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Andromeda (mythology)

Andromeda was a woman from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband. Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ανδρομέδη (Andromēde). The etymology of the name is "to think of a man," from ανδρός (andros) "man" combined with μήδομαι (mēdomai) "to think, to be mindful of."

Myth

In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of the Phoenician kingdom Ethiopia.

Her mother Cassiopeia bragged that she was more beautiful than the Nereids, the nymph-daughters of the sea god Nereus and often seen accompanying Poseidon. To punish the Queen for her arrogance, Poseidon, brother to Zeus and God of the Sea, sent a sea monster, Cetus, to ravage the coast of Ethiopia and the kingdom of the vain Queen. The desperate King consulted the Ammon, the Oracle of Zeus, who announced that no respite would be found until the king sacrificed his virgin daughter Andromeda to the monster. She was chained naked to a rock on the coast of Jaffa. The rock is allegedly still visible today.

Perseus, returning from having slain the Gorgon Medusa, found Andromeda and slew the monster Cetus. He set her free, and married her in spite of Andromeda having been previously promised to Phineus. At the wedding a quarrel took place between the rivals, and Phineus was turned to stone by the sight of the Gorgon's head (Ovid, Metamorphoses v. 1).

Andromeda followed her husband to Tiryns in Argos, and together they became the ancestors of the family of the Perseidae through the line of their son Perses. Perseus and Andromeda had six sons Perseides, Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Electryon, and one daughter, Gorgophone. Their descendants ruled Mycenae from Electryon down to Eurystheus, after whom Atreus attained the kingdom, and would also include the great hero Heracles. According to this mythology, Perses is the ancestor of the Persians.

After her death she was placed by Athena amongst the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia. Sophocles and Euripides (and in more modern times Corneille) made the story the subject of tragedies. The tale is represented in numerous ancient works of art.

Constellations

Andromeda is represented in the northern sky by the constellation Andromeda which contains the Andromeda Galaxy.

Four constellations are associated with the myth. Viewing the fainter stars, visible to the naked eye, the constellations are rendered as:

  • A large man wearing a crown, upside down with respect to the ecliptic. (The constellation Cepheus)
  • A smaller figure, next to the man, sitting on a chair. As it is near the pole star, it can be seen the whole year, although sometimes upside down. (The constellation Cassiopeia)
  • A maiden, chained up, facing/turning away from the ecliptic. (The constellation Andromeda), next to Pegasus.
  • A sea monster just under the ecliptic. (The constellation Cetus)

Other constellations related to the story are:

Portrayals of the myth

Sophocles and Euripides (and in more modern times Corneille) made the story the subject of tragedies, and its incidents were represented in numerous ancient works of art.

The 1981 film Clash of the Titans retells the story of Perseus, Andromeda, and Cassiopeia, but makes a few changes (notably Cassiopeia boasts that her daughter is more beautiful than Thetis as opposed to the Nereids as a group). Thetis was a Nereid, but also the future mother of Achilles. Andromeda is also depicted as being strong-willed, whereas in the stories she is only really mentioned as being the princess whom Perseus saves from the sea monster. Also, a subplot about Thetis' son Calibos was added to the plot of the film. However, he more closely resembles Caliban from Shakespeare's Tempest than any creature truly found in Greek myth.

Jean-Baptiste Lully's opera Persée also dramatizes the myth. At the port city of Jaffa, Israel, an outcropping of rocks near the harbour is reputed by local legend to have been the place from which Andromeda was rescued by Perseus.

In the CBS Saturday morning kid's series Mythic Warriors, Andromeda is a beautiful but strong-willed princess who wishes to be remembered as a great hero when she died, but had to learn that a hero must sometimes sacrifice himself to save those he loves.

Sources

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