The Cursed Prophetess: Cassandra Essay

This essay has a total of 1489 words and 7 pages.

The Cursed Prophetess: Cassandra

THE CURSED PROPHETESS

"Oracle, in the Ancient Greek world, was a shrine where people
went to seek advice from prophets or prophetesses (individuals who had
special powers to speak on behalf of a god or foretell the future). Besides
referring to an altar, the word oracle also refers to the prophet or
prophetess, and to his/her prophecy" (Cassandra). The Ancient Greeks
wholly believed in these sacred persons. When disease would corrupt a
city, the people would go to the shrines to ask a prophet to speak on behalf
of the gods. Once the Greeks knew the cause of the plague, they would do
everything in their immortal power to convince the gods to relieve them
from their suffereing. In the same way as Oedipus, the king of Thebes,
asked Tiresias (a prophet) to speak for the gods explaining why his people
were suffering, in Oedipus Rex. The Ancient Greeks believed their fate
lay in the powers and oracle of the prophets and prophetesses. There was
one prophetess, however, that was an exception to this belief. Although
Cassandra was the most beautiful and intelligent prophetess, in Greek
mythology, her prophecies were never believed.
Stories of gods falling in love with or lusting after young beautiful
women appear everywhere in Greek mythology, and the case of Cassandra
is no exception. Greek gods chose their prey because of some
distinguished characteristic or part of their geneology. Cassandra was a
lovely young woman, and described by Homer as the most beautiful of
Priam's daughters. Apollo, similarly, was the most handsome of the
young gods. Cassandra describes Apollo as someone who "struggled to
win me, breathing ardent for me" (Lefkowitz 15).
Cassandra, daughter of Queen Hecuba and King Priam of Troy,
was a beautiful young woman blessed with the gift of prophecy by the god
Apollo. In return, she was supposed to love him, but at the last minute she
shunned Apollo. As an act of revenge, Apollo added a twist to her gift:
Cassandra was doomed to tell the truth, but never to be believed (Cohen
50).
Cassandra has always been misunderstood and misinterpreted as a
madwoman or crazy doomsday prophetess. She has always been shown
in paintings with her long hair flying around her shoulders in what was
considered lunatic fashion, scantily clad, and helpless on her knees in the
face of her predicted doom. However, there is so much more to
Cassandra than her maddened predictions and pitiable treatment.
Cassandra was a great, intelligent heroine who was cursed by the gods for
not playing by their rules. She is a tragic figure, not a madwoman
(Lefkowitz 4).
Cassandra's gift began with her falling asleep in the temple of
Apollo. As he looked down on her, her beauty roused him. He promised
to teach her the art of prophecy in return for lust. Cassandra agreed to his
terms, but after accepting his gift of prophecy, she denied him her body.
Apollo was outraged and added a condition to the gift: though Cassandra
would always speak the truth, no one would ever believe her. " ‘Already I
prophesised to my countryment all their disasters...(but) Ever since that
fault I could persuade no one of anything.' " He begged Cassandra to give
him one last kiss, and as she did so, he spat into her mouth, when he
backed away, the curse was planted (Lefkowitz 20).
Once Cassandra had been cursed by Apollo, and she would never
be believed, Troy was doomed. Countless times before and during the
Trojan War Cassandra predicted what would come of the war, but no one
believed her. Always it was Cassandra who recognized a face, who
predicted a fateful occurrence, who ran around the ramparts of the city
with her hair flying around her shoulders, crying and spouting oracles that
no one understood. Most people considered her insane and tried to subdue
her, but she was only trying desperately to warn her people of impending
disaster.
One of Cassandra's most famous predictions was that of the Greek
siege behind the gift of the Trojan horse. " ‘Four times (the horse) struck
(the gates): as oft the clashing sound of arms was heard, and inward
groans rebound. Yet, mad with zeal, and blinded with our fate, we haul
along the horse in solemn state; then place the dire portent within the
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