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

Let’s talk about some classic Greek mythology, the myth of the demigod Perseus and the gorgon Medusa, today. This is the last part of a three-part series on Perseus and Medusa. If you haven’t read the previous parts, do go and read Part One and Part Two before you continue here.

Now that the story is done, let’s talk about it.

Perseus’ story is quite the rarity in Greek mythology. Heroes are usually not happy or even, you know, alive at the end of their stories. Perseus falls in love, gets to marry her, she’s not related to him, no one opposes their match, he saves his mum, settles down in his new capital, has kids and lives a long, relatively happy life. Very few heroes, if any, get that. Think of any and all heroes you can; Orpheus fails at the last minute, Achilles dies and so on. After Perseus died, he and many characters from his story were also immortalised in the night sky and were made constellations by the gods. Perseus, Andromeda, King Cephus and Queen Cassiopeia are all featured among the stars. That’s positively delightful by Ancient Greek standards.

constellations-619x800

Oedipus’ story was clearly a tragedy, for everyone in the story. But here, the only tragic character is the apparent villain, Medusa. And hence begin my arguments to express my firm belief that Medusa was never a villain and did not deserve what happened to her. Hear me out. Medusa was born mortal and pretty, by luck. She had nothing to do with that. It was not her fault that the sea god Poseidon got tempted by her beauty. It wasn’t her fault that Poseidon and Athena had a rivalry going and thus, Poseidon decided to impregnate her in Athena’s temple to spite her. And it goes without saying that she did not deserve to be turned into an ugly monster by Athena. Neither did she deserve to die as she did or for her severed head to be used as a weapon for time immemorial.

587px-Medusa_by_Carvaggio
Medusa by Caravaggio

Some people believe that Athena turned her into a monster so no man could ever do to Medusa what Poseidon did to her. Is that fair though? Athena took away her life and eventually helped her murderer kill her. She also mounted her head on her shield after clearly ruining her life. If we look at the story from Medusa’s point of view, it’s clearly a tragedy and there are not just one but two villains: Poseidon and Athena, whose rivalry ended up ruining Medusa.

La_Dispute_de_Minerve_et_de_Neptune
Poseidon and Athena’s rivalry

Now that we are on the topic of the gods, this story has a lot of them being, directly and indirectly, involved in the story. Let us start at the very beginning. Zeus was capable of turning into golden sparkly rain and impregnating Danae who was imprisoned for no fault of hers, but not capable of rescuing her in the first place. He left her pregnant and trapped, alone to fend against her father who literally imprisoned her to prevent this happening. (You know, I have an idea. Let us begin a Douchebag God count. Zeus makes 1 DG.) Even when they reached Seriphus and Polydectes was after Danae, he didn’t smite him or anything and let him torture her till Perseus came back from his quest. (A Big DG move)

Zeus_ca._1686_by_Pierre_Granier
Zeus by Pierre Granier

We already talked about Poseidon a bit(and enough to earn him a spot in the DG list and make it 2) so let us continue from there. Not only did he possibly rape and impregnate Medusa, but he also did it in the temple of his sworn rival, to spite her and when Medusa ended up facing the consequences of it, he did nothing and was as unbothered as can be. He also set a sea monster on a country for something as silly as a queen being vain and punished common people for no fault of theirs. (Another big DG move)

Athena we have mostly talked about, but just to refresh your memory, she made Medusa a monster for no fault of hers, she helped Perseus kill her, and she put Medusa’s head on her shield after all this, shamelessly. (And that makes 3 DGs.) Need I go on? Hermes gets a special mention because he did help Perseus on his quest with Athena, so he becomes a DG by association. And that’s 4 DGs and excellent examples of Greek gods meddling whenever is convenient for them, as opposed to, at the beginning itself to not cause the very problems that they expect heroes to fix.

This story, like Oedipus’ also began with a prophecy and here too we saw the self-fulfilling nature of prophecies. Acrisius imprisoned his daughter to prevent the prophecy from coming true and as a result, made his grandson a demigod who was trained by the very best. He escaped Argos when he heard Perseus was coming back and ended up dying because of this decision. Perhaps if he had stayed put, he would have lived longer. Perhaps if his grandson knew him all along, he wouldn’t have died at his hands. It’s a lot of if’s but that’s all they are. I know it might not have changed things, but the truth of the matter is that in this story, as well as Oedipus’, characters made choices to prevent an event that ended up making the very event they dreaded come true, in classic Greek fashion.

And with that, we come to the end of our journey with Perseus and Medusa.

Until our next Greek adventure! (Or wherever we choose to go.)

THIS POST’S QUESTION: What were your thoughts on this series on Perseus and Medusa?Which myth should I do next? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!

5 thoughts on “De-myth-ify: Perseus and Medusa(Part Three)

    1. Thank you! I have always had a huge interest in Greek mythology,so I already know a lot of the stories from having read books on them. I use the internet to fact-check and brush up. Hope that helps🌻

      Liked by 1 person

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