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Cassandra. 3307: Bust by Max Klinger, 1857-1920. Hamburger Kunsthalle.

"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).

"My son, much tried by the fate of Ilium, you must know that Cassandra alone declared to me this fortune. Now I recall her predicting these things as our people's destiny, often naming Hesperia, often the Italian realm." (Anchises 1 to Aeneas (in exile). Virgil, Aeneid 3.182).

Cassandra (also called Alexandra) is the Trojan seeress who uttered true prophecies, but lacking the power of persuasion, was never believed.

Apollo's gift

J. G. Frazer refers to a couple of scholiasts when he says that Cassandra and her brother Helenus 1 acquired their prophetic power, when they, as children, were left overnight in the temple of Apollo Thymbraeus, and in the following morning serpents were seen licking their ears. Others have said that Apollo himself, wishing to gain her love, promised to teach her the prophetic art. But Cassandra, having learned it, refused her favors, and then the god, not wishing to take back his gift, deprived her prophecy of the power to persuade. This is why she, later in life, lamented:

"Apollo, my destroyer, for you have destroyed me ..." (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1080).

... and acknowledged:

"I promised consent to Apollo but broke my word ... and ever since that fault I could persuade no one." (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1208ff.).

Advises to kill her brother

Accordingly no one listened when she recommended to destroy Paris, her ill-omened brother, shrieking:

"Kill him! Kill the destroyer of Priam's city! Kill that child!" (Cassandra. Euripides, Andromache 293).

For when Hecabe 1's was about to give birth to her second son, she dreamt that she had brought forth a fire from which many serpents issued. Following the advice of Cassandra's half brother Aesacus 1, who had learned the art of interpreting dreams from his maternal grandfather Merops 1, they exposed the child, since he declared that Paris was to become the ruin of the country. But the child survived, and grew up as a shepherd on Mount Ida.

The Judgement of Paris

Years later the gods attended the wedding party of Peleus and Thetis, which Eris spoiled by throwing among the guests an apple with the inscription "for the fairest", thereby starting a dispute between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite, whom Zeus sent to be judged by the shepherd of Mount Ida, to put an end to the quarrel. After this judgement, Paris turned from shepherd into prince in the following manner: Some servants of King Priam 1 came to Mount Ida in order to fetch a bull to be given as prize in funeral games. Paris followed them because this was his favorite bull, and having decided to participate in the games, he defeated all other contenders, including his own brothers. One of them, Deiphobus 1, was so angry on account of his defeat that he drew a sword against him and would have killed him, had not Paris quickly taken refuge in the altar of Zeus. It was then that Cassandra declared that Paris was her brother, and Priam 1 then acknowledged him as his son, receiving him into his palace. This is how Paris, who had been expelled from the city following the advice of one seer, was taken back in accordance with the advice of another seer, who before had recommended his death.

Oenone 1

From this time on, Paris devoted himself to obtain Helen, the prize that Aphrodite promised him when he judged the three goddesses; and accordingly he abandoned Oenone 1, his love from Mount Ida, who never accepted that he could endure to desert her, although Cassandra, seeing her fruitless love and knowing what Oenone 1 was up to, had told her:

"What are you doing, Oenone? Why commit seeds to sand?" (Cassandra to Oenone 1. Ovid, Heroides 8.115).

3125: Cassandra warns the Trojans. Engraving by Bernard Picart, 1673-1733.


When Paris finally sailed to fetch Helen in Sparta, Cassandra uttered new fiery prophecies, saying:

"Where are you going? You will bring conflagration back with you. How great the flames are that you are seeking over these waters, you do not know." (Cassandra to Paris. Ovid, Heroides 16,120).

And when on Paris' return, Cassandra saw Helen coming into Troy, she tore her hair and flung away her golden veil; but the city nevertheless received this woman as a jewel meant to enhance its beauty.


Two men have been reported to have come to Troy during the war, wishing to wed her. One of them was Coroebus 2, son of Mygdon, the king of the Bebrycians, whom Heracles 1 had killed years ago. The other one mentioned in this connection is Othryoneus, who, as they say, brought no gifts except his own efforts to repel the Achaean invaders. It is said that Priam 1 promised that he would give Cassandra to him; but there was no occasion, since Othryoneus was killed in battle by Idomeneus 1, the king of Crete. As for Coroebus 2, he perished, slain either by Neoptolemus, or Diomedes 2, or Peneleus.


Near the end of the Trojan War, Cassandra declared that there was an armed force hidden inside the WOODEN HORSE that the Achaeans had abandoned in the plain, feigning retreat. Again no one listened, though the Trojan seer Laocoon 2 confirmed her. But since Laocoon 2 was overwhelmed by adverse circumstances, many argued that the man had got what he deserved, and that the horse should be brought to the shrine of Athena (the same goddess who was misleading them), which they did, thus laying open the heart of the city.This is how the Trojans brought the fateful engine into the city, and with it the enemy armed force that was hidden inside. When night fell, the armed force came forth and opened the gates of the city to the rest of the army.

