Pandora's Jar

Updated: Jan 25


Pandora, by John William Waterhouse, 1896, private collection



The myth we are about to tell has originally been told in the poem Works and Days written by the Greek poet Hesiod for his brother Perses around 700 BC. Fun fact: the title Pandora’s Jar had turned into that of Pandora's Box in the 16th century, when the Dutch scholar Erasmus was translating the myth and mixed two Ancient Greek words up, πίθος or pithos (‘jar’) with πυξίς or pyxis (‘box’). That is why the story has been since then known as Pandora's box. In Hesiod, then, it’s a jar that Pandora opens. But who was she, and why is her jar so important? Let's find out! Do you remember the myth of Prometheus? If you don't check out our previous posts, because you will not be able to know why Zeus had devised a punishment for mankind that would let all the evil and the unhappiness spread into the world. Zeus's punishment is exactly Pandora, the first woman to have been sent down to earth, and her box - or rather her jar. Pandora, whose name in ancient Greek means all gifts, was molded out by Hephaestus, who gave her the beauty of the goddesses; she was dressed by Athena and graced by Aphrodite, but she was sent down to earth bearing a terrible gift for human kind, a jar that contained all the evil and unhappiness there was and that, if opened, would let them out, infesting the world with them. Pandora's job was to watch over the jar and never open it, but she didn't know what was in it: so one day she opened it, letting all the evil and the bad spoil the world. According to Hesiod's version of the story, she put the lid back on the jar just in time to prevent hope from escaping too!