Andromeda (mythology)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Perseus and Andromeda (Andromeda tied to the rock while Perseus on the winged horse Pegasus flies above), by Frederic Leighton

In Greek mythology, Andromeda (/ænˈdrɒmɪdə/; Greek: Ἀνδρομέδα, Androméda or Ἀνδρομέδη, Andromédē) is the daughter of the Aethiopian king Cepheus and his wife Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia's hubris leads her to boast that Andromeda is more beautiful than the Nereids, Poseidon sends the sea monster Cetus to ravage Andromeda as divine punishment.[1] Andromeda is chained to a rock as a sacrifice to sate the monster, but is saved from death by Perseus.

Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδα (Androméda) or Ἀνδρομέδη (Andromédē): "ruler of men",[2] from ἀνήρ, ἀνδρός (anēr, andrós) "man", and μέδω (medō) "I protect, rule over".

As a subject, Andromeda has been popular in art since classical times; it is one of several Greek myths of a Greek hero's rescue of the intended victim of an archaic hieros gamos (sacred marriage), giving rise to the "princess and dragon" motif. From the Renaissance, interest revived in the original story, typically as derived from Ovid's account.


A small Roman fresco from Pompeii

In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of the African kingdom of Aethiopia.[3]

Her mother Cassiopeia boasted that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus and often seen accompanying Poseidon. To punish the queen for her arrogance, Poseidon, brother to Zeus and god of the sea, sent a sea monster named Cetus to ravage the coast of Aethiopia including the kingdom of the vain queen. The desperate king consulted the Oracle of Apollo, who announced that no respite would be found until the king sacrificed his daughter, Andromeda, to the monster. She was then chained to a rock on the coast.[3]

Cratere a volute apulo.

Perseus was returning from having slain the Gorgon, Medusa. Seeing Andromeda bound to the rock awaiting death, Perseus fell in love with her.[4] After he happened upon the chained Andromeda, he held up the head of Medusa to the sea monster, turning it into a giant sandstone statue, which dissolved into the waves. He set Andromeda free, and married her in spite of her having been previously promised to her uncle Phineus. At the wedding a quarrel took place between the rivals, and Phineus was turned to stone by the sight of the Gorgon's head.[5]

Andromeda followed her husband, first to his native island of Serifos, where he rescued his mother Danaë, and then to Tiryns in Argos. They remained in Tiryns, where Perseus became a king.[4] Together, they became the ancestors of the family of the Perseidae through the line of their son Perses. Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons: Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, Electryon, and Cynurus as well as two daughters, Autochthe and Gorgophone. Their descendants ruled Mycenae from Electryon down to Eurystheus, after whom Atreus attained the kingdom, and would also include the great hero Heracles. According to this mythology, Perseus is the ancestor of the Persians.

At the port city of Jaffa (today part of Tel Aviv) an outcrop of rocks near the harbor has been associated with the place of Andromeda's chaining and rescue by the traveler Pausanias, the geographer Strabo and the historian of the Jews Josephus.[6]

After Andromeda's death, as Euripides had promised Athena at the end of his Andromeda, produced in 412 BC,[7] the goddess placed her among the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia; the constellation Andromeda, so known since antiquity, is named after her.

Ethnicities of Andromeda[edit]

Andromeda was the daughter of the king and queen of Aethiopia (Αἰθιοπία), which is not to be confused with modern-day Ethiopia, which was called Abyssinia during the time period of the story. The term Aethiopia, as a generic or ethnic designation, comprises the people who dwelt above the equator, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean; the term Aethiopian refer to all the “sun-burnt” races, so designated from their being of a slightly darker hue than their immediate Hellenic neighbours. The etymology of the word Aithiop details a ‘sunburnt’ complexion as the word 'Aithiops' is derived from the two Greek words, from αἴθω + ὤψ (aitho “I burn” + ops “face”); translating as Burnt-face in noun form and red-brown in adjectival form, as a reference to the natural light-to-dark red-brown skin tones of the North Africans, Middle Easterners and Indians.

