“Opening Pandora’s box” is a common metaphor in modern age and it means carry out an apparently innocent action which ends up having negative consequences on multiple people. Despite the  sentence is very popular, not all people are aware that it has ancient origin, exactly coming from ancient Greece.

Hesiod, in his “Theogony” and “Works and Days” talks of episodes from the 8th century BC, in which Zeus wanted to avenge the theft of the Divine Fire by Prometheus. He then chained down the Titan to a cliff, where an eagle was going to eat his liver every day a little bit more.

The organ was regenerating itself throughout the night, causing him inexplicable pain

Below: Prometheus chained down in a marble by Nicolas-Sébastien Adam. Picture shared  via Wikipedia – licence Creative Commons

In order to punish Prometheus’ creature as well, the human race, Zeus created the woman, Pandora, asking the Gods to give her all positive values. Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo the talent for music, Hermes the craftiness and curiosity, Athena dressed her up. Eventually Zeus gave her a box, with the order of never to open it up.

The name Πανδώρα – Pandora, comes from the union of pān and δῶρον, which mean “all” and “gifts”

Prometheus was freed by Hercules but in the meantime Pandora had married the titan’s brother, Epimetheus, despite his brother Prometheus had suggested to not accept gifts from the Gods. The couple had a baby, Pyrrah who was later on the mother of the women of the renewed human race, entirely exterminated  after the Golden Age.

Below: pythos  coming from Crete from 675 BC. Picture shared via Wikipedia– licence Creative Commons

Pandora, who did not hold back her curiosity towards the content of the box, opened up its lid and from the urn all the evils of humanity got released:

Oldness, jealousy, illness, madness and vice

Below: attic pythos from 430 BC. Picture shared via Wikipedia– licence Creative Commons

At the very bottom of the box, the hope, which had still not come out. The man, that before the opening of Pandora’s box had lived without pain or death, started suffering his human condition, and Earth became similar to Hell. At the end, Pandora opened up the box one more time, allowing hope to come out as well which, not randomly, is said to be the last one to die.

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Matteo Rubboli

I am a publisher specialised in the digital distribution of culture and founder of the portal Vanilla Magazine. I don't wear a tie or branded clothes, I keep my hair short so I don't have to comb it. That's not my fault but just the way I've been drawn as...

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