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Andromeda, Wife of Perseus who Saved her from a Monster

Andromeda — Ἀνδρομέδα — commonly ‘leader of men’ — “to think of a man” from the Greek element ανδρος (andros) “of a man” combined with μηδομαι (medomai) “to think, to be mindful of” and yet what does this have to do with the story of Perseus and Andromeda. More likely is the combination of ανδρος and δρόμος which suggests a race with Andromeda as the prize. No doubt Andromeda was the prize of a contest as most of her myths deal with this. A possible Indo-European derivation meaning ‘race goal for man’ is: ‘1. ner(-t)-‘, ‘vital force; man’, ‘1. dhregh-‘, ‘to run’, ‘3. mē-‘, ‘to measure’

Andromeda was a very beautiful girl but she was brought up to a difficult situation. Her mother, Cassiepeia, was beautiful. And her mother was proud too. She was so proud that she bragged that she outshone the Nereids in beauty. Of course the Nereids were goddesses and resented this slight on their beauty. Beauty is very important to a goddess because is is through their beauty that their natural power is revealed. At their request Poseidon sent a flood that devastated the land and a sea monster that molested their shipping and sank their ships.

Recent pictures of the monster make it look like a fire breathing dragon but dragons as we know them come from the Chinese civilization. Most of the monsters of the time were more like snakes. This is odd because the monster that Andromeda was to meet was a sea monster. The sea has few snake-like monsters. But there are sharks and whales.

The merchants of the kingdom came to the king and begged that something be done. The king Cepheus did not know what to do so he consulted the oracle of Ammon. To his horror he learned that his kingdom would be spared only if he performed a human sacrifice. The victim must be his daughter Andromeda. He was to present his daughter to the sea monster by staking his daughter out near the shore so the sea monster could devour her. She was to be presented nude so the sea monster would recognize her as a tasty tidbit.

The king was very unhappy with this option, but his subjects insisted that the the terms be met. In earlier times it was the king who would have been sacrificed. Later a daughter of the king was chosen because the emphasis on her was marriage and a marriage to a deity would bring benefits to the whole community. But to marry a maiden to a deity it was thought her death was required to carry her to the worked of spirits. Royalty were expected to make sacrifices to the community and this was a good example.

Andromeda in her wedding Dress. Classical Greeks showed Andromeda in Classical attire. But Andromeda lived 1000 years before and the loom had not even been invented. Here she is shown in garments of string because spinning was invented before weaving.

To carry out the sacrifice a festival was arranged since the people were happy with their prospects of relief. Andromeda was dressed in a wedding gown and led to the local temple. There she probably was disrobed in a special ceremony.

Andromeda is disrobed

Then she was carried through the streets on a litter borne by priestesses. The people stood by her path, admired her beauty and tried to touch her and give her gifts because thay wanted her to bring them favor in the spirit world.

Andromeda is carried in the litter

She was carried down to the shore where stakes were driven into the sand. This part of the shore had a high rock cliff so it was very private and likely to be visited by the monster. There she was tied to the stakes. Then they left her to her fate. While Andromeda waited for the monster the people went back to the festival and ate and drank. Andromeda was frightened, unhappy, and embarassed to to be nude. But the only thing she could do was cry since she was bound to the stakes.

Andromeda is bound on the sea shore to await the monster

This part of the Andromeda story is interesting because it demonstrates the willingness of the people of this time to participate in human sacrifice. The actual intention was to feed Adromeda to a monster. There can be no doubt that many victims were fed to monsters in this way. The people thought it was the moral thing to do under the circumstances. But the implications of the monster are also interesting. By tying Andromeda on the shore the peole assumed that the monster would come out of the water to devour the girl. This would eliminate many common monsters: The shark, whale, giant squid, etc. Any of the seals could do this. Perhaps the monster was an elephant seal. Another possibility is a giant octopus. These are tidewater predators. The most reasonable choice is a misguided crocodile. One of these would make a quick meal of Andromeda. But they seem to prefer brackish water and are unlikely to be found at sea. There is a possibility of them being 7 meters in length. The name does come from the Greek and means ‘pebble worm’.

