The story of Cassandra of Troy was the heart of Greek tragedy. The priestess Cassandra was born a princess. The daughter of the deeply religious Priam and Hecuba, King and Queen of Troy, and the sister to Paris and Hector, met the first of her life's challenges as an infant when she and her twin brother Helenus were left over night in the temple of Apollo. The King and Queen found the infants surrounded by snakes, their forked tongues flickering in the infants' ears. Thus, Cassandra and her brother were gifted (or cursed) with prophecy.
Spurning a God
The god Apollo took a great interest in the young priestess. When the young woman spent the night in his temple, in prayer and reflection, the god sought to seduce her, but Cassandra saw through his ruse and spurned him. Furious at her temerity, Apollo cursed Cassandra. From that moment forward, no one would believe her prophecies, no matter how accurate.
Cassandra's suitors died one after another. It wasn't long before most of Troy looked upon her madness with pity.
The Downfall of Troy
Cassandra's brother Paris had been left in the wilderness to die of exposure as an infant. Hecuba dreamed of a flaming torch while she was pregnant, a seer at the time saw the infant as the source of Troy's eventual destruction. Paris grew up in the hills and mountains as a shepherd, when he returned to court, Cassandra recognized him immediately despite the belief of all that he was dead. Furious that she would reveal this, Priam banished his daughter to her chamber.
Cassandra foresaw the destruction of Troy, the tenaciousness of the Greeks, the ruse of the Trojan horse and the death of her brother Hector. No one listened. When Troy collapsed, Cassandra was taken by Ajax the Lesser and raped before Agamemnon claimed her as his prisoner of war.
A Tragic Ending
Cassandra was taken from Troy, sailing with Agamemnon to Mycenae. She bore him twin sons along the voyage. Despite her many warnings, Agamemnon continued to his own kingdom. When they arrived, his wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus killed Agamemnon and then Cassandra. Aegisthus was then said to have murdered their twin sons.
In the late 1800s, Heinrich Schliemann searched for archeological evidence of Troy and the Trojan War. During his excavations of Mycenae, he believed he found proof of the tragic priestess when he uncovered a grave housing a woman's skeleton and two infants.