Myths of the Greek and Roman Gods
Lesson 5 Hypothesis: Hesiod’s Works and Days: Prometheus and Pandora
Hesiod, Works and Days (lines 42-106)
(translated by S. Ahmed, R. Nickel, and A. Rappold)
For most men, the gods hide the way to make a living —
the easy way, at least. Otherwise, you’d work only a single day,
harvest food for the year and spend the rest relaxing.
Soon you’d hang up your plow-handles to dry, 45
finished with the work of oxen and much-enduring mules.
Any hope for this carefree life was concealed by an angry Zeus —
his heart, filled with bile at crooked-minded Prometheus’ deception —
his mind, focused on a scheme: how to bring painful suffering to mankind.
First, Zeus hid fire. But the helpful son of Iapetos, 50
stealing from wise-minded Zeus, gave it back to mankind
by hiding it in a fennel stalk, deceiving Zeus who delights in thunder.
In anger, cloud-gathering Zeus addressed him:
“Son of Iapetus, you never miss a chance to show off your intellect.
You’re pleased with yourself, because you stole fire and outwitted me. 55
This will prove disastrous for you. For mankind too.
In exchange for fire, I’ll devise a truly wicked trade: a gift all
will choose to accept with open arms, willingly embracing their own suffering.”
As he said this, he couldn’t stop laughing: the father of men and of gods.
Next, Zeus issued these commands: 60
to Hephaistos, famous for his creations:
“make a mixture of earth and water and pour into it a human voice
and the same spirit as well. Mould its face to resemble a goddess
and shape its body like that of a young virgin, innocently exciting desire.”
to Athena: 65
“teach her to craft and weave careful art upon the loom”
to gold-adorned Aphrodite:
“anoint her with allure, body-devouring longing and painful need.”
to Hermes, Watchdog Slayer and Guide, he commanded:
“install a bitch’s mind and a criminal’s heart.” 70
They all obeyed the commands of Kronos’ son, king Zeus.
The renowned, broken-footed god swiftly molded from Earth
the shape of a virginal girl, cheeks blushing modestly, according to the plans of Kronos’ son.
divine, owl-eyed Athena was in charge of clothing and adornment:
the divine Graces and queenly Persuasion set onto 75
the inviting skin of her neck golden bands. For her hair,
a crown of spring blossoms from the beautifully-coiffed Seasons.
All was arranged invitingly across her naked skin by Pallas Athena.
But in her breast, Hermes the Guide, Watchdog Slayer, installed
a tricky, lying tongue and a criminal’s heart. 80
All was done according to the plans of loud-thundering Zeus.
Last of all, the gods’ messenger placed a voice in her and announced her name:
Pandora: because all the Olympian gods gave her gifts,
though she would be a plague for labouring men.
Finally, when he’d completed his inescapable trap, irresistible to men, 85
father Zeus sent out Hermes, the Watchdog Slayer, to Epimetheus.
The swift messenger of the gods brought the gift. But Epimetheus
only considered in hindsight Prometheus’ forewarning:
“Never accept gifts from Olympian Zeus. Send everything back,
Don’t bring it into your house, or I fear mortals will suffer for it.” 90
Only after Epimetheus accepted the gift, after he held suffering in his arms, did he understand.
all men, across the Earth, used to prosper
free from suffering, hard work
and painful disease: for men, these are death-bringers
because those who weather these evils become old before their time. 95
The woman removed the heavy lid of the jar with her own hands, and
driven by her own thoughts, unleashed sorrows for men, death-bringers.
Hope alone remained in its unbreakable home,
caught underneath the lip of the jar. Its escape
was only a short flight away, but, just in time, she slammed the lid down. 100
All according to the plan of aegis-bearing, cloud-gathering Zeus.
Ten thousand or more sorrows roam free among all mankind.
Suffering is inescapable on land and sea.
Worse, diseases stalk human beings day and night,
spreading everywhere, out of control; for men, they bring wails of grief, 105
silently since their divine voice was removed by cunningly wise Zeus.
The moral: in the end, there is no way to evade the mind of Zeus.