Cassandra

Cassandra

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In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

, Cassandra (Greek
Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek is the stage of the Greek language in the periods spanning the times c. 9th–6th centuries BC, , c. 5th–4th centuries BC , and the c. 3rd century BC – 6th century AD of ancient Greece and the ancient world; being predated in the 2nd millennium BC by Mycenaean Greek...

 , also , also known as Alexandra) was the daughter of King Priam
Priam
Priam was the king of Troy during the Trojan War and youngest son of Laomedon. Modern scholars derive his name from the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".- Marriage and issue :...

 and Queen Hecuba
Hecuba
Hecuba was a queen in Greek mythology, the wife of King Priam of Troy during the Trojan War, with whom she had 19 children. These children included several major characters of Homer's Iliad such as the warriors Hector and Paris, and the prophetess Cassandra...

 of Troy
Troy
Troy was a city, both factual and legendary, located in northwest Anatolia in what is now Turkey, southeast of the Dardanelles and beside Mount Ida...

. Her beauty caused Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

 to grant her the gift of prophecy
Prophecy
Prophecy is a process in which one or more messages that have been communicated to a prophet are then communicated to others. Such messages typically involve divine inspiration, interpretation, or revelation of conditioned events to come as well as testimonies or repeated revelations that the...

. In an alternative version, she spent a night at Apollo's temple, at which time the temple snakes licked her ears clean so that she was able to hear the future (this is a recurring theme in Greek mythology, though sometimes it brings an ability to understand the language of animals rather than an ability to know the future). However, when she did not return his love, Apollo placed a curse on her so that no one would ever believe her predictions. She is a figure both of the epic tradition and of tragedy, where her combination of deep understanding and powerlessness exemplify the ironic condition of mankind.

History


Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam
Priam
Priam was the king of Troy during the Trojan War and youngest son of Laomedon. Modern scholars derive his name from the Luwian compound Priimuua, which means "exceptionally courageous".- Marriage and issue :...

 and Queen Hecuba
Hecuba
Hecuba was a queen in Greek mythology, the wife of King Priam of Troy during the Trojan War, with whom she had 19 children. These children included several major characters of Homer's Iliad such as the warriors Hector and Paris, and the prophetess Cassandra...

 and the twin sister of Helenus
Helenus
Helenus was a Trojan soldier and prophet in the Trojan War.In Greek mythology, Helenus was the son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, and the twin brother of the prophetess Cassandra. He was also called Scamandrios. According to legend, Cassandra, having been given the power of prophecy by...

. She was said to have had dark brown hair kept in curls, dark brown eyes, and fair skin and she was very beautiful, intelligent, charming, desirable, elegant, friendly, and gentle, but she was considered to be insane. Cassandra was described as the "second most beautiful woman in the world." Her beauty was even compared to that of Aphrodite
Aphrodite
Aphrodite is the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation.Her Roman equivalent is the goddess .Historically, her cult in Greece was imported from, or influenced by, the cult of Astarte in Phoenicia....

 and Helen
Helen
In Greek mythology, Helen of Troy , also known as Helen of Sparta, was the daughter of Zeus and Leda , step-daughter of King Tyndareus, wife of Menelaus and sister of Castor, Polydeuces and Clytemnestra...

.

Apollo's cursed gift to Cassandra became a source of endless pain and frustration to her. In some versions of the myth, this is symbolized by the god spitting into her mouth; in other Greek versions, this act was sufficient to remove the gift so recently given by Apollo, but Cassandra's case varies. From Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

' Agamemnon
The Oresteia
The Oresteia is a trilogy of Greek tragedies written by Aeschylus which concerns the end of the curse on the House of Atreus. When originally performed it was accompanied by Proteus, a satyr play that would have been performed following the trilogy; it has not survived...

, it appears that she has made a promise to Apollo to become his consort, but broke it, thus incurring his wrath: though she has retained the power of foresight, no one will believe her predictions.

While Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy (she warned the Trojans about the Trojan Horse
Trojan Horse
The Trojan Horse is a tale from the Trojan War about the stratagem that allowed the Greeks finally to enter the city of Troy and end the conflict. In the canonical version, after a fruitless 10-year siege, the Greeks constructed a huge wooden horse, and hid a select force of men inside...

, the death of Agamemnon
Agamemnon
In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

, and her own demise), she was unable to do anything to forestall these tragedies since no one believed her.
Coroebus
Coroebus
In Greek mythology, Coroebus was the son of King Mygdon of Phrygia. He came to the aid of Troy during the Trojan War out of love for Princess Cassandra. During the Sack of Troy, Coroebus convinced some of his fellow soldiers, including Aeneas, to dress in enemy armor to disguise themselves...

 and Othronus came to the aid of Troy out of love for Cassandra. Cassandra was also the first to see the body of her brother Hector
Hector
In Greek mythology, Hectōr , or Hektōr, is a Trojan prince and the greatest fighter for Troy in the Trojan War. As the first-born son of King Priam and Queen Hecuba, a descendant of Dardanus, who lived under Mount Ida, and of Tros, the founder of Troy, he was a prince of the royal house and the...

 being brought back to the city.

At the fall of Troy, she sought shelter in the temple of Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, where she was violently abducted and rape
Rape
Rape is a type of sexual assault usually involving sexual intercourse, which is initiated by one or more persons against another person without that person's consent. The act may be carried out by physical force, coercion, abuse of authority or with a person who is incapable of valid consent. The...

d by Ajax the Lesser
Ajax the Lesser
Ajax was a Greek mythological hero, son of Oileus, the king of Locris. He was called the "lesser" or "Locrian" Ajax, to distinguish him from Ajax the Great, son of Telamon. He was the leader of the Locrian contingent during the Trojan War. He is a significant figure in Homer's Iliad and is also...

. Cassandra was then taken as a concubine by King Agamemnon
Agamemnon
In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

 of Mycenae
Mycenae
Mycenae is an archaeological site in Greece, located about 90 km south-west of Athens, in the north-eastern Peloponnese. Argos is 11 km to the south; Corinth, 48 km to the north...

. Unbeknownst to Agamemnon, while he was away at war, his wife, Clytemnestra
Clytemnestra
Clytemnestra or Clytaemnestra , in ancient Greek legend, was the wife of Agamemnon, king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Mycenae or Argos. In the Oresteia by Aeschylus, she was a femme fatale who murdered her husband, Agamemnon – said by Euripides to be her second husband – and the Trojan princess...

, had begun an affair with Aegisthus
Aegisthus
In Greek mythology, Aegisthus was the son of Thyestes and of Thyestes' daughter, Pelopia....

. Clytemnestra and Aegisthus then murdered both Agamemnon and Cassandra. Some sources mention that Cassandra and Agamemnon had twin boys, Teledamus and Pelops, both of whom were killed by Aegisthus.

Agamemnon by Aeschylus


In Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

' Agamemnon, the king, treading the scarlet cloth laid down for him, walks offstage to his sure death at line 972. After the chorus's ode of foreboding, time is suspended in Cassandra's "mad scene
Mad scene
In opera, a mad scene is an enactment of insanity in an opera or play. It was a popular convention of Italian and French opera in the early decades of the nineteenth century....

", which does nothing to advance the action in any way. She has been onstage, silent and ignored. Her madness that is unleashed now is not the physical torment of other characters in Greek tragedy, such as in Euripides
Euripides
Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

' Heracles or Sophocles
Sophocles
Sophocles is one of three ancient Greek tragedians whose plays have survived. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than or contemporary with those of Euripides...

