In Greek mythology, Cassandra (Greek: "Κασσάνδρα" "she who entangles men" [This is Robert Graves' etymology.] ) (also known as Alexandra) was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy. Her beauty caused Apollo to grant her the gift of prophecy. However, when she did not return his love, Apollo placed a curse on her so that no one would ever believe her predictions.


In an alternative version, she spent a night at Apollo's temple with her twin brother Helenus, 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. [Compare Melampus; Athena cleaned the ears of Tiresias] Apollo loved Cassandra and when she did not return his love, he cursed her so that her gift would become a source of endless pain and frustration. 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 the play "Agamemnon", it appears that she made a promise to Apollo to become his consort, but broke it, thus incurring his wrath.

Telephus, the son of Heracles, loved Cassandra but she scorned him and instead helped him seduce her sister Laodice.

While Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy (she warned the Trojans about the Trojan Horse, the death of Agamemnon, and her own demise), she was unable to do anything to forestall these tragedies. Her family believed she was mad, and according to some versions, kept her locked up. In versions where she was incarcerated, this was typically portrayed as driving her truly insane, although in versions where she was not, she is usually viewed as remaining simply misunderstood.

Coroebus 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 being brought back to the city.

After the Trojan War, she sought shelter in the temple of Athena, where she was raped by Ajax the Lesser. Cassandra was then taken as a concubine by King Agamemnon of Mycenae. Unbeknownst to Agamemnon, while he was away at war, his wife, Clytemnestra, had begun an affair with Aegisthus. 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.

Homer. "Iliad" XXIV, 697-706; Homer. "Odyssey" XI, 405-434; Aeschylus. "Agamemnon"; "Euripides". "Trojan Women"; "Euripides". "Electra"; Apollodorus. "Bibliotheke" III, xii, 5; Apollodorus. "Epitome" V, 17-22; VI, 23; Virgil. "Aeneid" II, 246-

Modern adaptations

thumb|Painting_by_Evelyn De Morgan.] A modern psychological perspective on Cassandra is presented by Eric Shanower in "". In this version, Cassandra, as a child, is molested by a man pretending to be a god. His warning "No one will believe you!" is one often spoken by abusers to their child victims.

A similar situation occurred in Lindsay Clarke'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 in "Kassandra". 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 laws of East Germany.

Author William Faulkner, in his novel "Absalom, Absalom!", writes of Rosa Coldfield, a principal character in the Sutpen Dynasty/Tragedy, and how her "childhood ... consisted of a Cassandra-like listening beyond closed doors", alluding to both mythological concerns that (1) Cassandra was locked away, or behind closed doors (as with Rosa's youth), and (2) that Cassandra's prophecies were true, yet fated to be ignored (as with Rosa's premonitions about Thomas Sutpen and his desire to forge a dynasty).

The author Marion Zimmer Bradley wrote a historical novel called, "Firebrand", which presents a story from Cassandra's point of view.

Marcus Sedgwick's novel "The Foreshadowing" features a protagonist named Alexandra who has the gift of foresight, though she sees mainly others' pain and death.

In Clemence McLearn's "Inside the Walls of Troy", Cassandra had a strong friendship with Queen Helen of Sparta when she came to Troy with Prince Paris. Cassandra essentially hated Helen but gave in to her unbearable joy and happiness and became Helen's "confidante". At the end of the story instead of Cassandra being raped and taken as Agamemnon's "battle prize", she simply joined her two sisters, Polyxena and Laodice at the temple of Athena. The rest of her story is left untold.

Modern usage

In more modern literature, Cassandra has often served as a model for tragedy and Romance, and has given rise to the archetypical 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. Notable examples are the character of River Tam from the science fiction TV series "Firefly", the character Cassandra in the TV series The X-Files (she played an alien abductee that nobody took seriously), and the science fiction short story "Cassandra" by C. J. Cherryh.

"Cassandra" is the title of an episode of the British sci-fi comedy series "Red Dwarf". In it a futuristic computer, Cassandra, is discovered to have the ability to predict the future. She foretells a number of conversations and events which each come true, save for one scene where one character kills another in a jealous rage. It emerges this is a lie to try to punish the killer for his responsibility for her own later death, which Cassandra correctly predicts he accidentally causes. The story in the episode deviates somewhat from myth in that she is not universally disbelieved. The theme of the futility of trying to change the future is explored at several points in the episode.

