Cassandra (she who entangles men) In Greek mythology, prophetess, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba; sister of Aesacus, Creusa, Hector, Helenus, Paris, Polyxena, and Troilus, among others. Cassandra is sometimes called Alexandra. According to some ancient accounts, Cassandra and Helenus, her twin, as children fell asleep in a temple of Apollo while their parents were taking part in the sacred rites. Sacred serpents, kept in the temple, licked the ears of the children while they were asleep. When Hecuba saw this, she screamed, and the serpents fled. However, since the serpent was sacred to Apollo, the children were given the gift of prophecy from the archer god. In a variant account Apollo fell in love with Cassandra. He promised her the gift of prophecy if she returned his love. Cassandra, who was the most beautiful of all King Priam’s daughters, agreed. However, when it came time for her to return Apollo’s love, she refused. In anger Apollo, who could not take back his gift, cursed Cassandra: she would tell the future correctly, but no one would ever believe what she said. Cassandra warned the Trojans about the wooden horse but was silenced. When the Greeks took the city, Cassandra was given as a prize to Agamemnon. She warned him that he would be killed by his wife, but this prophecy, like all her prophecies, was ignored. Both Cassandra and Agamemnon as well as their sons were killed by Clytemnestra and her lover. Cassandra appears in Homer’s Iliad (books 6, 13) and Odyssey (book 4); she is a character in Vergil’s Aeneid, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Chaucer’s narrative poem Troilus and Crisyde, Byron’s Don Juan, Shakespeare’s play Troilus and Cressida, Meredith’s poem “Cassandra,” Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s poem “Cassandra,” Schiller’s poem “Kassandra,” Tennyson’s Oenone, and Robinson Jeffers’s “Cassandra.”
Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow– Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
Cassandra is in Greek mythology, a seer whose prophe- cies, including the fall of Troy, were ignored. She was the daughter of Priam and also was called the daughter of Hecate. Cassandra received the gift of clairvoyance by sleeping in the temple of Apollo and allowing snakes to lick her ears.
When Apollo tried to seduce her, she rebuffed him, and he punished her by declaring that no one would pay attention to her forecasts. In another ver- sion of the myth Apollo fell in love with her and gave her the gift of prophecy in return for her promise of giving herself to him.
She reneged. Apollo begged for a kiss, to which she consented. By breathing into her mouth, he gave her the gift of prophecy but took away her power of persuasion. After the fall of Troy, Cassandra was taken prisoner by Agamemnon, whose death she prophesied, and which came to pass with his slaying by his wife, Clytemnestra.
Another version of Cassandra's tale says she was killed in the fall of Troy. She also was able to understand the language of animals.