Quite often we use words and phrases in our daily life, without taking into consideration their literal or deep meaning. Opening the Pandora’s box is one such phrase that is commonly used by the elite and commoners alike. Most of the people do not know or understand the fact, that the story of Pandora’s Box is related to the mythology of ancient Greek civilization, that disappeared from the face of the world, many centuries ago.
Every great story has its origin in another great story and the story of Pandora’s box, had its origin in another great story of Greek mythology. Ancient Greek civilization in its heyday was a role model for the entire western world and its gods and goddesses caught the fancy of the entire world. For the ancient Greeks, Zeus was the all-powerful king of gods, who ruled with other gods of the Greek pantheon from Mount Olympus. Zeus was a benevolent god, until his rule and authority were challenged; and one such particular incident gave rise to a chain of events, which culminated with opening of the Pandora’s box.
Prometheus and Epimetheus were Titan brothers, who were the benefactors of the primordial human race. That appears to be a very noble idea, which certainly cannot have any negative connotation. However, Zeus – the king of gods did not think so, when Prometheus stole fire (which was exclusively for use of gods) and gave it to mankind. Although the gift of fire to mankind, contributed tremendously to improvement and advancement of mankind, but Zeus was furious, as rules made by him were disregarded.
As king of gods, Prometheus’s magnanimous adventure did not go down well with Zeus. Giving the prized possession of the gods to the inferior human race, made Zeus mad with anger and he decided to take a horrible revenge on Prometheus. As a part of his punishment, Prometheus was bound to a rock and everyday an eagle would come to tear apart his abdomen and eat his liver. However, his injuries would heal in the night and the liver would regrow. The same events occurred the next day and each day thereafter. Thus, immortal Prometheus was subjected to an eternal torment for his treacherous act of stealing the fire and helping mankind.
However, Zeus was not satisfied with just punishing Prometheus and decided that the human race, who had received the illegal gift, which did not belong to them, also deserved punishment. This punishment, in contrast to the one given to Prometheus, would be of much more subtle nature and almost incomprehensible. He decided to create the first human woman – who would also be the most beautiful and elegant, to take the breath away of any man.
Hephaestus – the Greek god of blacksmiths & craftsmen, was entrusted with creating the first woman. After she was created, Athena – the Greek goddess of wisdom, warfare and handicraft; dressed her in crown of silver and attired her in a silvery gown with garland around her neck and taught her weaving and fine craftsmanship. Aphrodite – the Greek goddess of beauty, love and procreation gave her beauty, grace and deep emotion, Poseidon – the Greek god of sea and water, gave her a pearl necklace, that would prevent her from drowning, Apollo – the Greek god of poetry, music and healing taught her to sing and play the lyre. Hera – the Greek goddess of Marriage & Birth gave her the gift of curiosity. Hermes – god of road, thieves and travellers gave her a deceitful nature, mastery over language and her name – Pandora, meaning “all gifted”, to represent all the gifts, she had received from gods.
In addition to all the previously mentioned gifts, she received two another gifts from Zeus himself. These gifts would be the cause of misery for all human race, in days to come. These gifts were – a trait of foolish and mischievous nature and the second gift was a heavy box, which was closed tightly shut. However, the mysterious box came with strict instructions of Zeus to be never opened in any condition.
Pandora was given as a gift to Epimetheus, by Zeus to show that he no longer harboured any grudge against Epimetheus, for the treacherous actions of his brother. Prometheus had previously mentioned to Epimetheus, to never again trust Zeus; but the first look on Pandora by Epimetheus, made him forget his brother’s advice. He fell madly in love. Very soon Epimetheus married Pandora and the couple settled into a happy bliss of married life, in a world where grief, hardships and struggle were yet to make an impact on people’s life; as these negative forces didn’t exist in the world at that time.
