The myth of Perseus and Medusa

The myth of Perseus and Medusa is one of the best thriller-like tales in Greek Mythology.

With a promising plot that gets more complicated as the story progresses, this myth has a typical Hollywood-like scenario with the main character not being born yet at the moment when his destiny was determined.

Here, we will present just a short version of the myth of Perseus and Medusa – until the moment when Perseus beheaded Medusa.

perseus-medusa

Perseus and the Oracle

Acrisius, the king of Argos, was told by the oracle of Delphi that his own grandson would kill him one day. This grandson would be the child of his daughter Danae. Scared of the upcoming future and his destiny, King Acrisius decided to deprive his daughter of any possible intercourse, mating and child bearing, so he built a room beneath the earth and imprisoned Danae there.

However, as the legend says, Zeus came to her in the form of golden rain, pierced through the walls of chamber, and Danae’s body. Hence, Perseus was born. Hearing the news but not believing that Zeus was the father of the newborn, Acrisius let his daughter and grandchild out to the open sea on an ark. They eventually came to the shores of Serifos island, where they were saved and adopted by a local couple, the man being the brother of the king of the island, Polydectes.

When Perseus grew up to a handsome and strong young man, one more time he found himself in the way of one king, this time King Polydectes, who wanted Danae to become his wife. Knowing that he wouldn’t have the woman for himself as long as Perseus was there to protect her, the king made a plan to send Perseus not only far away but also to a dangerous mission. Polydectes told Perseus to bring him the head of the gorgon Medusa.

Perseus and Medusa

Medusa was one of three sisters, the gorgons, but she was the only mortal one. Some versions say all three were born as monsters, but the predominant myths had them as gorgeous maidens. Medusa was so beautiful that Poseidon was crazy about her, but she didn’t care about him; Poseidon turned her and her sisters into monsters with live snakes covering their heads. Medusa kept her beautiful face but everything else was so monstrous. And whoever dared to look into her face ended up being turned into stone.

Perseus thus had a hard task. He asked Athena and Hermes for help and two of them, together with the nymphs, provided winged sandals to fly him to the end of the world where gorgons lived, a cap that made him invisible, a sword and a mirrored shield. The latter was the most important tool Perseus had, since it allowed him to see a reflection of Medusa’s face and to avoid being turned into stone.

medusa-headWhen he cut Medusa’s head off, from the drops of her blood suddenly appeared two offspring: Pegasus, a winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant or a winged boar. It’s believed that those two were Medusa’s children with Poseidon.

In any case, once he accomplished his task Perseus flew back and escaped Medusa’s sisters who tried to reach him. Later, Perseus used Medusa’s head as a weapon in many occasions until he gave the head to Athena to place it on her shield.

The myth of Perseus and Medusa was one the most powerful inspiration for many artists in the ancient times, but it hasn’t lost its artistic significance to the present day either. Paintings and sculptures of the moment of beheading or Medusa’s portrait itself are famous all over the world. One of the most known art work is the Medusa shield by Caravaggio, painted at the end of the 16th century. It is exposed in the Uffizi museum in Florence. Close by the museum, in the main plaza of Firenze (Florence) there is a sculpture of Perseus.

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16 Responses to The myth of Perseus and Medusa

  1. Abigail May 6, 2010 at 21:56 #

    I think that this story is one of my favorites. So interesting, and exciting.

  2. michy June 17, 2010 at 05:33 #

    i love this story it is fantastic

  3. johanna July 6, 2010 at 10:09 #

    i love the story…….

  4. tommy September 23, 2010 at 18:02 #

    this was a great story

  5. Rachel. February 23, 2011 at 16:08 #

    This is not the real story of how she was turned into this monster.. The real sotry was pretty much
    Posiden found Medusa worshipping in Athena’s temple and ravished her. Athena was angry that her sacred templed was violated and punished medusa by turning her beautiful hair into snakes.

  6. pista March 5, 2011 at 10:25 #

    this is an awesome story

  7. Olga March 6, 2011 at 01:01 #

    This Is A great Video For Medusa: http://youtu.be/cQvAvBxEm4k

  8. Bradley Macdonald March 8, 2011 at 19:32 #

    this is so interresting ! <33333

  9. Calvin March 18, 2011 at 01:43 #

    I just love Greek mythology!

  10. Cristiano Ronaldo March 21, 2011 at 05:26 #

    i love this story … there is another ending Persesus points the shield in front of Medusa’s eyes and she saw her reflection so she turned to stone

  11. Yo Yo Yolanda April 2, 2011 at 04:00 #

    Ummmmm……………………that was a little creepy about Medusa and her Snake head being cut off. Ewwwwww!!!!!!!!!!!!

  12. jazmine April 6, 2011 at 05:31 #

    i did a report on Medusa it was pretty fun and exciting because i got to find out a lot about who she was and what Athena did do her hair.. thts kinda freaky lol

  13. hannah May 30, 2011 at 15:34 #

    Actually, Poseidon didn’t turn Medusa into a gorgon.

    Athena found Medusa and Poseidon having sex in her temple and was outraged that her sacred temple wasn’t so sacred anymore, so Athena turned her into a Gorgon.

    Also, the real story isn’t that exciting. Perseus just goes to the gorgons and finds them sleeping. He cuts off Medusa’s head and flies back with it.

  14. Jeni Liu December 3, 2012 at 14:52 #

    This is a great story. I really liked the picture of Medusa’s head. I hope you have more Greek myth websites I can look on.

  15. Kayla December 15, 2012 at 21:58 #

    It was a good artical but it was Athena that turned Medusa into a Gorgon.:)

  16. It'sAllGreek March 5, 2013 at 23:44 #

    Actually, Medusa, who was considered to be the most beautiful woman in Greece, was a virgin priestess for Athena. Poseidon coveted Medusa but she ignored his advances. One day, Poseidon raped Medusa (it was not consensual). Athena was angered that her sacred temple had been violated and that her virgin priestess had had sex (even though it was rape). Athena then cursed Medusa to be an ugly monster, where she spent the rest of her life on an island alone only to be pursued by various men who tried to kill her (for the power of turning anything into stone) until Perseus finally succeeded. Poor Medusa!

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