In the film "The Scorpion King", Cassandra is a sorceress who can read the future and is key to the antagonist king's (Memnon) battle victories. Memnon is in love with her, but she eventually leaves him for Mathayus, the protagonist. At first, she claims to lose her foreseeing abilities when sleeping with a man, but it is later revealed, after an intimate night with Mathayus and pretending to lose her abilities, that this was merely pretence to prevent Memnon from taking advantage of her. Cassandra is played by Kelly Hu.

In "Help," an episode of the television show "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", a young girl named Cassandra "Cassie" Newton foresees her own death despite the attempts of the show's protagonist, Buffy Summers, to prevent it. She also foresees what will happen in Buffy's final battle with one of the show's antagonists, The First, and its army.

In the episode "Hourglass" of the sci-fi series "Smallville", the plot revolves around an old people's home where one of the residents who was blinded on the day of the meteor shower, Cassandra Carver, can apparently see the future. She also makes reference to the story of Troy when mentioning to Lex Luthor, who had brought her a bunch of flowers, that "It was the Greeks who also brought gifts." The resident also sees Lex's future and his ascendancy to the US Presidency.

The Cassandra syndrome is a fictional condition used to describe someone who believes that he or she can see the future but cannot do anything about it. Comic writer Chris Claremont has used this syndrome as the motivation for the villainous actions of mutant terrorists Mystique and Destiny, the latter being a blind precognitive, whose attempts to prevent the destruction of the mutant race at the hands of humanity often lead to further anti-mutant hysteria.

In Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson's "Scream 2," Sidney Prescott, the main character played by Neve Campbell, is a mirror of Cassandra in the sense that she is cursed by forever being susceptible to murder, conspiracy, and being alone, and actually appears in a play within the film titled "Cassandra", where she also plays the lead. During the rest of the trilogy, she has made clear that if it weren't for her, the plot of the movies, and for Sidney, the events in her life, would have never happened, and that continually surviving attacks has made the ones closest to her even more vulnerable to the characteristics that plague her life. Sidney is also seen speaking the line, "You know, I saw it all coming. I knew it wasn't over", referring to the murders in "Scream 2." This is a prophecy revealed, a play on the curse that plagued Cassandra.

Norwegian gothic metal pioneers Theatre of Tragedy wrote a song about Cassandra on their 1998 album Aegis.

German power metal group Blind Guardian featured two songs about Cassandra and the Trojan War on their 2002 album "A Night at the Opera", Under the Ice and And Then There Was Silence, the latter of which was the title track of the 2001 "warmup" single for the album.

Fear Before the March of Flames released a song on the album The Always Open Mouth titled 'Taking Cassandra to the End of the World Party.'

The musical group ABBA released a song titled "Cassandra" as a B-side to the single, The Day Before You Came at the very end of their time as an active group. Anni-Frid Lyngstad has the lead vocal and sings about Cassandra's departure from a town after some unnamed disasters have occurred and her own regret about not believing Cassandra's warnings. The song has been included in subsequent compilation CD releases.

In Woody Allen's "Mighty Aphrodite", which features several appearances by classical Greek figures, Cassandra appears warning Allen's character not to move to the countryside. As usual, she is not listened to. She makes a later appearances, delivering the following line: "I see disaster. I see catastrophe. Worse, I see lawyers!" She is played by Danielle Ferland. In his 2007 movie "Cassandra's Dream" the main characters' boat is called "Cassandra's Dream". During the movie many characters have bad dreams. The final sequence is onboard the boat.

The Melbourne band Something for Kate released the song 'Cassandra Walks The Plank" as a B-side on their single "California" from 2007. Vocalist and guitarist Paul Dempsey later describes the song as a 'Straightforward angry rant' about warning signs in the modern world on their iTunes Originals release.

David Murray Black also released a song called "Prophet of Doom" in his CD "Sacred Ground" about Cassandra.

The Crüxshadows sing a song about Cassandra on their 2003 album "Ethernaut" on their song "Cassandra".

The Motorcycle Boy's girl Cassandra in Rumble Fish says that she is not hooked on drugs, but Rusty-James doesn't believe her.

The show "" depict Cassandra as a rather goth teenager who has visions of awful things and is loved by Icarus.

American progressive metal group Dream Theater refer to Cassandra fleetingly in a song called "Voices" in which they mock the prophetic message of modern day religion.