Hecataeus of Miletus stated that Aethiopia was located to the east of the Nile, as far as the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. Ancient Aethiopia was seen as a region that “many ancient writers liken to ancient India.” Homer places Aethiopia at the world's edge, somewhere vaguely in Asia.

In her 1992 article The Black Andromeda, Prof. Elizabeth McGrath discusses the idea of Andromeda being black based on Ovid's writings.[8] Likewise, Henry Louis Gates Jr. wrote about the black Andromeda in a 2014 article for The Root magazine. In his article Gates points out the so-called ‘inaccuracies’ seen in the 1981 film Clash of the Titans. In his book 100 Amazing Facts About the Negro Gates has at No 68: What was the original colour of the mythical beauty Andromeda - and why does it matter? The book is his homage to Joel Augustus Rogers 100 Amazing Facts About The Negro With Complete Proof.[9]

In his works, Ovid described Andromeda as having been of the colour black. In his first work, the Heroides or Epistulae Heroidum (Epistles of the Heroines), Ovid uses the Latin word "fuscae" to describe Andromeda, with “fusca” being used to describe the colour black or brown. Later in the same work, Ovid has Sappho explain to Phaon: "though I'm not pure white, Cepheus's dark/Andromeda/charmed Perseus with her native colour. White doves often choose mates of different hue and the parrot loves the black turtle dove." In his Ars Amatoria (The Art of Love), Ovid mentions that Perseus finds Andromeda among "the black Indians." In this account Perseus initially mistakes her for a statue of marble, which might suggest she was light-skinned, but since statues in Ovid's time were commonly painted to look like living people, her skin tone could have been of any color.[10] It is worth noting that aside from Philodemus, who (in Greek Anthology) also stated that Andromeda was an Indian,[11] Ovid was the only ancient author to have outright described Andromeda as being dark skinned.

In his Histories, Herodotus described Andromeda as being a Persian Princess, indicating that she was Iranian in origin as she and her husband Perseus were seen as the progenitors of the Persians.[12]

Isidore mentions in The Etymologies of Isidore of Seville that the story of Andromeda was said to have taken place in the prehistoric city of Joppa, now Jaffa in modern Israel. He reports a rock displayed there which still retains traces of the chains of Andromeda, in the shape of a sea-monster larger than an elephant. Here, Isidore refers to Andromeda as being a Palestinian (at the time meaning Philistine[citation needed]) Princess.

In Heliodorus’ tale, the Aethiopica, set in the kingdom Meroë (modern Sudan), Queen Persinna gives birth to her daughter, Chariclea who, despite having black parents, was born with white skin. In a letter to Chariclea, Persinna attributes her daughter's anomalous colour to the fact that when Persinna became pregnant with her, she was gazing up at a picture of the white-skinned Andromeda. “[T]hou wert born white, which colour is strange among the Ethiopians. I knew the reason, that it was because, while my husband had to do with me, I was looking at the picture of Andromeda brought down by Perseus naked from the rock, and so by mishap engendered presently a thing like to her.” Later in the story, after being saved from a sacrifice, Princess Chariclea returns home with her lover Theagnes and proves both her heritage and her mother's story as true by showing her parents a single black spot upon her elbow.

In his Imagines, Philostratus describes that Andromeda, though Aethiopian, was white; making a clear contrast to all the other natives who assembled to cheer Perseus. Within this text, Philostratus describes Andromeda as delightful or charming in her white beauty.[13][8]

Manilius in his Poetica Astronomica describes Andromeda as ‘nivea cervice’ (white-throated); indicating that she was of a more Greco-Roman ethnicity.[8][14]

Overall, Andromeda had no clear ethnicity in mythology as her appearance and her place of origin depended upon the author or artist depicting her, meaning that there is no ethnic designation for Andromeda. Ancient artwork portrayals of Andromeda portray her as either a pale woman of Greco-Roman ethnicity or of Asian ethnicity, the usually understood locale of the story before its later transfer in the Greco-Roman imagination to modern Ethiopia.

