Have you ever said something so profound or honest in your convictions and not believed? It happened and still does, though I’d like to think we are more broadminded and perceptive. I am however reminded of the story of Peter and the Wolf, and the whoppers he told. There’d be a lesson, one for Peter and the village! (Pardon the grammar ;D) Can you then imagine what it would be like to see the tragic end of your family, people and city? Cassandra didn’t have a choice, she saw it all and could not do a thing about it!
The Greeks had their own seer who they relied on and so did the Trojans except they didn’t heed Cassandra’s dire warnings. Her role in the story was as tragic as Briseis, the way she was treated by her own family and then later as spoils of the war. Also known as Alexandra, she was the most beautiful of King Priam and Queen Hekuba’s daughters. There are two versions as to how she received her prophetic ability:
1. Apollo fell in love with her and he gave the gift of prophecy but she refused him, so he condemned her to a life of giving predictions but not believed.
2. She and her brother Helenos were left in the Temple Thymbraean Apollo overnight and when their parents checked on them, they were asleep with serpents wrapped around them, which flicked their tongues into their ears. Afterwards they were able to divine the future. Later, when Cassandra was older, she spent a night in the temple, was visited by Apollo who desired her. She refused him and hence her foresights were no longer believed.
The most interesting aspect about the character of Cassandra, she is only mentioned once in the Iliad and nor does Homer mention her power to predict the future. It is in later stories we learn more about Cassandra and her prophecies. In spite of being considered mad for raving on about the doom of the Trojans, she had a few suitors. Priam did accept an offer.
‘Drawn by the news of the war, this man was a newcomer to Troy who had asked Priam for the hand of Cassandra, the most beautiful of his daughters. Instead of giving him gifts for his bride, he had promised to do great things and offered to drive the Greeks from his shores, whether they liked it or not.’
Book 13, Lines 366-369
Othryoneus, the prospective husband, was killed in battle. Her story continues after the destruction of Troy. Aiax, the lesser, found Cassandra in the Temple of Athena clutching the statue. In some accounts he raped her and then dragged her out of the temple; in others he abducted her. Her fate was to be linked with Agamemnon as his concubine. He took her back to Mykenae where they were both slayed by Klytaemnesta’s lover.
So why is Cassandra an important character? Her role escalated to such esteem by later bards, as a woman who had voice yet wasn’t heard. Insight how women were treated at the time and their role of subjugation thereafter.
What are your thoughts? Love to hear from you. Thank you for visiting and reading.