Cassiopeia (Queen of Aethiopia)

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Poseidon's punishment: Cassiopea as a constellation sitting in the heavens tied to a chair. Hyginus, Poeticon Astronomicon. "U.S. Naval Observatory Library"

Cassiopeia (Κασσιόπεια) or Cassiepeia (Κασσιέπεια), a figure in Greek mythology, was queen of Aethiopia and wife of king Cepheus. She was arrogant and vain, characteristics that led to her downfall. Her name in Greek is Κασσιόπη, Kassiope; other variants are Κασσιόπεια, Kassiopeia and Κασσιέπεια, Kassiepeia.

Family[edit]

Some sources describe Cassiopeia as the daughter of Coronus and Zeuxo[citation needed] but Nonnus calls her a nymph.[1] While according to Stephanus, she was called Iope, the daughter of Aeolus, from whom the town of Joppa derived its name.[2]

Mythology[edit]

The king of Ethiopia Cepheus and the queen Cassiopeia thank Perseus for freeing their daughter Andromeda, La Délivrance d'Andromède (1679) Pierre Mignard, Louvre

Cassiopeia boasted that she and her daughter Andromeda were more beautiful than all the Nereids, the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus. This brought the wrath of Poseidon, ruling god of the sea, upon the kingdom of Ethiopia.[3][4]

Accounts differ as to whether Poseidon decided to flood the whole country[5] or direct the sea monster Cetus to destroy it. In either case, trying to save their kingdom, Cepheus and Cassiopeia consulted a wise oracle, who told them that the only way to appease the sea gods was to sacrifice their daughter.

Accordingly, Andromeda was chained to a rock at the sea's edge and left to be killed by the sea monster. Perseus arrives to kill Cetus, save Andromeda and marry her.[5]

Poseidon thought Cassiopeia should not escape punishment, so he placed her in the heavens chained to a throne in a position that referenced Andromeda's ordeal. The constellation resembles the chair that originally represented an instrument of torture. Cassiopeia is not always represented tied to the chair in torment, in some later drawings she holds a mirror, symbol of her vanity, while in others she holds a palm leaf.[6][7][8]

The constellation Cassiopeia, near to the pole star, can be seen from latitudes north of 35°N during the whole year. The constellation is also visible in countries north of the Tropic of Capricorn, in late spring.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Nonnus, Dionysiaca 43.117 ff.
  2. ^ Stephanus of Byzantium, Ethnica s.v. Ἰόπη
  3. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2.4.3
  4. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae 64
  5. ^ a b "Poseidon, god of the sea, floods and earthquakes - Greek Gods, Mythology of Ancient Greece". www.greek-gods.org. Retrieved 2017-10-01.
  6. ^ Wright, Anne. "Constellations - Cassiopeia".
  7. ^ Hyginus, Astronomica 2.10.
  8. ^ Aratus, Phaenomena 187

References[edit]