In the past two weeks we have dedicated our Women’s Wednesdays to the women of the Iliad. Today, after introducing Hecuba and her daughter Polixena, it is the turn of Cassandra, Priam’s other daughter who foresaw the destruction of Troy.
According to the myth, Cassandra was admired by Apollo. In exchange for her love, the god promised her a gift: she would be able to see the future and utter prophecies about it. Cassandra accepted the deal but, once she received the gift, she failed to keep her promise and did not pursue a relationship with the god. Apollo was obviously furious and, refusing to ignore her insult, he decided to curse Cassandra: since it was far too late for him to take the gift of prophecy away from her, his curse made so that she would never be believed by anyone - thus making her prophecies essentially useless. Boccaccio lists some of the prophecies given by Priam’s daughter, including the defeat of Troy, Agamemnon's death, Hecuba’s fate, and the murder of Aegisthus and Clytemnestra. Unfortunately, none of these tragedies were avoided given that people failed to take her words as truth.
“Cassandra”, illumination from the manuscript “Cas des nobles hommes et femmes”, ms. Français 12420, f. 48v, 15h century, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Paris.