Classically Inclined

June 24, 2016

On Pandora and the opening of Zeus’ gift

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 7:30 pm

But when he had finished the sheer, hopeless snare, the Father sent glorious Argus-Slayer, the swift messenger of the gods, to take it to Epimetheus as a gift. And Epimetheus did not think on what Prometheus had said to him, bidding him never take a gift of Olympian Zeus, but to send it back for fear it might prove to be something harmful to men. But he took the gift, and afterwards, when the evil thing was already his, he understood. For ere this the tribes of men lived on earth remote and free from ills and hard toil and heavy sickness which bring the Fates upon men; for in misery men grow old quickly. But the woman took off the great lid of the jar with her hands and scattered all these and her thought caused sorrow and mischief to men. – Hesiod, Works and Days.

I’m writing this on my way back from a conference in Dublin, where I have found it very difficult to give a paper on classical monsters in Hollywood films since 2000, and equally difficult to concentrate on the panel I have been attending about the nature of the ancient epic in the modern world. British classicists have checked the BBC and social media obsessively, sworn a fair bit, looked at each other hopelessly. Our European and international colleagues have commiserated, hugged, looked at an equal loss. And those who are British but work in the EU, or are EU nationals who work in Britain, have been doing a bit of everything.

Pandora’s jar has been opened and we are seeing the evils come out into the world.

We have had the Prime Minister resign, key pledges from the Leave campaign dismissed as ‘mistakes’, the financial markets drop sharply and struggle to right themselves, people who voted Leave astonished and upset to discover their vote actually counted, Scotland and Ireland reconsidering their positions as part of the Union, the EU Commission trying to get this process over and done with as quickly as possible, and on, and on, and on.

I am worried for myself, for my son, for my little family that had just got a little bit of stability, for my wider family, for the higher education sector, for those who had so much to lose – although, if I’m honest, in a rather blank sort of way, because I suspect I’m still in shock.

And yet. And yet.

When Pandora had opened the jar, and all the evils had flown out and into the world, one last thing remained. Hope.

Hope in the majority of people under 49 who voted to Remain, and whose political day is coming. Hope in three months’ grace before a change of Prime Minister. Hope in the pause before Article 50 is invoked. Hope in the time it will take the dust to settle and to see what landscape actually remains. Hope in the potential this has to re-engage people who believed their votes didn’t matter. Hope in the unlikeliest of places, also in the jar. Whether or not it too was an evil remains to be seen.

Only Hope remained there in an unbreakable home within under the rim of the great jar, and did not fly out at the door; for ere that, the lid of the jar stopped her, by the will of Aegis-holding Zeus who gathers the clouds.


  1. Thanks for this. It is hard for me to express my dismay at the vote as an American, but I feel a sense of dread about the future especially amplified by having small children (who are so blissfully unaware).

    Here’s to better days…

    Comment by sententiaeantiquae — June 24, 2016 @ 8:12 pm | Reply

  2. However, it is interesting that so-called “hope” is inside a box of “evils.” Hope, in my opinion, is an evil. The ancients were a much tougher crowd than we give them credit for being. You can wallow in hope that things will change. They usually do not. I am a cynic ;-). There is so much of the world over which we have absolutely no control what-so-ever. In addition, there really is a question about the so-called global economy actually being a “good thing.” The Nobelist, Dr. Paul Krugman of Princeton, does not believe that the GB vote to leave the EU is necessarily a bad thing at all. No one economic system is a be-all, end-all for any nation or group of nations. Pure economic systems of any type evetually become evil because tha is the nature of any system which does not have active checks and balances. In addition, any group is only as strong as its weakest member. For a long time I have had a feeling that the EU will expire. Draconian policies against its weakest members are just the first hints. Does not Angela Merkel remember what happened in Germany after WWI and the draconian reparations enforced by the Allies? Now that I have blathered for a bit, I will stop. Thank you for letting me post.

    Comment by juliaergane — June 25, 2016 @ 7:34 pm | Reply

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