In Greek mythology, Andromeda is the daughter of Cepheus, an Aethiopian king, and Cassiopeia. When Cassiopeia’s hubris leads her to boast that Andromeda is more beautiful than the Nereids, Poseidon, influenced by Hades sends sea monster Cetus, to ravage Aethiopia as divine punishment. Andromeda is stripped and chained naked to a rock as a sacrifice to the monster, but is saved from death by Perseus.
Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδα (Androméda) or Ἀνδρομέδη (Andromédē): “ruler of men”, from ἀνήρ, ἀνδρός (anēr, andrós) “man”, and medon, “ruler”.
As a subject, Andromeda has been popular in art since classical times; it is one of several Greek myths of a Greek hero’s rescue of the intended victim of an archaic Hieros gamos (sacred marriage), giving rise to the “princess and dragon” motif. From the Renaissance, interest revived in the original story, typically as derived from Ovid’s account.
In Greek mythology, Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia, king and queen of the North African kingdom of Aethiopia.
Her mother Cassiopeia boasted that her daughter 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 named Cetus to ravage the coast of Aethiopia including the kingdom of the vain queen. The desperate king consulted the Oracle of Apollo, who announced that no respite would be found until the king sacrificed his daughter, Andromeda, to the monster. Stripped naked, she was chained to a rock on the coast.
Perseus was returning from having slain the Gorgon Medusa. After he happened upon the chained Andromeda, he approached Cetus while invisible (for he was wearing Hades’ helm), and killed the sea monster. He set Andromeda free, and married her in spite of her having been previously promised to her uncle 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.
Andromeda followed her husband, first to his native island of Serifos, where he rescued his mother Danaë, and then to Tiryns in Argos. Together, they became the ancestors of the family of the Perseidae through the line of their son Perses. Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons: Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, Electryon, and Cynurus as well as two daughters, Autochthe and 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, Perseus is the ancestor of the Persians.
At the port city of Jaffa (today part of Tel Aviv) an outcrop of rocks near the harbour has been associated with the place of Andromeda’s chaining and rescue by the traveler Pausanias, the geographer Strabo and the historian of the Jews Josephus.
After Andromeda’s death, as Euripides had promised Athena at the end of his Andromeda, produced in 412 BCE, the goddess placed her among the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia; the constellation Andromeda, so known since antiquity, is named after her.
Andromeda is represented in the northern sky by the constellation Andromeda, which contains the Andromeda Galaxy.
Four constellations are represented in the myth. Viewing the fainter stars visible to the naked eye, the constellations are rendered as:
– A huge 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 may be seen by observers in the Northern Hemisphere through the whole year, although sometimes upside down (the constellation Cassiopeia).
– A maiden, chained up, facing or turning away from the ecliptic (the constellation Andromeda), next to Pegasus.
– A whale just under the ecliptic (the constellation Cetus).
Other constellations related to the story are:
– The constellation Pegasus, who was born from the stump of Medusa’s neck, after Perseus had decapitated her.
– The constellation Pisces, which may have been treated as two fish caught by Dictys the fisherman who was brother of Polydectes, king of Seriphos, the place where Perseus and his mother Danaë were stranded.