Sunday, June 17, 2012

History Mystery: Was Cassandra raped?

According to Homer’s Iliad Alexandra (Cassandra) was the offspring of King Priam the ruler of Troy. Cassandra was an attractive young girl who was blessed with the bequest of prophecy by the Apollo. Apollo was smitten on her but Cassandra avoided him so Apollo got angry and soiled his blessings to Cassandra according to that she was destined to tell the reality but never believed. According to Robert Graves Cassandra means “The girl who entangles men”. This was an irony since, even though she was a beauty queen her fore told prophesies about their death kept the men far from her. Cassandra was always been misunderstood and treated as a mad woman and a raving lunatic. Cassandra was an immense beautiful brilliant woman but sadly cursed by the gods because she refused to be a puppet in their hands. Hence she is not a mad woman but she is a heartrending lady.


In Greek mythology more stories of gods lusting and falling in love with the young beautiful girls are there. Since Cassandra is a beautiful young woman she is no exception. There are two versions how Cassandra got the gift of Prophecy from Apollo the most beautiful young god. One day Cassandra was sleeping in the temple of Apollo and her beauty aroused Apollo, he promised her to teach the art of prophecy in turn he expected the sexual favor from her. She agreed to the bargain and learnt the prophecy and later she denied him to keep up the promise. Her activity outraged Apollo and he cursed her according to that curse though she would always speak the truth no one would ever believe her words. One of her most famous prophecies is her prediction of the Greek siege behind the Trojan horse. She foretold their fate but nobody believed her prophecy. Hence the great mass destruction of Troy began and the bedlam infected Trojan and the Trojan girls were at the mercy of the bloody Greeks and outburst the uncontrolled violence on the Troy. The Greek men were pacified only after the sexual aggression and harassment on the Troy women. Helen supplicated Menalaus by showing her bare breast and Cassandra was raped by Ajax.

Vergil gives an elaborate account about the rape of Cassandra. Cassandra escaped to the temple of Athena and she was followed by Ajax. Since Cassandra hold the wooden image of the goddess tightly he could not dragged her away from the statue and so he had taken both of them. Most of the narratives of this story differ here. Very interesting difference is whether Cassandra was actually raped by Ajax or not. Another version of the story elaborates the Athena’s anger at the sacrilege of the temple. Little Ajax grabbed Cassandra who is the head priest of the Goddess Athena and pulled her away by the hair and sanity of the temple. The Alter; where sacrifices to be made are a sacred place. There the pretty girl was humiliated and raped (According to Herodotus 2.64 Greeks were very strictly prohibited from having intercourse in a sanctuary). What happened after the rape (supposed) of Cassandra is enthralling. Agamemnon claimed to Odysseus, Cassandra as a reward for him but Odysseus told him about the rape which was vehemently denied and opposed by Ajax and Ajax escaped and hide himself in the temple of Athena. He finally apologized for displacing Athena’s image from the temple he worked there for his offence. In total Cassandra was the reason of the misery of Greeks in a way here prophetic curse avenged her city came true. If Cassandra had not been humiliated or raped at the altar of the temple of Athena there would have been no odyssey. The people who analyzed the typical paintings of Cassandra and Ajax clearly pointed out no sexual intercourse were suggested in the paintings. Let us analyze the pottery “The Fall of Troy “by Kleophrades in 480.


Cassandra is depicted as nude and a shawl is tied around her shoulders. Her thighs were extended and one of her legs is clamped on the ground and she is knelt the other leg. One of her hand is holding the statue of Athena tightly and the other hand is stretched toward Ajax. Ajax holds her hair tightly with one hand and spread out his sword with the other hand. Ajax’s sword is projected horizontally towards her in a phallic shape. And Cassandra is in an erotic position with her legs wide open and breasts were bare and bulged by the knot of her shawl. Her hand is stretched as signaling Ajax to approach while her palm is facing up and arm is outstretched, this gesture could not be ascertain her acceptance toward Ajax or her fear. There is no actual sign of going to be raped is in this painting and The warrior Ajax looks that he is going to capture here but there is no hint of rape in his body line. She is exceedingly in a submissive sexual position and he is in a dominant position. Cassandra’s life was a tragic one from her initial encounter with Apollo to the last untimely death of her in the hands of Clytemnestra.

7 comments:

  1. Mad woman, huh? The story continues till today of "mad women"--from the various English novels till today if a woman speaks ahead of her times or protests then she is messed up in her head--not normal.
    Interesting analysis on Cassandra. Very interesting. I am a bit confused. Women were not considered objects of love--were they, during Greek times? Weren't they mostly considered for reproductive purposes? Weren't men the objects of love and adoration? So in that sense, I confused about the notion of "rape"

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  2. Wonderful...art appreciation isn't easy.Great narrative!

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  3. Excellent blog concept. So glad to have found it. Will be here more often. I am always on look out for this kind of stuff.

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  4. Very interesting. I had no idea what had happened to her.

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  5. Thank your friends for your valuable comments!!!

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