Andromeda had not been chained long when Perseus happened to be flying by
on his way home after capturing the head of the gorgon Medusa. He inquired
of the terrified girl of the nature of her predicament and resolved to help
her. He had a number of useful weapons in his possession: Winged sandals that allowed him to fly, and helmet that rendered him invisible, and the petrifying head of Medusa. These weapons proved too much for the sea monster who soon became a stony reef. By this time Perseus was in love with Andromeda and wanted to marry her. Perseus took andromeda to her and presented her. Her father was so grateful for what Perseus had done that he readily agreed.

This part of the story illustrates another aspect of human sacrifice. If someone was attached to the victim through some love or other interest they would try to save the victim from death. This attachement would ultimately destroy the purpose of the sacrifice. In this case the gods would not be appeased because the monster was dead. The whole purpose of the sacrifice was gone. Since the problem was now gone did the gods need further appeasement? Probably not. The whole argument for human sacrifice is greatly weakened by this story.

At their wedding Perseus found out that Andromeda had been promised to
the Kings brother, Phineus. Phineus raised an army and attacked the wedding
party with it. Perseus became a hero once again by using the head of Medusa
to turn the entire army to stones. Perseus and Andromeda stayed in Ethiopia
just long enough for Andromeda to bear her first child, Perses. Perses would later found the country of Persia. They left Perses with Cepheus and
Cassiepeia and went to the island of Seriphos to settle his affairs. He picked up his mother Danae and returned with Andromeda to Argos. When he settled his affairs there he traded kingdoms with Megapenthes of Tiryns. He and Andromeda then became king and queen of Tiryns. Here Andromeda bore Alcaeus, Heleius, Sthenelus, Mestor, Electron, Gorgophone, and Autochthe. Most of these children are very distinguished. Later she was placed among the stars.

Euripides wrote a tragedy Andromeda which is quoted in Aristotle, Rhetoric 1,11,8 “Truly it is pleasant to remember toil after one has escaped it,”

Aristophanes made reference to the play by Euripides in his comedy Thesmophoriazusae line 1010 and the comedy, Frogs line 53

Mnesilochus as Andromeda states (line 1023): “A pitiless ruffian has chained up the most unfortunate of mortal maids. Alas! I had barely escaped the filthy claws of an old fury, [1025] when another mischance overtook me! This Scythian does not take his eye off me and he has exposed me as food for the crows. Alas! what is to become of me, alone here and without friends! I am not [1030] seen mingling in the dances nor in the games of my companions, but heavily loaded with fetters I am given over to the voracity of a monster glaring fiercly. Sing no bridal hymn for me, oh women, [1035] but rather the hymn of captivity, and in tears. Ah! how I suffer! great gods! how I suffer! Alas! alas! and through my own relatives too! My misery would make Tartarus dissolve into tears! Alas! in my terrible distress, [1040] I implore the mortal who first shaved me and depilated me, then dressed me in this long robe, [1045] and then sent me to this Temple into the midst of the women, to save me. Oh! thou pitiless Fate! I am then accursed, great gods! Ah! who would not be moved at the sight of the appalling tortures under which I succumb? [1050] Would that the blazing shaft of the lightning would wither … this barbarian for me! The immortal light has no further charm for my eyes since I have been descending [1055] the shortest path to the dead, tied up, strangled, and maddened with pain.” This passage relating to the suffering of Andromeda is intended to support the idea in the Aristophanes play that Euripides is a misogenist. This is because he portrays Andromeda as suffering intensely.

The story of Perses and Andromeda is presented in Apollodorus, Library 2.4

Ancient Pictures

Later Pictures


Andromeda, Girl Sacrifice

Questions and Answers

Question: rape back then was it like todays rape?

Answer: There were differences. Today rape is a act of agression and not
an act of passion. A man demonsrates that his intention is passionate by
treating women in other ways. But in ancient times a man could seize a woman
out of passion. He would then be judged on how he treated the woman. If
he took care of her and her babies then he was judged as moral. But if he
rejected the babies and misstreated the woman then he was judged immoral.
The problem was that once the woman was misstreated little could be done. And
there were those who, as today, really just wanted to abuse women. Even
in ancient Greece rape was not acceptable. But it was up to the husband
or father to find and kill the rapist. The only acceptable rape was when
a hero seized a foreign princess. This proved his prowess. This was
a political activity that ancient states participated in, much to the chagrin
of the families involved.

There are also the many instances of a god fathering a child. Sometimes this is style as rape and other times not. It is not clear often if the god came in the guise of a man as would seem to be most likely. But the offspring of a god was highly regarded in those days. This contracts with today when the offspring of a rape is often rejected.