Pandora's box

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Pandora's box is an artifact in Greek mythology. The "box" was actually a large jar (πιθος pithos) given to Pandora (Πανδώρα) ("all-gifted"), which contained all the evils of the world. When Pandora opened the jar, the entire contents of the jar were released, but for one – hope.[1] Today, opening Pandora's box means to create evil that cannot be undone.

Contents

The myth

Pandora (ancient Greek: Πανδώρα, from πᾶν "all" and δῶρον "gift", hence "giver of all" or "all-endowed") was the first woman on Earth. Pandora was created upon the command of Zeus to Hephaestus, the god of craftsmanship. Hephaestus created her using water and earth, while other gods granted her many gifts (for example, beauty from Aphrodite, persuasiveness from Hermes, and music from Apollo).

After Prometheus stole fire from Mount Olympus, Zeus sought reprisal by handing Pandora to Epimetheus, the brother of Prometheus. At the same time, Pandora was given a jar that she was ordered not to open under any circumstances. Despite this warning, overcome by curiosity Pandora opened the jar. Upon doing so, the evils contained within escaped into the world. Scared, Pandora immediately closed the jar, only to trap Hope inside, as was Zeus' will.[2]

In other versions, Hope does come out, though the main purpose of the myth of Pandora is to address why evil exists in the world. Many interpretations of the story overlook the fact that Pandora's Box contained all things evil that would plague mankind and Hope was inside this box, thus completely missing this second lesson of the Myth.

Etymology of "box"

The original Greek word used was pithos, which is a large jar, sometimes as large as a small human (Diogenes of Sinope was said to have once slept in one). It was used for storage of wine, oil, grain or other provisions, or, ritually, as a container for a human body for burying.[3][4] In the case of Pandora, this jar may have been made of clay for use as storage as in the usual sense, or of bronze metal as an unbreakable prison.[5]

The mistranslation of pithos is usually attributed to the 16th century humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam who translated Hesiod's tale of Pandora into Latin. Erasmus rendered pithos as the Greek pyxis, meaning "box".[6] The phrase "Pandora's box" has endured ever since. This misconception was further reinforced by Dante Gabriel Rossetti's painting Pandora.[7]

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