The plight of Cassandra was a recurring motif in the 1995 film "Twelve Monkeys".

The character Cassandra Kirschbaum in the 2004 MGM film "Saved!" is likely named after the Greek Cassandra. Cassandra Kirschbaum is the only Jewish student at the Evangelical Christian high school that serves as the film's setting. Her character fills the role of "truth-teller" at the school, exposing other characters' hypocrisy. Cassandra Kirschbaum also appears in the Off-Broadway musical based on the film.

Dr. Bocker, in John Wyndham's "The Kraken Wakes" mentions Cassandra fleetingly in "Phase 2," referring to the aspect of one who predicts the future but goes unheeded, with dire consequences. The quote can be found on page 107 of the 1973 publishing by [ Penguin Books] . cite book
last = Wyndham
first = John
authorlink = John Wyndham
coauthors =
title = The Kraken Wakes
year = 1134
publisher = Penguin Books
location = Spain
language = Spanish
isbn = 978-0-140-01075-6


Woody Allen - Cassandra's dream
Cassandra - Scream 2
Cassandra Aria - Composed for Scream 2 by Danny Elfman.

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

See also

*Cassandra (metaphor)
*Apollo archetype

Primary sources

*Virgil, "Aeneid" II.246-247, 341-346, 403-408
* [ Theoi Project: Cassandra, classical sources in English translation]

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  • Cassandra — CASSANDRA, æ, Gr. Κασσάνδρα, ας, (⇒ Tab. XXXI.) 1 §. Namen. Insgemein wird sie zwar Cassandra genannt, heißt aber doch auch Alexandra, wie denn auch ihr Bruder nach damaliger Weise bald Paris, bald Alexander genannt wird. Canterus Prolegom. ad… …   Gründliches mythologisches Lexikon

  • Cassandra — Cassandra, PA U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 136 Housing Units (2000): 57 Land area (2000): 0.075044 sq. miles (0.194362 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.075044 sq. miles… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Cassandra, PA — U.S. borough in Pennsylvania Population (2000): 136 Housing Units (2000): 57 Land area (2000): 0.075044 sq. miles (0.194362 sq. km) Water area (2000): 0.000000 sq. miles (0.000000 sq. km) Total area (2000): 0.075044 sq. miles (0.194362 sq. km)… …   StarDict's U.S. Gazetteer Places

  • Cassandra — f from Greek legend. Cassandra was a Trojan princess blessed with the gift of prophecy but cursed with the fate that nobody would ever believe her. She was brought back to Greece as a captive concubine by Agamemnon, but met her death at the hands …   First names dictionary

  • cassandra — (o Cassandra) s.f. [dal nome della mitica profetessa che prediceva la distruzione di Troia senza essere mai creduta]. [per antonomasia, persona (anche uomo) che predice avvenimenti tristi senza essere creduta] ▶◀ (fam.) grillo parlante.… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • Cassandra — ► NOUN ▪ a prophet of disaster. ORIGIN from Cassandra in Greek mythology, whose prophecies, though true, were doomed by Apollo to be disbelieved …   English terms dictionary

  • Cassandra — Cassandra, Halbinsel im europäisch türkischen Ejalet Rum Ili; ist die westliche der drei in das Ägäische Meer in südöstlicher Richtung auslaufenden Halbinseln, endigt mit dem Cap Paliuri, etwa 8 Stunden lang u. 2 bis 3 Stunden breit; auf ihrer… …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Cassandra — Gk. Kasandra, daughter of Priam of Troy, seduced by Apollo who gave her the gift of prophecy, but when she betrayed him he amended it so that, though she spoke truth, none would believe her. Used figuratively since 1660s. The name is of uncertain …   Etymology dictionary

  • Cassandra —    Cassandra, personaggio della leggenda omerica; figlia di Priamo e di Ecuba, ebbe il dono della profezia da Apollo ma, avendo respito le sue profferte amorose, fu condannata a non essere mai creduta. Previde i lutti di Troia e la rovina di… …   Dizionario dei miti e dei personaggi della Grecia antica

  • Cassandra — [kə san′drə] n. [L < Gr Kassandra] 1. Gr. Myth. a daughter of Priam and Hecuba: to win her love, Apollo gives her prophetic power, but when thwarted, decrees that no one should believe her prophecies 2. a person whose warnings of misfortune… …   English World dictionary

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