Ovid's Metamorphoses, Hyginus's Fabulae
Daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopea, King and Queen of Joppa
In Greek mythology , Andromeda (pronounced an-DROM-i-duh) was the beautiful daughter of King Cepheus (pronounced SEE-fee-us) and Queen Cassiopea (pronounced kas-ee-oh-PEE-uh) of Joppa in the ancient kingdom of Ethiopia. Cassiopea once boasted that Andromeda was more beautiful than the Nereids (pronounced NEER-ee-idz), a group of sea nymphs , or female nature deities. Offended by this boast, the Nereids complained to the sea god Poseidon (pronounced poh-SYE-dun), who punished Joppa by sending a flood and a sea monster to ravage the coastal kingdom.
An oracle (a person through which gods communicated with humans) told Cepheus that the only way to save his kingdom was to chain Andromeda to a rock at the foot of a cliff and let the sea monster eat her. Cepheus did so, and Andromeda awaited her fate. While passing by, the hero Perseus (pronounced PUR-see-uhs) saw the chained Andromeda and fell in love with her. He asked Cepheus for her hand in marriage, and Cepheus agreed as long as Perseus would slay the sea monster.
As it happened, Perseus had just killed a beastly Gorgon named Medusa , one of three snake-haired sisters whose appearance can turn anyone who looks at her to stone. He had her head in a bag. He showed the head to the sea monster, which immediately turned to stone. Unknown to Perseus, Cepheus had already promised Andromeda to her uncle Phineus (pronounced FIN-ee-uhs). At the marriage feast for Perseus and Andromeda, Phineus showed up with a group of armed men and demanded that Andromeda be given to him. However, Perseus once again used the head of Medusa and turned Phineus and his men to stone.
Perseus and Andromeda had seven children and remained together for the rest of their lives. According to the Greek historian Herodotus (pronounced heh-ROD-uh-tuhs), the kings of Persia were descended from the couple's first son, Perses (pronounced PUHR-sees). When Andromeda and Perseus died, the goddess Athena placed them in the sky as constellations, along with Andromeda's parents and the sea monster.
Andromeda in Context
The story of Andromeda includes the practice of human sacrifice , or the taking of a person's life in order to please the gods. This same practice is mentioned in myths of the Trojan War, where Agamemnon (pronounced ag-uh-MEM-non) must kill his daughter Iphigenia (pronounced if-uh-juh-NYE-uh) in order to gain easy passage to Troy for his army. Despite being mentioned in Greek myths, there is no archeological evidence that ancient Greeks actually performed human sacrifices. Ancient Romans engaged in human sacrifice, mostly involving ritual gladiatorial combat or the offering of criminals or captured prisoners of war to the gods. By the late Republic, the practice was replaced by animal sacrifice or became merely symbolic, and it was banned by decree in 97 bce.
Key Themes and Symbols
The story of Andromeda focuses on sacrifice and the dangers of boastfulness. Poseidon punishes all of Joppa when Cassiopea boasts about her daughter's beauty. Cepheus and Cassiopea are told that the only way to satisfy Poseidon is by sacrificing their daughter to a sea monster. Andromeda herself represents innocence; she does nothing that would justify an awful fate. Perseus, then, acts as a force of justice, rescuing Andromeda from her unfair fate.
Andromeda in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
The story of Andromeda was popular among the ancient Greeks. The playwrights Sophocles (pronounced SOF-uh-kleez) and Euripides (pronounced yoo-RIP-i-deez) both wrote plays recounting her tale. In the nineteenth century, Andromeda was the subject of poems by both Gerard Manley Hopkins and Charles Kingsley.
The story of Andromeda and Perseus was a key element of the 1981 fantasy film Clash of the Titans, though the sea monster is referred to as the Kraken, a creature taken from Scandinavian myth. Andromeda is also the name given to a constellation, or group of stars, found in the northern portion of the night sky. Her V-shaped constellation is notable for containing a cloudy group of stars known as M31, or the Andromeda Galaxy.
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
Andromeda is nearly sacrificed by her father in an effort to save his kingdom. With her single death, he hopes to ensure the safety of many other people. Is it right for an innocent person to die if it will result in saving the lives of many others? Why or why not?
Andromeda is also the name of a large northern constellation between Perseus and Pegasus, with few bright stars. It is chiefly notable for the Andromeda Galaxy (or Great Nebula of Andromeda), a conspicuous spiral galaxy probably twice as massive as our own and located 2 million light years away.
Andromeda strain a hypothetical, novel type of micro-organism, especially one created by genetic engineering, whose release into the environment could cause widespread destruction of life. The phrase comes from the title of a book by Michael Crichton.