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Dossier : Mères et maternités en Grèce ancienne

Varia

The Priority of Pots: Pandora’s pithos re-viewed1

Deborah Steiner

Résumé

Dans la lecture présentée ici de l’épisode du pithos qui conclut le récit d’Hésiode sur Pandora dans les Erga, je montre qu’une enquête, centrée sur le rôle de ce type particulier de réceptacle dans la société et l’économie de la Grèce archaïque, peut donner de nouveaux aperçus sur le choix narratif fait par l’auteur en même temps qu’elle éclaire les rapports entre la jarre et les événements précédents de l’épisode. Les moyens de production ainsi que les développements dans la forme et l’ornementation des pithoi contemporains du texte hésiodique trouvent plusieurs échos dans la présentation de Pandore, dans les deux versions qu’offre le narrateur dans les Erga et la Théogonie, et expliquent non seulement la présence de nombreux détails dans les textes mais aussi la frappante négativité du portrait de cet archétype féminin.

In the reading of the pithos which concludes Hesiod’s Pandora story in the Erga presented here, I argue that an examination of the role of this particular type of vessel in the society and economy of archaic Greece can illuminate the author’s narrative choice and reveal fresh connections between this receptacle and events earlier in the episode. The means of production as well as developments in the design and ornamentation of pithoi contemporary with the text find many echoes in the presentation of Pandora in the two Hesiodic versions in the Erga and Theogony and explain not only the presence of numerous details in the texts but also the striking negativity of the account of this archetypal woman.

Entrées d'index

Keywords :

Hesiod, Erga, Theogony, Pandora, pithos

Texte intégral

  • 1 Many thanks are owed to Froma Zeitlin who, with characteristic generosity, read and commented on an (...)
  • 2 For a very handy review and summary of responses to these questions, see the Pandora bibliography p (...)
  • 3 Among the heterogeneous substances that archaeologists have identified on the basis of residues in (...)

1Scholars intrigued by the Pandora episode in Hesiod regularly puzzle over the jar that abruptly, and seemingly out of nowhere, appears alongside the first woman in the closing scene of the story in the Works and Days (90-99). At least a half dozen articles from the last ten years alone tackle the still outstanding issue of how the poet intends us to understand the contents of that jar: are the elements that escape from it good, as some believe, or bad, as others argue, and, a further sticking point, how should we interpret the nature and significance of Elpis that uniquely remains in the vessel after Pandora replaces the lid2? But lost in this mass of conflicting and ever more subtle readings is the different question posed here: why does Hesiod, or the tradition in which he works, choose to pair the archetypal female with an object that the text so clearly designates a pithos (Erga 94, 97), an earthenware jar used throughout antiquity principally to store a variety of wet and dry food stuffs3. Why, of all possible pots and containers with which Pandora could have been associated, did the poet single out this vessel type?

  • 4 In the absence of any source earlier or contemporary with Hesiod that tells the Pandora story (a fe (...)

2After a brief review of existing answers to the problem, I want, as it were, to put the cart before the horse, to focus on the appearance and function of pithoi that are broadly contemporary with the Hesiodic poems (commonly dated to the end of the eighth and early decades of the seventh century, although nothing allows us to be more precise and the recent tendency is to down-date the compositions), and to work back from these to the textual account. A closer look at on going developments in the manufacture and decoration of pithoi, I argue, not only elucidates the kinship between Pandora and the jar that earlier readers have observed, but also suggests that, for all the suddenness of its appearance, the pithos at the end of the Erga account is nothing if not over-determined: whether this capstone element was already a familiar part of the larger story, or whether, as some argue, Hesiod has introduced it as a final piece4, many of the details that the poet selects for his description of Pandora, her creation, attributes, and properties in the Erga, and perhaps in the earlier Theogony too, turn out also to characterize the pithoi familiar to Hesiod’s audience, making this quite the most appropriate of all objects that could appear (seemingly from out of nowhere since Hesiod does not tell us the vessel’s origin) alongside the καλὸν κακόν devised by Zeus; put differently, and in a fashion quite distinct from that proposed by other scholars, Pandora’s pithos recapitulates and re-embodies the heterogeneous motifs of the narrative that precedes it. Framed this second way, my argument does not run counter to the rich symbolic readings that the jar has garnered, but reveals an additional facet to the Hesiodic account that is very much grounded in the artistic/artisanal, social, and economic practices of the age.

  • 5 I will be exploring several of the other Homeric and Hesiodic passages through the course of the di (...)
  • 6 For the distinction between pithoi and amphoras, which they most closely resemble among other vesse (...)
  • 7 See Erga 613 and Iliad 16, 643.

3Since my argument places a great deal of weight on the term selected by Hesiod for Pandora’s jar, it begs the preliminary question of how significant that designation was for Hesiod’s audience, and whether the term pithos would have brought an object particularized in its form, function and even decorative scheme to mind. While the issue cannot be definitively resolved, the surprising rarity of the appearance of what might seem a commonplace object in extant archaic hexameter poetry – just three times in Homer, six in Hesiod (of which three occur in Erga 90-99)5 – and the consistency of usage suggest that this was a delimited and “marked” category, describing, like the amphoras or kraters also featured in early texts, a distinctive vessel, and one not interchangeable with other types of containers6. A second term used by Homer and Hesiod for a jar, ἄγγος, has a different, more diffuse spectrum of meanings, describing an object used for liquids, but not for food stuffs, and without a distinctive and recognizable morphology (or mythology); instead the ἄγγος can assume a variety of shapes and forms, a wine vat and bucket among them7. All this, I suggest, supports my underlying premise that Hesiod’s choice to give Pandora a pithos is a carefully considered one.

1. Pandora’s pithos in previous readings

  • 8 Dubois 1988, p. 46-49, Sissa 1990, p. 147-56, Zeitlin 1997, p. 64-68; see too Pucci 1977, p. 88-89 (...)
  • 9 The citation comes from Zeitlin 1997, p. 65.
  • 10 Vernant 1989, p. 75-78.
  • 11 Zeitlin 1997, p. 77-78.

4Existing discussions of the Hesiod’s decision to link Pandora with the pithos chiefly explore the metonymic relations between Greek notions of a woman’s body and a jar. Giulia Sissa, Page Dubois and Froma Zeitlin offer rich treatments of the various exchanges8; Dubois notes how like the woman’s body, and the earth from which Pandora is made, a pithos hides, contains, produces and gives up the matter that sustains human life, and observes, among other equivalences, the existence of mastoi jugs (vessels equipped with breasts) from the Minoan-Mycenaean age; Sissa also sees the jar as an analogue for the female belly, now fertile, now gaping and «cavernous». In a very full and suggestive analysis, Zeitlin uses the ample cache of later philosophical, medical and more popular sources to demonstrate that in Greek gynecological thinking a woman’s reproductive organs, and her uterus in particular, were imagined after the model of a jar. In her and Sissa’s accounts, Pandora’s gesture of unsealing the pithos also looks to a woman’s notorious profligacy – sexual, alimentary, and economic – and to her simultaneous failure to protect the contents of the household and to moderate her «sexual and oral appetites» (she both consumes and spills all)9. Jean-Pierre Vernant’s earlier ground-breaking discussion, on which these subsequent accounts have built, highlights a different element in Hesiod’s story10; while commenting on the way in which the pithos mirrors the snare that Pandora instantiates (it is, like the «beautiful evil» that Zeus devises, deceptive insofar as it should properly contain foodstuffs, which sustain life, but hides negative and life-destroying elements instead), he also reads the vessel as figure for the house which contains the wife: the evils, he notes, citing lines 96 and 97 of the Erga, «were lodged inside the jar as if in a house», and when they escape from the jar’s interior, they quit the same «domestic enclosure»11.

  • 12 As Zeitlin (1997, p. 62) comments, «in ordinary social practice, it would be the woman’s task to ta (...)

5But in these illuminating readings, on which my account will continue to draw, there is little to explain Hesiod’s selection of this particular vessel; while the discussions duly observe the role of real-world pithoi as household storage containers, and objects with which a woman has a particular link12, and regularly note that these jars appear in the domestic context later in the Erga (368, 815, 819), none offers a sustained treatment of the pithos nor seeks to explain why Hesiod – who elsewhere in the poem is just as likely to select the second term that, as documented above, is more prevalent in epic diction for storage vessels, ἄγγος (475, 600, 613) – opts for the pithos in the Pandora scene.

