This animation is based on the myth of Pandora, using a classical Athenian red figure vase.

The story was developed by pupils from Maiden Erlegh School in Reading for the Ure Discovery project.

about the animation

In creating the story for this animation, the pupils drew on the story of Pandora. They have emphasised Pandora's disobedience with the 'Do Not Open' instruction that flashes up.  The forces released from the box are presented as a malevolent entity - a cloud of black smoke with piercing red eyes.  This was a way of representing the evils of the world without using words to identify them.

The owl which drops off the box is Sophie, the Ure Museum mascot.  The way she brings in the box from elsewhere reflects its otherworldliness – it came from the gods.

about the myth

Lots of societies have myths about a perfect time in the past which gave way to the difficulties of the present.  The story of Pandora is part of the Greeks’ myth expressing this idea.  The earliest known versions of the story appear in the poetry of Hesiod.  He wrote in the 8th century BCE, before the development of democracy or the spectacular temples we associate with ancient Greece, and the myth was probably extremely old even then.  In Hesiod’s version, Pandora was the first human woman (see Works and Days lines 50-105, and Theogony 560-616).  She was created by the gods and sent amongst men to punish them for learning to control fire (something only gods knew beforehand).  The gods gave Pandora a pithos jar (not a box) filled with sorrows and pains.  When she arrived amongst men, she took the lid from the vase and all the difficulties of life emerged, leaving only hope behind.

In Hesiod’s version of the myth, Pandora is made of earth and water.  Vase painters sometimes showed Pandora being born from the earth and 'Pandora’ was also a cult name for Gaia, the earth goddess.

As well as expressing the end of a perfect time, the myth is probably related to a spring festival, the Anthesteria, in which jars of new wine were opened and potentially malevolent ghosts were thought to rise through the earth to move amongst the living for a short time before (hopefully) returning to the realm of the dead.

Aberdeen Painter pyxis.

© Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Junior League of Dallas. 1968.28.A-B

Minoan pithos jar

© Trustees of the British Museum.


The story of Pandora was passed down through the ages, and scholars copied out Hesiod’s poems so that they were never lost.  In the sixteenth-century CE, Desiderius Erasmus wrote about Pandora’s pyxis 'box’, rather than her pithos.  It caught on; soon it became common to read about 'Pandora’s box’ and people began to forget about Pandora’s birth from the earth.

Writers also began saying that Pandora was told not to open the 'box’, and that she did so out of disobedience and curiosity.  This adds an extra layer of moralism to the story, suggesting that as well as causing trouble, women lack self-control.  If anything, the story was getting more misogynistic over time!


Maiden Erlegh pupils' storyboard compared frame-by-frame with the animation

vase details

Attic, red figure lekythos vase depicting a woman holding a casket.  High Classical, c.450BCE.

Ure Museum (Accession Number: 50.10.4)


The music is the intro to the 1st Stasimon from 'Orestes' by LyravlosPanayiotis Stefos is the driving force behind Lyravlos and their excellent work with ancient Greek music is well worth hearing.

further reading

J. E. Harrison, “Pandora’s Box,”

Journal of Hellenic Studies, vol. 20, (1900)

D. and E. Panofsky, Pandora’s Box,

The Changing Aspects of a Mythical Symbol.

(Bollingen Foundation, 3rd ed.1991, 1st ed. 1957)

F. I. Zeitlin, 'Signifying Difference: The Case of Hesiod’s Pandora,’ chapter 2 of Playing the Other: Gender and Society in Classical Greek Literature (UCP, 1996)

© Ure Museum (50.10.4)

follow-up activities

1)  Ask your pupils to demonstrate how they would represent the evils of the world – would they use words (which ones?), or pictures (of what?).  Follow up by discussing with them the similarities and difference between the groups’ answers, and comparing them to the evils Hesiod describes (hard work, illness, old age, see Works & Days 90-100)

2)  Ask your pupils to create storyboards for this vase which do not reflect the myth of Pandora – what else could happen with this scene?

3)  Ask your pupils to write a paragraph describing what happens in the animation and what messages it communicates.

Ure Discovery

Ure Discovery was an innovative Arts Council funded project run at the University of Reading’s Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology in 2013.

Steve worked with staff and students at the University of Reading helping local secondary school groups interpret and respond to the Ure Museum collection.

The pupils created stories, storyboards, and other artwork based on a selection of vases and each storyboard was transformed into an animation made from images of the vase which inspired it.  Ancient art, digital artistry, and teenage imagination combine to retell ancient myths and present new stories.  The Ure Discovery and Ure View animations can be seen alongside their vases via a tablet trail that visitors can take around the museum.

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