Did Zeus give Pandora the box? So the version I'm most familiar with is that Epimetheus had a box containing the evils of the world, but in some other versions e.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOewVh0umdM
Zeus had the box all along so why not just open the box and unleash those things upon mankind?

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    Just so you know, this is a pet peeve in Greek Mythology. It's not a box. It's a jar. Commented Oct 27, 2018 at 3:48
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    In some forms of the myth, there is no "box", just Pandora. The implication is that she herself is the "box". [It's actually a jar used for storing oil, and there can surely be a sexual connotation. Erasmus may have been playing with this when he used introduced pyxis ("box") but we can only speculate;] Her name can mean "all gifts", which includes both the good and the bad. [Hesiod seems like he was quite depressed, so it mostly bad, and Hesiod had a fairly negative view of women.] See: Symbolism behind Pandora's Box
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 18:42

1 Answer 1


Whatever version of the myth you've heard is missing critical parts.

Prometheus (meaning "fore-thought"), a Titan, was given the job of creating humanity. But humans were left in the dark and cold and treated poorly. When Prometheus complained, the gods blew him off, so he dipped a reed into the sun and brought fire to humans.

The gods were furious about this, because now humans could cook their food, have light to travel at night, create settlements, etc. and basically not be slaves utterly dependent on the gods. So they wanted to punish Prometheus.

They punished him in two ways. One was punishing him personally, by chaining him to a rock in the middle of the ocean where a giant eagle tore at his liver every day. His liver regrew overnight, and the eagle would start again in the morning. He was eventually rescued by Hercules.

The other punishment was against his overall house, his family. Prometheus had a brother, Epithemeus ("after-thought"). The gods would give him a wife.

They created Pandora, meaning "all-gifted." Each god/dess gave her some great attribute as a gift: Aphrodite made her beautiful, Hermes made her bold and clever, Athena gave her the knowledge of needlework, and so on. They made her irresistible to dumb, impetuous Epithemeus. And they made sure that she had an insatiable curiosity.

Zeus sent Pandora to Epithemeus as a gift to be his wife. Even though Prometheus had warned him to beware of Greek gods bearing gifts, Epithemeus accepted Pandora. As a wedding gift, the gods also gave Pandora the famous box/jar, but told her "You can never open it."

Obviously she eventually did, because the gods had set up the trap that way. In the jar they had deliberately placed little flying stinging spirits which carried evils: plague, pestilence, hard work, etc. (The evils were not just casually stored there. They were put there on purpose so Pandora would release them.) When she opened the jar, all the evil spirits flew out and zipped off to bring misery to humanity. She slammed the jar shut just in time to keep Hope from flying off, so Hope still remained to alleviate humanity's misery.

So yes, strictly speaking Zeus (and the other gods) gave her the box/jar, but the jar didn't already exist. It was devised as a punishment, and Pandora was the unwitting patsy.

Direct source: Theoi's article on Pandora, Theoi's article on Prometheus. Also taken from Evslin/Evslin/Hoopes, the D'Aulaires, and various other retellings of the myth I've heard over the years.

  • I'm aware of the parts you mentioned it still doesn't answer the question what was the point of making pandora curios and giving her the box when Zeus could have just opened the box or just asked the gods to punish humanity
    – Hao S
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 19:31
  • I might use "Fore-thought" as opposed to "before thought" to characterize Prometheus. (The latter implies pre-thinking, where Prometheus name' implies premeditation, planning, strategy, foresight, etc.)
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 21:26
  • @DukeZhou sure, makes sense. Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 9:57
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    @HaoSun The point of making her curious and giving her the box was to punish her husband (Epimetheus) and his family (Prometheus). Hurting humanity was the method by which he hurt Prometheus. It's not direct; it's not meant to be. Prometheus has to live with the fact that his "dumb brother's" wife caused permanent hurt to humanity, whom he created and loved. It's also a myth, which tells a story and teaches something of a lesson. It's not history. Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 10:00
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    You may be interested in Pandora's Box: The Changing Aspects of a Mythical Symbol
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Nov 2, 2018 at 19:27

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