Greek mythology tells the story of Pandora’s Box:
When Zeus was so angry at Prometheus for giving people fire, he was also mad at the people who had tricked him into taking the wrong bag of meat.
How did people trick Zeus?
Greek myths made easy
Lots of ancient Greece articles
Zeus makes Pandora to get revenge on mankind:
Zeus got back at the people by getting Hephaistos to make a beautiful woman out of clay, whom he named Pandora (which means all-gifts).
What is Hephaistos the god of?
What is clay made of?
All the gods and goddesses crowded around to make Pandora as beautiful as she could possibly be. Athena the weaver made Pandora a lovely dress.
Who is Athena?
The Graces made Pandora gold necklaces. The goddesses of the hours put spring flowers in her hair. But the god Hermes put words in Pandora’s flawless mouth, and he made those words sneaky and lying, so Pandora would do what Zeus wanted her to do.
Who was the god Hermes?
More about why Zeus was angry
Epithemeus and Pandora’s box
Zeus sent Pandora down to earth and gave her as a present to Prometheus‘ brother, Epimetheus. Zeus told Epimetheus that he should marry Pandora. Also, Zeus sent Pandora with a little box, with a big lock on it (Actually in the earliest versions of this story it is a sealed pottery vase).
So now Epimetheus is wondering, “What is Pandora’s box about?” But Zeus said not to ever open the box, and he gave the key to Epimetheus.
Pandora was very curious about what was in the box. She begged Epimetheus to let her open it, but he always said no. Finally one day he fell asleep, and she stole the key (or broke the seal) and opened the box (or vase).
More about women in ancient Greece
Who was Prometheus?
Zeus, the king of the gods
What was in Pandora’s box?
Oh! Out of the box flew every kind of trouble that people had never known about before: sicknesses, and worries, and crimes, and hate and envy and all sorts of bad things. The bad things all began to fly away like little bugs, all over the place.
Pandora was very sorry now that she had opened the box! She tried to catch the bad things and put them back in the box but it was too late. They all flew away.
Doctors and diseases in ancient Greece
What does the Pandora’s Box story mean?
But the very last thing to fly out of the box, as Pandora sat there crying, was not as ugly as the others. In fact it was beautiful. It was Hope, which Zeus sent to keep people going when all the nasty things got them down.
The moral of the Pandora myth
The story of Pandora explains why bad things happen to good people, by telling us that it’s because our ancestors were bad, long, long ago. We owe a permanent debt because they tricked Zeus with a bad sacrifice. The Jewish Bible has a similar idea with Adam and Eve eating the apple – the “original sin” – and then having to pay the penalty of working hard and having painful childbirth forever, them and all their descendants.
More about Adam and Eve
Some more ideas about debt
So was Pandora a goddess?
No, Pandora’s not exactly a goddess. She doesn’t have any power to change anything in the world. Ancient Greek people didn’t pray to her or sacrifice animals to her. On the other hand, in the Pandora myth, Pandora’s not exactly human, either. She wasn’t created with the rest of the humans. And she does have some similarities to the older Egyptian goddess Isis. But Isis opens a coffin, not a box.
Who was the Egyptian goddess Isis?
What was animal sacrifice like?
It’s probably better to think of Pandora as more of a metaphor than a person. It’s a story to explain an idea. You’re not supposed to think about Pandora as a developed character.
Do you feel you understand the Pandora’s Box story now? Ask your questions in the comments.
Bonus info: What is the meaning of Pandora’s Box for us today?
When people warn you about “opening Pandora’s Box”, what they mean is that you should think twice before investigating something. It might turn out to be a bigger problem than you were expecting. Maybe it will be more than you can handle!
For example, what if you suspect that two of your friends have been talking about you behind your back? Should you ask one of them about it?
What if it turns out that a lot more people were involved in this gossip than you thought? You might find out more than you really wanted to know. Sometimes, the story says, we should let well enough alone.
Even more bonus! Where does this story come from? How do we know the story of Pandora’s Box?
The first mention of Pandora’s Box in Greek mythology comes from the poet Hesiod, in both the Theogony and the Works and Days, accounts of the world’s creation and the stories of the Greek gods. Hesiod wrote about 750 BC, just after the alphabet reached Greece.
What is the weakness of this literature?
That sounds like it’s your homework? But there are many possible answers to it. What do you think?
you should add more info about how the dude stole fire from heaven
You’ll find that here: https://quatr.us/greeks/prometheus-greek-religion.htm
My dad has Diabetes and after reading this I have hope that it would go away. Thank you!!!!
People do sometimes get better from diabetes if they take very good care of their bodies, but also many people with diabetes live long happy lives even when they don’t get better. I hope your dad will too!
this is a vary good and teachfull thing because it gives off a vary good leasson. but ithink it needs more detale
What details did you have in mind, Gracie?
Thank you this is very useful.
thank gooody ness
I will like to know more about the story but it was a hit.
THAT IS REALLY HELPFUL FOR SCHOOL
I have a cold and I asked my mom “Why
does sickness have to exist?” My sister
overheard and said Pandora’s box so I
decided to look it up and see what it was.
