Pandora was the box. The myths always get that part wrong. When the mortals stole fire from the God-King’s domain with the help of traitorous gods, Zeus molded the perfect woman out of clay and breathed not a soul into her small frame, but something darker: ingredients to break mankind.
“She looks like us,” Ares said in surprise when he set eyes on the first mortal woman. “Mostly.”
At the time, the human body held an entire soul: two heads, four arms, and four legs. They were complete beings, but still they felt unsatisfied. The human drive to always do more, have more, be more, left them hungry. Already humans had stolen the Fire of Knowledge from the gods, now they longed for Ichor and the secrets of immortality.
“This is the only way?” Artemis asked, glancing at the woman with unease. “Are you certain?”
“I’ve seen every possible outcome of the mortals’ current path,” Apollo replied. “Unchecked, they will destroy us all, god and man alike.”
Resolved, all the gods of Olympus contributed toward Pandora’s creation. Athena taught her wisdom, Hephaestus curiosity, Ares passion, and Artemis strength. As her lessons progressed, Pandora’s love for the gods grew. But when Zeus asked her to use her gifts to live among traitorous gods and men alike, she resisted.
“You’re asking me to infiltrate, to spy, to destroy,” she protested. “There must be another way. Please, don’t make me do this. Don’t send me to them.”
“You were made for this,” the God King decreed.
Eventually Pandora’s love for the gods prevailed. She loved Zeus’ children and knew that if men no longer had need of the gods, the gods would soon die for want of worship.
Love makes monsters of us all.
The humans regarded Pandora as a curiosity, as she did not resemble them. Little did they know they were looking upon their future. The humans were kind to Pandora. She grew to love their company, but sensing their destructive nature found she could not entirely dismiss Zeus’ plan.
She broke off pieces of her not-soul and sowed them among mankind. But all her attempts to cause division within the human soul were met with failure. They were too complete, too perfect in their formation to bend and break to the plagues, cold, and darkness. Instead of turning against each other, their resolve against the gods of Olympus grew.
The traitorous gods on the other hand were more amenable to distraction. Pandora was too much like the goddesses the brothers had left behind on Olympus to ignore. Epimetheus resisted her charms not at all, Prometheus for little longer. Soon the brothers fell to infighting, and when nine months passed and the first demigods were born, chaos swept across the land.
Because of their mother’s lack, the children only held half a soul, yet the humans could not help but love them, could not help but want them, could not wish but to be them. A single, golden step between the mortal and divine. First one soul, then another split in half and remade themselves in the semi-divine children’s image.
But instead of becoming stronger, the division caused the humans to become weak. The worst traits were amplified, their best halved. They spread across the globe, intent on consuming more and ever more. By the time they realized their mistake, they could no longer find the missing half of their souls.
Her grim mission complete, Pandora returned to her Olympian home, eager to be reunited with her gods.
Zeus did not welcome her back to Olympus.
“Where am I to go?” she demanded, heartbroken.
“Live among men or throw yourself off this mountain for all I care. You’ve outlived your usefulness.”
And so Pandora left. Ares did not take long to find her.
“Did you know what would become of us?” he asked, already wearied of his new role of war god.
“When their souls split, your role expanded to include the dark sides of your gift,” Pandora replied. “Man must always need you if you’ve any hope of surviving. There’s a price to balance.”
Ares shook his head, staring down the mountain as if his gaze could pierce the fog so he could see the battle and bloodshed below. “This is no kind of balance.”
“It will be.” Pandora drew Ares to her and whispered the last piece of her not-soul into his ear. A single word that had never before been uttered.
“Why me?” he asked, voice hoarse.
“You’ll need hope more than anyone.”
When the gods got together to create mankind, Zeus was hesitant. He’d been around for enough uprisings to know that creation didn’t always inspire loyalty. So he made sure to always cause dissent by creating some humans that were more intelligent than others, some who were stronger, ect. et. His treatment ties well into the soulmate myth, which features four-armed humans who were ripped into two so they could never become too fulfilled.
His treatment of early humans was harsh enough to lose the support of the two Titans who’d supported him during the Titanomachy: Epithemeus and Prometheus.
Prometheus was mankind’s biggest supporter. He helped create man and argued for their continued safety. When Zeus demanded sacrifices, Prometheus convinced him all the parts of animals that couldn’t be eaten were the bee’s knees, leaving humanity a vital thing called food.
But it wasn’t until he stole fire that he really invoked Zeus’ ire. Depending on the myth, fire is fire, or fire is knowledge. Either way, the damage was done once the fire was stolen and Zeus wanted revenge. So he asked Hephaestus to create the first woman: Pandora.
All the gods chipped in for her creation and sent her to live with Epithemeus. In some versions she was sent with the jar (it’s a translation error it was ever referred to as a box), in others the box was with the Titans all along. Either way, she opened the box, releasing the woes of mankind, and instantly realized her mistake and slammed the box closed, trapping one last spirit inside (or in some versions releasing it as well).