Pandora in Hesiod’s “Works and Days”

1. Introduction
2. The myth about Pandora
3. The symbolism of Pandora’s name
4. The analysis of Pandora’s actions and traits of character
5. Conclusion
6. Bibliography

Hesiod’s “Works and Days” is one of the most ancient literary work that conveys traditions, myths, moral and ethical norms and beliefs of ancient Greeks. At this respect the myth about Pandora is probably one of the most significant myths that was depicted in details by the author of “Works and Days” on the basis of oral tradition of ancient Greek mythology. It is very important to analyse Pandora and the myth at large, as it is depicted by Hesiod, since often it is compared to Genesis and different creation myths in other cultures. At the same time it is also noteworthy because it provides a lot of information about the role of women in ancient Greek society and how they were traditionally perceived. Also it is noteworthy to trace some personal traits of character that are critically depicted by Hesiod and that the image of Pandora organically incorporated.
The myth about Pandora
First of all, it is necessarily to briefly discuss the myth about Pandora in order to better understand the role of her actions, her motives and her personality at large, as well as her role as a representative of women for the future of the whole mankind as Hesiod, being a representative of ancient Greek culture, perceived or interpreted it.
Initially, as soon as Pandora was created, she was sent to Epimetheus by Zeus as a punishment for Prometheus disobedience when he brought fire to people and in such a way rebelled against Zeus. In fact, it was a kind of revenge of Zeus to Prometheus and all people since Pandora’s creation was purposeful and she should be a punishment, notably, in his speech the main God of ancient Greeks underlines: “you are glad that you have outwitted me and stolen fire – a great plague to you yourself and to men that shall be. But I will give men as the price for fire an evil thing in which they may all be glad of heart while they embrace their own destruction” (Hesiod 1983, 55). Obviously it was Pandora that should bring all evils to men and it was she who was given as a gift to Epimetheus and he accepted her, regardless the warning of Prometheus not to take any gifts from Zeus.
Moreover, Epimetheus has got not only Pandora as a gift but also her dowry, a notorious Pandora’s box, which he was absolutely forbidden to open and Hermes, who brought Pandora, actually warned him about it. And Epimetheus followed the recommendation of Hermes and he also forbidden Pandora to open the box.
However, once, when Epimetheus was absent Pandora could not kept from opening the box and that was a fatal error a human being could make. As soon as she has opened the lid of the box she released all evils and misfortunes of mankind, including the most terrible things like different ills, pain, anguish, deceases, torment, pestilence and many other terrible things and only hope remained in the box. Since that time people could not live in a kind of paradise without worry as they used to but they had to face all the evils and problems that Pandora released.
The symbolism of Pandora’s name
Obviously, an ordinary woman could hardly make something similar to what Pandora did. In fact she played a crucial role in the development of the whole mankind, changing the life of all people dramatically. As a result it is possible to speak about Pandora as an extraordinary woman and her difference from others may be seen in her name, which is very symbolic and is traditionally interpreted as ‘all-gifted’ (West 1985).
Actually, she had really incorporated all possible gifts while she was created. She had got some gift from different gods. As Hesiod states that they contributed in different ways “Athena to teach her needlework and the weaving of the varied web… and golden Aphrodite to shed grace upon her head and cruel longing cares that vary the limbs. And he [Zeus] charged Hermes the guide, the Slayer of Argus, to put in her a shameless mind and deceitful nature” (Hesiod 1983, 60,65).
Consequently, she was created to fulfil her main goal, or to put it more precisely, the goal of a revengeful Zeus, to punish mankind and her name should be perceived by people as a warning but Epimetheus failed to realise the danger of the divine gift and he was severely punished for his careless attitude for this warning as well as all people in the world.
The analysis of Pandora’s actions and traits of character
On discussing the myth and the symbolism of Pandora’s name, it is necessary to dwell upon her actions and personal traits of character that permitted this woman to become a tool of punishment in hands of Zeus regardless all the warnings that Epimetheus received.
First of all it should be said that she acted boldly and she was brave enough not to obey to the will of her husband and opened the box. Actually this is the main deed that may be treated as an act defining the way in which her character and her personality would be perceived.
However, it is necessary to understand what made her to act in such a way. At first glance, it is possible to presuppose that it was a simple curiosity that was considered to be typical for women, especially in the ancient Greek society of the 8th century BC when Hesiod created his “Works and Days”. Nonetheless, on deeper reflection it seems to be insufficient explanation because Pandora was really a lever woman who possessed a bunch of gifts, which far not all women could possess. Moreover, she was practically an ideal woman who possessed typical woman skills such as weaving and needlework, she had got skills of heartbreak from Aphrodite, and she could provoke love and “all the aching sorrow of love” (Hesiod 1983, 65).
Obviously, curiosity should not be the dominating motive of actions for such a woman. Consequently, it would be logical to presuppose that Pandora had some others motives and reasons to act in such a way. At this respect, it is possible to presuppose that it was her greed that really motivated this woman to open the box. Probably, it may sound a bit strange but, on deeper reflection, it seems to be quite persuading idea.

For instance, it seems to be natural that a woman that possesses a number of gifts and has nothing but these gifts tend to acquire something else. It means that Pandora clearly realised her position as a gift to Epimetheus that made her practically equal to a thing because she was not actually asked whether she wanted to be presented or not. Furthermore, it should be said that she had noting but her dowry. Naturally, she wanted to possess it and obviously that the main feeling that filled her heart at that moment was, in all probability, greed because her husband, Epimetheus, provided for her everything she needed and the only thing she had to do was to lead the life like all other women in ancient Greece did. But Pandora was not satisfied with such situation and her position and she wanted something more, she wanted to possess what she probably considered to be of her own, her dowry. Moreover, she had “thievish morals” and “the soul of a bitch” (Hesiod 1983, 70).
Naturally, being influenced by her greed, Pandora opened the box where she probably wanted to find some treasures but, in stark contrast, she found nothing but different evils and misfortunes. It is noteworthy that Hesiod did not describe in details what was in the box. Nonetheless, he clearly stated that the only thing that remained in the box was hope. By the way, it may be another evidence of the fact that it was greed that forced Pandora to open the box because she did not let everything that was in the box go but apparently she did not know what remained in the box good or evil. This is why she probably believed that there remained something useful and good that remained in the box because she decided to keep it for herself. Symbolically, what she had got was hope and this was the only thing that Pandora and all mankind still possessed.
Thus, it is possible to conclude that Hesiod depicts Pandora as a kind of evil gift that mankind received from Zeus in punishment for the stolen fire. Obviously Pandora is a very contradictive character. On the one hand, she has got a number of gifts that make her practically an ideal woman in the context of ancient Greek traditions and socio-cultural norms. On the other hand, she had a number of negative qualities, among which greed probably the most significant one. And, basically, it is her greed along with other negative qualities, such as thievish morals, that made her to open the box and change the life of all people.

1. Hesiod: Theogony, Works and Days. Trans. Apostolos N. Athanassakis. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983.
2. Powell, Barry B. Classical Myth. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 2001.
3. West, Martin Litchfield. The Hesiodic Catalogue of Women: its nature, structure, and origins, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985.

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