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"Rhodopis" (Greek: Ροδώπις) is an ancient tale about a Greek slave girl who marries the king of Egypt. The story was first recorded by the Greek historian Strabo in the 1st century BC and is considered the earliest known variant of the "Cinderella" story.[1] The origins of the fairy-tale figure may be traced back to the 6th-century BC hetaera Rhodopis.[2]


Rhodopis (the "red-cheeked girl"), a Greek slave from Thrace, works in the household of her Egyptian master. Though kind, her elderly master spends most of his time sleeping, and is therefore unaware of her harsh treatment at the hands of his other servant girls. The other servants mistreated Rhodopis by giving her more work to do.

After her master sees Rhodopis dancing and singing to her animal friends, he gives her a pair of rose-gilded slippers. The other servants resent this treatment and abuse Rhodopis more harshly than before.

One day, Pharaoh Ahmose II invites the people of Egypt to a celebration in Memphis. Rhodopis did NOT go.

While she is down by the river washing clothes, her slippers become wet and she places them in the sun to dry. Suddenly, the falcon Horus swoops down, snatches one of the slippers, and flies away with it. Rhodopis stores the other slipper in her clothing.

During the celebration in Memphis, the falcon thought to be the god Horus drops the slipper in the Pharaoh's lap. Realizing that it is a sign from Horus, he decrees that all the maidens of the kingdom must try on the slipper, and that he will marry the one whose foot it fits.

The Pharaoh’s search for the owner of the slipper eventually leads him to Rhodopis’ home. Though Rhodopis hides when she sees the Pharaoh’s barge, he sees her and asks her to try the slipper. After demonstrating that it fits her, she pulls out its mate, and the Pharaoh declares that he will marry her.

Aesop has a brief mention in this story. When she was a slave before she moved into the Egyptian household, Rhodopis had been acquainted with Aesop, who told her many stories.[3]


The Greek geographer Strabo (died c. 24 AD) first recorded the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis in his Geographica.[4] This passage is considered to be the earliest variant of the Cinderella story.[1] Another account of Rhodopis has survived in Aelian's (died c. 235 AD) writings,[5] showing that the Cinderella theme remained known throughout antiquity.

Herodotus (died c. 424 BC) told the story of the hetaera Rhodopis in his Histories almost five centuries before Strabo, without referring to any element of the Cinderella tale.[2] He wrote that she was a beautiful Thracian courtesan, acquainted with the ancient story-teller Aesop. Later on, she was taken to Egypt during the reign of Pharaoh Amasis (570–536 BC), and freed there for a large sum by Charaxus of Mytilene, brother of Sappho, the lyric poet.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roger Lancelyn Green: Tales of Ancient Egypt, Penguin UK, 2011, ISBN 978-0-14-133822-4, chapter The Land of Egypt
  2. ^ a b Herodot, "The Histories", book 2, chapters 134-135
  3. ^ The Egyptian Cinderella
  4. ^ Strabo: "The Geogeraphy", book 17, 33
  5. ^ Aelian: "Various History", book 13, chapter 33
  6. ^ Anderson, Graham (2000). Fairytale in the ancient world. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-415-23702-4. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 

Further reading[edit]