2. Pithoi, their decoration and design

  • 13 A point highlighted in Pucci 1977, 88-89 and Dubois 1988, p. 46-47.
  • 14 Note the comment in Loraux 1993, p. 78, à propos of Pandora’s creation: «she is made of earth, but (...)
  • 15 As noted by Dubois 1988, p. 47. This is a point treated in greater detail below.

6My argument has the same starting point as these earlier discussions, the evident homology between Pandora and a jar apparent even at the start of the Hesiodic tale. In the poet’s two versions, Hephaestus fashions Pandora in the manner of a terracotta vessel13: in the first instance he moulds her out of earth (γαίηςσύμπλασσε, Theogony 571), in the second he uses a mixture of earth and water (Erga 61), and here too the eminently “molding” and artisanal term πλάσσε appears (70)14. The subsequent descriptions of Pandora’s kosmêsis, as readers have also observed, reinforce the ceramic associations. In Theogony 576-77 (in lines that some editors bracket as interpolated but that appear in all but one manuscript), Athena places flowery wreaths «around the head» of the object shaped by Hephaestus; while περιτίθημι regularly describes garlanding, the term is nonetheless evocative of the decoration of the circular vessel, also ornamented in the round. So too the beasts featured on the crown that Hephaestus crafts for the artifact (and again Athena places the diadem “around” Pandora’s head, 577) correspond to the animal figures, often arranged in friezes, in the decorative schemes of numerous vases of the archaic age15. The pot analogy is still more patent in the Erga: here the poet imagines how the gods not only adorn Pandora circular-wise with a variety of ornamental elements, but then insert properties within her, as though she were a vessel with a cavity to be filled (ἐνθέμεν, 66; cf. 77, 79-80).

  • 16 I borrow this notion from Langdon 2001, p. 579 and 600, with broader discussion of the “object biog (...)
  • 17 See the bibliography cited in nn. 3 and 21 for discussion of regional variations.
  • 18 The evidence suggests not only that the jars were used for the transport of other objects in local (...)

7But beyond these broad affinities between Pandora and a piece of pottery are more particularized features that might point an audience towards the pithos well before the poet first introduces the term. In the sections that follow, I highlight three closely related features of pithoi and developments in their manufacture that are broadly contemporary with Hesiodic poetry and demonstrate the relevance of each to the poet’s representation of Pandora, her appearance, role and the characteristics assigned to her. The first involves the increasing elaboration and refinement in the jars’ decorative designs; the second, and a necessary result of this first, the elevated price the objects could command on the marketplace and the status and place they consequently occupied within the household economy; and third, the principal functions that a single pithos could fulfill through the course of its extensive «life history»16. While the examples that my discussion cites come from many different parts of Greece (Hesiod’s native Boeotia supplying only one of the centres of manufacture among many, albeit an important one), each of which had its own distinctive regional styles and techniques17, and from quite a broad chronological spectrum which witnessed changes of its own, a wide-ranging approach is, I think, justified. Not only because both the objects and their makers would travel from one area to the next18, but also because Hesiodic poetry is Panhellenic in character. Composed for the regionally heterogeneous audiences gathered at the religious festivals that offer the most likely venues for performances of hexameter poetry, and designed for diffusion and re-performance at other gatherings at different sites, Hesiod’s poems encompass and subsume more localized traditions and are the products (in the form in which they have come down to us) of a process of accretion over several decades, and probably generations and more, of performances by oral singers. Much like the Kunstsprache deployed by the poets composing in this tradition, an amalgam of diverse dialects and temporally variegated strata that reflects the different developmental stages through which the oral medium had passed from the late Bronze Age until the early seventh century, so too the material goods in this poetry are composites of many varieties from different times and regions of the Greek world – a kind of “object koinê” that corresponds to the shared dictional repertoire.

  • 19 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 52. Note too that they can be very large, measuring up to two meters and more.
  • 20 For variations in shape, see the detailed typology in Christakis 2005, p. 5-21.
  • 21 The account that follows draws chiefly on Simantoni-Bournia 2004, Christakis 2005, Ebbinghaus 2005,(...)
  • 22 The early focus on Boeotia has been modified in the more recent literature; see Caskey 1976, p. 21,(...)
  • 23 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 57.
  • 24 Plato, Laches 187b cites the Greek proverb equivalent to our «don’t run before you can walk»: ἐν πί (...)

8Pithoi are, first and foremost, utilitarian objects, designed so as to allow «maximum capacity and easy access to the contents»19. Their role as storage jars determines their shape and design, which features an ample belly and a broad horizontal opening that could be closed with a large flat stone or terracotta lid (as in Hesiod’s own description at Erga 94, where Pandora lifts the stopper from the pithos mouth, μέγα πῶμἀφελοῦσα, before she then reseals the jar)20. But in the late eighth and early seventh centuries, potters and artists seemed less concerned with functionality than with experimenting with ever more elaborate and intricate decorative schemes21. In Crete, workshops producing pithoi in the Orientalizing tradition would fashion clay motifs or use molds with designs of monsters and other mythological figures, and then apply the decorative devices to the walls of their vessels; in Rhodes, cylindrical stamps with geometric and sometimes figural designs were rolled onto the surface of the jars so as to create continuous ornamental bands; potters elsewhere also used artfully carved stamps and roulettes to introduce intricate details into the animals, individuals and elaborate mythological scenes represented on their pots. Hesiod’s native Boeotia was the find spot for the first relatively intact set of pithoi belonging to what has come to be known as the Tenian-Boeotian group, and archaeologists designated the region one among several centres of production for this pithos type22. What distinguishes the Tenian-Boeotian vessels is their makers’ use of relief images that were cut out of a thin layer of clay; craftsmen would then attach these figural and other designs to the walls of the pithoi before the clay was completely dry and add further details to the images by means of incision, stippling and stamping. Indeed, as Ebbinghaus remarks of the products of this period, «storage vessels were never again as lavishly decorated»23, and recent discussions underscore the dexterity, prolonged labour and expertise that the manufacture (and transportation) of such vessels would have required24. No wonder that it takes the joint efforts of Hephaestus and Athena, and, in the Erga, a host of other divinities too, to produce the woman who, as I go on to detail, so closely resembles a pithos.

  • 25 For very early examples of the motif, see Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 194. The discussions listed in (...)
  • 26 Note Iliad 18, 379 where Hephaestus cuts the similar δεσμοί to complete the precious cauldrons that (...)

9In Hesiod’s two versions of the Pandora story, the poet devotes much of each account to the kosmêsis of the archetypal woman, the elaborate dressing and ornamentation that make the object so irresistible to Epimetheus and to mankind after him. While commentators regularly point to the dressing-type scenes prior to seductive encounters that occur in hexameter poetry, and to possible Near Eastern models featuring goddesses similarly preparing themselves for amorous trysts, the lavishly and intricately decorated pithoi described above offer another point of comparison. As archaeologists detail, one of the earliest and most widespread elements of pithos decoration took the form of rope patterns molded from fine clay braids which the potter would indent with his finger so as to imitate the intertwined skeins (see fig. 1), a motif most probably inspired by the ropes originally tied around the jars in order to prevent their sagging during manufacture and then used for transport (and indeed no sooner is Pandora created than she must be moved, conveyed by Hermes from the gods to the home of Epimetheus at Erga 84-85); these patterns were then applied in relief to the surface of the vessel25. At Erga 73-74, Hesiod imagines the Graces and Peitho as they similarly ornament the clay object produced by Hephaestus; the deities «placed golden necklaces on [Pandora’s] skin»; ὅρμος, the term used for necklace here, is also the standard expression in epic diction for a cord or chain26. The site of Pandora’s necklaces would correspond to the location of the decorative ropes on the jars: many of these occur below the rim or base of the neck, or beneath the upper row of handles.

  • 27 See Caskey 1976, p. 24 and pl. 2, fig. 7.
  • 28 E. g. Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 87, where the term is used for the goddess’earrings.
  • 29 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Inv. 64 C 23563. Caskey 1976, p. 27 compares this to the necklace des (...)

