Because you wanted to know all about Cassandra from Mythology
I had no idea, when I started writing this quick blog that it would morph into something bigger. I’m not going to lie. This is long. BUT WORTH IT!
You see, I was trying to explain what it meant when a person (like myself) says “I feel like Cassandra”. Because I’ve felt this way for the past year and a half. I was going to take this whole snarky tact and lament over the current state of the planet, people, politics, and pandemic, but that’s exhausting. Let’s be honest, no one wants to read that because it’s all anyone is talking about. All. The. Time.
So I decided, well, I’ll do a quick explanation of the mythological life of Cassandra instead. Which means my friend, we now get to depart on an Awesomely FUN , geeky, highly accessible, weird telling of the mythology of the princess and prophetess Cassandra.
First things first, let’s set the stage.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…
The year: Roughly a long, long time ago; but in our galaxy. For those keeping track its about 1180 B.C. or B.C.E (Before the Common Era).
The place: Troy.
Did Troy really exist? You bettcha. Troy was a real city located on the Northwest coast of Asia Minor. That’s current day Turkey to me and you. Here it is pointed out on a map:
Check it out, the city of Troy was always the city of Troy. You see, this little city was “inhabited for almost 4,000 years starting around 3000 B.C.E. After one city was destroyed, a new city would be built on top of it, creating a human-made mound called a “tell.” There is no one single Troy; there are at least 10, lying in layers on top of each other,” writes University of Amsterdam researcher Gert Jan van Wijngaarden in a chapter of the book” Troy: City, Homer and Turkey”.
So Troy exists, and it is the late bronze age, a Heroic age. A time when monsters loomed around every corner, when heroic quests were part of the fabric of life and when the gods walked among the humans. (I need to get the movie phone guy and have him read this blog out loud.)
These histories, or probable fabricated stories, come to us in the writings of Herodotus and Eratosthenes. Aka: two Greek dudes who wrote self-proclaimed ‘Histories’ about Greece and its people as well as the Great Battle of Troy. The thing is, they wrote it all down about 800 years after it happened. So who knows how much is truth and how much is fiction at this point.
We also have stories of this great Trojan War told by an epic writer named Homer. You know, the guy of The Iliad and Odyssey fame.
By the way, there is still some debate today over who actually did write the Iliad and the Odyssey. Some scholars point to a lack of factual autobiographical information of Homer, like where he lived and was born as a reason that someone else might have written these books. And of course the dates of his life we do have are a bit off, so how did he really know about the war? Some say perhaps Homer was a group of poets who handed the story down orally until someone finally wrote the damn thing down. Oh, and it’s got ‘fiction’ elements; like Calypso’s Island doesn’t really exist, which means it might be a work of fiction and as we all know, fiction writers are suspect! So now you know, Homer is a hotly debated mess.
Even so, there has been evidence discovered under the many different cities of Troy’s that point to the fact that, at one time, there was a battle. “Today archaeologists consider Troy VI—the sixth counting from the bottom up—to be the likeliest candidate for Homer’s Troy. This city dates from around 1700 to 1250 B.C.” At this level, they’ve found bronze arrowheads and human remains with battle like wounds.
So if you look at that map, you’ll see that Tory was built on a sweet spot. Right next to the water. This meant Ocean Front Property was available and trade was good in Troy baby! And when trade was good in the olden days, people who were inland or trying to be more powerful than everyone else wanted to add that sweet spot to their toy collection.
Which meant the city of Troy needed to be hyper vigilant of attack.
Okay, let’s get ready to Rumble!!!!
In this corner we have Mycenae, and it’s King: Agamemnon! King of the united Greek City-states! He’s more than a pretty gold face, folks!
Supporting him in a very nepotistic sort of way, is the King of Sparta and younger brother of Agamemnon: Menelaus. (One of his highlights on Wikipedia says he “was also popular in Greek vase painting.”)
*And Now for a Menelaus Greek Vase Painting montage.
Do you know who was married to Menelaus, This King of Sparta? Helen. Sound familiar? Good. Cuz she’s gonna cause some problems in Troy when she sends a change of address to her husband Menelaus in a few years.
Finally, across the Agean Sea, is the King of Troy; aka King Priam (Pre ahm); aka Peter O’Toole in the 2004 movie Troy; aka Lawrence of Arabia. (Man, if I keep this up I’m going to confuse us all.)
Okay, King Priam came to power like you do in the days of Mythology and Heroics…by the death of a whole bunch of other people.