Cultural references[edit]


Andromeda (1869) Edward Poynter

Andromeda is represented in the northern sky by the constellation Andromeda, which contains the Andromeda Galaxy.

The advancement of science and technology allowed the emergence of astrophotography which allowed more concrete observation of the Andromeda constellation and led to the discovery that the galaxy lies within the Andromeda constellation.[15]

Four constellations are associated with the myth. Viewing the fainter stars visible to the naked eye, the constellations are rendered as:

  • A huge man wearing a crown, upside down with respect to the ecliptic (the constellation Cepheus).
  • A smaller figure, next to the man, sitting on a chair; as it is near the pole star, it may be seen by observers in the Northern Hemisphere through the whole year, although sometimes upside down (the constellation Cassiopeia).
  • A maiden, chained up, facing or turning away from the ecliptic (the constellation Andromeda), next to Pegasus.
  • A whale just under the ecliptic (the constellation Cetus).

Other constellations related to the story are:

In art[edit]

Cesari: Perseus saving Andromeda, 1596, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin

Sophocles and Euripides (and in more modern times, Corneille) made the story the subject of tragedies, and its incidents were represented in numerous ancient works of art,[3] including Greek vases. Jean-Baptiste Lully's opera, Persée, also dramatizes the myth.

Andromeda has been the subject of numerous ancient and modern works of art, which typically show the moment of rescue, with Andromeda usually still chained, and often naked or nearly so. Examples include: one of Titian's poesies (Wallace Collection), and compositions by Joachim Wtewael (Louvre), Veronese (Rennes), many versions by Rubens, Ingres, and Gustave Moreau. From the Renaissance onward the chained nude figure of Andromeda typically was the centre of interest. Rembrandt's Andromeda Chained to the Rocks is unusual in showing her alone, fearfully awaiting the monster.

If by dull rhymes our English must be chain'd,
 And, like Andromeda, the Sonnet sweet
 Fetter'd, in spite of pained loveliness;
 Let us find out, if we must be constrain'd,
 Sandals more interwoven and complete
 To fit the naked foot of poesy;
 Let us inspect the lyre, and weigh the stress
 Of every chord, and see what may be gain'd
 By ear industrious, and attention meet:
 Misers of sound and syllable, no less
 Than Midas of his coinage, let us be
 Jealous of dead leaves in the bay wreath crown;
 So, if we may not let the Muse be free,
 She will be bound with garlands of her own.

"If by Dull Rhymes Our English Must Be Chain'd"
John Keats (1795–1821)[16]

In music[edit]

  • the French composer Augusta Holmès wrote her symphonic poem Andromède in 1883
  • the English composer Cyril Rootham composed a dramatic cantata Andromeda in 1905, using as libretto the eponymous 1858 poem by Charles Kingsley
  • the Italian composer Salvatore Sciarrino composed an hour-long operatic drama called Perseo e Andromeda in 2000

In films[edit]

  • In 1973, an animated film called Perseus (20 minutes) was made in the Soviet Union as part of the Soviet animated film collection called Legends and Mуths of Ancient Greece.[17][18]
  • The 1981 film Clash of the Titans retells the story of Perseus, Andromeda, and Cassiopeia, but makes a few changes (notably Cassiopeia boasts that her daughter is more beautiful than Thetis as opposed to the Nereids as a group). Thetis was indeed a Nereid and also the future mother of Achilles. Andromeda and Perseus meet and fall in love after he saves her soul from the enslavement of Thetis' son, Calibos, whereas in the myth, they simply meet as Perseus returns home from having slain Medusa. In the film, the monster is called a kraken, although it is depicted as a lizard-like creature rather than a squid; and combining two elements of the myth, Perseus defeats the sea monster by showing it Medusa's face, turning the monster into stone. Andromeda is depicted as being strong-willed and independent, whereas in the stories she is mentioned only as being the princess whom Perseus saves from the sea monster. Andromeda was portrayed by Judi Bowker in this film.
  • Andromeda also features in the 2010 film Clash of the Titans, a remake of the 1981 version. Several changes were made in regard to the myth, most notably that Perseus did not marry Andromeda after he rescued her from the sea monster. Andromeda was portrayed by Alexa Davalos. The character was played by Rosamund Pike in the sequel Wrath of the Titans, the second of a planned trilogy. In the end of the sequel, Perseus and Andromeda begin a relationship.
  • In the Japanese anime Saint Seiya the character, Shun, represents the Andromeda constellation using chains as his main weapons, reminiscent of Andromeda being chained before she was saved by Perseus. In order to attain the Andromeda Cloth, he was chained between two large pillars of rock and he had to overcome the chains before the tide came in and killed him, also reminiscent of this myth.
  • Andromeda appears in Disney's Hercules: The Animated Series as a new student of "Prometheus Academy" which Hercules and other characters from Greek mythology attend.
  • The Greek form of Andromeda is present in the show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, with a character originally named Ronald Wilkerson who changed his name to Titus Andromedon.

In novels[edit]

  • In Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson & the Olympians series, there are a few references to Andromeda. The most obvious is that the series' lead villains have a cruise ship which serves as their headquarters and is called The Princess Andromeda.
  • Andromeda is the main character in Harry Turtledove's short story "Miss Manners' Guide to Greek Missology," published in Esther Friesner's Chicks in Chainmail series of humorous feminist fantasy collections, and reprinted in other anthologies afterwards. It is a satire filled with role reversals, puns, and deliberate anachronisms relating to pop culture.[19]
  • Andromeda is Anna's full name in Jodi Picoult's My Sister's Keeper, which was turned into a movie in 2010. In the novel there are several references to mythology, as Anna's dad Brian is an astronomer in his free time.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Who's Who in Classical Mythology, Michael Grant & John Hazel, Oxford University Press, 1973, 1993, p. 31, ISBN 0-19-521030-1.
  2. ^ The traditional etymology of the name is, "she who has bravery in her mind"
  3. ^ a b c Chisholm 1911, p. 975.
  4. ^ a b Roman, L., & Roman, M. (2010). Encyclopedia of Greek and Roman mythology., p. 66, at Google Books
  5. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses v. 1.
  6. ^ Pausanias iv.35.9; Strabo xvi.2.28; Josephus, Jewish War iii.9.3
  7. ^ Karl Kerenyi, The Heroes of the Greeks 1959:53; Euripides' drama is lost, save some fragments.
  8. ^ a b c McGrath, Elizabeth (1992). "The Black Andromeda". Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. 55: 1–18. doi:10.2307/751417. JSTOR 751417.
  9. ^ Gates, Henry Louis (2017). 100 Amazing Facts about the Negro. Knopf Doubleday. ISBN 9780307908728.
  10. ^ Gods in color : polychromy in the ancient world. Brinkmann, Vinzenz,, Dreyfus, Renée,, Koch-Brinkmann, Ulrike,, Legion of Honor (San Francisco, Calif.),. San Francisco. ISBN 978-3-7913-5707-2. OCLC 982089362.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link) CS1 maint: others (link)
  11. ^ Greek Anthology, B5.132
  12. ^ "LacusCurtius • Herodotus — Book VII: Chapters 57‑137". Retrieved 2019-04-24.
  13. ^
  14. ^ The Phenomena and Diosemeia of Aratus. London, J. W. Parker. 1848.
  15. ^ Schultz, David A. The Andromeda Galaxy and the Rise of Modern Astronomy. New York, NY: Springer, 2012. Astronomers' Universe. Web.
  16. ^ "If by Dull Rhymes Our English Must Be Chain'd". Poetry Foundation. Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  17. ^ "тПУУЙКУЛБС БОЙНБГЙС Ч ВХЛЧБИ Й ЖЙЗХТБИ - жЙМШНЩ - "ретуек"". Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  18. ^ "КиноПоиск.ru - Все фильмы планеты". Retrieved 7 September 2015.
  19. ^ Turtledove, Harry (1999). "Myth Manners' Guide to Greek Missology #1: Andromeda and Persueus". In Friesner, Esther (ed.). Chicks 'n Chained Males. Riverdale, NY: Baen Books.



External links[edit]