10Pandora’s jewelry finds a second echo in ornamental schemes on contemporary pithoi. Raised bands with incised or impressed patterns are a common device, frequently combined with ropes, and on a relief pithos from the sanctuary in Xobourgo five horizontal bands with meander and hook-chains in alternating rows run around the vessel neck27. A very wide spread decorative motif is the S-shaped spiral, found both singly and in clusters, a pattern that corresponds to descriptions of jewelry in archaic hexameter verse; Homer uses the term ἕλικας for another of Hephaestus’ creations, the arm bands or earrings that the god fashions at Iliad 18.401, and such «spirals» appear in evocations of women’s ornaments elsewhere in the archaic hexameter tradition28. Cretan artists create elaborate spirals out of raised bands, while painted spirals, typically located on the rim, collar and handles of the pots, also appear in Crete and on works produced by late eighth-century Rhodian potters. The vessel-makers can even adorn the female figures on their pots with incised jewelry; from the first quarter of the seventh century comes a neck fragment from a Boeotian pithos that shows Europa riding on the bull; on her wrist is a bracelet (fig. 2)29.

  • 30 Tenos Musuem, Inv. B 25; for this see Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 82 and pl. 37, fig 94. Simantoni-B (...)
  • 31 Tenos Museum, Inv. B 63.
  • 32 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 52.
  • 33 Naxos Museum, Inv. 90; see Caskey 1976, p. 24 and her pl. 2, fig. 8 for this.

11Apparent in the Europa image and in other female figures represented on pithoi is the artists’ concern with suggesting the luxurious fabric of the women’s dresses. Where Athena clothes Pandora in a «silvery» looking garment, Europa wears a highly worked robe. On a second pithos, this one by the so-called Master of Athena Potnia and dated to the second quarter of the seventh century, an outsized Athena Potnia (or other goddess) is similarly dressed in a richly-patterned cloth which extends over much of the surface of the neck of the pot (fig. 3), while a pithos fragment from Tenos and now housed in its museum displays a woman in another such finely detailed dress30; the decorations on the fabric recall the motifs of the garment worn by one of the individuals on the so-called Dance pithos from Xobourgo, dated to c. 690, with its line of dancers on its neck31. To a contemporary viewer, many of the jars would themselves seem finely «dressed»; as Simantoni-Bournia notes à propos of several seventh-century pithoi from Camiros in Rhodes, the densely and continuously decorated bands on the upper part of the jar convey the impression of an «embroidered cloth»32. The decorative schemes on the surface of the vessels and those woven or embroidered into garments worn by women coincide in one further respect: the same step pattern so frequently used on Argive and Cycladic pithoi occurs on the dress of a female figure on a pot from Naxos, suggesting that pithos-makers and textile-workers shared a common set of designs33.

  • 34 Like the rope decorations, floral motifs are found already in Minoan times; see Cullen and Keller 1 (...)
  • 35 Christakis 2005, p. 31 documents these.
  • 36 London, British Museum, F 147; for recent detailed discussion, see Neils 2005. I return to this ima (...)

12The flowers with which the Horae wreathe Pandora at Erga 75 and which also figure in the Theogony lines cited earlier (Athena garlands the object fashioned by Hephaestus with «freshly budding garlands» made up of «flowers of the meadow», 576), are no less at home on the vessels of this and still earlier periods34. From very early on, Cretan artists decorate the surface of their pithoi with rosettes, foliate bands (these made up of petal shapes), leaves and other floral motifs variously evoking palms, lilies and other stemmed plants; a circle stamp was used to create the elaborate 18-petal daisy on the raised band of a pithos fragment from Knossos35. Besides deploying stamps, potters would also incise these floral elements or paint them on the surface of the pithos, often positioning them on the collar, shoulder or between the handles of the jar. The sole extant image of Pandora’s jar in the vase repertoire (figs. 4a and b), albeit on an object dated to the second half of the fifth century, suggests that this floral design may have been a well-known feature of pithos decoration, as well as one perhaps associated with this mythological episode. The neck amphora from Basilicata in London shows on one face the anodos of Pandora as witnessed by Hephaestus, and on the other a tall, ovoid shaped vessel with the figure of Elpis emerging from its neck36; in the painted field surrounding that jar are six rosettes, which correspond to the isolated flowers than can form the chief motifs in the pithoi’s decorative schemes.

  • 37 West 1966 ad 582. See too Brown 1997, p. 31.
  • 38 Caskey 1976, p. 40; see too Palermo 1992 and Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 53. Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 26, (...)
  • 39 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 22; see too Boardman 1962, p. 31, fig. 3.1, pl. 4a.
  • 40 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 42.

13Perhaps the most striking element in the Theogony account is the golden crown set around Pandora’s head, an ornament which Hephaestus «crafted with his hands… On it he fashioned many intricate designs, wonderful to see; of all the dread beasts which the land and sea nourish, he put most upon it» (581-83). This crown of monstrous beasts, West comments37, is reminiscent of eighth-century golden funerary headbands that similarly use wild animals by way of decoration. But comparable too are the animal protomes, lions among them, fastened to the rims of some Cretan pithoi of the Orientalizing period, a device, Caskey suggests, also derived from metal work and influenced by Near Eastern artistic traditions38. The mold-made monsters on other Cretan jars, which would be attached to the already made pithos, also recall the design of Pandora’s crown, which, like the protomes and other appliqués, constitutes the final, «crowning» element in her adornment. Any number of animals, some real, others demonic, including the sphinx and Chimaera, belong to the decorative syntax of extant pithoi and feature in the animal friezes encircling the vessels. Among them are, as in Hesiod’s description, creatures of both land and sea, including lions, goats, dears, horses, bulls, panthers and octopuses; one early eighth-century Cretan pithos displays a fish swimming in the depth of the sea39, and from the end of the eighth or early seventh century comes another jar with two maritime monsters40.

  • 41 For these, see Langdon 2008, p. 282-83. See too the very early painted pithos from Cnossos discusse (...)
  • 42 Caskey 1976, p. 32 and 33, cites examples.
  • 43 Beyer 1976 with discussion in Langdon 2008, p. 284.

14Creatures both real and fantastical are integral to one particularly common and wide-spread decorative device favoured by pithos-makers from the late eighth century on, the Master or Mistress of Animals (cf. fig. 3). Characterizing these female «Potnias» is a further feature visually reminiscent of Pandora’s headdress, the polos crown that many of the figures wear and that scholars regularly cite as analogue for the diadem in Hesiod’s account. Cretan potters are particularly fond of the motif, including it on a very early painted jar from Cnossos and then again on a funerary pithos from Fortesa41; the same headdress also characterizes Potnias on vessels from other parts of the Greek world, including those belonging to the Tenian-Boeotian group42. Intriguingly, the female figure on the Fortesa pithos shares a second feature with Pandora; if the reconstruction by Immo Beyer is correct, then the woman also wears a veil, which she draws back with her left arm; accompanied by a helmet-equipped man who faces her, she performs the anakaluptêria gesture typical of the Greek bride, and which Pandora’s own «daidalic veil» (καλύπτρην δαιδαλέην, Theogony 574-75) and patently bridal appearance and presentation serve to evoke43.

  • 44 On this see Simantoni-Bournia 2004.
  • 45 For these, see Christakis 2005, p. 38-39; note too Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 191.

15Promoting the homology between Pandora and a pithos is, perhaps, a further detail that the Erga narrative includes. As part of his blueprint for Pandora’s creation, Zeus directs Aphrodite to «pour grace about her head» (χάριν ἀμφιχέαι κεφαλῇ, 65). In epic diction ἀμφιχέω can describe the moment when a variety of objects, some tangible (e. g. dust), others abstract (e. g. sleep), are «poured» or «strewn» around, and also refers to one individual encircling another with his arms in an embrace. Almost the identical expression (κατέχευε χάριν κεφαλῇ, Odyssey 6, 235) occurs in a Homeric episode that also imagines the gods – Athena chiefly, but Hephaestus too – engaged in the beautification of the poem’s hero so as to make him irresistible, this accompanied by a simile describing a craftsman who gilds an image with an overlay of gold that is poured on top of the silver surface. While metal working practices, as I detail below, figure importantly in the creation of Pandora and in the decoration of pithoi too, techniques more particular to the potter are also relevant to the action that the Hesiodic Zeus orders Aphrodite to perform. Vessels would have a slip and/or pigments applied to them before the addition of reliefs and other elements, and their makers could also cover the terracotta surface in a fresh and very fine layer of clay before incising their designs, which would allow the original colour to show through44. Beginning at a very early stage, and continuing through the Bronze Age, «trickle patterns», drips of coloured paint that run at random from the collar, rim, handles and shoulders of the pot, are the most frequently painted motifs on Cretan pithoi, perhaps evocative of the liquid contents stored within45.

