Cassandra (also called Alexandra) is the Trojan seeress who uttered true prophecies, but lacking the power of persuasion, was never believed.
J. G. Frazer refers to a couple of scholiasts when he says that Cassandra and her brother Helenus 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 favours, 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 as her destroyer.
Accordingly no one listened when she recommended to destroy Paris, her ill-omened brother, shrieking that the boy would destroy Troy. For when Hecabe 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, who had learned the art of interpreting dreams from his maternal grandfather Merops, 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.
Years later, Some servants of King Priamcame to Mount Ida in order to fetch a bull to be given as prize in funeral games. Paris followed them because this was his favourite bull, and having decided to participate in the games, he defeated all other contenders, including his own brothers. One of them, Deiphobus, 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 Priamthen 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.
From this time on, Parisdevoted himself to obtain Helen, the prize that Aphrodite promised him when he judged the three goddesses; and accordingly he abandoned Oenone, his love from Mount Ida, who never accepted that he could endure to desert her, although Cassandra, seeing her fruitless love and knowing what Oenonewas up to, had told her that loving Paris was as futile as seeding the sand. When Paris finally sailed to fetch Helen in Sparta, Cassandra uttered new fiery prophecies, saying that Paris is seeking great flames over the water. When on Parisreturn, Cassandra saw Helencoming 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 Trojan War, wishing to wed Cassandra. One of them was Coroebus, son of Mygdon, the king of the Bebrycians whom Heracleshad 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 Priampromised that he would give Cassandra to him; but there was no occasion, since Othryoneus was killed in battle by Idomeneus, the king of Crete. As for Coroebushe perished, slain by one of three :Neoptolemus, Diomedes and Peneleus.
Near the end of theTrojan 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 Laocoonconfirmed her. But since Laocoonwas 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.
Thanks to that clever device Troywas 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 Priamwas slaughtered by Neoptolemus at the altar of Zeus, Cassandra was captured by Ajax the Locrian 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 Ajaxdragged 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, Cassandra's suitor, died; for he, seeing her outraged and abused, attacked the superior enemy in a passion of rage and was slain.
On account of this outrage the Achaean kings assembled, and Odysseus advised to stone Ajaxto 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 to stop or delay their respective journeys home . In one of these storms, Athena threw a thunderbolt against Ajax'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 Ajaxfell into the sea and perished.
Some have said that, for his services as a traitor, Agamemnon gave Helenus and also Cassandra, their freedom. After the intercession of Helenuson behalf of Hecabeand Andromache, Agamemnon again gave these their freedom. They add that these four migrated to the Thracian Chersonese and settled there with twelve hundred followers. When the victors divided the spoils, Eurypylus, one of the Achaean leaders, got a chest with an image of Dionysus, wrought by Hephaestus, and once upon a time given as a gift by Zeus to Dardanus, 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 Eurypylusopened 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' 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 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 this Eurypylus, but to another Eurypylus a man who had received the chest from Heracles, after having joined his expedition against Troy. The two namesake people were members of two succeeding generations.
Others say that when Troywas 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.