' Ajax, but she speaks, disconnectedly and transcendent, in the grip of her psychic possession by Apollo, witnessing past and future events. "She evokes the same awe, horror and pity as do schizophrenics", an observer has noted, "who often combine deep, true insight with utter helplessness, and who retreat into madness." Eduard Fraenkel remarked on the powerful contrasts between declaimed and sung dialogue in this scene. The frightened and respectful chorus are unable to comprehend her. She goes to her inevitable offstage murder by Clytemnestra
Clytemnestra
Clytemnestra or Clytaemnestra , in ancient Greek legend, was the wife of Agamemnon, king of the Ancient Greek kingdom of Mycenae or Argos. In the Oresteia by Aeschylus, she was a femme fatale who murdered her husband, Agamemnon – said by Euripides to be her second husband – and the Trojan princess...

 with full knowledge of what is to befall her.

Modern adaptations


A modern psychological perspective on Cassandra is presented by Eric Shanower
Eric Shanower
Eric James Shanower is an American comics artist and writer, best known for his Oz novels and comics and the on-going retelling of the Trojan War as Age of Bronze.-Biography:...

 in Age of Bronze: Sacrifice
Age of Bronze (comics)
Age of Bronze is an American comics series by writer/artist Eric Shanower retelling the legend of the Trojan War. It began in 1998 and is published by Image Comics.-Overview:...

. In this version, Cassandra, as a child, is assaulted by a priest of Apollo
Apollo
Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

.

In the cult television series Firefly
Firefly (TV series)
Firefly is an American space western television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label. Whedon served as executive producer, along with Tim Minear....

, the character of River is based on Cassandra: she is a genius and knows things, but was driven insane and speaks in jumbled riddles no one understands until it actually happens.

In the DC comic "The Sandman", Delirium, one of The Endless, who has some form of prophetic knowledge but, due to her chaotic nature, her prophecies almost never make sense until it is too late and no other character recognizes them.

A similar situation occurred in Lindsay Clarke
Lindsay Clarke
Lindsay Clarke is a British novelist. He was educated at Heath Grammar School in Halifax and at King's College Cambridge. He worked in education for many years, in Africa, America and the UK, before becoming a full-time writer. He currently lives in Somerset with his wife, Phoebe Clare, who is a...

's novel The Return from Troy (presented as a reawakened memory), where a priest of Apollo forced himself upon Cassandra and was stopped only when she spat in his mouth. When the priest used his benevolent reputation to convince Priam that he was innocent of her wild claims, Cassandra subsequently went insane.

The myth of Cassandra is also retold by German author Christa Wolf
Christa Wolf
Christa Wolf was a German literary critic, novelist, and essayist. She is one of the best-known writers to have emerged from the former East Germany.-Biography:...

 in Kassandra
Cassandra (novel)
Cassandra was written by East German author Christa Wolf in 1984. It has since been translated into a number of languages...

. She retells the story from the point of view of Cassandra at the moment of her death and uses the myth as an allegory for both the unheard voice of the woman writer and the oppression and strict censorship in East Germany.

The author Marion Zimmer Bradley
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Marion Eleanor Zimmer Bradley was an American author of fantasy novels such as The Mists of Avalon and the Darkover series. Many critics have noted a feminist perspective in her writing. Her first child, David R...

 wrote a fantasy novel called The Firebrand
The Firebrand
The Firebrand is a 1986 fantasy novel by American author Marion Zimmer Bradley. Set in Ancient Greece and Troy, the novel features characters from Greek mythology, and particularly Homer's Iliad...

, which presents a story from Cassandra's point of view.
Marcus Sedgwick's novel The Foreshadowing features a protagonist
Protagonist
A protagonist is the main character of a literary, theatrical, cinematic, or musical narrative, around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to most identify...

 named Alexandra who has the gift of foresight, though she sees mainly others' pain and death.

In David Gemmell
David Gemmell
David Andrew Gemmell was a bestselling British author of heroic fantasy. A former journalist and newspaper editor, Gemmell had his first work of fiction published in 1984. He went on to write over thirty novels. Best known for his debut, Legend, Gemmell's works display violence, yet also explore...