Let’s start Priam’s story here. First note of importance is that Priam started life under another name: Pod Racer.
*That can’t be right. Looks at notes.
Sorry, he went by the name Podarces (po – dar – says). He was about fourth or eleventh in line to be king of Troy. So with little stress on his shoulders, I image he was spending his youth galloping up and down the beaches of Troy chasing butterflies.
Of course, as I dive deeper into the story, that seems like something he probably shouldn’t be doing. At the time his hormones were kicking in, it would seem that Troy was under attack by all sorts of sea monsters and plague. This was because Pod Racers daddy (King Laomenon- let’s call him King L to make it easier.) So it turns out Troy was under attack because King L had pissed off Poseidon and Apollo.
*These Greek stories have so many twists and turns and the same characters! You just slap some makeup on it, big hair and add a dramatic soundtrack and you’ve got “The young Greeks and the Restless Gods”. (Ohhh, don’t you dare steal that. It’s mine. I’d read that book.)
Let’s back track a few years. (Again).
Zeus fell in love with one of Pod Races brothers and stole him away. King L was pissed. But to try and smooth things over, Zeus gave King L two really fast horses; horses who ran so fast they could run on water. This wasn’t good enough though, so Zeus sent his son Apollo and his brother Poseidon to do some light housekeeping for King L. (Zeus sent Apollo and Poseidon as punishment because they had pissed Zeus off, I think there is more to that story, but if I tell it, then we’re just telling a story within a story within a story within…you get it. So let’s leave it at this, Zeus was angry and this was a decent punishment.)
King L tells Apollo and Poseidon, “Look, you don’t want to be here and I don’t really need you. But let’s cut a deal, just build a decent wall around our city of Troy, then I’ll pay you handsomely and you can get back to your lives.”
Guess what? King L refused to pay, so in retribution = enter sea monsters and plague.
*When you are under attack of this kind, one of the first things you need to do is go see an Oracle. To find out what you can do to appease the gods. Even though paying said gods was really what you should have done in the first place.
So over coffee and biscuits, an oracle tells King L, “there is a really easy fix for this problem. All you have to do is sacrifice a daughter to the sea monster.”
So that’s just what King L did.
He chained up Hesione, his most chaste daughter (because they’re always chaste, aren’t they? Ugh.) So King L chained Hesione (BTW – there are three different ways to pronounce this name on line, so for our purposes, go ahead and pronounce it however you want to today.) So Hesione is chained to a rock near the sea monster and King L is headed home, trying to figure out how he was going to explain this one to his wife.
*A little note about the Days of Heroics, there is always a hero nearby. This time, it was Heracles. If the name sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the Greek version of Hercules.
King L wasn’t paying attention as he walked sadly back to his castle when he bumped into Heracles who was just passing through town. They muttered their apologies for bumping into each other but one of the men with Heracles took offense, “Dude! Don’t you know who this man is? He’s the great Heracles. Son of Zeus and Alcmene. Accomplisher of twelve deadly labors. Protector of mankind and creator of the Rock Hard Fitness Gymnasium.”
King L gave a scoff of laughter and said, “well I am The King of Troy, the son of Ilus. Two of my wives were nymphs and I am in the midst of being personally attacked by gods. As a matter of fact, I just got done tying up my daughter as a sacrifice, so excuse me if I wasn’t looking where I was going.”
Heracles raised an eyebrow, in the way The Rock does when something is intriguing, and asked, “you want some help?”
“I don’t know, do you want to help me?” King L shot back.
“Sure. But you gotta pay me.”
King L scratched his beard and nodded, “I’ve got two really fast horses you can have.”
“Deal.” Heracles held out his hand to make the agreement, but pulled back at the last minute, “wait, why are the gods tormenting you?”
King L looked Heracles right in the eye and declared, “Personal problems.” I guess it was a good idea for King L not to go into detail that the reason the gods were mad was because he didn’t pay them for a job they had recently done. I do, however, think Heracles should have asked a few more questions before agreeing, but that’s just me.
Our strong man goes down to the shore, and spends three days swinging the sea monster back and forth between the rocks before it’s finally defeated. He unties Hesione and they go back to her dad.
King L actually gives Heracles two horses. Of course, no one is fooled by the lazy old horses pretending to be good fast horses. I mean, did any of us think the old fool was really going to give his good ones away? We all saw the smarmy double cross coming.
