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Pair of ancient leather sandals from Egypt

"Rhodopis" (Greek: Ροδώπις) is an ancient tale about a Greek courtesan 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, a courtesan, was bathing. An eagle snatched one of her shoes from her maid, carried it to the sunset, and dropped it into the lap of the king (named Psammetichus in Aelian). The king searched for the owner of the shoe. He found Rhodopis in Naucratis and married her.[3][4]


The Greek geographer Strabo (died c. 24 AD) first recorded the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis in his Geographica.[5] 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,[6] showing that the Cinderella theme remained known throughout antiquity.

Almost five centuries before Strabo, Herodotus (died c. 424 BC) told the story of the hetaera Rhodopis in his Histories 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; both were the slaves of Iadmon.[7] 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.[8]

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. ^ Aelian. "Various Histories 13.33". 
  4. ^ Strabo. "Geography 17.1.33". Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  5. ^ Strabo: "The Geography", book 17, 33
  6. ^ Aelian: "Various History", book 13, chapter 33
  7. ^ Herodotus. "The Histories 2.134". Retrieved 4 June 2014. 
  8. ^ Anderson, Graham (2000). Fairytale in the ancient world. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-415-23702-4. Retrieved 25 March 2010. 

External links[edit]

The Egyptian Cinderella Debunked