's Troy trilogy, Cassandra is credited with opening the mind of exiled Egyptian prince Gershom (Moses) to his own gift of prophecy. Cassandra got her gift after suffering from 'brain-fever' as a young child, and dies in the volcanic eruption of Thera.

In the section Cassandra of Suggestions for Thought to Searchers after Religious Truth, Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale OM, RRC was a celebrated English nurse, writer and statistician. She came to prominence for her pioneering work in nursing during the Crimean War, where she tended to wounded soldiers. She was dubbed "The Lady with the Lamp" after her habit of making rounds at night...

 protests the over-feminization of women into near helplessness, such as what Nightingale saw in her mother's and older sister's lethargic lifestyle despite their education. The work also reflects her fear of her ideas being ineffective, as were Cassandra's.

In Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic composer, best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts . Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works; as a...

’s opera Les Troyens
Les Troyens
Les Troyens is a French opera in five acts by Hector Berlioz. The libretto was written by Berlioz himself, based on Virgil's epic poem The Aeneid...

(1863), based on Virgil's The Aeneid, Cassandra commits suicide with other Trojan women as Troy falls, rather than being raped by Ajax. She dies with the word “Italy” on her lips, presaging (in prophetess mode) her cousin Aeneas
Aeneas
Aeneas , in Greco-Roman mythology, was a Trojan hero, the son of the prince Anchises and the goddess Aphrodite. His father was the second cousin of King Priam of Troy, making Aeneas Priam's second cousin, once removed. The journey of Aeneas from Troy , which led to the founding a hamlet south of...

’s eventual founding of Rome.

Modern usage


In more modern literature, Cassandra has often served as a model for tragedy
Tragedy
Tragedy is a form of art based on human suffering that offers its audience pleasure. While most cultures have developed forms that provoke this paradoxical response, tragedy refers to a specific tradition of drama that has played a unique and important role historically in the self-definition of...

 and romance
Romance (genre)
As a literary genre of high culture, romance or chivalric romance is a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was popular in the aristocratic circles of High Medieval and Early Modern Europe. They were fantastic stories about marvel-filled adventures, often of a knight errant portrayed as...

, and has given rise to the archetypal character of someone whose prophetic insight is obscured by insanity, turning their revelations into riddles or disjointed statements that are not fully comprehended until after the fact. Some mythologies of the Arthurian Legends have Merlin
Merlin
Merlin is a legendary figure best known as the wizard featured in the Arthurian legend. The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written c. 1136, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures...

 living backwards, therefore telling of the future, that nobody believes.

In certain underground circles, in those groups of real and on-line communities of people where all aspects of psychic (or psi) abilities— and particularly, precognitive foresight— are accepted as a commonplace fact and not conjecture, the term "Cassandra Syndrome" has been coined to be a reflection of those who deliberately ignore warnings and predictions of any kind of impending trouble or doom because of disbelief, ignorance, skepticism, or just plain stubbornness when it comes to psychic abilities. When everything is all over, it is said that this person was a victim of the Cassandra syndrome.

Greek and Latin sources

  • Homer
    Homer
    In the Western classical tradition Homer , is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest ancient Greek epic poet. These epics lie at the beginning of the Western canon of literature, and have had an enormous influence on the history of literature.When he lived is...

    . Iliad
    Iliad
    The Iliad is an epic poem in dactylic hexameters, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles...

    XXIV, 697-706; Odyssey
    Odyssey
    The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

    XI, 405-434;
  • Aeschylus
    Aeschylus
    Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

    . Agamemnon
    Agamemnon
    In Greek mythology, Agamemnon was the son of King Atreus and Queen Aerope of Mycenae, the brother of Menelaus, the husband of Clytemnestra, and the father of Electra and Orestes. Mythical legends make him the king of Mycenae or Argos, thought to be different names for the same area...

  • Euripides
    Euripides
    Euripides was one of the three great tragedians of classical Athens, the other two being Aeschylus and Sophocles. Some ancient scholars attributed ninety-five plays to him but according to the Suda it was ninety-two at most...

