The three Gorgon sisters—Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale—were all children of the ancient marine deities Phorcys (or "Phorkys") and his sister Ceto (or "Keto"), monsters from an archaic world. T
In a late version of the Medusa myth, related by the Roman poet Ovid (Metamorphoses 4.770), Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, "the jealous aspiration of many suitors," but because Poseidon had raped her in Athena's temple, the enraged Athena transformed Medusa's beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. Why is it that the ancient Greeks always punished the woman who was raped? Medusa - you were unjustly punished.
In most versions of the story, she was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who was sent to fetch her head by King Polydectes of Seriphus. The gods were well aware of this, and Perseus received help. He received a mirrored shield from Athena, gold, winged sandals from Hermes, a sword from Hephaestus and Hades's helm of invisibility. Since Medusa was the only one of the three Gorgons who was mortal, