Cassiopeia (mythology)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the constellation, see Cassiopeia (constellation).
The king of Ethiopia Cepheus and the queen Cassiopeia thank Perseus for freeing their daughter Andromeda, La Délivrance d'Andromède (1679) Pierre Mignard, Louvre
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), also Cassiepeia (Κασσιέπεια), is the name of several figures in Greek mythology.

Wife of Cepheus[edit]

The Queen Cassiopeia, wife of king Cepheus of Phoenicia, was beautiful but also arrogant and vain; these latter two characteristics led to her downfall. In some sources she was the daughter of Coronus and Zeuxo.

Her name in Greek is Κασσιόπη, Kassiope; other variants of the name in Greek are Κασσιόπεια, Kassiopeia and Κασσιέπεια, Kassiepeia.

The boast of Cassiopeia was that both 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.

Accounts differ[citation needed] as to whether Poseidon decided to flood the whole country 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 there to helplessly await her fate at the hands of the sea monster Cetus. But the hero Perseus arrived in time, killed Cetus, saved Andromeda and ultimately became her husband.

Since Poseidon thought that Cassiopeia should not escape punishment, he placed her in the heavens chained to a throne in such a position that referenced Andromeda's ordeal. As she circles the celestial pole in her throne, she is upside-down half the time. 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 is holding a mirror, symbol of her vanity, while in others she holds a palm leaf, a symbolism that is not clear.[1]

As it is near the pole star, the constellation Cassiopeia can be seen the whole year from the Northern hemisphere, although sometimes upside down. The constellation Cassiopeia is also sometimes visible in northernly countries in the Southern hemisphere in late spring.

Wife of Phoenix[edit]

A different Cassiopeia or Cassiepeia was a daughter of Arabus and the wife of King Phoenix, according to Hesiod.[2] She is given as the mother of the hero Atymnius, by either her husband or the god Zeus. Other accounts also claim she was the mother, by Phoenix, of Phineus and Carme, although the latter is more often said to be a daughter of Eubuleus, a Cretan.