    . Trojan Women; Electra
    Electra
    In Greek mythology, Electra was an Argive princess and daughter of King Agamemnon and Queen Clytemnestra. She and her brother Orestes plotted revenge against their mother Clytemnestra and stepfather Aegisthus for the murder of their father Agamemnon...

  • Apollodorus
    Apollodorus
    Apollodorus of Athens son of Asclepiades, was a Greek scholar and grammarian. He was a pupil of Diogenes of Babylon, Panaetius the Stoic, and the grammarian Aristarchus of Samothrace...

    . Bibliotheke III, xii, 5; Epitome
    Epitome
    An epitome is a summary or miniature form; an instance that represents a larger reality, also used as a synonym for embodiment....

    V, 17-22; VI, 23
  • Virgil
    Virgil
    Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

    . Aeneid
    Aeneid
    The Aeneid is a Latin epic poem, written by Virgil between 29 and 19 BC, that tells the legendary story of Aeneas, a Trojan who travelled to Italy, where he became the ancestor of the Romans. It is composed of roughly 10,000 lines in dactylic hexameter...

    II, 246ff
  • Lycophron
    Lycophron
    Lycophron was a Hellenistic Greek tragic poet, grammarian, and commentator on comedy, to whom the poem Alexandra is attributed .-Life and miscellaneous works:...

    . Alexandra
    Alexandra
    Alexandra is the feminine form of the given name Alexander, which is a romanization of the Greek name Αλέξανδρος . Etymologically, the name is a compound of the Greek verb ἀλέξειν "to defend" and the noun ἀνδρός , genitive of ἀνήρ "man". Thus it may be roughly translated as "protector of man"...


See also

  • Apollo
    Apollo
    Apollo is one of the most important and complex of the Olympian deities in Greek and Roman mythology...

  • Apollo archetype
    Apollo archetype
    The Apollo archetype personifies the aspect of the personality that wants clear definitions, is drawn to master a skill, values order and harmony, and prefers to look at the surface, as opposed to beneath appearances...

  • Cassandra (metaphor)
    Cassandra (metaphor)
    The Cassandra metaphor , is a term applied in situations in which valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved....

  • Jonah
  • Novikov self-consistency principle
    Novikov self-consistency principle
    The Novikov self-consistency principle, also known as the Novikov self-consistency conjecture, is a principle developed by Russian physicist Igor Dmitriyevich Novikov in the mid-1980s to solve the problem of paradoxes in time travel, which is theoretically permitted in certain solutions of general...

  • The Boy Who Cried Wolf
    The Boy Who Cried Wolf
    The Boy Who Cried Wolf, is one of Aesop's Fables, numbered 210 in the Perry Index. From it is derived the English idiom 'to cry wolf', meaning to give a false alarm.-The fable and its history:...

  • Tiresias
    Tiresias
    In Greek mythology, Tiresias was a blind prophet of Thebes, famous for clairvoyance and for being transformed into a woman for seven years. He was the son of the shepherd Everes and the nymph Chariclo; Tiresias participated fully in seven generations at Thebes, beginning as advisor to Cadmus...


Further reading

  • Clarke, Lindsay. The Return from Troy. HarperCollins (2005). ISBN 0-00-715027-X.
  • Marion Zimmer Bradley. The Firebrand. ISBN 0-451-45924-5
  • Patacsil, Par. Cassandra. In The Likhaan Book of Plays 1997-2003. Villanueva and Nadera, eds. University of the Philippines Press (2006). ISBN 971-542-507-0
  • Schapira, Laurie L. The Cassandra Complex: Living with Disbelief: A Modern Perspective on Hysteria. Toronto: Inner City Books (1988). ISBN 0-919123-35-X. (This work is mentioned in the Cassandra (Metaphor)
    Cassandra (metaphor)
    The Cassandra metaphor , is a term applied in situations in which valid warnings or concerns are dismissed or disbelieved....

    page in the Wiki.)

Primary sources