  • 46 Brown 1997, p. 31-37 emphasizes the role that precious metals, and gold in particular, play in enha (...)
  • 47 Neils 2005, p. 41. Neils does not, however, connect the metallic jar she argues for with the making (...)
  • 48 Best known is the unbreakable bronze vessel in which Otos and Ephialtes lock up Ares in Iliad 5, 38 (...)
  • 49 Also according to Herodotus, the fabulously rich Persian kings melted down their silver and stored (...)

16One critical element of Pandora’s kosmêsis as Hesiod describes it is, of course, missing from the manufacture of these terracotta pots. What makes the first woman so compelling a snare and delusion is, in no small part, the matter from which her garment and ornaments are fashioned46: as already noted, in the Theogony she wears a «silvery dress» and her crown is made of gold; so too in the Erga, her necklaces are golden. The impression that Hesiod’s two accounts create is of an object first shaped out of clay, but then adorned with precious metals. In her innovative discussion of Pandora’s pithos, Jennifer Neils assigns this same metallic property to the jar that accompanies the figure in the Erga47. Proposing that Hesiod imagines this not as an earthenware pot, as other commentators have assumed, but as a metal one, she calls attention to the term with which the poet describes its walls, «unbreakable» (ἀρρήκτοισι, 96), an adjective regularly used in hexameter poetry of metal goods and seemingly ill-suited to more frangible pots of clay. Nor, as she points out, are such metal jars unknown to Hesiod’s audience: the mythological tradition from Homer on includes pithoi made of bronze48, and, in classical times, Herodotus records the silver pithoi that formed part of Croesus’lavish dedication to Delphi (1, 51)49. Neils further argues that the artist of the South Italian amphora cited above (figs. 4a and b) replicates the Hesiodic account, painting the vessel with Elpis inside so as to suggest a metallic, gleaming object with decorative devices more at home in that medium than in clay.

  • 50 See Faraone 1992, p. 101 and n. 48, and p. 87, n. 6 for fuller discussion of these stories.
  • 51 In an Appendix to her article, Caskey 1976 explores the relations between metalwork and the Tenian- (...)
  • 52 Examples of these handles appear on pithoi in Basel (Antikenmuseum BS 617) and Boston (MFA 99.506), (...)
  • 53 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 69 and 133.

17But where Neils has to search very far afield for other examples of the features that she views as evocative of a metal object in the Campanian image, late eighth and early seventh-century pithoi offer a different way of making sense of Hesiod’s (problematic) meld of two independent strands, one better suited to metal vessels, the other to earthenware pots. Drawing on the one hand on traditions that involve harmful deities and malignant properties imprisoned in metallic jars so as to prevent their escape50, the poet also (contra Neils) wishes his audience to bear in mind the more humdrum ceramic storage jars which householders would have in their homes; indeed, as I argue in a moment, Pandora’s «crime» only makes sense if we follow Zeitlin, Sissa and others in seeing her dispersal of the contents of her pithos as an act of profligacy which heedlessly scatters the foodstuffs on which men’s daily life depends. But the relief pithoi contemporary with Hesiod allow us to understand how the poet negotiates between the two heterogeneous traditions by investing the pot-like Pandora with properties drawn from both terracotta and metallic objects. As art historians and archaeologists detail, pithoi-makers share with metal workers many techniques and motifs51. Among these is the use of dots and stippling, and the open-work handles, some with volutes, that also appear on later bronze kraters of the sixth century52. Decorative schemes common to both media include the rosettes discussed earlier and zigzag patterns; the curvilinear motifs so frequent on Cycladic pithoi from the last quarter of the eighth century also closely resemble spiral decorations on contemporary gold bands discovered at the sanctuary at Eleusis, and several figural representations on Cretan and Rhodian pots recall those on the arms and armour of the period53. While scholars debate both the extent of the pithoi-makers’ debt to metal products and issues of precedence here, the undeniable overlap between the two media means that viewing a decorated pithos would readily bring an ornamented metal object to mind. This proximity mitigates the bifurcated character of both Pandora and her metonymic jar: insofar as both combine earthenware and metal elements, they resemble contemporary pithoi, ceramic goods which incorporate metallurgic techniques into their decorative designs.

  • 54 For discussion of the extant examples, see Hurwit 1995, p. 176-77 and Reeder 1995, p. 279-86 with f (...)
  • 55 British Museum, GR 1885.1-28.1 (D 4); British Museum GR 1856.12-13.1 (E 467). Representations such (...)
  • 56 A number of other possible depictions exist, dating from the mid fifth century, and showing hammer- (...)

18Before turning to questions of the role and function of pithoi, I would like to glance forward to representations of Pandora in the later pictorial tradition and suggest that these too may register the influence of the realworld vessels already shaping Hesiod’s account. Curiously, for all the canonical status that Hesiodic poetry achieved, and the way in which later iambic poets and Attic dramatists demonstrably drew on his representation of the archetypal female, the episode of Pandora’s fabrication seems to have had scant appeal for Greek visual artists54. The earliest certain depictions of Pandora date to the fifth century, and none exists from before c. 460 B. C. E. While two of the extant vases, a white ground cup by the Tarquinia Painter and a red-figure krater by the Niobid Painter, both dated to c. 460 and in London55, display a kosmêsis scene much like that described by Hesiod, the several others follow a different tradition, and one that is absent from earlier textual accounts. An Attic red-figure volute krater from the mid-fifth century and assigned to the Workshop of Polygnotus imagines a fully adorned Pandora rising from the earth while Hephaestus (or maybe Epimetheus), equipped with a hammer, observes her; much the same scene appears on the Campanian neck amphora earlier described, whose obverse shows Pandora’s pithos with the figure of Elpis inside56. On the krater, Pandora is visible from just below the waist, while the amphora shows only the figure’s head and upper torso.

  • 57 See Neils 2005, p. 39.
  • 58 For additional discussion, see Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 193 and Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 55.
  • 59 Many vase images show the pithos-user squatting by the jar so as to draw the liquid out.

19For some scholars, the primary referent for these latter two scenes is the anodos scenario, the emergence of a fertility figure, Persephone-like, from the ground, a notion towards which the artist of the white ground cup also glances in labeling the Pandora figure Anesidora; for others, Pandora’s “earthiness” more simply signals the matter out of which Hephaestus fashions her57. But the artist of the South Italian amphora may be using the visual scheme to suggest a closer relation between Pandora and the pithos, and to underscore the affinity between the two by investing the archetypal woman with properties typical of the object featured on the vessel’s other side. As numerous images of pithoi on vases and the archaeological evidence affirm58, the jars were regularly buried in the earth or sunk in specially constructed hollows in the floor, with as much as half or three-quarters of their bodies concealed so as to keep them cool and prevent the spoilage of the liquid or foodstuffs inside, an arrangement that also facilitated the retrieval of the contents of the over-sized vessels59. If we read the concealment of much of Pandora’s body on the Campanian amphora’s obverse as a kind of anticipatory doublet or visual reference to the image on the other side, then the actual pithos featured there presents a second common practice: here the jar stands on a raised base or platform reminiscent of the low benches also used for the placement of rows of pithoi in storage rooms.

3. Pithoi, their domestic, votive and funerary functions

  • 60 As Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 200 remark of the status of pithoi by classical times, «the pithos wa (...)
  • 61 Cahill 2008, p. 228.

20Not surprisingly, given the ever-increasing refinement in the manufacture of this vessel type (to say nothing of those quintessential luxury items so typical of proverbial Lydian opulence, the silver pithoi sent by Croesus to Delphi), the purchase of a pithos in the Hesiodic age would have represented a significant outlay of capital60. On the basis of excavations at Olynthus, albeit from the fifth and fourth centuries, Nicholas Cahill remarks that «pithoi were the most expensive pottery vessels in the household» and even the plain variety could cost as much as a house in a neighboring town61; so valuable were these vessels that they would not infrequently be salvaged after damage or destruction and put to fresh and different use (see below).

  • 62 For detailed discussion of this aspect of pithos design, see Christakis 2005, p. 49-50.
  • 63 For good discussion of this point, see Christakis 2005, p. 81.
  • 64 Scholia veterad 94a (A. Pertusi, ed., Scholia vetera in Hesiodi Opera et Dies, Milan, 1955).
  • 65 See Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 55-56.
  • 66 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 58.