Heracles takes the horses and he doesn’t give any speeches of revenge or anything. He just motions to his two buddies who are with him to get a move on. They sail to Greece, put the poor old horses to pasture and Heracles gathers up a freakin’ army! Because all this time, Heracles has been pissed off.
He sails back to Troy, standing at the helm of the ship the whole time, allowing the spray of sea water to keep his shirt stuck to his fine, taut, muscular body…I mean, I imagine that’s what happened.
When he and his army land in Troy, he proceeds to kill everyone, except Hesione, after all she was a pawn and spent three days chained to a rock as a sacrifice.
I’m sure just before the wife of King L was killed she looked accusingly at her husband and screamed, “you don’t get along with anyone, do you?” King L probably begged for his life, but I feel like he might not have been given time to make a really grand speech.
Heracles then starts to kill each of King L’s kids until he comes to the youthful Pod Racer.
Pod Racer saw his sister standing behind Heracles, a little shell shocked. Probably covered in a bit of blood. Pod Racer calls out to his sister, “Sis, remember that golden veil you were knitting that I’m only bringing up now as a side note because no one really knew about it before this moment but it is going to come in really handy?”
She nodded numbly.
Pod Racer pointed to Heracles, “cool, do you think you would be open to taking this golden veil in exchange for my freedom?”
Heracles agreed to these terms, “I’ll take this golden veil. But just so we’re all on the same page, Pod Racer, now that your sister has ransomed your life, you should probably be called something like Priam, which as everyone here knows means “ransomed” or “redeemed”, depending on which website you used for your research.”
“I never liked the name Pod Racer to begin with,” Priam looked accusingly at the blog writer, “Thanks by the way for defeating the sea monster, I can go back to chasing butterflies on the beach.”
Hesione shook her head sadly at her only living relative, “but you’re the last living male. You’re now the King of Troy.”
Priam sat down heavily thinking to himself, “oh snap.”
Exhausted from standing on the bow of the ship for so long and killing everyone he came in contact with, Heracles sat down next to his two friends whose names aren’t important as they’ve been background players that floated in and out of story lines this whole time.
One of his friends elbowed Heracles and said, “Hey Cleasy, while you were making this battle and betrayal all about you, I’ve been pining over Hesione there. She’s pretty fly. Can I keep her?” And because this was the age when men thought they owned women, Heracles shrugged and said, “I don’t care. But let me give you a bit of advice, if you register at Bed, Bath and Beyond for Le Creuset, they can’t apply that 20% off coupon; it’s one of the excluded brands. You’re better off waiting for them to go on sale.”
Heracles restocked his ship and shook hands with Pod Racer Priam.
“Where will you go now?” Pod Racer asked.
“Sardinia,” Heracles explained, “an oracle told me that my sons need to colonize that place.”
“How many sons do you have?” Pod Racer Priam asked.
Heracles shrugged and looked into the distance, “about 50.”
“I had to sleep with the 50 daughters of King Thespius on 50 consecutive nights.”
“It’s been an interesting life.”
“The stuff legends are made of.” Pod Racer Priam said and Heracles agreed.
*Note: Seriously, Greek mythology is THE earliest form of Soap Opera drama. The story of Heracles really did have a 50-night love fest. “All his daughters came of marrying age but Thespius seems to have sought no husband for them; he instead desired grandchildren from the hero Heracles. When Heracles was assigned to kill a lion…Thespius offered his fifty daughters as a prize. The hunt for the lion lasted fifty days, and during each night of the hunt Heracles slept with each of the fifty daughters, who in turn each gave birth to one son.”
So, Pod Racer Priam grows up, he drops the first part of his name and he’s desperate for family. This might have been a leftover effect of being the only one of his family left, so he sires over 100 children and never goes to counseling once. That and I think on some level he is subliminally trying to keep up with a half god like Heracles.
So, history records Priam as having 50 sons and “just as many girls.” Anyway, with a hundred kids, chances are a few of them are going to be famous, or infamous, depending how you look at it. To name a few, there is Hector, Paris and Cassandra. (A few others made their name into the mythology books, but they aren’t important for our story.)
And now, ladies and gentlemen, entering the mythical Greek stage is Princess Cassandra, the most beautiful of Priam’s daughters – this according to the time of history when only superficial labels could be applied to women…but I digress, Cassandra was “pretty”.
