpheus, Myths of the World, p.71, 1930. "The jar, like Pandora herself, had been made and filled out of the ill-will of Zeus. And it had been filled, not with salves and charms and washes, as the women thought, but with Cares and Troubles."  This should be viewed with scholarly skepticism as it is an extrapolation to see Pandora being the vessel herself.
4 Sujoy Deyasi, Uniphase: A Solution to Albert Einstein's the Unified Field Theory, 2003. "In the story of Pandora the box is representing a woman's womb (the uterus, the vessel in which a new life arrives in this world), and opening of it either by Pandora or by her husband god Epimetheus is referring to our conscious knowledge that we can have sex anytime. What came out of the box is human emotion."  This claim should be viewed with scholarly skepticism as it is far from the mainstream. It is only included here to fulfill a prior citation.
5 cf. M.L. West, Works & Days, p.168
6 cf. note 1.
7 cf. M.L. West, Works & Days, p.168. "Hesiod omits to say where the jar came from, and what Pandora had in mind when she opened it, and what exactly it contained". West goes on to say this contributes to the "inconclusive Pandora legend".
8 cf. M.L. West, Works & Days, p.164.
9 cf. Martin P. Nilsson, History of Greek Religion, p.184.
- Ewing, Lynne Daughters of the Moon
- Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion 1903, pp 280-85.
- Hesiod, Works and Days, 700 BC.
- Moore, Clifford H. The Religious Thought of the Greeks, 1916.
- Nilsson, Martin P. History of Greek Religion, 1949.
- Pucci, Pietro. Hesiod and the Language of Poetry, 1977.
- Smith, William, Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, 1870, article on Pandora,