Trivia

Hard

Pandora’s Box Wasn’t A Box At All But A?

Bottle
Book
Sarcophagus
Jar

Answer: Jar

There’s a good chance that when you were a small child you learned about the myth of Pandora and her trouble-filled box. She was the first woman on Earth created at the behest of Zeus by the divine craftsman Hephaestus. Each of the Greek gods gave her gifts ranging from clothing to beauty with Zeus himself giving her the gift of curiosity. Pandora’s appearance is but a footnote in her story, however, as what she is remembered for is how the curiosity Zeus gave her led her to open a box which contained all the problems of the world, thus unleashing them before she could close the box.

Except, it wasn’t a box at all. The way we understand the story and the colloquial term “opened Pandora’s box” all stem from a mistranslation of Greek texts by the 16th century scholar and humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam who translated Hesiod’s Works and Days (the ancient Greek text wherein we find the original written account of Pandora). Erasmus mistakenly translated the word “pithos” as a large box when in fact it was a large storage jar (often large enough for a small person to climb into).

Later translations used his mistranslation and reinforced the notion. Further artistic depictions in books and paintings featured Pandora with a box and by the time the error was corrected, it had already entered into the greater culture as a box and not a jar.

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