Oh, I’m sorry to hear you have a cold! I hope you feel better soon!
I get it know because, I transfer schools a lot so I missed that lesson. My teachers kept making references to Pandora’s Box.
I’m glad we could help! It’s tough to change schools so much!
.. Indeed a great story to be narrated to generations
Was she wearing alot of jewellery in the story? (I’m being serious, nothing to do with the modern company)
Yes, Hesiod specifically mentions that both Athena and the Graces gave Pandora gold necklaces.
Well they do say that curiosity killed the cat
That proverb is, I would think, just a sort of short version of the Pandora story. But you may be interested in the longer history of the phrase: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Curiosity_killed_the_cat
I think you could have added a little more detail on how she originated. You could have said how she was made out of clay by the gods and the main reason she was sent down to earth
Thanks for the suggestions, Jake! You can find the reason by clicking on the links in the first paragraph – there’s a whole different article about that. You’re right that she is made out of clay: Hesiod tells us that Zeus “told Hephaistos, the famous Hephaistos, to wet the earth with water speedily.”
What do you think of the idea that hope is itself an evil? Hope could possibly be an evil that is disguised as a blessing. Hope is what keeps our punishment perpetual, much like Prometheus Without hope, the other evils would have long destroyed humans. Hope brings us to a new morning, much like Prometheus, to allow the evils to inevitably tear us down.
I personally doubt this is how the Greeks intended, with a modern understanding of history, I feel it is a compelling interpretation
Excellent page, great description of the myth..
That’s a valid interpretation, Fred, though not, I think, what the Greeks saw in this story. But it would be a great piece of writing, to write about the dangers of hope. Possibly also hope is what keeps us from vanquishing the other demons: we can just hope everything will get better, and that’s easier than actually doing something about our problems?
As an Ayahuasca Facilitator I explain to the participants of a ceremony that Ayahuasca (the holy brew of the Amazon) opens our box of Pandora. This inner box contains all our traumas and unsolved and unfinished [stuff] and negative patterns that [are] stored in the dungeons of our Soul. Ayahuasca is the key to open up this box. But there is also the hope to heal our traumatic experiences and change our patterns. I think that the box of pandora is the symbol of the unconscious memories that we carry with us.
Hi Joop, that’s an interesting take on Pandora’s box – thanks for sharing! I agree that we should see Pandora’s box as a metaphor, for sure. But it’s also just an explanation for why bad things happen to good people: a perennial philosophical problem for all people.
I understood it, thanks! I just have one question; what is the meaning of the wrong bag of meat?
Hi Ahmed! Did you click on the link and read this article? https://quatr.us/greeks/prometheus-greek-religion.htm
I think it explains about the bag of meat.
This really helped with my allusion assignment, thank you very much!
Yay! Glad we could help!
Hi I had to use this for a slide show on pandora’s box myth for my 7 th grade year in school and it was pretty useful so thxs.
I chose this as a story for a fractured fairytale assignment i am doing
That sounds like a great choice, Jayden!
I understand it because I learnt it in school!
Thanks, it was very useful. I first heard about Pandora’s box from the song ‘Migrane’ by twenty one pilots, so I wanted to find out what it was.
Thanks for introducing me to an excellent song! Here’s the link, in case anyone else is curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bs92ejAGLdw
Sup and very useful
Very very interesting and useful
I named my daughter pandora hope and she is everything wonderful in my life even though her birth was the beginning of my life with lupus. Ironic….
What a nice idea! That’s a lovely name. I just came from watching the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, which has a lot about hope and how important hope is. Have you seen it?
I often use the analogy of Pandoras box to describe what I deal with as a first responder. I see death, sickness, tragedy, anxiety, worry, and some real evils of this world that man kind can do but inside I carry hope. Each call I go on it one of those evils I manage to capture and stuff back inside the box. A daunting task with an immense burden to carry around. This helped me better explain Pandoras box to a loved one who asked why I don’t talk about my job that often. So thank you.
You’re welcome! Sending you lots of respect; that’s a very difficult job, and it sounds like you are doing great with it! Yes, there is always hope.
I have recently started to use the story of Pandora’s box as a parallel to help explain my struggles with my mental health. Ironically my name, Nadia means hope. For so long I’ve really struggled to find simpler ways to understand, describe and explain the confusion and chaos of my mental health issues I’ve had for over 20 years in any kind of tangible way. This parallel and analogy of this story helps me especially with my peer support work.
I facilitate a program/system/process for wellness called WRAP (wellness recovery action plans). There are 5 keys concepts in recovery used in WRAP; Hope, Personal Responsibility, Education, Self Advocacy, Supports. The first one being hope is the most important but at times the hardest to keep in mind when we are struggling the most. This is where I’ve come to think Pandora’s story is so relevant and really helps me through the darkest times.
Wow, that’s great, Nadia! My kids’ dad is bipolar, so I know this is a very difficult path to follow. I hope you will find methods and medications that work for you!
very very very useful
Thank you! That’s very kind of you. I’m glad we could help.
I used this for an Essay i had to write for English. thank you! it really summed up the story for me.
I’m so happy to hear it! Thank you for writing to let us know.