Cassandra

Name: Cassandra
Title: Of Troy
Position: Princess of Sparta
Location: Agamemnon's ship
City of Residence: Troy


Ah, Cassandra. One of the most unfortunate women in all of Greek Mythology. She's also one of my very favorites.

Cassandra was the most beautiful of the daughters of Priam and Hecuba. While still young, she and her twin, Helenus, slept at the temple of Apollo and gained the gift of prophecy. There are several stories as to how this gift was given. One of these stories is that, as they slept, sacred snakes came and licked clean the ears of the two children, giving them the ability to see (hear?) the future. (Yes, for those of you who have visited my homework help site, I do use the same jokes twice.) Another is that Apollo simply thought Cassandra to be so beautiful that he gave the gift to her outright.

But, however, she received her gift, it was to play an important role in her life. When she grew older and went to the temple of Apollo again to sleep, without Helenus this time, Apollo attempted to impregnate her. She resisted, and he cursed her, so that, although she would continue to see the future, from then on no one would believe her prophecies. (Ouch!)

At about the same time as all this was going on, the young shepherd boy Paris (see Paris ) came down from the hills of Mount Ida and entered Troy. Cassandra realized, through her prophecy, that this handsome young man was actually her brother (and not an instant too soon, as Paris was seducing everyone in sight) and caused him to be welcomed back into his family. (It is interesting to note that, although this happened after Apollo's curse, she was still believed. Maybe it was one fo them time-elapse curses.) Everyone forgot about the bad dream of Hecuba and prophecy by another seer at Paris's birth that he woudl be a burning brand to burn down the city of Troy. Nope, they were too glad to have him back.

When Paris brought home a nice girl to Troy, everybody thought it was just swell, despite the fact that her name was Helen of Sparta and she was already married. She was the most beautiful woman they'd ever seen (sorry, Cassandra) and they welcomed her into Troy with open arms, despite Cassandra's dire prophecies that she woudl bring ruin upon their city. Yup, the curse was kicking in.

Sadly Cassandra watched for the nine years of the Trojan War as her brave brothers were picked off one by one by Greek forces. When at last the Greeks (at the instigation of Odysseus) had the bright idea to make a wooden horse, she warned the Trojans agaisnt it. They ignored her, as usual, and this brought about their doom. Greeks rushed out of the horse, burning and pillaging everything in sight. Menelaus took back Helen from Diomedes (Paris was dead by that time, and she'd been passed on), and Cassandra was brutally raped by Ajax the Lesser, although clinging to the altar of Athene. (Later, incensed by this sacrilege, Athene caused Ajax's ship to sink upon the sea on the journey home.)

Poor Cassandra was then given to Agamemnon as a slave girl; and sailed home with him to Greece, where she was promptly murdered by his jealous (and cheating) wife Clytemnestra, who also killed Agamemnon, leading to the events of the Oresteia. She and her lover, having murdered poor Cassandra nad Agamemnon, then took over the city.

Although Cassandra had a far from happy life, her name has made its way into our language as one who predicts doom, whose pleas fall on deaf ears. She, as Helen said, became a "thing of song."