• Weird History

What Was Actually Inside Pandora's Box?

The myth of Pandora is one for the ages. Woman, created to punish man, accidentally releases all of the world's horrors, unleashing evil on Earth. Maybe not a bedtime story for children. But what came out of Pandora's box? Who knew exactly what was inside and what would come flying out? And who is Pandora, the enigmatic first woman, the curious creation of the gods?

Pandora's story is one told long before modern language, lending itself to a long history of lore and misinterpretation. Her myth is a moral story, a warning to heed that maybe curiosity does kill the cat.

  • Photo: F.S. Church / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Pandora Was, According To Myth, The First Woman On Earth

    When Prometheus stole fire from the gods, Zeus created Pandora as a punishment for mankind. One would think Zeus had doled out enough punishment after sentencing Prometheus to spend an eternity chained to a rock while birds pecked at his liver, but it seemed the king of the gods had more in store.

    Zeus commissioned the god Hephaestus to sculpt a beautiful woman out of clay, and she was given gifts from a few gods before she was sent down to fulfill her purpose. Pandora was sent to be the wife of Epimetheus (Prometheus's brother), and only brought one thing with her: a container full of all the world's evils. 

    Of course, Zeus didn't tell Pandora what was inside the box - instead, he told her to never open it, and then gave the key to her husband, because when you tell someone to not do something, you put temptation as close as possible. Can you blame her for sneaking a peek? 

  • Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    In Some Myths, Pandora Doesn't Have An Actual Box

    Some details may have been lost in translation when it comes to Pandora's myth. The most famous part of her story, the box, may not even have been a box at all. The earliest versions of the myth involve a "sealed pottery vase."

    What Pandora was given was called a "pithos," which translates roughly to "vessel." Pandora's box was more likely Pandora's jar, or Pandora's pottery vase, but those don't have quite the same ring to them.  

  • Pandora's Downfall Was Her Insatiable Curiosity

    Like any rational creature, Pandora's curiosity was piqued when she was given a secret container, told never to open it, and sent to earth to marry a stranger who held the key to this mystery vessel. Unfortunately, the temptation was just too much and it was this curiosity that unleashed all the world's evils.


  • Pandora Let All The World's Evils Out Of Her Box — But Left Hope Locked Inside

    The list of items released from Pandora's box are a handful: illness, worry, crime, hate, envy... basically any bad thing you could think of. They flew out of the box like little bugs, and Pandora tried to shut it back up as quickly as she could. She did, according to some of the versions of her myth, manage to trap one important thing inside: hope

    It is disputed why Zeus would even put hope in a vessel of evils. One rationale is that Zeus wasn't the worst, and snuck hope in there as some sort of nicety in the midst of all the other horrors. Another is that Zeus meant for hope to remain in the box, to make the people suffer even more, and make them understand why they should never cross him again.