21In the late eighth and seventh centuries, the objects’ increasing artistic value and costliness seem to have gone hand-in-hand with their diminished functionality: the handles on some extant relief pithoi are too delicate to bear the weight of the capacious vessel when filled, nor does these handles’ shape or fretwork, reminiscent of basketry and a particularly innovatory element of pithos design, permit the jars to be easily gripped or manipulated. The volutes included as part of the handle design on relief pithoi from the Tenian-Boeotian group would further inhibit «graspability»62. Instead, as the only two Homeric references to pithoi suggest, these jars were not just storage vessels, but prestige items, conveyors of social status and testaments to the wealth that a household had at its disposal63: in the super-luxurious Olympian home of Zeus (and in a passage that, a scholion suggests64, Hesiod may have had in mind when composing his pithos scene), the two urns from which the deity dispenses good and evil are styled pithoi (Iliad 24, 527-8) and in the house of Odysseus, it is pithoi that hold the choicest, «god-like» wine. Also indicative of these Ithacan vessels’ preciosity is their location and the company they keep: they are «lined up in order» by the storeroom wall alongside other household valuables, gold, bronze, textiles, and olive oil, and are protected by the double doors that seal the chamber and which Eurykleia is charged with guarding both day and night (Odyssey 2, 337-46) The detail of these pithoi’s placement corresponds to the house interiors excavated at Zagora: private homes at the site included several rooms with benches, lining as many as three of the four sides, with depressions and holes designed to hold the jars65. In accordance with the vessels’ role as status objects, decorations on pithoi displayed in this manner would cover only the neck and upper belly of one face, the side visible to someone entering the room. Indeed, although some pithoi were, like the containers in Odysseus’ home, placed for greater safety in the more restricted domestic areas, others would be displayed, together with other indicators of an owner’s wealth, in the public parts of the house66.

  • 67 Zeitlin 1997, p. 61, summarizes earlier attempts to explain this “misogyny” before proposing a fres (...)
  • 68 See too Semonides’depiction of women in fr. 7 W where, in a poem whose many debts to Hesiod comment (...)
  • 69 A point highlighted not just in the Semonides’passage cited in the previous note, but in Euripides (...)

22The properties of the pithoi that I have signaled – the outlay they required, their diminished utility and their role in broadcasting an individual’s socio-economic standing – are relevant to Hesiod’s Pandora on several counts, and might even go some way towards illuminating what remains a critical crux, the pronounced and even idiosyncratic negativity of the poet’s representation of womankind67. If I am correct in suggesting that the Pandora/pithos analogy stands in very close connection with the larger episode in both Hesiodic accounts, then the poet’s insistence on the economic liability that taking a wife represents gains an additional dimension and cogency. Whereas a spouse like Homer’s Penelope augments the household wealth through both her careful stewardship of Odysseus’ possessions and the finely-woven cloths that she makes, Hesiod views a woman as nothing but a drain on her husband’s resources: as Theogony 593 bluntly cautions, women are «no companions of baneful poverty, but only of luxury» (trans. Most)68. Although the poet does not dwell on the cost of acquiring a wife as subsequent poets do69, he is most emphatic on the topic of her failure to contribute to the household economy and her depletion of the stock that her husband laboriously acquires. Not only is Zeus’ order that Athena equip Pandora with weaving skills at Erga 64 left conspicuously unfulfilled when that blueprint is executed, but, as the drone analogy in the Theogony makes so plain, women «reap the labour of others into their own bellies» (599), yielding nothing in return.

  • 70 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 53.

23Compare this scenario to what the acquisition and possession of an elaborately decorated pithos represents for a member of Hesiod’s audience. Its costliness means that it too depletes household resources and, for all the symbolic capital that a man might accrue by virtue of displaying a particularly fine jar in his home, in more material terms it results in a deficit on the domestic balance sheet. Nor is this artifact a properly «productive» item in the household inventory: its intricate design stands in the way of functionality and undermines its capacity to fulfill the role for which these very necessary vessels were first designed, to contain, preserve, and dispense foodstuffs. As Ebbinghaus remarks of the trend towards fashioning increasingly slender pithoi, their now high necks set off, and that more resembled amphoras, «relief pithoi, especially of the Tenian-Boeotian and Rhodian groups, take the assimilation to the amphora far beyond the practical level», resulting in jars that would be unwieldy and hard to use70. The pithos in the Erga visibly fails to function as storage containers should; instead of safeguarding the grain, wine, oil or other foodstuff placed in it, it allows its contents’ dispersal.

  • 71 These are «goods» insofar as a storage container necessarily holds essential food items, but «evils (...)
  • 72 Here I follow Vernant 1980 and 1989, and Zeitlin 1997, p. 64-68, who both assume a mixed nature to (...)

24At the broader thematic level too, archaic Greek pithoi and their two-fold role as essential storage vessels and status goods whose preciosity could mean diminished utility, are entirely apposite to Hesiod’s Prometheus-Pandora episode and help to elucidate the issue that so many other discussions of Pandora’s jar address: the positive or negative valence of what the vessel contains, and the ambivalence that seems to define both the properties that are scattered abroad71 and Elpis that remains72. Like everything else that the gods have devised on behalf of or bestowed on men in the earlier portions of the story (meat, fire, grain, woman), the highly decorated pithos is an inextricable and inescapable mix of good and ill; a necessity and beneficial insofar as any householder needs a pithos, which can moreover enhance its owner’s standing and declare his wealth; deleterious for its costliness and the difficulties that the intricate designs pose for those who try to use the vessels. By virtue of this ambivalent character, the jar has a natural place as the final term in the sequence of mixed phenomena – whether evils hidden under attractive surfaces, or goods under ugly ones – that the larger episode presents.

  • 73 See Caskey 1976, 24, Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 196 and Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 16.
  • 74 See Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 196 and Caskey 1976, p. 24. Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 56, questions the id (...)
  • 75 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 16.

25My focus so far has been on the domestic sphere, and on the role of pithoi within the home. But the very features that undermined their usefulness where the householder was concerned made these pots eminently suitable for a different function – that of votive offerings73. Sanctuaries and other sacred sites from many parts of the Greek world have yielded ample pithoi remains; while some may have held provisions for communal feasting, or served as containers for smaller votive goods, on other occasions these highly worked jars would supply self-standing objects of dedication. In what may have been a sanctuary of Demeter at Xobourgo on Tenos, excavators unearthed a series of early seventh-century relief pithoi arranged in a niche against a wall74, while Croesus’ notorious dedication of his silver jars at Delphi further attests to the objects’ votive role; pithoi with elaborate decorations were also found among the dedications at the Cretan temple of Dreros75.

  • 76 For ample documentation, see Day 2010.

26This second function not only further attests to the high value of the jars, their place among other agalmata or top rank, prestige goods, but may also inform the Pandora-pithos analogy. The language used by Hesiod in his description of this image’s fabrication is filled with the terms that cluster around votive offerings, and that belong to the highly standardized diction used in the dedicatory epigrams inscribed on such artefacts from the eighth century on. Just as the inscriptions favour χάρις and δαιδαλ-based terms so as to proclaim these gifts, whether images, plaques, tripods, metal vessels or more mundane terracotta jars, objects of delight to their divine recipients, and to advertise that they are highly-wrought, luminous and pleasing to the eye76, so the Hesiodic Pandora is a thing of artistry and brilliance, invested with that particular visual allure that the χάρις shed about her describes (see Theogony 575, 580, 581, 583; Erga 64, 65). On this count too, Pandora proves a prolepsis or double of her pithos. And insofar as the details of her fabrication and adornment would bring the kosmêsis of a cult image to mind, she shares in the character of votive offering on this second count, an object that, in the proper course of things so disastrously inverted at Mekone, should be offered by men to gods, and not by gods to men.

  • 77 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 54, cites many examples.
  • 78 See Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 54-55 for discussion.
  • 79 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 80.
  • 80 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 127-30 offers an index of these and other scenes. Note too a white-groun (...)

27Finally, a third and very common usage for these outsized pots. As the discovery of many of the extant pithoi in graves and cemeteries from all over the Greek world (the Athenian Kerameikos, Eleusis, Argos, Sparta, Thebes, Adamas on Melos, Rhodian Lindos, and Mykonos among them) affirms, these jars, like other large-scale vessels, were regularly used as containers for inhumation burials77. First visible at Neolithic sites, the practice continued sporadically in mainland Greece, gaining in frequency through the course of the Geometric period and becoming particularly widespread by the late eighth century. Whether this burial function (and pithoi may also have served as grave markers at the site) was the primary or, as most archaeologists now agree, more probably secondary usage for vessels that had formerly served as storage jars in the home78, the association between the pithos and death and burial was commonplace and seems to find an echo in the vessels’ iconography. Indeed, for all that Simantoni-Bournia suggests that the episodes depicted on Cycladic relief pithoi from the early seventh century focused chiefly on the «agreeable» aspects of life79, jars both earlier and later exhibit an unmistakable preoccupation with death and its attendant causes: among the most frequently found scenes throughout the visual corpus is that of a dead body being devoured by vultures (fig. 5), and warriors shown dead or dying on the battlefield are also ubiquitous in pithos iconography80.