Things get a little sticky here. First, she’s also called “Alexandra” or “Kassandra” but her name means “she who entangles men” which is kinda fitting, seeing as how she’s the pretty one. Also, she had a twin brother, Helenus. (Now, there are some sources that say Helenus was a female, but a lot more are certain he was male so we’ll go with that.)
According to the stories, it was Cassandra’s beauty that drew the attention of Apollo, even though Zeus had a Google Alert set up for pretty humans at the time.
So Apollo goes to Troy, he creates a meet-cute with Cassandra while she’s on the beach, picking up shells.
“Oh, hello, I see you are picking up shells.”
Cassandra didn’t look at Apollo, because her initial reaction was: thanks for pointing out the obvious, you weirdo. Instead, she said, “Yes, I love shells. And collecting shells is the perfect excuse to get away from keeping sacred flames lit in my temple.”
“But I love the flames you keep lit,” he said and gave a shake of his head, like a surfer with long locks, just getting out of the water. “I’m Apollo.”
She kind of freaks out here because she just happens to be a priestess in Apollo’s Temple. “You are everything you are supposed to be and a bag of chips.” She tells him and wishes she had a candle on hand to light in his honor.
“Girl, you are hot and I want you and I’m a god, so…” Apollo uses his opening line that usually does the trick, but Cassandra is at an impasse here. You see, as a priestess, she had sworn a vow of eternal chastity. But she swore it to Apollo. But the punishment for giving up the vow is death, but it is Apollo…you see, she just kept going round and round with the logic of it, trying to figure out what to do.
Apollo tried to sweeten the pot, “tell you what. I’ll give you a gift.”
“Oh, no, I couldn’t accept a gift from you.” She tried but Apollo did a sort of snap of his fingers and gave Cassandra a wink, “you now have the gift of prophecy.”
“I never asked for a gift…” she tried as her first prophecy began to dance just out of her vision, because it was the first one and she didn’t quite understand what was going on. She was still stuck in the loop of what would happen if she gave in to Apollo. He was obviously asking for erotic favors, and she was his priestess, but she would be killed if she broke her vow of chastity, and on the off chance she wasn’t stoned to death, there were plenty of stories going around about gods who had their way with mortal women and then left them pregnant and alone to handle the consequences. And was she ready to be a single mother just now?
“Maybe we should date first?” She tried, but Apollo was an instant gratification sort of god and that pissed him off.
“Fine, I’ll give you another gift. You will always speak the truth, you can’t do anything but tell the truth, and even though your prophesies will always come true, no one is ever going to believe you.” With a swish of his cloak, and a childish stamp of his feet he began to walk away.
Cassandra called out to him, “all your love affairs will end in disaster and mortal man will obscure your memory.”
He paused for a moment, because even though she was never supposed to be believed, he was a god and he knew she spoke the truth.
He turned toward her and she put her hands on her hips and glared at him, “and you have bad breath.”
So, Cassandra heads home, she is fine until she begins to pass family members on her way to her room and starts spouting prophesies. You know, like telling them what will happen if they continue on the path they are.
Everyone kind of deals with her new weirdness, because at least she’s pretty and most of her time is spent alone in Apollo’s temple.
She passes her little brother Paris one day, he’s got his bags packed and his neck pillow on; he’s headed out on a good will tour of Greece. (And to possibly bring home his Aunt Hesione. If he doesn’t get sidetracked, but chances are, he’s gonna get sidetracked.)
“Oh man, Paris, you can’t go on this trip. You are going to ruin everything for us. You’re basically going to kill everyone in this city if you go.”
Paris rolled his eyes at his older sister, “seriously? This whole family has been against me since I was born. Your twin brother got me exiled when I was a baby and raised by bears or something, I don’t remember. Good thing I was a great boxer and dad recognized me and let me back in the house last year. Just listen, you don’t need to worry, I’ve got Aphrodite in my back pocket.”
“She’s the reason you’re going to mess everything up.” Cassandra pointed.
“I gave her a gold apple and she’s going to introduce me to the most beautiful woman in the world. How can that go wrong?” He gave his sister a pat on the head and walked away as she began telling him in great detail just how things were going to go wrong.
Cassandra becomes a bit of a loner, I mean, you would too. Imagine being in the thriving city of Tory and you have a prophecy for everyone who passes you. And none of it good news. It would be one thing if she could walk around yelling, “You get a chariot! And You get a chariot! And YOU get a CHARIOT!” but it’s more like, “Your pig farm is going under in two days. Your children have run off to join the circus. Your in-laws will be eaten by tigers and lions and bears!”
