De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part Two)

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is part two of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa.

For the previous post in this series, click here.

Let’s catch back up with our hero. Perseus has spent a few days wandering in vain on his impossible quest. Why impossible, you ask? Remember what I said about the Gorgon’s Lair that becomes relevant later? This is the later we were waiting for. No mortal knew Medusa’s location. Fortunately for Perseus, he got what few heroes were privileged enough to get before. Help from the gods themselves.

Athena(The Goddess of Wisdom and the person who turned Medusa into a gorgon) and Hermes(The God of Travellers) decided to support Perseus on his quest and told him to seek the Graeae, the sisters of the gorgons, as they were the only ones who could tell him what he needed to know to be successful. The Graeae were three grey-haired monsters who shared an eye and a tooth between them. Perseus managed to eventually track them down and steal their eye and tooth to blackmail them into divulging the information he needed. ( I know. This was as weird a sentence to write as it was to read.)

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Perseus and the Graeae, by Edward Burne-Jones

The Graeae told him how to find the Hesperide Nymphs(Nymphs who lived in the Garden of the Hesperides), from whom he could obtain objects crucial to the completion of his quest and the location of the Gorgon’s Lair. The Hesperide Nymphs were actually pretty hospitable and gave him a bag to safely hold Medusa’s severed head and more importantly, Hades'(The God of the Dead) helm of darkness which could make him invisible. They also gave him the address of the Gorgons.Zeus(His dad, if you remember and King of the Gods) gave him a curved sword to uh, decapitate Medusa, Hermes lent him his winged sandals to fly to the Gorgon’s Lair at the end of the world and Athena gave him a reflective polished shield which will go on to be the hero of Perseus’ armoury. (It is important to note that Perseus is the rare hero who had so much help. Not many were so lucky.)

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Perseus armed by Mercury and Minerva, by Paris Bordone

Now armed with his repository of godly and magical items part of the Anti-Medusa squad, Perseus headed (Read flew on his winged sandals with the helm of darkness on his head, making him invisible and terrifying to any and all birds) to the Gorgon’s Lair. When he reached their cave, he found the three sisters fast asleep. Perseus used the reflective shield as a mirror(I told you it would be the hero item) to see Medusa without directly looking into her face and you know, avoid being turned to stone and stuff. He managed to get close enough to use the curved sword to land a fatal blow on Medusa’s throat. The minute he cut off Medusa’s head, from the drops of her blood sprung the winged horse Pegasus and the Chrysaor, a giant or a winged boar. It’s believed that those two were Medusa’s children with Poseidon.

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Perseus with the head of Medusa, by Benvenuto Cellini

He put Medusa’s head in the bag and was now running to escape from her two sisters who were now awake and furious to avenge their sister. Here, being invisible and able to fly helped out a great deal, and Perseus managed to escape the angry gorgons, who eventually gave up and decided to mourn their dead sister. And with that, Medusa was dead and Perseus was off with her head to fulfil his quest.

However, Medusa’s story does not end with her death. While Perseus was flying home, he passed Ethiopia, the kingdom of King Cephus. The queen, Cassiopeia, had claimed to be more beautiful than the sea nymphs, or Nereids(As you do), so Poseidon had punished the country by flooding it and plaguing it with a sea monster. (Poseidon doesn’t look great in this story, does he?)An oracle informed the King that the ill-will on his land would cease if he sacrificed his daughter Andromeda to the monster, which he did. (I hope, reluctantly) Perseus, passing by, saw the princess chained to a rock near the sea and fell in love with her. He turned the sea monster to stone by showing it Medusa’s head and afterwards married Andromeda. (Aw look. A happy ending. And no one is married to their mom or their sibling or something.)

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Perseus and Andromeda, by Rubens

Perseus and Andromeda then headed to Seriphus where Perseus came to offer Polydectes his, “gift”, fulfilling his quest. However, when Polydectes would not tell him where his mother was, Perseus pulled out the head of Medusa and turned Polydectes and his entire court to stone, just as he learnt that Polydectes had been mistreating his mother and had thrown her in the dungeon. He freed his mother, he returned all the magical items he had been given and presented Medusa’s head to Athena, as a thank you for all her help. (I mean, she made Medusa a monster in the first place sooooo, okay I’m not saying anything) She placed it on the centre of her shield, the aegis. All seemed well. (Uh oh)

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Athena’s Aegis

Perseus, along with Danae and Andromeda decided to go to his native Argos, to make peace with his grandfather Acrisius. (Remember him?)Upon hearing this, Acrisius, still painfully aware of the Oracle’s prophecy, left Argos and went to Larisa. (This would not turn out to be a good idea)Ironically, that’s precisely where Perseus headed on his way to Argos so that he could compete in the funeral games King Teutamides held in honour of his dead father. When Perseus threw a discus, it accidentally hit an old man on the head, killing him on the spot. As you might have guessed, that old man was none other than Acrisius, his grandfather; thus, the prophecy was fulfilled. (Dun dun dun. You can’t escape prophecy in ancient Greece, you’d think they would learn.)

He consequently left Argos as he was too ashamed of the crime he had committed unintentionally and founded Mycenae as his capital, becoming the ancestor of the Perseids, including Hercules. And with that, the story of Perseus comes to an end. And a relatively happy one, from Greek hero standards. More on that next time, stay tuned.

To be continued.

THIS POST’S QUESTION: This story involves many Greek Gods.How are you feeling towards them at the end? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

 

 

 

 

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