“I told you so”. Cassandra: Myths, Contexts, Meanings

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The myth of Cassandra, like many others, has evolved over the centuries for a variety of historical, political, and cultural reasons. The fundamental themes of the myth – her gift of prophecy, her family history, her abduction by Ajax and her murder by Clytemnestra – have been gradually enriched in detail and shades of meaning. From the Homeric virgin of extraordinary beauty, Cassandra became a prophetess and diviner in the Cypria. From war slave and concubine in Aeschylus’ Agamemnon, she became the character who gave voice to the tragedy of those defeated in Euripides. From the victim of Ajax the Lesser’s sacrilege in the Iliupersis, she became the object of rape in Hellenistic literature, as was perhaps already hinted at in the iconography of Ancient Greek pottery (e.g. “Vivenzio” funerary hydria), and in Lycophron’s Alexandra Cassandra prophesied major historical events, such as the Persian Wars, Alexander the Great’s victories, and the rule of Rome.
A recurring character in Western culture, Cassandra seems to have attracted special attention in periods of crisis or times of imminent catastrophe. In Ugo Foscolo’s Dei Sepolcri, for instance, Cassandra showed that the way to salvation from political defeat was in the imperishable glory of poetry; for Symbolist painters, she expressed the crisis of Positivist certainties; in Raymond Queneau, she predicted the end of the Golden Age; in Christa Wolf’s 1983 monologue, influenced as it was by the tensions of the Cold War, she hinted at the waning of an epoch; and in one of Jan Fabre’s recent theatrical works (Resurrexit Cassandra, 2020), she warned against the current climate emergency. On top of this, in psychoanalysis, Cassandra has become the symbol of self-accusation and the tendency to formulate negative self-fulfilling prophecies.
Fascination with the character of Cassandra is closely connected to her manteia, the gift of prophesy that Apollo, passion-struck, bestowed upon her, and then transformed into a curse when she refused his love, condemning her never to be believed, when she refused his love. According to another and less popular version of the myth, however, Cassandra received her prophetic skills as an infant by two sacred snakes, together with her twin brother Helenus, in the temple of Apollo Timbreus. Prophesying, in any case, appears to be inextricably linked to her virginity, as her refusal of Apollo’s love, her failed marriages, and the rejection of her priestly attributes when her chastity was threatened seem to suggest.
Cassandra also seems to oscillate between Apollinian and Dionysian extremes: the mantis painfully associated with Apollo in Aeschylus is opposed to Euripides’, Ennius’, and Seneca’s maenad. Despite their different by-products, however, Apollinian and Dionysian mania were indeed contiguous: in Delphi, the cult of Apollo was practiced together with that of Dionysus, with the cult of Dionysus even prevailing during periods of Apollo’s absence in the winter.
Cassandra’s prophetic skills excluded her from both her family nucleus and society, and became a cause of shame for her: the Trojan princess had a conflicting relationship with almost all her relatives, with the sole exception of Hector. The virgin could not and was not willing to play the role of mother and wife. Furthermore, she was not given credit for the truthfulness of her warnings, because she was a woman and was considered insane.
Identifiable as part of an ancestral and feminine kind of religiousness, Cassandra can be considered as a victim of the patriarchy: encompassed into Apollo’s male dominion, she was then deprived of the credibility enjoyed by male priests, such as her twin brother Helenus. However, the force and determination that she used to resist gender conformism have turned her into a model for all the women who are still fighting against exclusion and submission.

This Call for Papers invites contributions addressing issues like, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Processes of myth-making in relation to the historical context;
  2. Reception of the myth of Cassandra in literature, drama, the arts, and collective imagination;
  3. Characteristics of her prophetic art;
  4. Psychology of the character, also in relation to the family and social contexts; and
  5. Uniqueness and universality of the female embodied by Cassandra.

Each issue can be addressed from a literary, linguistic, philological, historical, artistic, religious, anthropological, psychological, and sociological point of view, as well as from a diachronic, intertextual, comparative, and interdisciplinary perspective.

Proposals can be written in Italian, English, Spanish or French, and will be submitted to a blind review process.

The deadline for submission is 03 April 2021.

Proposals should be sent to the following email address:


The email must include:

  • • A .doc file with the name of the author, a short bio-bibliographical note, academic affiliation (where possible), and an active email address; and
  • • A .doc anonymous file with the title of the proposal and a 300-word abstract.

The authors of the selected proposals will be invited to participate, with a 20-minute paper (maximum), in an International Conference to be held at the Department of Humanities of the University of Perugia, Italy on 7-8 October 2021.

Whether the Conference will be held in presence or online depends on the evolution of the global pandemic and notifications in this sense will be given in due course.

Scientific and Organizing Committee: Prof. Donato Loscalzo, Lorenzo Calafiore (PhD Candidate), Dr. Lucia Pallaracci, and Dr. Giulia Vitali (University of Perugia, Italy)




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