With passage of time, Pandora adjusted in her new life, but her gift of curiosity always made her ponder, what was present in the box that Zeus had gifted her & why did he tell her never to open it? She pondered many times, if the box contained precious jewelleries or other valuable items? However, the instruction from Zeus not to open the box, stayed in her mind. She controlled her curiosity many times, but she gradually grew more and more restless and eager to know about the contents of the box. Her obsession with the box grew with time and one day her curiosity got the better of her and she disobeyed Zeus’s instruction and opened the box.
Soon after opening the box, several monstrous creatures emitting frightening noise and foul odour came out of the box. Frightened with the unexpected occurrence, she waved in air in futile attempts to drive the horrible creatures to inside the box once again, without any results. She then closed the lid of the box, as fast as possible. However, it was already late. She watched helplessly as the creatures unleashed by her, slowly faded from her sight. These horrible creatures symbolised malevolence, wickedness, famine, pain, jealousy, hatred, turmoil, misery, despair, sickness, death and all other negative aspects of human nature and life.
The box had contained all the evil forces of the world, which had the capability to cause innumerable suffering to the humans for all time to come. Zeus had given this box to Pandora, being fully aware of the fact that curious aspect of Pandora’s nature would soon cloud her judgement and she would open the box in spite of Zeus’s advice of not to do so. Thus, all negative forces, which would soon become integral aspect of human life, were released into this world and Pandora realised how she had been manipulated by Zeus, but it was rather too late.
Severely perplexed as what to do next, she did the only thing that she could. She opened the box once again. The only thing still remaining inside the box slowly came out. This was nothing like the scary & terrible creatures unleashed before. It gave out a warm and comforting presence & Pandora realised that all was not lost. As the last remaining thing to come out of the box, was the only good thing that Zeus had put in the box. It was “Hope”. Hope would give mankind the strength to once again rebuild all that is lost due to misfortune. It would be the only force that the human race would have, when everything seemed to be lost and they appeared to be surrounded by insurmountable odds.
It is believed that Zeus’s intention was never to totally destroy mankind, but to bring balance into a strife free world. Prometheus’s gift of fire had given mankind an undeserved blessing and the negative forces unleashed by Pandora were just to neutralise the effect of an undeserved gift and restore the balance of nature. If humans survived and triumphed over these adversaries, then they had earned their existence and all other benefits which life offered. For a fair fight against the released evils, Hope was the gift of Zeus for mankind.
So, for all those concerned by release of evil forces, which occurred due to opening of Pandora’s box, maybe the story did have a happy ending. Those who remember the fate of Prometheus and felt sorry for the hero who gifted fire to mankind, and was condemned to be devoured by the eagle day after day as a punishment, there is also some good news. Many years later, Hercules – the demigod son of Zeus, kills the eagle and frees Prometheus from his torture.
Eve was the wife of Adam and the first woman to be created, according to the holy Bible. There are remarkable similarities between Pandora of Greek mythology and Eve of holy Bible. Pandora in Greek mythology is considered to be the first woman to be ever created. Pandora was made of earth and Eve was made from ribs of Adam, who in turn was made from dust.
Before time of Eve and Pandora, there was no hardship or misery in the world. However, by eating the fruit from the forbidden tree, which was done by Adam on Eve’s encouragement; hardships entered the life of human beings. Pandora similarly disobeyed god’s word and opened the box to unleash misery and all other problems into the world. So, both of these women are held responsible in their respective stories, to bring the downfall of man. If this is just a pure coincidence or a biased attitude of writers responsible for writing these great epics, remains a matter of speculation.
In the modern world Pandora’s box signifies the extreme consequences of exploring the unknown. The story also exemplifies the proverb that “Curiosity kills the cat”. It ultimately raises the age-old question, as what would be better? To pursue unchartered territories in quest of knowledge? Or something should be better left unsolved? Both views have their own supporters. Without courage and curiosity, mankind would have never climbed the peak of Mount Everest. But these traits are also responsible for presence of dead bodies of many motivated mountaineers, in the path to the summit of the Himalayas. Which path to choose? This question continues to haunt humanity, much after the pantheon of Greek gods & the people who worshipped them, disappeared from the face of the world.