Cassandra outraged

Thanks to that clever device Troy was conquered. As the wrath of the Achaeans spread over the city, all buildings, except those belonging to traitors, were set on fire and destroyed. And protected by night, they slaughtered whomever they found on the streets, or in homes, or in temples. The members of the Trojan royal family, seeing what was happening, fled to the temples to seek protection. But to no avail; for while Priam 1 was slaughtered by Neoptolemus at the altar of Zeus, Cassandra was captured by Ajax 2 in the sanctuary of Athena, and raped. It is told that she was clinging to a wooden image of the goddess, which was knocked over from its stand, as Ajax 2 dragged her away. Some have asserted (but others find this account too bold) that the image turned away at the time Cassandra was violated. In any case, it was then that Coroebus 2, Cassandra's suitor, died; for he, seeing her outraged and abused, attacked the superior enemy in a passion of rage and was slain.

The gods punished the outrage

On account of this outrage the Achaean kings assembled, and Odysseus advised to stone Ajax 2 to death for his crime. However, no punishment was decided by the assembled ACHAEAN LEADERS, and accordingly the gods made them pay their omission and their having despoiled the shrines by sending storms and contrary winds. And much more in addition, as the offended goddess declared:

"I will impose on them a return that is no return." (Athena to Poseidon. Euripides, Daughters of Troy 75).

In one of these storms, Athena threw a thunderbolt against Ajax 2's ship; and when the ship went to pieces he made his way safe to a rock, but then Poseidon smote the rock with his trident and split it, and Ajax 2 fell into the sea and perished.


Ajax 2 dragging Cassandra. 5727: Ajax, Cassandre et le Palladion. Skyphos. Campanie "peintre de Capoue 7531". 350-330 avant J.-C. Musée d'Art et d'Histoire, Genève.

Some have said that, for his services as a traitor, Agamemnon gave Helenus 1, and also Cassandra, their freedom; and after the intercession of Helenus 1 on behalf of Hecabe 1 and Andromache, Agamemnon again gave these their freedom. They add that these four migrated to the Thracian Chersonese and settled there with twelve hundred followers.

Curse attributed to Cassandra

When the victors divided the spoils, Eurypylus 1, one of the ACHAEAN LEADERS, got a chest with an image of Dionysus 2, wrought by Hephaestus, and once upon a time given as a gift by Zeus to Dardanus 1, ancestor of the Trojans. Some have said that the chest was left by Aeneas when he fled from Troy; but others say that Cassandra threw it away to be a curse to the Achaean who found it. In any case, they tell that when Eurypylus 1 opened the chest, on seeing the image of the god, he went mad. So instead of returning to Thessaly, he (who was lucid only at intervals, being insane the rest of the time) went to Delphi to inquire the oracle about his illness. The oracle told him that he was to set down the chest and make his home where he should see people offering a strange sacrifice. Eurypylus 1's ships were then carried by the wind to the sea off Aroe (Patrae), where he saw a young man and a maiden about to be sacrificed. Eurypylus 1 then understood the oracle, and the locals, suspecting that there was a god inside the chest, recalled the oracle they had themselves received concerning a king whom they had never seen before. In this manner, both sacrifice and sickness came to an end. Yet others have said that this happened not to Eurypylus 1, but to Eurypylus 7, a man who had received the chest from Heracles 1, after having joined his expedition against Troy.

Death in Mycenae

Others say that when Troy was captured and the Achaeans divided the spoils, Cassandra became the prize of Agamemnon. Now Oeax, wishing to avenge the death of his brother Palamedes, informed Agamemnon's wife Clytaemnestra that Cassandra was being brought by her husband as a concubine to her house. As a result, Agamemnon fell victim of a conspiracy conceived by his own wife and her lover Aegisthus, and was murdered along with Cassandra, who predicted her own fate shortly after her arrival to Mycenae:

"... for me waits destruction by the two-edged sword." (Cassandra. Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1149).







Ajax 2


Ajax 2 raped Cassandra.


Teledamus 1
Pelops 2

Aegisthus murdered both Teledamus 1 and Pelops 2 while they were still babies.

Genealogical Charts

Names in this chart: Aerope 1, Agamemnon, Agrianome, Ajax 2, Atlas, Atreus, Cassandra, Dardanus 1, Electra 3, Erichthonius 1, Hecabe 1, Hodoedocus, Ilus 2, Laomedon 1, Oileus 1, Pelops 1, Pelops 2, Perseon, Pleione, Pluto 3, Priam 1, Tantalus 1, Teledamus 1, Tros 1, Zeus.

Related sections Agamemnon, Ajax 2

Aes.Aga.1343ff. and passim; Apd.3.12.5; Apd.Ep.5.22, 6.24; Eur.Hec.826; Eur.Tro.70, 252 and passim; Hom.Il.13.366; Hom.Od.11.422; Hyg.Fab.90; Pau.2.16.6; Pin.Pyth.11.20; QS.12.540ff., 13.422, 14.20; Strab.6.1.14, 13.1.40.