“Oh, my,” Cassandra’s twin Helenus, who is accompanying her one day, tries to get her to stop, “you are out of control and it’s creepy and no one wants to be around you anymore.”
Cassandra sighs, “yeah, but that doesn’t keep the suitors away does it?”
“Well, the fact that the last two suitors died might start to be a problem.”
“I told them they were going to die. I told father.”
“He makes the royal reporter keep a ledger of all your crazy predictions, did you know that?”
Cassandra stopped and shook her head, “then why won’t he believe me when I tell him the truth?”
“Honestly?” Helenus asked.
Cassandra nodded her head, even though she knew the answer, she just wanted to hear her brother say it.
“Well, for one thing, I don’t want to. It’s like, when you’re talking, I just have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that you are wrong.”
“Neat. I think I’m going to stop brushing my hair.”
“Why? Then the suitors won’t want you anymore.”
“Another one is coming to the house tomorrow to propose and he’s going to die too.”
“Stop it Cass, he won’t die. Besides, it’s good to have a suitor, it’s the way things are done. You make a good match with a grain farmer and we don’t have to tax grain as much.”
“What is a tax?” Cassandra asked.
“It’s a duty fee, but I don’t know if we have them here or not, the research is fuzzy and I’m not in the mood to dive deeper on taxation practices in ancient Troy.” Helenus explained. “I’m just saying, you need to be careful about what you say. Dad is thinking of locking you up in a prison of sorts, especially because you keep telling everyone that they are going to die when Paris returns with some girl.”
“Helenus, we ARE all going to die when he returns. And beware the giant horse of wood that rolls through the city gates.”
“See!” Helenus pointed, “you sound crazy.”
“I’m never going to get married.” She declared.
“Cassandra, you just said a suitor will come tomorrow.” Helenus hated these conversations with his sister.
“He will and I’ll introduce him to one of our sisters and they can get married and Aunt Joan will get drunk at the wedding and ruin everything.”
“Aunt Joan always gets drunk, but you know, I don’t think so. I feel like the next big family wedding we have, she’ll behave herself.” Helenus nodded.
Cassandra stopped and began to twirl her hair, something she’d taken up because she was so nervous all the time and slowly feeling like her grip on reality was faltering. She knew she was slowly going mad, she’d seen it in a vision.
“Look, Helenus. It’s time I show you how to use the gift of prophecy.”
“Because I’m going to teach you and then everyone will believe you and not me. But at least someone will be believed. And maybe it will keep me sane a little while longer.”
Helenus shrugged, he didn’t mind being taught how to be a seer, but he was leery about having to spend more time with his sister.
Helen, the most beautiful human, is a pawn. Seriously, her story is that of a girl, trying to go about her needle work while she is interrupted again and again and again.
So check this out, Helen’s mother, Leda, found a swan that was being chased by an eagle. Leda nurses the sawn back to health and falls in love with it. Do you know why? Because the swan is Zeus in disguise. He hangs around because…that’s what he does. Leda lays an egg and out hatches Helen! How’s that for an origin story?!
Helen is abducted when she’s younger because some guy who is half god decided he should have a half god wife. Only he got caught up in drama in the underworld. Which left Helen’s brothers time to attack Athens (where she was being held prisoner) and bring her home.
She gets back to her needlepoint when her dad decides she probably needs to get married sooner rather than later. But when he starts putting feelers out for suitors, Kings and powerful men or their emissaries start showing up. Like, a whole bunch of guys that make Helen’s daddy think, damn, if this goes wrong, these guys could take over our whole kingdom.
Our boy Odysseus is there, vying for Helen. But he realizes this isn’t going to work, but he’s kinda smart and sees the stressed out king. He offers a solution, if the King promises to hook him up with this Penelope chick he likes. The king agrees and Odysseys gets all the men present to take an oath, whoever is chosen for Helen, no one would take offense. And if they did and tried to do something about it, then everyone would fight against that one guy.
Things go smoothly and Menelaus is chosen as her husband. And the dude wasn’t even THERE! He sent his big brother Agamemnon to check things out for him. I mean, was this a power move? Did women’s daddy’s swoon during this era if you had enough money to send a guy in your place? Was that the epitome of impressive?
I guess it worked out for the guy. Menelaus and Helen were married; the King and Queen of Sparta ruled and lived happily for ten years and Helen gave birth to a daughter and three mythical sons. (Mythical because some sources say she only had one kid and some say there were three boys as well.)