  • 81 Line 93, found in the margin or text of a few manuscripts, is almost undoubtedly an interpolation. (...)
  • 82 See Murnaghan 1993, who points out that with the fact of birth comes the recognition of mortality.

28Hesiod’s account of womankind and of the jar that Pandora unseals in the Erga includes just this focus on a man’s ultimate demise, that inevitable mortality which events at Mekone first usher in. As the poet observes in the closing portion of this second version of the Pandora episode, «for previously the tribes of men used to live upon the earth completely separate from evils, and without harsh toil and grievous diseases, which give death to men» (90-92), lines that suggestively appear immediately before the first mention of the pithos at 9481. The introduction of Pandora’s jar, in a sense, follows logically on from Hesiod’s remark: the (burial) pithos is necessary now that men must ineluctably die even as the presence of the first woman concomitantly signals the fact of birth82.

  • 83 A second pithos, also in Paris (Louvre CA 937) seems to show the same scene, but only Perseus is st (...)
  • 84 Thebes Museum, BE 469.
  • 85 For discussion, see Langdon 2001, p. 592-99 and Langdon 2008, p. 182-83. Although the child’s gende (...)
  • 86 Paris, Louvre CA 3837.

29If some of the images included on pithoi seem particularly well calibrated with the vessels’ role as containers for the dead, then their iconography does not limit itself to visualizations of this ultimate rite of passage. While the point should not be pressed, it is worth noting that among extant pithoi, a significant proportion display scenes that, whether through mythical paradigms or representations that more closely conform to (an artistic construction of) a contemporary reality, would evoke for viewers events, rites and festivals connected with other moments of transition in their lives. Among these belong depictions of coming-of-age rituals for youths and maidens, including the much-discussed seventh-century Cycladic relief pithos in Paris showing Perseus beheading an equine-bodied Medusa (fig. 6)83, an episode that belongs within an archetypal maturation myth; so too a pithos of c. 720-700 containing a child’s bones (a secondary usage, as the pot’s breakage and repair so as to introduce the body inside show) that was disinterred in the Theban suburb of Pyri84 features adults and children of both sexes participating in a festival plausibly identified as the Theban Daphnephoria, a coming-of-age ritual that involved transition rites for both the parthenoi who danced in choruses at the event, and the boys, these represented by the daphnêphoros who led the capstone procession at the event85. Marriages, both mythical and real, also occupy a large place in the iconographical repertoire. Some artists imagine these in the form of abduction scenarios (the Europa story for example, or a Geometric pithos from Megara Hyblaea, where two centaurs each claims a maiden from a larger parthenic group)86, while others portray more consensual marital unions; so on the burial pithos from Cretan Fortesa cited earlier the (divine) female figure unveils herself before her companion in what may be our earliest visual account of the sacred marriage between Zeus and Hera.

  • 87 Langdon 2008, p. 283.
  • 88 Reeder 1995, p. 279 further suggests that the pithos might be construed as one among the containers (...)

30While the state of the evidence prohibits our securely identifying many of the scenes, and other images appear on sherds too fragmentary to be associated with a particular vase shape, I would close with the suggestion that Pandora’s association with a pithos may additionally draw on the eighth-and seventh-century social practice of using these high-status vessels in connection with crucial moments of transition in individual lives, a usage also visible for some of the most elaborate pots of other types. Whether these pithoi fulfilled actual roles during the rituals (the Pyri pithos, Susan Langdon suggests, might have contained provisions for a commemorative meal, shoots of laurel for the procession, or even «the traditional bridal bathwater from the Ismene river»)87, or were designed to commemorate and recall the same, they would bear witness to an individual’s successful negotiation of the passage from one life stage to another. In this light, Pandora’s patently bridal identity – not only is she adorned in the manner typical of the Greek bride, dressed in a rich garment, veil and crown, but she is presented to Epimetheus as a maiden would be to her groom – may also condition Hesiod’s choice of the pithos in the closing chapter of the Prometheus-Pandora episode. If these particular pots regularly appeared in the context of marriage as well as funerary rites, and exhibited iconography suited to this rite of passage too, then, on this final count, the nuptial Pandora and her pithos form a natural pair88.

Fig. 1: Clay pithos from Knossos.

Fig. 1: Clay pithos from Knossos.

London, British Museum, inv. a 739

Fig. 2: neck fragment of Boeotian relief pithos with Europa on the bull.

Fig. 2: neck fragment of Boeotian relief pithos with Europa on the bull.

Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, inv. 64C 23563.

Fig. 3: neck fragment of a Boeotian relief pithos with Athena Potnia.

Fig. 3: neck fragment of a Boeotian relief pithos with Athena Potnia.

Athens, national Archaeological Museum, inv. 5898.

Fig. 4a and b: Campanian red-figure neck amphora attributed to the Owl Pillar Group.

Fig. 4a and b: Campanian red-figure neck amphora attributed to the Owl Pillar Group.

Obverse: Pandora and Hephaestus (?). Reverse: Elpis in the pithos. London, British Museum, inv. F 147.

Fig. 5: Detail from the body of an Eretrian relief pithos showing a vulture devouring a corpse.

Fig. 5: Detail from the body of an Eretrian relief pithos showing a vulture devouring a corpse.

Eretria, Museum of Eretria, inv. ME 16620-21.

Fig. 6: Detail from the neck of a Cycladic relief pithos showing Perseus killing Medusa.

Fig. 6: Detail from the neck of a Cycladic relief pithos showing Perseus killing Medusa.

Paris, Musée du Louvre, CA 795.

Bibliographie

Baur 1909: P. V. C. Baur, «A fragment of a painted pithos from Cnossus», American Journal of Archaeology 4, 1909, p. 429-30.

Beyer 1976: Immo Beyer, Die Tempel von Dreros und Prinias A und die Chronologie der kretischen Kunst des 8. und 7. Jhr. v. Chr., Freiburg, 1976.

Boardman 1962: John Boardman, «Archaic finds at Knossos», The Annual of the British School of Archaeology at Athens 57, 1962, p. 28-34.

Brown 1997: A. S. Brown, «Aphrodite and the Pandora complex», Classical Quarterly 47, 1997, p. 26-47.

Cahill 2002: Nicholas Cahill, Household and city organization at Olynthus, New Haven, 2002.

Caskey 1976: Miriam E. Caskey, «Notes on relief pithoi of the Tenian-Boiotian group», American Journal of Archaeology 80, 1976, p. 19-41.

Christakis 2005: Kostandinos S. Christakis, Cretan Bronze Age pithoi: traditions and trends in the production and consumption of storage containers in Bronze Age Crete, Philadelphia, 2005.

Cullen and Keller 1990: Tracey Cullen and Donald R. Keller, «The Greek pithos through time: multiple functions and diverse imagery», in W. David Kingery (ed.), The changing roles of ceramics in society: 26, 000 B. P. to the present, Westerville, 1990, p. 183-209 (Ceramics and Civilization 5).

Day 2010: Joseph W. Day, Archaic Greek epigram and dedication, Cambridge, 2010.

Dubois 1988: Page Dubois, Sowing the Body. Psychoanalysis and ancient representations of Women, Chicago, 1988.

Ebbinghaus 2005: Susanne Ebbinghaus, «Protector of the city, or the art of storage in early Greece», Journal of Hellenic Studies 125, 2005, p. 51-72.

Faraone 1992: Christopher A. Faraone, Talismans and Trojan horses. Guardian statues in ancient Greek myth and ritual, Oxford, 1992.

Gantz 1993: Timothy Gantz, Early Greek myth. Baltimore, 1993.

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Hurwit 1995: Jeffrey M. Hurwit, «Beautiful Evil: Pandora and the Athena Parthenos», American Journal of Archaeology 99, 1995, p. 171-86.

Hoffmann 1985: Geneviève Hoffmann, «Pandora, la jarre et l’espoir», Études Rurales 97/98, 1985, p. 119-32.

