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In Greek mythology, Cassandra (Greek: Κασσάνδρα "she who entangles men"[1]) (also known as Alexandra[2]) 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.


[edit] History

Ajax and Cassandra by Solomon Joseph Solomon, 1886.

In an alternative version, she spent a night at Apollo's temple, 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.[3]

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: though she retained the power of foresight, no one would believe her predictions.

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 since they did not believe her.

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.

At the fall of Troy, she sought shelter in the temple of Athena, where she was violently abducted and 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, 246ff; Lycophron. Alexandra

[edit] Modern adaptations

Painting by Evelyn De Morgan.

A modern psychological perspective on Cassandra is presented by Eric Shanower in Age of Bronze: Sacrifice. 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.

Ajax taking Cassandra, tondo of a red-figure kylix by the Kodros Painter, ca. 440-430 BC, Louvre

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 has a strong friendship with Queen Helen of Sparta when she came to Troy with Prince Paris. Cassandra essentially hates Helen but gives in to her unbearable joy and happiness and becomes Helen's "confidante". At the end of the story instead of Cassandra being raped and taken as Agamemnon's "battle prize", she simply joins her two sisters, Polyxena and Laodice, at the temple of Athena. The rest of her story is left untold.

In the section Cassandra of Suggestions for Thought to Searchers after Religious Truth, Florence Nightingale protests the over-feminization of women into near helplessness, such as what Nightingale saw in her mother's and older sister's lethargic lifestyle despite their education. The work also reflects her fear of her ideas being ineffective, as were Cassandra's.

In Hercules: The Animated Series (presented by Disney), Hercules befriends Icarus and Cassandra at his local high school.

Cassandra is also noticed in an acclaimed novel that was originally a comic book written by Greg Rucka: Batman: No Man's Land. In the book she is known as "the future" of weapons.

[edit] Modern usage

Michelangelo's depiction of the Delphic Sibyl, sometimes identified with Cassandra, and therefore with a specific allusion of the author to classical antiquity. (Fresco at the Sistine Chapel).

In more modern literature, Cassandra has often served as a model for tragedy and Romance, and has given rise to the archetypal 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.

Syrigx's demo EP cover "The Cassandra Syndrome"

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 pretense 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.

The term is also used to denote people who get either good advice on a subject or a warning of impending disaster but fail to heed or even acknowledge it because of its source, or the prejudices of the recipient of the warning. Occasionally people with various psychic (or "psi") abilities use this term when dealing with others who don't want to hear about such things, and don't want to believe in them or accept them either.

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 Aégis.

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 on board 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 show Hercules: The Animated Series depicts Cassandra (voiced by Sandra Bernhard) 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.

Cassandra is featured as a playable character in the fantasy fighting game, Soul Calibur.

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.[4]

In Harry Potter it is revealed that Sybill Trelawney is the distant relative of the great seer and prophetess Cassandra.

In the upcoming movie 2012, the character played by Woody Harrelson is a man who prophesies the end of the world and is considered crazy by others. Harrelson compared his character to the mythological Greek figure Cassandra, whose predictions were dismissed.[5]

In The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, a condition called "Cassandra's Tears" gives its victims the gift of foresight, but afflicts them with epilepsy-like symptoms, which often cause their foretellings to be dismissed as hallucinations.

The song "Helen and Cassandra" by Al Stewart includes a fairly straightforward reference to the mythological Cassandra.

The manga unCassandra from the Monthly Shōnen Rival is named after Cassandra, and features her as a prominent character near the end.

Rachel Maddow called Senator Bernie Sanders "the Cassandra of TARP" on her MSNBC show on February 3, 2009.[6]

The 2009 film Knowing is a modern day twist of Cassandra with a man who finds a time capsule with predictions, some that have already occurred, and others that are about to.

On February 8, 2009, Maureen Dowd, reviewing concerns about U.S. President Barack Obama's early going, wrote "Vice President Joseph Biden, in another Cassandra moment, told House Democrats that even if the White House does everything right, 'there’s still a 30 percent chance we’ll get it wrong.'"[7] While Dowd does not appear to have written a column about Biden's "six months/crisis/test" comments during the campaign [8] [9], it would seem that that was the previous moment to which she was referring in Biden's regard. The February 2009 use of Cassandra's name was the 11th by the columnist in 1275 indexed New York Times columns going back to 1995. [10] In the next-most-recent citation of Cassandra, Dowd speculated about Hillary Clinton's continued persistence in the '08 primary campaign as maybe "the Cassandra 'I told you so' gambit ... so that no one can blame her when [Obama] loses in November." (For the record, of course, Obama did not lose in November.)[11] Dowd also has cited the extensive Atreus (Agamemnon's father's) family in other analyses of modern Washington politics.

Soul Calibur video game series usage for a character that is the daughter of gods.

[edit] Problems

The negativity is more than often caught on Cassandra's part and many ideas, often not intentionally do not look at the goodness of Cassandra herself, whether the myth is true or not - (hence the word myth) - however, in looking at the Cassandra effect(see below), we fail to understand her hardship, and the reality and partial helplessness of her visions.

[edit] 'The Cassandra effect'

The Cassandra effect is when one believes they know the future happening of a catastrophic event, having already seen it in some way, or even experienced it first hand. However the person knows there is nothing that can be done to stop the event from happening, and that nobody will believe them if they try to tell others. For example, in finance, the more you warn your colleagues about the tail risks—the rare but devastating events that can bring the bank down—the more they roll their eyes, give a yawn and change the subject. This eventually leads to self-censorship.[12]

[edit] References

  1. ^ This is Robert Graves' etymology.
  2. ^ See Lycophron's poem Alexandra, which was about Cassandra.
  3. ^ Compare Melampus; Athena cleaned the ears of Tiresias
  4. ^ Wyndham, John (1134) (in Spanish). The Kraken Wakes. Spain: Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0-140-01075-6. 
  5. ^ Adler, Shawn (July 14, 2008). "EXCLUSIVE: Woody Harrelson Joins Roland Emmerich’s World-Ending ‘2012’". MTV Movies Blog (MTV). Retrieved on July 14, 2008. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Op-Ed Columnist: Potomac’s Postpartisan Depression" by Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, Feb. 8, 2009, p. WK11, NY edition. Retrieved 2-8-09.
  8. ^ "JOE D'OH PUTS O IN 'CRISIS' MODE: SAYS WORLD WOULD TEST YOUNG PREZ" by Carl Campanile in Belton, Mo., and Geoff Earle in Orlando, Fla., New York Post, October 21, 2008. Retrieved 2-8-09.
  9. ^ Search of MDowd columns for "Biden."
  10. ^ Search of MDowd columns for "Cassandra."
  11. ^ "Op-Ed Columnist: She’s Still Here!" by Maureen Dowd, The New York Times, June 4, 2008. Retrieved 2-8-09.
  12. ^ Playing financial chicken, The Economist, Jan 22nd 2009

[edit] Further reading

[edit] See also

[edit] Primary sources

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