Our boy Paris (aka Orlando Bloom) struts into town, “I’m here on a diplomatic tour. I’m super cute and I was raised on bear milk, I think.” I’m pretty sure he was humming “Staying Alive” by the Bee Gees as he walked and introduced himself.
That night there’s a meet and greet with Menelaus and some big wigs as they serve some of that famous Spartan fare. Like “a black broth of blood and boiled pig’s leg, seasoned with vinegar, which they combined with servings of barley, fruit, raw greens, wine and, at larger dinners, sausages or roasted meat.”
Paris nods his head approvingly, “Yo this stuff is dope.”
Then Helen walks in, all flowy in golden robes and the like, but disappointed because she’s been interrupted again from sewing.
Paris sees her, chokes on a bite and after he’s recovered, excuses himself. He runs to the privy and calls Aphrodite. “Did you see her? I think she’s the most beautiful woman in the world.”
“She’s okay.” Aphrodite shrugged.
“No one can be as gorgeous as you, baby,” Paris smoothed, “but since she’s human, can I have her?”
Aphrodite shrugged and snapped her fingers.
When Paris walks back in the room, strutting like a peacock, Helen takes note this time and is star struck.
*I would go so far as to place David Cassidy’s “I think I Love You” song behind this moment.
So the next day, Paris takes Helen and the two run away.
Y’all, this woman left her nine-year-old daughter and a good relationship behind, but it wasn’t her fault, right? The goddess Aphrodite made her do it.
Remember that little thing that happened when Helen was about to get engaged, that all the men took an oath? That if someone tried something, then everyone would gang up and declare war against that one person? Menelaus has his lawyers check out the details and it turns out, it holds up in this situation. So Menelaus calls in the chips and builds an army. His big brother Agamemnon is at his side.
Why isn’t it difficult to declare war, we might ask ourselves. Well, Troy sits in a nice little location for importing and exporting goods and using a harbor. And if the Greeks take Troy, then they get to expand their empire. It’s a win-win.
Paris returns home to a lot of angry people. His dad, Lawrence of Arabia, sighs “I don’t think you understand what you’ve done.” But Lawrence of Arabia Pod Racer Priam is an old tired man at this point and greets Helen into the family.
Cassandra is stomping her foot and yelling, “I told you this was going to happen, but noooo, no one wanted to believe me!”
Helenus, Cassandra’s twin points to Helen and Paris, “your actions will bring about a war.” He says calmly.
Everyone freaks out then, his dad nods his head, “Your brother Helenus is the best seer in all the land, and he’s always right. This is going to start a war.”
Their mom goes into a right rage.
Cassandra screeches, “are you kidding me? I just said that!”
Cassandra’s mom sighs and says, “Cassandra, darling, go have a lie down. You’ve gotten yourself too worked up.”
Now, the gods arrange the players on the Chess Board O’ Life and the Greeks take 100,000 men on 1000 ships with Brad Pitt in tow and arrive on the coast of Troy.
The Greeks are kinda put off by the huge sea wall, but someone explains that it was built by Apollo and Poseidon and everyone takes a moment then to be impressed by the architectural ingenuity of the gods.
A war continues on this shore for TEN years.
*A few things. You’re probably asking yourself, why was Heracles able to just walk through the front gates and start killing everyone, but the Greeks are having such a difficult time? And that’s a great question.
I have no answer. What I do have is speculation. Heracles didn’t bring a writer with him, so it wasn’t worth making a big production out of his attack.
I mean, as far as explanations go, it’s better than nothing.
I digress…on with the action.
At the beginning of the 10th year, things really take off because a writer begins to tell the tale of the battle and calls his story the Iliad. I mean, before that it was just a conflict told in messages being sent back and forth, but you get a writer involved and then you can really forward the storyline.
Writers: Good for the Greeks, good for history. – N. Sharp
*Another little side note: At this time, Cassandra feels more comfortable at Athena’s temple than she does at Apollo’s. She has switched god loyalties.
Now The Trojan War told in chronological bullet points:
- Agamemnon, Helen’s brother in law, has a great warrior aka his secret weapon, aka Achilles, aka Brad Pitt. He can’t be killed because he was dipped in the River Styx as a baby. All parts of him except his heel. But you know that. What you might NOT know, is that the special dipping made him and his big ol’ muscles look shiny and oily for the rest of his life.
