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Pair of ancient leather sandals from Egypt

"Rhodopis" (Greek: Ροδώπις) is an ancient tale about a Greek courtesan who marries the king of Egypt. The story was first recorded by the Greek historian Strabo in the 1st century BC and is considered the earliest known variant of the "Cinderella" story.[1] The origins of the fairy-tale figure may be traced back to the 6th-century BC hetaera Rhodopis.[2]


The story is first recorded by the Greek geographer Strabo in his Geographica (book 17, 33), probably written around 7 BC or thereabouts:

They tell the fabulous story that, when she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals from her maid and carried it to Memphis; and while the king was administering justice in the open air, the eagle, when it arrived above his head, flung the sandal into his lap; and the king, stirred both by the beautiful shape of the sandal and by the strangeness of the occurrence, sent men in all directions into the country in quest of the woman who wore the sandal; and when she was found in the city of Naucratis, she was brought up to Memphis, became the wife of the king.[3]


The Greek geographer Strabo (died c. 24 AD) first recorded the tale of the Greco-Egyptian girl Rhodopis in his Geographica.[4] This passage is considered to be the earliest variant of the Cinderella story.[1] The same story is also later reported by the Roman orator Aelian (ca. 175–ca. 235) in his Miscellaneous History, which was written entirely in Greek. Aelian's story closely resembles the story told by Strabo, but adds that the name of the pharaoh in question was Psammetichus.[5][6] Aelian's account indicates that the story of Rhodopis remained popular throughout antiquity.

Herodotus, some five centuries before Strabo, records a popular legend about a possibly-related courtesan named Rhodopis in his Histories, claiming that Rhodopis came from Thrace, and was the slave of Iadmon of Samos, and a fellow-slave of the story-teller Aesop and that she was taken to Egypt in the time of Pharaoh Amasis (570–536 BC), and freed there for a large sum by Charaxus of Mytilene, brother of Sappho the lyric poet.[7][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Roger Lancelyn Green: Tales of Ancient Egypt, Penguin UK, 2011, ISBN 978-0-14-133822-4, chapter The Land of Egypt
  2. ^ a b Herodot, "The Histories", book 2, chapters 134-135
  3. ^ Strabo: "The Geography", book 17, 33
  4. ^ Strabo: "The Geography", book 17, 33
  5. ^ Aelian. "Various Histories 13.33".
  6. ^ Strabo. "Geography 17.1.33". Retrieved 4 June 2014.
  7. ^ Anderson, Graham (2000). Fairytale in the Ancient World. Routledge. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-415-23702-4. Retrieved 25 March 2010.

External links[edit]

The Egyptian Cinderella Debunked