"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. The origins of the fairy-tale figure may be traced back to the 6th-century BC hetaera Rhodopis.
Rhodopis (the "red-cheeked"), a Greek slave, 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. Because Rhodopis is both fair-complexioned and a foreign slave, the other servants tease her and order her around.
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.
The Greek geographer Strabo (died c. 24 AD) first recorded the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis in his Geographica. This passage is considered to be the earliest variant of the Cinderella story. Another account of Rhodopis has survived in Aelian's (died c. 235 AD) writings, 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. 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.
- Roger Lancelyn Green: Tales of Ancient Egypt, Penguin UK, 2011, ISBN 978-0-14-133822-4, chapter The Land of Egypt
- Herodot, "The Histories", book 2, chapters 134-135
- The Egyptian Cinderella
- Strabo: "The Geography", book 17, 33
- Aelian: "Various History", book 13, chapter 33
- Anderson, Graham (2000). Fairytale in the ancient world. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-415-23702-4. Retrieved 25 March 2010.
- "The Egyptian Cinderella." Ancient Egyptian Literature. Aldokkan.
- "The Egyptian Cinderella." The Hellenic Worlds. Ancient Worlds.
- Aesop fable of Rhodopis and her rose-red slippers