- A guy dresses up like Achilles and does well in battle, but Hector, one of Cassandra’s brothers kills him.
- Achilles Brad Pitt is pissed that his best friend (who stole his clothes) is dead. So Brad Pitt kills Hector.
- Cassandra saw this coming. She even tried to warn her brother Hector, guess what? He didn’t care.
- Hector’s body is dragged around for a few days in disrespect.
- Old Pod Racer Priam begs Brad Pitt to give his son’s body back so they can bury him, proper like.
- Paris calls in another favor from Aphrodite, and gains vengeance for his brother by shooting an arrow through Achilles heel.
- Paris and Menelaus meet up on the battlefield. Paris isn’t a very good fighter, and Menelaus ends up dragging him around by his helmet, which is choking him. Then Aphrodite decides to help him again, and in a puff of smoke and mirrors, sweeps Paris into the clouds.
- An Oracle tells the Greeks they need Heracles’ bow and arrow in order to win the war.
- *The Oracle is Helenus, they captured Helenus! Oh man, I did not see this one coming. He tells the Greeks how to win the war. (What do they have on this guy in order to get him to tell them how to kill all his brothers and sisters and brothers and sister in laws and nieces and nephews? Hmmmm. He also insists that they are going to need Achilles son to win.
*Wait, Achilles has a son?! Brad Pitt doesn’t look like he’s old enough to have a son who can fight in this war. I mean, it’s been ten years, but how old is Achilles when they go to war?
Oh my gods, I just checked on his age!!! More drama! So, one source says Achilles was 15 when the war started and 25 when he died. And he had a son?! I guess if he was 15 when he went to war, his own son could kill a king if he was around 15?
Time for a bit more backstory!
Here’s the tall and short of it:
Achilles mom was a goddess (who knew?!) and she was freaked out about her son’s mortality, hence the dipping in the river. Well, to make matters worse, an oracle sees that Achilles is going to be a great warrior and die in battle. His mom, wanting nothing to do with that, doubles down on her hiding and protecting and takes Achilles, who she’s dressed like a girl, to the secluded Island of Scyros.(Here, I’ll pinpoint that place on a google map.)
Achilles doesn’t like it. He runs away, but real quick while he’s on this beautiful island anyway, he has an affair with the King’s daughter and thus is born his bastard son: Neoptolemus (Neo-tol-uh-mas)
Back to the war:
- Odysseus is sent to get Heracles’ bow and arrow and Achilles’ son. When they return, they shoot an arrow at Paris and while it’s only a flesh wound, the small nick kills him.
- From the time Paris dies until the horse thing, Helen, alone and bored, gets together with one of Paris’ other brothers. I mean, there are a few. A footnote of a guy named Deiphobus. She ditches him real quick though. It’s no big deal.
- Our boy Odysseus comes up with a giant horse of an idea.
- Cassandra warns everyone what is about to happen.
- No one listens.
- The Greeks pretend to sail away and leave a giant horse statue at the gates. The people of Troy open the gates and kinda like the look of this peaceful, sacrificial Horse. And you don’t want to mess with sacrificial things. It would anger the gods.
- No one thinks the wooden horse that looks like it could hold a hundred guys might be holding a hundred guys so they wheel it into the city.
- Ol’ Cassandra lights a torch and goes after the horse as it’s wheeled into the center of town, screaming and trying to warn everyone that it’s a trap. She’s stopped and sent back to her temple.
- There is a huge party, everyone gets drunk and dances. All Night Long…
- Then, in the wee small hours of the morning, the men in the horse let themselves out, open the gates and the Greeks burn Troy to the ground, killing all the men and children and taking the women as prisoners.
- King Priam and a few other political leaders seek refuge in the temple of Zeus, because surely no one would hurt someone in a temple of Zeus. Guess what, it doesn’t help. And with a weird twist, Achilles son is the one who kills good ol’ Pod Racer Priam.
- Menelaus finds Helen, she gives him a sly shrug and points toward the heavens, “Aphrodite made me do it.” Menelaus nods, “I get it, the gods must be crazy. But we got some land out of the deal so that’s pretty cool. Come home baby. Your kid is 19 now and I think we have like 7 grandchildren by now. Because that’s how things go in the mythic days of our people.”
*Here’s my favorite wording describing Helen at the time of their reunion: “Helen, now middle-aged but still a beauty…” Really?
So Helen reunited with her husband and for several conflicting reasons, he’s not really that mad at her.
Everyone begins their journeys home.
