Pandora | The first Woman

Pandora Greek Mythology

Pandora (in classical Greek: Πανδώρα, "the one who gives everything", "the one who possesses everything", "the one who takes everything away"), in Greek mythology, was the first woman, created by Hephaestus and Athena at the request of Zeus in order to please men.

The myth of Pandora is a kind of theodicy, as it tries to explain the origin of evil in the world, which, according to the myth, would have arisen when Pandora opened "Pandora's Box", spreading all evil throughout the world. Some believe that Hesiod's interpretation of the Pandora myth influenced both Jewish and Christian theology.


The name Pandora originates from the union of the Greek elements "pan", meaning "all" and "doron", meaning "gift".


According to the myth, Zeus was enraged, at the humans, who received the art of making fire from Prometheus, and decided to give humanity a "gift" that would result in punishment, to make up for the advantage they received from Prometheus.

Thus, he ordered Hephaestus (heavenly artist, god of fire, metals and metallurgy) to mold from the earth the first woman, a "beautiful wickedness", whose descendants would torment the human race.

Then Athena (goddess of strategy in war, civilization, wisdom, art, justice and skill) dressed her in a silver gown, an embroidered veil, garlands and an ornate silver crown.

Hermes gave her "a shameless mind and a deceitful nature," the power of speech, adding "lies and cunning words." In addition, other gods gave her other qualities, such as grace, beauty, persuasion, intelligence, patience, gentleness, and skill in dancing and crafts.

Made in the likeness of the immortal goddesses, when she first appeared before men, "wonder took hold of them", but she was "pure cunning, not to be resisted by men".

She was sent to the titan Epimetheus, whom Prometheus had recommended not to receive any gifts from the gods. Seeing her radiant beauty, Epimetheus forgot what his brother had told him and took her as his wife.

As a wedding gift, the gods gave Epimetheus a box containing all the evils. Pandora, contrary to an express order to the contrary, dominated by her immense curiosity, opened the box, and all the evils were spread throughout the world, and only hope remained in the box. Thus ended the times of innocence and bliss, known as the Golden Age.

Hesiod tells the myth of Pandora twice; in the Theogony he does not name her, but says (590-593):

From her comes the race of women and the female gender
from her comes the deadly race of women
who bring trouble to the mortal men among whom they live,
never companions in hateful poverty, but only in wealth.
In The Labors and the Days (60-105), Hesiod retells the myth, this time calling the first woman Pandora.

In this version, too, at Zeus' behest, Hephaestus molds in clay a lovely girl, Athena teaches her the arts of weaving, Aphrodite beautifies her, and Hermes gives her "a shameless mind and a deceitful nature" (67-8).

The karrites and the hours adorn her, and finally Hermes gives her a voice and a name, Pandora, because "all who inhabit Olympus have given her a gift, a plague for those who eat bread" (81-2). And Hermes takes her to Epimetheus, who receives her. The evil (diseases and labor) begins when Pandora opens the jar and countless plagues come out of it. However, hope did not come out of the jar.

Some scholars have pointed out the similarities between the figures of Pandora and Eve, for in both mythological perspectives, a woman would have contributed decisively to bringing evils into the world.


The inversion of the myth

Jane Ellen Harrison, studying Greek pottery suggests that there was before Hesiod another version of the Pandora myth.

An amphora from the 5th century BCE, shows Pandora rising from the earth (anodos) in the presence of Hephaestus, Hermes, and Zeus. This representation was common for the earth goddess (as Gaia or another of her forms).

"Pandora is, in ritual and matriarchal mythology, the earth as Kore, but in Hesiod's patriarchal mythology her great figure is strangely transformed and diminished."

In a profound study of the transformation of the myth, Dora and Erwin Panofsky survey all literary and iconographic references about it. Among the Romans it was never much cited, disappeared in the Middle Ages, and only resurfaced in the Renaissance in France.