Pandora and Strife:
The Mistaken Perception of Misogyny in Hesiod

Jon Zarecki

University of Florida

The Pandora story has often been viewed as the origin of a perceived Greek misogyny.  According to Hesiod, she is either the worst bane man has ever contended with (Th. 585), or she is responsible for releasing a plethora of evils upon the earth which did not exist before (WD 94-5).  Women are the reason that men must work hard (WD 91), and a bad marriage gives everlasting pain to the husband (Th. 611-12).  However, the text also reveals that everything in this story happens with the assent of Zeus (Th. 613, WD 105), and it is in fact Zeus who sends the woman into the world (WD 84).  Pandora is a gift designed to punish men for taking a gift.  She is in fact a kalon kakon ant' agathoio (Th. 585), and she serves to counter the blessed exsistence which man enjoyed before (WD 90).  But it is precisely because she is a balance against all that was right with the first race of men that we should not view Hesiod's texts as the source of all Greek misogyny.  Pandora is not responsible for her lot, nor does she cause evil on her own accord.  Rather she is part of a divine balancing act, the instrument for introducing Good Strife into a world which only knew Bad Strife, or no Strife at all. 

It cannot be coincidence that Hesiod moves directly from the story of the two kinds of Strife into the story of Pandora.  The two Strifes do not appear anywhere else in the two works.  Even the brief interlude of the "lords greedy for gifts" backs up the identification of Pandora with the two Strifes.  Only the rich could afford to endure a woman who acts like a drone, using up all the stores of the house (Th. 594-95).  Yet the Good Strife forces men to work hard, which is considered an evil when it concerns women. As I will demonstrate, Hesiod uses women as a way for explaining the balance in life between good and bad.  His Pandora serves to counter-balance the good in men's lives, much as there is a Good Strife to balance a Bad Strife. 

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