Johnston 1984: A. W. Johnston, «Fragmenta britannica III: pithoi», Bulletin of the Institute of Classical Studies 31, 1984, p. 39-50.

Langdon 2001: Susan Langdon, «Beyond the grave: biographies from early Greece», American Journal of Archaeology 105, 2001, p. 579-606.

Langdon 2008: Susan Langdon, Art and identity in Dark Age Greece, 1100-700 B. C. E., Cambridge, 2008.

Loraux 1993: Nicole Loraux, The children of Athena, Princeton, 1993 [Paris, 1981].

Murnaghan 1993: Sheila Murnaghan, «Maternity and Mortality in Homeric Poetry», Classical Antiquity 11, 1993, p. 242-64.

Neils 2005: Jennifer Neils, «The girl in the pithos. Hesiod’s Elpis», in Judith M. Barringer and Jeffrey M. Hurwit (ed.), Periklean Athens and its legacy: problems and perspectives, Austin, 2005, p. 37-45.

Palermo 1992: Dario Palermo, «L’officina dei pithoi di Festòs: un contributo alla conoscenza della città in età arcaica», Cronache di Archeologia 31, 1992, p. 35-53.

Pilides 2000: Despina Pilides, Pithoi of the Late Bronze Age in Cyprus: types from the major sites of the period, Nicosia, 2000.

Pucci 1977: Piero Pucci, Hesiod and the language of poetry, Baltimore, 1977.

Reeder 1995: Ellen D. Reeder, Pandora. Women in classical Greece. Princeton, 1995.

Simantoni-Bournia 2004: Eva Simantoni-Bournia, La céramique grecque à reliefs: ateliers insulaires du VIIIe au VIe siècle avant J. -C., Geneva, 2004.

Sissa 1990: Giulia Sissa, Greek Virginity, trans. Arthur Goldhammer, Cambridge, MA, 1990.

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Vernant 1989: Jean-Pierre Vernant, «At man’s table: Hesiod’s foundation myth of sacrifice», in Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant (ed.), The cuisine of sacrifice among the Greeks, Chicago, 1989 [Paris, 1979], p. 21-86.

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West 1978: Martin L. West, Hesiod. Works and Days, Oxford, 1978.

Whitley 1994: James Whitley, «Protoattic pottery: a contextual approach», in Ian Morris (ed.), Classical Greece: ancient histories and modern archaeologies, Cambridge, 1994, p. 51-70.

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Notes

1 Many thanks are owed to Froma Zeitlin who, with characteristic generosity, read and commented on an earlier version of this piece.

2 For a very handy review and summary of responses to these questions, see the Pandora bibliography prepared by E. F. Beall and available athttp://poetry.efbeall.net/pandorareferences.htm.

3 Among the heterogeneous substances that archaeologists have identified on the basis of residues in the pottery fragments are grain, lentils, almonds, figs, salted fish, oil and wine; pithoi were also used to contain a variety of household hardware, to gather rain water, and for transporting goods overseas. Other functions will be treated through the course of this article. For further discussion, see Cullen and Keller 1990, Tzedakis and Martlew 1999, and Christakis 2005, p. 50-57. While the majority of pithoi were made out of clay, wood could also be used, and I will note some metallic versions attested in the sources; archaeologists also cite the no longer extant dark green stone pithos found in the tomb of Clytemnestra.

4 In the absence of any source earlier or contemporary with Hesiod that tells the Pandora story (a few fragments of Hesiod and the Catalogue of Women do mention Pandora, but give her a different genealogy and make her the wife of Prometheus; for these, see West 1978 ad 81), we cannot know the degree to which the poet follows an existing version or innovates here, putting together narrative motifs from other traditional tales. (The fact that the extant fragments assign different genealogies and marital histories to Pandora suggests that at this stage of its formation the story had not assumed a single canonical form). Proklos notes in a scholion to Erga 89 a variant in which Prometheus acquires the pithos from the satyrs, but this may be derived from one of the several fifth-century satyr plays that treat the Prometheus-Pandora story. For the view that Hesiod offers an original version made up of several previously independent motifs, see Faraone 1992, p. 101-02.

5 I will be exploring several of the other Homeric and Hesiodic passages through the course of the discussion.

6 For the distinction between pithoi and amphoras, which they most closely resemble among other vessel types, see Caskey 1976, p. 20. On issues of definition, see too Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 10-11.

7 See Erga 613 and Iliad 16, 643.

8 Dubois 1988, p. 46-49, Sissa 1990, p. 147-56, Zeitlin 1997, p. 64-68; see too Pucci 1977, p. 88-89 and Hoffmann 1985.

9 The citation comes from Zeitlin 1997, p. 65.

10 Vernant 1989, p. 75-78.

11 Zeitlin 1997, p. 77-78.

12 As Zeitlin (1997, p. 62) comments, «in ordinary social practice, it would be the woman’s task to take care of these provisions, protecting them from pilferage and untimely opening… The proprieties of household management support the analogy between the storage jar and the woman’s belly, both of them a source of bios (life and livelihood) entrusted to the wife for safekeeping».

13 A point highlighted in Pucci 1977, 88-89 and Dubois 1988, p. 46-47.

14 Note the comment in Loraux 1993, p. 78, à propos of Pandora’s creation: «she is made of earth, but it is clayey earth; she is not born from the fertile loam like the autochthonous Athenians» (italics in the original). In her detailed description of how a potter would fashion his vessel, Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 14, cites the use of water, or clay diluted with water, for the subsequent attachment of decorations to the body of the pot.

15 As noted by Dubois 1988, p. 47. This is a point treated in greater detail below.

16 I borrow this notion from Langdon 2001, p. 579 and 600, with broader discussion of the “object biography” or “contextual” approach; see too Whitley 1994, p. 63-65.

17 See the bibliography cited in nn. 3 and 21 for discussion of regional variations.

18 The evidence suggests not only that the jars were used for the transport of other objects in local and more distant trade, but that the finer specimens were themselves export items. See Pilides 2000, p. 49-53, for the early material, and the works cited in n. 21. Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 12 and 17, also notes the likelihood of itinerant potters, drawing on the analogy of the continuing tradition of pitharades visible in Greece until the middle of the last century. The Erga even suggests the itinerant nature of the potter when it includes the κεραμεύς among individuals who compete against one another at lines 25-26; the “professionals” listed here largely correspond to those cited by Eumaeus at Odyssey 17, 383-85, there styled δημιοεργοί, whose defining characteristic was movement from place to place.

19 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 52. Note too that they can be very large, measuring up to two meters and more.

20 For variations in shape, see the detailed typology in Christakis 2005, p. 5-21.

21 The account that follows draws chiefly on Simantoni-Bournia 2004, Christakis 2005, Ebbinghaus 2005, Pilides 2000, Johnston 1984 and the older discussion of Caskey 1976; see too Cullen and Keller 1990.

22 The early focus on Boeotia has been modified in the more recent literature; see Caskey 1976, p. 21, Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 63 n. 4, and Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 52 with the ample bibliography listed in her n. 8. Vessels belonging to the Tenian-Boeotian group have subsequently been found, among other places, at sites in Sparta, Crete, Rhodes, Thera and the northern Cyclades, where Andros and Tenos played a leading role in the manufacture of pithoi. Itinerant potters from Tenos may have carried their techniques to other regions, including Boeotia.

23 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 57.

24 Plato, Laches 187b cites the Greek proverb equivalent to our «don’t run before you can walk»: ἐν πίθῳ τὴν κεραμείαν μανθάνειν.

25 For very early examples of the motif, see Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 194. The discussions listed in n. 21 above variously treat the rope device. Giannopoulou 2010, p. 73, notes that in recent times, pithoi-makers at Margarites in Crete called the applied bands still used for decorations zônaria, «girdles».

26 Note Iliad 18, 379 where Hephaestus cuts the similar δεσμοί to complete the precious cauldrons that he forges; these chains are at once functional and decorative devices that enhance the highly-wrought objects.

27 See Caskey 1976, p. 24 and pl. 2, fig. 7.

28 E. g. Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite 87, where the term is used for the goddess’earrings.

29 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale Inv. 64 C 23563. Caskey 1976, p. 27 compares this to the necklace described in Hesiod, fr. 141.4-6 M. -W., where Zeus presents Europa with a golden necklace made by Hephaestus. See too Simantoni-bournia 2004, p. 86.

