In Homer’s Iliad, one of the themes is the fate of those who cross the gods. Cassandra was the daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba. She was the sister of Hector, who was a hero of Troy and the subject of last week’s post, and Paris whose elopement/abduction of Helen had started the Trojan War. She was described as beautiful, elegant, intelligent, charming, insane, and cursed.
The last two—insane and cursed—were linked. Cassandra had attracted the attention of the god Apollo. Because of his love for her and evidently her promise to become his consort, Apollo granted her the gift of prophecy. In his anger when she spurned him, he decreed that no one would believe her prophecies.
Cassandra was hurt and frustrated when no one would believe her and upset when most believed her to be insane. She foresaw the destruction of Troy, the Greeks’ subterfuge with the Trojan Horse, and her own cruel fate. When Troy fell, Cassandra was taken from the Temple of Athena (See Pic of 4th century BC Greek vase) and assaulted by Ajax. She was given to King Agamemnon as a concubine. Both of them were murdered soon after their arrival in Greece by Agamemnon’s queen, Clytemnestra and her lover.
Two Greek quotes describe Cassandra well: “Those whom the gods love die young” and “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”
Last week, the Judgment of Paris ended with the Trojan Prince Paris choosing Aphrodite as the fairest goddess and winning the apple of Discord. Aphrodite paid off her bribe by assisting with the abduction of Helen of Sparta. Paris fled Greece (Achaea) with Helen and returned to his home in Troy (located in what is now Turkey). Unfortunately, he was pursued by King Menelaus of Sparta and his brother Agamemnon who was the king of Mycenae and the leader of the Greek expedition to retrieve Helen.
The Greeks besieged the Troy for 10 years with great loss of life on both sides before using the ruse of the Trojan horse – a wooden horse which the Trojans eagerly pulled into the city. The Greeks hiding inside opened the gates of Troy for the Greeks to enter. The male Trojans were slaughtered and most of the women and children were sold as slaves. The Greeks desecrated the temples which brought the anger and punishment of the gods down on them. More on the deaths of the heroes and punishments of the gods next week.
The ancient Greeks believed the tale of the Trojan War to be fact. Archeologists for centuries discounted the historical existence of Troy or believed it at best to be an amalgamation of historical events. In 1868 Heinrich Schliemann, a wealthy industrialist turned archaeologist, used the ancient tales, like Homer’s Iliad, to trace determine the location of ancient Troy. One of the layers of the city he discovered and believed to be Troy corresponds to 12th century BC which is a likely candidate. Schliemann photographed his young wife Sophia in what he called “Helen’s jewels” which he discovered. (See pic)