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Cassandra: The Trojan Priestess of Apollo From Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Cassandra is considered to be the princess of Troy, with her lineage being that of the royalty of Troy.

She was said to be blessed with the ability to look into the future, being a seer who was accurate beyond measures but also cursed at the same time where her predictions would never be taken seriously or even considered by the people around her.

Cassandra’s Family

Father Priam, the King of Troy
MotherHecuba, the Queen of Troy
BrotherHector, the hero of the trojan war, Paris, Helenus (Twin brother)

Cassandra and Apollo

One version states that Cassandra, who was the youngest and most beautiful of King Priam’s daughters, was admired greatly by the God Apollo.

And to win her over, Apollo gave her the gift of being a seer who would be able to predict the future by looking into it with immaculate accuracy. In return for this blessing, Cassandra promised the God Apollo her favours and her devotion. The myth continues that as Cassandra received the divine blessing, she went back on her word and spurned the God and refused her side of the bargain, enraging Apollo.

Now, as Apollo had granted a divine power to her, it could no longer be retracted, but then he made a change in his blessing, which now came with a curse. The curse is that despite what and how accurately she predicts regarding the future, she will never have the belief of the people or that of anyone close to her. Her prophecies would always end in failure, not because of any fumbling in the accuracy of it, but for the disbelief and mistrust of the people around her.

The Other Versions of the Cassandra- Apollo Myth

The Other Versions of the Cassandra- Apollo Myth

According to other sources, the tale goes that Cassandra broke no such promise, as the power for her prophecies was given to her by Apollo to entice her, and when it failed, the God became angry and added a curse to her gift that would make sure people disbelieved her in spite of having the gift of accurately predicting the future.

One version also states that Cassandra and her twin brother Helenus were left alone in the night in the temple of Apollo, where during the course of the night, the children were entwined with serpents who whispered in their ears.

Through this, both the children got the ability to divine the future. It was much later when Apollo approached Cassandra and was spurned in his advances, and the God, in his anger and rage, cursed Cassandra that her ability to divine the future would be such that no one would ever believe her words.

The cursed gift that she received from Apollo proved too much for her to handle. She was branded as a madwoman, a lunatic who uttered all nonsense. It became so extreme that her own father had her locked up and guarded against being let out due to her reputation as that of a madwoman. She was considered to be a lunatic, which is why her prophecies were never believed. This is one of the main reasons the Kingdom of Troy was destroyed during the Trojan war. Even though none of her Prophecies were ever believed, one of the prophecies was that of Paris being her abandoned brother.

Cassandra and Troy

Before the Trojan war, Cassandra predicted that if Paris went to Sparta and brought Helen back, it would bring about the destruction of Troy. But due to her curse, she was ridiculed, and nobody back home in Troy believed her words. Despite her warnings, Paris still went to Sparta and brought Helen back with him.

While Helen’s arrival was met with a lot of fanfare and celebration in Troy, Cassandra, livid about not being taken seriously, snatched the golden veil from Helen and shredded it to pieces while also ripping apart her own hair in anger for being unable to stop the destruction of her homeland in spite of foreseeing it.

Cassandra also predicted the Greeks hiding inside the Trojan horse. It is said that she informed the celebrating trojans about their folly of accepting the wooden horse, but when she told them about the plot, the trojans laughed at her and threw insults at her while calling her horrible names.

In an urge to prove herself right and with the intention to destroy the Greeks, she took an axe in one hand and a burning torch in the other, she set out to break the wooden horse and set it ablaze on her own. Looking at her going towards the horse, the Trojans stopped her and took her away while cursing her for ruining their feast and celebration.

Cassandra is said to have pleaded with them to believe her, but they called her a madwoman and sent her away. The Greek soldiers inside the horse heaved a sigh of relief at being almost found out but were alarmed by her prophetic prowess, almost being able to change the tides of the war.

The rest of the night is history as the Greeks overpowered the trojans and destroyed the kingdom of Troy, all because the Trojans refused to acknowledge Cassandra and her gift and termed her mad.

Cassandra is the first person who saw the body of Hector as it was brought into the city after his heroic battle and death at the hands of Achilles, the hero of the greeks. It was noted that Cassandra shed silent tears at her failure to convince her people about the entire fiasco that was the Trojan war.

The Fall of Troy

The Fall of Troy

When Troy fell, Cassandra sought refuge in the temple of Athena for her protection. But she was found there by Ajax the lesser, a Greek soldier. As he attempted to drag her away, it is said that she clung so tightly to the statue of the Goddess that the statue fell. These actions were considered sacrilegious by the Goddess, and she vowed to strike down Ajax.

On his return journey, Athena threw a thunderbolt at the ship of Ajax and sank it. But Ajax managed to survive, swam to safety and got on top of a rock, and even mocked the Goddess that she was unable to do anything to him. Then the God Poseidon intervened and broke the rock with his Trident, resulting in Ajax perishing in the depths of the Sea.

It is said that Cassandra intentionally left a cursed chest back in Troy that would curse any Greek who tried to open the chest. Inside the chest, there was the image of the Greek God Dionysus. And the chest had been made by Hephaestus himself and presented to the Trojans by Zeus. It was given to the Greek leader Eurypylus, who, upon opening the chest, saw the image of God. It is said that it drove him to madness and plunged him into the depths of insanity.

The Aftermath of the Fall of Troy

After the fall of Troy, Cassandra was taken as a concubine by King Agamemnon, the ruler of Mycenae. Unknown to the king, though, his wife had plotted his demise with her lover on his return back to the kingdom.

Cassandra had even prophesied this and knew about her impending death at the hands of Clytemnestra, the queen of Mycenae. The final resting place of Cassandra is thought to be in Mycenae, far away from the land she called home.

All in all, Cassandra prophesied the Trojan war, the fall of Troy at the hands of the Greek army, the Trojan horse, the death of Hector, the 10-year journey of Odysseus, her mother Hecuba’s fate, and even her own demise at the hands of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus (The lover of Clytemnestra).

Even though she was right every time, with her predictions and her prophecies being spot on, she was still considered a madwoman and belittled and insulted. The entire Trojan war, in fact, the entirety of Greek history (Mythology), would have changed had people believed her prophecies. But the curse of Apollo proved to be her undoing.

A divine gift bestowed upon her by a God, and a spiteful curse that followed, cemented her legacy as a tragic figure in Trojan and Greek history, with the manner of her end also not being the slightest of respites in a hard life of ridicule and mockery.

The Cassandra Syndrome

It is considered a scenario where perfectly normal warnings and valid alarms are disbelieved.

There is an interpretation from 1963 by psychologist Melanie Klein who says that Cassandra is the moral conscience.

She warns and predicts ill or grave tidings, and Apollo is the Ego that makes it so that the brain or the normal or sane thought process does not pay any heed to it or comprehend it in a complacent manner.

The name Cassandra is sometimes used to denote a variety of things which include economics, markets, stocks, etc.

One very famous example is that of Warren Buffet, who predicted the stock market bubble of 1990, which turned out to be the case and earned him the nickname of the Stock Market Cassandra.

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