The writer catches a ride on the ship with Odysseus, and he starts his second book on that long, arduous journey.
But what about Cassandra?
Well. While everyone was being rudely awoken by the Greek army, she knew what was coming. So she was praying away to Athena in the temple for protection as the city was being burned to the ground. But these Greeks kinda don’t seem to care about killing people in temples. I mean, Zeus didn’t save Priam.
Now, you never want to be the guy who is doing something shitty to a woman when she is in a temple praying for a goddess to protect her. But to be honest, it’s written that the Greeks were raping and pillaging and killing…but when this one guy, Ajax the lesser (that’s his real name) tries something with Cassandra, then the Greeks are suddenly worried that Athena and the other gods might destroy them?!
Cassandra is saved from Ajax by Agamemon, “leave her alone. She’ll come with me, but she does have crazy eyes.”
“You’re all going to die. The gods won’t allow you to live.” Cassandra declared with her crazy eyes.
Agamemnon tilted his head at her declaration, “eh, I know the gods are mean, but I really feel like this time we’re going to be okay.”
And indeed, it was the war crimes the Greeks committed that made their journeys home so arduous. Poseidon sent storms that destroyed a lot of the Greek fleet. Cassandra stood on the helm of Agamemnon’s ship and pointed, “I told you so. That’s Athena’s revenge.”
Just then, a bolt of lightning hit the ship Ajax was on and he fell into the sea and drowned. Cassandra nodded as he was being ripped apart by sea creatures, “karma’s a bitch, son!”
Agamemnon didn’t believe Cassandra, but he believed what he saw and made a quick sacrifice to all the gods. Then, their journey back to Mycenae was smooth sailing.
On the way home, Cassandra tried to explain to Agamemnon, “Dude, your wife is cheating on you and she and her lover are going to kill us when we get to your house. If you don’t mind, there is a nice little island over there, just get close enough and I’ll swim the rest of the way.”
“That’s ridiculous, I’ve been sending messages home once a year for the past ten years, my wife and I are solid.”
They arrived on the shores of Mycenae and were quickly murdered by Agamemnon’s wife and her lover.
In her last gasping breath, I feel like Cassandra looked at Agamemnon and said, “Dude, I told you so.”
The gods, realizing that Cassandra had kinda been through hell on earth, allowed her immediate entrance into the Elysian Fields, this is where Russell Crow has that really nice close up of his hands brushing against the wheat in The Gladiator. Elysian kinda looks like Tuscany in the fall.
So Cassandra’s soul was judged worthy to be in this most holy of places. And all her crazy hysterical time of a life was over and she was at peace.
My friend, thank you for indulging my story. I’m sure we could go more in-depth psychoanalysis of Cassandra, but you and I need entertainment right now with a little mythology lesson. I will bid you ado, and leave you with this awesome sketch from one of my favorite shows, Horrible Histories on BBC.
Look, I did a lot of research and I tried to link where I could but just in case these are the sites I used. But I’m tired and this is my blog, so I’m not going to do my Bibliography correctly. It’s just gonna be a list here if you are bored.
Well, now you’ve done it! I’ve always enjoyed your posts, but this time you really hit it out of the ballpark. Reading this was such fun! Back in the 1950s and 1960s, a professor from Claremont named Richard Armour wrote a series of mock-history books with names like “It All Started with Columbus,” “It All Started with Europa,” etc., (and sold in the hundreds of thousands). I read them voraciously when I was in junior high and high school. But this is better. No kidding. I urge you to make this post a chapter and starting point for a book. You really have something here. (Also enjoyed the reference to Horrible Histories: we are big fans of both the books and the shows. My favorite video is The Boudicca Song from Cut-Throat Celts. I’ve watched it hundreds of times.) Congratulations!!
Thank you Bob! Such praise indeed. I will check out those books. Also, the historian who works on Horrible Histories has a podcast called Dead To Me! I love it!
Nicole! This piece is so fun and so informative! The tone is just right, and I love your asides! I have never been able to keep all these characters straight in my mind — or even understood why I should. You provide enough of the backstory to keep the reader saying, “Aha! Now I get it!” This, combined with a “herstory” sensibility, result in a relishing retellng.. Thanks to you, I definitely know who Cassandra is. And I’m so pissed (but not particularly surprised) that nobody listens to her. This is a story, afterall, that needs to be told and retold and retold to next generations. I am going to recommend the Nicole Sharp version to all my friends.