Because death was released into the world, all hope is denied, so being stuck in the box means there is not hope in the world.

  • Although many of the other Pandora questions comment on this, the question itself is distinct, and focused on a particular interpretation of an ambiguity, primarily in the Hesiod, regarding the stuck status of Hope re: the jar lid.
    – DukeZhou
    Feb 22, 2017 at 2:25
  • @DukeZhou Personally, I'd like to see more expansion to differentiate it better from the other thread.
    – cmw
    Feb 22, 2017 at 3:23
  • @Phil see my note on Robert Graves, referencing Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (ii.1249) states that "Delusive Hope, however, whom Prometheus had also shut in the box, discouraged them by her lies from general suicide." I'm thinking hope being a delusion is consistent with your assertion in this question.
    – DukeZhou
    Apr 3, 2017 at 1:23
  • @C.M.Weimer see my note on Scholiast and let me know if you think that might be sufficient to differentiate this question, per the asker's assertion that "there is no (true) hope in the world."
    – DukeZhou
    Apr 3, 2017 at 1:24
  • @DukeZhou Can you create a meta post on this one, or perhaps ping me in the chat room and explain a bit further. Because of the brevity of the original post and your comments on the scholiast I still can't see the differentiation in place. But I think we can fix it.
    – cmw
    Apr 3, 2017 at 1:37

1 Answer 1


Quite the opposite:

"Zeus gathered all the useful things together in a jar and put a lid on it. He then left the jar in human hands. But man had no self-control and he wanted to know what was in that jar, so he pushed the lid aside, letting those things go back to the abode of the gods. So all the good things flew away, soaring high above the earth, and Elpis (Hope) was the only thing left. When the lid was put back on the jar, Elpis (Hope) was kept inside. That is why Elpis (Hope) alone is still found among the people, promising that she will bestow on each of us the good things that have gone away."

Aesop, Fables 526 (from Babrius 58) (trans. Gibbs) (Greek fable C6th B.C.)

Your take may also be valid interpretation in that Aesop does make the point that Hope can now only promise good things that are gone from this world.

Redemption after death isn't really firmly entrenched until Christianity. (Pagan traditions tend to be pre-occupied with cycles of generation as opposed to Abrahamic religions which are focused on redemption.) In most pagan religions, there is only an underworld to which people go when they die, generally not nice places. The Elysian Fields are an early take on redemption after death, but entry is restricted to all but a very few, unquestionably out of reach of the average person, and even most heroes.

...according to Aesop, but Phil said: "Because Hope was stuck in the lid of the box, it was bloody useless, and false hope was the only hope humans had, because they are all going to die and dwell in Hades forever, and all the good things false hope promises are gone from the world."

However, I believe Aesop was presenting hope as a kind of balm. Yes, nearly all of us are going to hell, but the illusion of hope is the only thing that makes life bearable.

Indeed, Robert Graves, referencing Scholiast on Apollonius Rhodius (ii.1249) states that "Delusive Hope, however, whom Prometheus had also shut in the box, discouraged them by her lies from general suicide."

Of asphodel, that greeny flower, like a buttercup upon its branching stem- save that it’s green and wooden- I come, my sweet, to sing to you. We lived long together a life filled, if you will, with flowers. So that I was cheered when I came first to know that there were flowers also in hell."

-William Carlos Williams

  • That's Aesop's version. Hesiod's is very different.
    – cmw
    Feb 22, 2017 at 1:08
  • @C.M.Weimer True, and although Hesiod's two versions are more detailed, both are ambiguous in terms for the question. I suspect Aesop might have even felt a need to clarify this ambiguity in the Works and Days version. Clearly hope exists in the world, but possibly it is only false hope, as Phil suggests. But another interpretation is that hope is all we have left, no matter how empty it may prove to be.
    – DukeZhou
    Feb 22, 2017 at 2:24
  • No doubt Hesiod can be subtle, and profound philosophical ramifications may be found in his stories as Aristotle demonstrates. Phil's interpretation is quite valid, but it is not the generally accepted interpretation, so far as I am aware.
    – DukeZhou
    Feb 22, 2017 at 2:35
  • The debate has battle lines, for sure! I'm fully aware of the West-ian interpretation, and Aesop's story is good evidence for that, but I never bought his explanation of why a good Hope is in a jar full of evils (which was, "It's just a story!") Hesiod's W&D is all about how terrible life is now, how hard, how unglamorous. We are, after all, in the age of iron. I think he missed the forest for the trees on that one.
    – cmw
    Feb 22, 2017 at 3:17
  • @C.M.Weimer The reason I reject the idea that elpis never escapes from the box is because it is self-evident that hope exists in the minds of humans (except in the case of clinical depression.) You may find it interesting that ἔμιμνε is translated, on Theoi for example, as "remained", even though it is an Imperfect verb. Doesn't clear up the ambiguity, but does lend a different feeling to the line.
    – DukeZhou
    Feb 22, 2017 at 20:03

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