30 Tenos Musuem, Inv. B 25; for this see Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 82 and pl. 37, fig 94. Simantoni-Bournia further suggests links between Rhodian potters and the island’s textile makers (p. 124).

31 Tenos Museum, Inv. B 63.

32 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 52.

33 Naxos Museum, Inv. 90; see Caskey 1976, p. 24 and her pl. 2, fig. 8 for this.

34 Like the rope decorations, floral motifs are found already in Minoan times; see Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 192 for examples of these.

35 Christakis 2005, p. 31 documents these.

36 London, British Museum, F 147; for recent detailed discussion, see Neils 2005. I return to this image later on.

37 West 1966 ad 582. See too Brown 1997, p. 31.

38 Caskey 1976, p. 40; see too Palermo 1992 and Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 53. Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 26, cites additional examples.

39 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 22; see too Boardman 1962, p. 31, fig. 3.1, pl. 4a.

40 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 42.

41 For these, see Langdon 2008, p. 282-83. See too the very early painted pithos from Cnossos discussed in Baur 1909.

42 Caskey 1976, p. 32 and 33, cites examples.

43 Beyer 1976 with discussion in Langdon 2008, p. 284.

44 On this see Simantoni-Bournia 2004.

45 For these, see Christakis 2005, p. 38-39; note too Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 191.

46 Brown 1997, p. 31-37 emphasizes the role that precious metals, and gold in particular, play in enhancing the seductive powers of women, divine and mortal.

47 Neils 2005, p. 41. Neils does not, however, connect the metallic jar she argues for with the making of Pandora.

48 Best known is the unbreakable bronze vessel in which Otos and Ephialtes lock up Ares in Iliad 5, 385-91 (although this is not designated a pithos, but simply a κέραμος, a more generalized and unmarked term), and the similarly bronze pithos in which Eurystheus hid himself (Diodorus Siculus, 4, 12, 1-2).

49 Also according to Herodotus, the fabulously rich Persian kings melted down their silver and stored it in pithoi (3, 96).

50 See Faraone 1992, p. 101 and n. 48, and p. 87, n. 6 for fuller discussion of these stories.

51 In an Appendix to her article, Caskey 1976 explores the relations between metalwork and the Tenian-Boeotian as well as Theran and Rhodian pithoi, and questions the degree to which these jars are derived from metal prototypes. While arguing against the overly close and derivative link assumed in earlier accounts, where the potters would be borrowing from existing practices in metal work, she nonetheless grants that «the number of motifs common to the repertoire of the pithos makers and metal-workers is enough to show that they were open to some of the same artistic currents» (p. 40). For a more recent assessment, which reaches much the same conclusion, see Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 132-33 with further bibliography.

52 Examples of these handles appear on pithoi in Basel (Antikenmuseum BS 617) and Boston (MFA 99.506), reproduced in Caskey 1976, pl. 6.22, 24. Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 54, n. 19, also calls attention to the «row of small, rivet-like bosses» evocative of metal work on the Boston pithos.

53 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 69 and 133.

54 For discussion of the extant examples, see Hurwit 1995, p. 176-77 and Reeder 1995, p. 279-86 with full bibliographic documentation for each piece.

55 British Museum, GR 1885.1-28.1 (D 4); British Museum GR 1856.12-13.1 (E 467). Representations such as these seem chiefly to have influenced the portrayal of Pandora on the base of Pheidias’Athena Parthenos, where the gift-giving gods are lined up on the figure’s two sides.

56 A number of other possible depictions exist, dating from the mid fifth century, and showing hammer-wielding satyrs and a woman emerging from the earth. Gantz 1993, p. 163-64 treats the question of whether these show Pandora, and their relation to Sophocles’lost satyr play, titled Pandora or Sphyrokopoi («Hammerers»).

57 See Neils 2005, p. 39.

58 For additional discussion, see Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 193 and Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 55.

59 Many vase images show the pithos-user squatting by the jar so as to draw the liquid out.

60 As Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 200 remark of the status of pithoi by classical times, «the pithos was the proverbial symbol of well-being and wealth for the Greeks».

61 Cahill 2008, p. 228.

62 For detailed discussion of this aspect of pithos design, see Christakis 2005, p. 49-50.

63 For good discussion of this point, see Christakis 2005, p. 81.

64 Scholia veterad 94a (A. Pertusi, ed., Scholia vetera in Hesiodi Opera et Dies, Milan, 1955).

65 See Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 55-56.

66 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 58.

67 Zeitlin 1997, p. 61, summarizes earlier attempts to explain this “misogyny” before proposing a fresh reading that also, although very differently, concerns household economics.

68 See too Semonides’depiction of women in fr. 7 W where, in a poem whose many debts to Hesiod commentators have detailed, the mare woman is a delight to others, but a plague for her husband, unless he is super-wealthy (67-70).

69 A point highlighted not just in the Semonides’passage cited in the previous note, but in Euripides Hippolytus 630-33, which so clearly looks back to the Hesiodic account.

70 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 53.

71 These are «goods» insofar as a storage container necessarily holds essential food items, but «evils» according to Hesiod’s clear statements throughout the closing passage that whatever Pandora released are the source of the myriad woes that plague mankind; for this “evil” aspect, see 90-92 («for previously the tribes of men used to live on earth apart from evils and harsh labor and grievous diseases»), 94-95 («the woman released the great lid from the storage jar… and contrived baneful ills for humankind»), and 100-02 («countless other miseries wander among men»).

72 Here I follow Vernant 1980 and 1989, and Zeitlin 1997, p. 64-68, who both assume a mixed nature to Elpis consistent with the other gifts of the gods; Expectation/Anticipation is an inextricable combination of good and bad.

73 See Caskey 1976, 24, Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 196 and Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 16.

74 See Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 196 and Caskey 1976, p. 24. Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 56, questions the identification of the site as a sanctuary, and views the pithoi as burial jars.

75 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 16.

76 For ample documentation, see Day 2010.

77 Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 54, cites many examples.

78 See Ebbinghaus 2005, p. 54-55 for discussion.

79 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 80.

80 Simantoni-Bournia 2004, p. 127-30 offers an index of these and other scenes. Note too a white-ground lekythos (for this, see Cullen and Keller 1990, p. 202-03 and fig. 4), itself a grave-offering, which may portray a scene from the Pithoigia (Jar-opening), the first day of the three day Athenian Anthesteria on which the souls of the dead in Hades were thought to roam abroad. In this Hermes guides the psuchai of the dead from the Underworld through the mouth of a sunken pithos.

81 Line 93, found in the margin or text of a few manuscripts, is almost undoubtedly an interpolation. See West 1978 ad loc.

82 See Murnaghan 1993, who points out that with the fact of birth comes the recognition of mortality.

83 A second pithos, also in Paris (Louvre CA 937) seems to show the same scene, but only Perseus is still visible. For discussion, see Topper 2010 and Langdon 2008, p. 113-14.

84 Thebes Museum, BE 469.

85 For discussion, see Langdon 2001, p. 592-99 and Langdon 2008, p. 182-83. Although the child’s gender is not known, Langdon conjectures from the other items included in the burial that the corpse was most probably that of a girl.

86 Paris, Louvre CA 3837.

87 Langdon 2008, p. 283.

88 Reeder 1995, p. 279 further suggests that the pithos might be construed as one among the containers that a bride would receive as a wedding gift, although this practice is attested only for later periods.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1: Clay pithos from Knossos.
Légende London, British Museum, inv. a 739
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/3047/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
Titre Fig. 2: neck fragment of Boeotian relief pithos with Europa on the bull.
Légende Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, inv. 64C 23563.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/3047/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
Titre Fig. 3: neck fragment of a Boeotian relief pithos with Athena Potnia.
Légende Athens, national Archaeological Museum, inv. 5898.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/3047/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 68k
Titre Fig. 4a and b: Campanian red-figure neck amphora attributed to the Owl Pillar Group.
Légende Obverse: Pandora and Hephaestus (?). Reverse: Elpis in the pithos. London, British Museum, inv. F 147.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/3047/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 120k
Titre Fig. 5: Detail from the body of an Eretrian relief pithos showing a vulture devouring a corpse.
Légende Eretria, Museum of Eretria, inv. ME 16620-21.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/3047/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 168k
Titre Fig. 6: Detail from the neck of a Cycladic relief pithos showing Perseus killing Medusa.
Légende Paris, Musée du Louvre, CA 795.
URL http://books.openedition.org/editionsehess/docannexe/image/3047/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 158k

Auteur

Columbia University

© Éditions de l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 2013

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540