Monday, November 28, 2022

Rhodopis — History Mystery

Rhodopis — History Mystery

Rhodopis is one of the old Greek tales which was revolved around a Greek slave girl. This slave girl married the king of Egypt. In Greek, the term Rhodopis is known as Ῥοδῶπις Rhodôpis. Strabo, a Greek historian, recorded the Rhodopis Cinderella story first in the late first century BC or early first century AD (64 or 63 BC – c. 24 AD) in his Geographica (book 17, 33). People know it as the first variant of the "Cinderella" tale. If you want to find the origin of this fairy tale, then return to the 6th-century BC hetaera Rhodopis. Now, let's know about Rhodopis in detail, what are its sources, how the girl became the queen, and so on.

What is the Plot?

Geographica (book 17, 33) was the book where Strabo wrote the tale between c. 7 BC and c. 24 AD. According to the story of Rhodopis, an eagle came to snatch sandals from her maid when she was bathing. Then, the eagle took it away to Memphis. After a while, the eagle flung it into the king's lap when he was administering justice. The king was surprised at the beautiful shape of the sandal and the strangeness of the incident. After watching the sandal, he sent men in all directions to find the woman to whom the sandal belonged. Later, those men found her in the city of Naucratis. Then, they brought her up to Memphis, and she became the king's wife.

Who is Rhodopis?

Rhodopis is known as the oldest Cinderella story, or you can say this is the first Cinderella story. This story is loosely based on a real person. The time was around the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD when the tale appeared in Aelian's Varia Historia. Generally, people know this tale as Rhodopis Egyptian Cinderella during the 19th century.

Sources for Rhodopis Story:

We know that Strabo, a Greek geographer, first recorded the tale. But, later, Roman orator Aelian reported a similar tale in Miscellaneous History. It was written in Greek and quite identical to the story Strabo told. But in Aelian's story, the Pharaoh's name was Psammetichus. According to Aelian's account, the Rhodopis story remained famous throughout antiquity.

In this regard, you should know that the arrival of Herodotus was about 500 years before Strabo. Nevertheless, in his History, he recorded a renowned legend about courtesans named Rhodopis.

He claimed that Rhodipis, who was the slave of a landman of Samos, came from Thrace. Samos was the fellow slave of the story-teller Aesop. It was the time of Pharaoh Amasis when she was taken to Egypt. Freed there for a large sum by Charaxus (Χάραξος) of Mytilene, brother of Sappho, the lyric poet.


Herodotus said that she was a slave of Aesop. After that, we learned about the secret love affair between Aesop and her. Basically, they belonged to the Iadmon of Samos. A Samian named Xanthes made her his property and took her to Naucratis during the reign of Amasis II. After that, she met Charaxus, who was Sappho's brother. He went to Naucratis as a merchant.

After a while, Charaxus found himself in love with the woman. So, he decided to offer a lot of money as ransom for her slavery. Therefore, the money that she earned from her profession would belong to only her. In a poem, Sappho accused Rhodopis of robbing Charaxus of his property. Besides, her brother got ridiculed in a poem written by Sappho because he got entangled with Rhodopis.

After liberation: Rhodopis lived at Naucratis once she was liberated from slavery. Later, she donated 1/10 of her income to Delphi's temple. The tithe was converted into big iron spits for cooking oxen. After that, she sent these to Delphi. To this day, you can find these lying in a heap, in front of the shrine and behind the altar that Chians set up. Moreover, Ten iron spits were dedicated in her name. It was Herodotus who saw the spits.

Tales and legends:

After four hundred years, Herodotus, according to the statement of Strabo, Rhodopis, was called "Doricha" by Sappho. Then, after two hundred years of Strabo, Athenaeus said that two different women had been confused by Herodotus.

Strabo and Diodorus Siculus mentioned a variant of the tale where they told that people who loved Rhodopis built the pyramid to be her tomb. Although the story's origin is false, Georg Zoega and Christian Charles Josias Bunsen explained it very well. In inconsequence of the name Rhodopis, she was confounded with Niticris, who was the queen of Egypt. However, she had been the heroine of many Egyptian legends.

The Rhodopis name meaning is "rosy cheeks," and accordingly, this one was a professional pseudonym. But we are not sure whether her actual name was "Doricha" or not. According to the Hellenistic biographical tradition linked with Posidippus, Doricha and Rodopis were the same person.


Strabo and Aelian relate to another Rhodopis story. In this tale, she was the queen of Egypt. But how did she become queen? What is the reason? We had told before that the king got her one of the sandals, and then he sent men to discover her. As soon as they found her, she was brought to the place. Then, the king made her queen of Egypt. It is all about Rhodopis' story, famous as the first Cinderella story. However, due to thematic similarities and Herodotus's used epithet, it is said that Rhodopis has a link with Helen of Troy.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Q. Is Rhodopis a real person?

It was based on a real story which was revolved around a Greek slave girl. She married the Pharaoh (the king of Egypt).

Q. What did Rhodopis look like?

She had golden, curly, and coarse hair. Her eyes were green and bright. At the same time, she had a fair skin tone.

Q. What is the story of Rhodopis?

Greece was her birthplace. But pirates kidnapped her and brought her to Egypt. Later, she was sold as an enslaved person. An older man who was kind by heart was her master. He used to spend his time sleeping under a tree. As she was different, other servant girls mocked her.

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