The Trojan princess Cassandra was cursed by Apollo that nobody would ever believe her. Apparently though, the curse wasn't completely effective:

After Cassandra grew up, she again spent a night in the temple. This time the god appeared and tried to get her to yield to his desire, but she refused. For this affront to him he punished her by causing her prophecies, though true, to be disbelieved. This curse failed to be effective on only one occasion. When Paris appeared as an adult at the court of Priam, Cassandra declared him her brother. It had been accepted by everyone that he had died in infancy from being exposed.

Source: Women of Classical Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary, Robert E. Bell

One version of Paris' return is told by Hyginus, in his Fabulae:


After Priam, son of Laomedon, had had many children by Hecuba, daughter of Cisseus or of Dymas, his wife, again pregnant, in a dream saw herself giving birth to a glowing firebrand from which many serpents issued. When this vision was reported to all the seers, they bade her slay whatever child she should bear to avoid its being the ruin of the country. After Hecuba gave birth to Alexander, he was handed over to be killed, but the servants out of pity exposed him. Shepherds found the child, raised him as their own, and named him Paris. When he came to young manhood, he had a favorite bull. Servants sent by Priam to bring a bull to be given as prize in funeral games in Paris’ honor, came and started to lead off the bull of Paris. He followed them and asked them where they were leading him. They stated that they were taking him to Priam . . . [to be prize] for the victor in the funeral games of Alexander. He, out of fondness for the bull, went down and won everything, even over his own brothers. In anger Deiphobus drew his sword against him, but he leaped to the altar of Zeus Herceus. When Cassandra prophetically declared he was her brother, Priam acknowledged him and received him into the palace.

Source: The Myths of Hyginus, translated and edited by Mary Grant.

What was so special about that particular instance? Why did the Trojans believe Cassandra's recognition of Paris?

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    I assume it is because Cassandra was speaking a true fact rather than a prophecy about the future. Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 21:56
  • Wasn't her warning that there are soldiers hidden inside the Trojan Horse also speaking a true fact rather than a prophecy @Bellerophon? And a much easier fact to verify than Paris identity (who no one had seen since he was an infant).
    – yannis
    Commented Sep 24, 2016 at 22:44
  • @Bellerophon you should make that into an answer. Prophecy is about things which are going to happen. If she had said "My brother Paris will walk into the room," that's a prophecy. But to uncover the identity (given at birth) of the man standing next to her isn't going to happen; it already has happened. He is who he is. Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 10:51
  • @Yannis What where the exact words of her warning? Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 16:57
  • @LaurenIpsum I would but Yannis has raised a good point above and I would like to think of a way to address that in any answer I post. Commented Sep 25, 2016 at 16:58

1 Answer 1


@Bellerophon's answer is popularly believed to be correct. In this case Cassandra was not prophesying the future.

Hyginus (Fabulae XCIII) states that "Apollo brought it about that she should not be believed, though she gave true prophecies." ["ob quam rem Apollo fecit ut, cum vera vaticinaretur, fidem non haeret."]

However, Hyginus uses the verb "vaticinor" in both mentions, "When Cassandra prophetically declared he was her brother, Priam acknowledged him and received him into the palace." ["Quod cum Cassandra vaticinaretur eum fratrem esse, Priamus agnovit regiaque recepit"] (Fabulae XCI) so we may have to look deeper.

The first episode, where she identifies Alexandrus, comes in Fabulae XCI. The second mention, where she is cursed by Apollo, comes in Fabulae XCIII. Although temporal continuity is often violated in Classical mythology, and there is no mention as to the sequence of events in these two sections of Hyginus' work, it is possible that at the time of Alexandrus' return, Cassandra has not yet been cursed.

Further support for this explanation is that when Cassandra and her twin brother Helenus had their ears licked by Apollo's serpents in the temple they were infants or small children. However, Apollo presumably would not have desired Cassandra sexually until she entered puberty, being female, so you have a window of about a decade where she has the gift of prophecy but not the curse.

Note: I am using the alternate name of Paris, i.e. Alexandrus, b/c Hyginus predominantly uses it. Cassandra was also known as "Alexandra".

  • 1
    The horse thing was actually quite the betrayal on the part of the Greeks. That kind of thing was a pretty common way for a defeated army to: 1. gift the victors and hope they don't come and kill you and 2. appease the gods. By perverting the gift as an invasion method, they not only ruined their credibility on a "global" diplomatic scale, but also risked angering the gods.
    – Azuaron
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 20:33
  • @Azuaron it's highly probably the Trojan Horse story is not literal, but a metaphor. For instance, it can stand as a symbol of Poseidon, who originally built the walls of Troy, withdrawing his support of the city.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 20:37
  • The point that @Bellerophon did not post it as an answer was because he did not have enough evidence to support his claim. I would suggest importing the quote and pointing it out.
    – bleh
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 21:59
  • 1
    @Yannis it's highly likely, but bear in mind that the "cannon" of Classical mythology is comprised almost entirely of later artists riffing on earlier artists. You're asking a question for which there's no definitive answer, just different takes.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 19:40
  • 1
    @Gibet You can't really look at this as a story with a single variation that would imply a plot hole. Instead, what you have is an array of artists riffing on a theme and story over a period of nearly a thousand years. The introduction of the curse was clearly a brilliant interpolation, if the way it has captured imaginations in the subsequent millennia is any indication.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Sep 28, 2016 at 15:09

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