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Free Falling...

into myth, meaning and media

4.01.2004

The Story of Cassandra

"Have I missed the mark, or, like true archer, do I strike my quarry? Or am I prophet of lies, a babbler from door to door?" [Cassandra. Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1194]

Cassandra was a Greek seer who unfortunately lacked the power of persuasion, and hence was never believed. She is mentioned briefly in Homer's Iliad ( a trusted source of information on Greek myth) as the child of King Priam of Troy. She was apparently considered Priam's most beautiful daughter.

We first find the tale of Cassandra's legendary gifts in works of ancient Greek literature. According to one version of the story, Cassandra received the power to foretell the future from the god Apollo. Apparently, Apollo instructed the mortal woman and taught her about the art of prophecy because he had an ulterior motive - the god wished to win her affections. Cassandra accepted Apollo as a teacher, but not as a lover. Insulted by this refusal, he punished Cassandra. Apollo caused the gift that he gave Cassandra to be twisted, making everyone who heard her true and accurate foretellings of future events believe that they were hearing lies.

And indeed, the burden of Cassandra's "gift" is evident in mythology. She predicted the outcome of many disastrous events. In one memorable example, Cassandra announced the dire consequences of the Trojans accepting the infamous Wooden Horse from their Greek opponents. But as Apollo made certain, no one believed Cassandra when she warned her companions about the future. And this, in the end, was to be Cassandra's tragic fate.

The expression "Don't be such a Cassandra" comes from this myth. But surprisingly, Cassandra was one of the most popular names for babies all through the nineties.

posted by Anindita  # 10:33

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