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Why Did they Kill Cassandra first?

By Andrea EBJ

On April 19th, Taylor Swift released an album featuring various references to historical figures. Clara Bow, the Hollywood star, was the first to be honored with a song titled after her. This immediately became the focus of numerous articles helping fans understand the reference. However, Bow's name wasn't the only one elevated to title status. In the Anthology version released at 2 AM, a figure from Greek myth also received recognition. 'Cassandra," the 27th song of the double album, delves into the tales of the Illiad and the Aeneid, and in this brief article, we'll explore why Swift chose to include her in The Tortured Poets Department (2024).

In Greek mythology, Cassandra, daughter of King Priam and Queen Hecuba of Troy, was offered the gift of prophecy by the Apollo in exchange for this intimacy. However, after granting her this ability, Cassandra reneged, and in retaliation, Apollo cursed her so that no one would ever believe her prophecies. Despite her efforts to share visions of impending doom, her warnings fell on deaf ears due to the skepticism surrounding her predictions. For instance, she foresaw the fall of Troy, yet met her demise alongside her husband, who refused to heed her warnings of his own death.

“So they killed Cassandra first ‘cause she feared the worst

And tried to tell the town

So they set my life in flames, I regret to say

Do you believe me now?”

The chorus clearly implies that Cassandra's death could have been avoided had people listened to her. Swift then adopts the persona of Cassandra, using "I" and "me" to parallel the Greek figure's story. The second verse of the chorus may allude to the public's selective listening and tendency to switch allegiances easily. The "town" refuses to believe her until events prove her right, prompting her to ask, "Do you believe me now?"

The song's theme revolves around people's tendency to judge without understanding or acknowledging the truth. However, most of the symbolism used leans towards Christianity rather than mythological references. The only verse directly related to Cassandra's story is the first one after the initial chorus.

“I was in my tower weaving nightmares

twisting all my smiles into snarls

They say, “What doesn’t kill you makes you aware”

What happens if it becomes who you are?”

The phrase "in my tower weaving nightmares" could refer to the common practice of wives in ancient Greece and Troy weaving, as seen in other myths such as that of Arachne or Helen of Troy in the Illiad. As the war in Troy unfolded, Cassandra could only witness the suffering because her warnings went unheeded. Like Helen, she could only resort to her customary occupation, weaving "nightmares," as her predictions were fatalistic at best.

The latter part of the verse likely reflects Cassandra's acceptance of her fate and the realization that communicating her visions would bring fatal consequences. Additionally, another element of the song traces back to Swift's previous work, particularly "Mad Woman" from her 2020 album Folklore. This song addresses how women are often labeled as "mad" when they speak out. Some myths surrounding Cassandra suggest that towards the end of her life, she was in a distressed state due to her predictions never being believed. Even though these myths aren't the primary focus, they shed light on how women's voices can be distorted for public consumption.

While other symbolisms in the song may not directly relate to Cassandra, they contribute to the parallelism between her story and the singer's voice. The crux of the song lies in the challenge of reconciling one's truth with public perception. In verse two, the singer can do nothing but speak her truth, despite being aware of the consequences. In the chorus, she urges the public to acknowledge their role in being deceived, yet she is limited in her power to effect change.

In conclusion, I believe "Cassandra" explores the tension between truth and public perception, drawing parallels between the ancient Greek figure and the singer's own experiences.


Brooklyn Museum. n.d. "Cassandra."

Britannica. n.d. "Cassandra."

Gill, NS. n.d. "Helen of Troy in the Illiad of Homer." ThoughtCo.

Swift, Taylor. 2024. "Cassandra." The Tortured Poets Department

Mad Woman, 2020, Folklore.


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