Pandora plays an intriguing role in Greek mythology. According to the most well known legend, she was the first woman, created by the ruler of the gods, Zeus. Zeus
was assisted in his task by other Greek deities, including Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who used her powers to bestow upon Pandora grace and loveliness;
Hermes, messenger of the gods, gave Pandora persuasion; and Apollo, god of music and the arts, favored the woman with musical skill. Because of the gifts of the gods,
Pandora was very attractive - her name even means "all gifts".
However, Pandora had a flaw. She was curious. When she encountered a jar that belonged to Epimetheus, she could not resist learning about its mysterious contents,
and so she therefore opened it. This jar contained all of the evils, which were then released into the world. The only thing that remained in the jar was hope.
She, as the first woman, created after man, is sometimes compared to Eve in Hebrew myth. Pandora was originally a title of the goddess Rhea (the name means all gifts)
- but the story of Pandora and her jar (not box) was probably an anti-feminine invention of the poet Hesiod.
But even if Pandora had a jar and not a box, women as portrayed in ancient art are forever putting things tidily away in boxes of various kinds. There's even the myth of
Danaë, where she and her son Perseus were themselves tidied away in a box and dumped at sea. François Lissarague has discussed the idea that the box is symbolic of
women's' life in Athens - she was to a large extent herself seen as a container - for the sperm, for the child, who spent most of her life in a container (house) designed for
the purpose of allowing no unauthorized person to open the box.
There is a second myth which is less known that says Zeus created Pandora, in good faith, to be a blessing to man. Zeus sent with her a box containing the marriage
presents, which were given by every god. Pandora, being curious, opened the box and all the blessings flew out, save one, Hope.
It is said that the second myth seems more logical, for how could Hope be stored in the same container as all manner of evil and illness.
Unlike the today's associations with Pandora, we need to remember that this goddess's name means "all-giver" or "sender of gifts." And when the evils of the world
threaten, let us not forget that Pandora's box still, and always, holds hope.
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