Why do they say “opening Pandora's box”? The meaning comes from a Greek myth

Have you ever heard the expression “open Pandora's box” to describe an action what it seems like harmlessbut which actually triggers a series of unexpected and unstoppable evils? Well, have you ever wondered who Pandora is and what exactly it means to open this box? In short, the saying comes from an ancient one Greek mythsung in the operas of Hesiod. Let's delve deeper into the question.

The myth of Pandora and the opening of the box

According to the myth narrated by Hesiod, Pandora it would have been there first mortal woman to appear on Earth: it was created by order of Zeusthe lord of the gods, as part of a punishment for humanity (consisting of only men of the male gender), after Prometheus he stole fire from the gods to give it to mortals.

Pandora was sent to Earth with a vessel that contained all the evils of the world, then unknown, like illness, vice, madness and fatigue. She was absolutely forbidden to open it. However, Zeus' gesture was not enough to harm humanity: to achieve this result Pandora was sent by Epimetheus, brother of Prometheus. This figure embodies various negative, purely human qualities: they already emerge from his name, which means “he who thinks later”, that is, without paying attention to the consequences of one's actions. His name is therefore in contrast with that of his brother Prometheus, which means instead he who thinks first”.

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myth of prometheus
The myth of Prometheus, the one who stole fire from the gods to give it to men

At Epimetheus, out of pure curiosity, Pandora lifted the lid of the jar so that its contents spread across the Earth, condemning humanity to a life of suffering, evil and affliction: this completed Zeus' punishment. Furthermore, at the behest of the lord of the gods, Pandora closed the box before she could even get out of it Elpis, there hope.

The fact that hope remained in the jar, on the other hand, has a positive value: it means that men can retain hope and can dispose of it, contrary to what would happen if it had gone out into the world together with innumerable sorrows.

Interpretation and meaning of the myth

However, the Greek myth also has positive implications. In fact, opening the jar is not just a gesture disobediencebut it symbolizes the moment in which thehuman innocence is lost in the face of knowledge and painful truth, in the inevitable presence of bad in the world. The jar symbolizes what is hiddenhidden because it is closed.

Pandora has also become synonymous with curiosity unconscious: his curiosity on the one hand reflects man's incessant search for knowledge, the desire to go beyond what is unknown; on the other, it investigates the unpredictable consequences that can arise from a single impulsive act.

It is interesting to note that even in Greek mythology, as in Christian mythology (think of Eve's apple), the origin of the world's evils derives from female curiosity. But the Greek myth also has a positive interpretation, according to which Pandora's gesture is not a condemnation for humanity but the possibility of acquiring awareness. As often happens when the dark sides of things are discovered, in fact, man remains in some way victimlosing his innocence. However, the loss of innocence always leaves room for deeper knowledge, for real knowledge catharsisif man accepts the challenge and does not allow himself to be overwhelmed by the dark side.

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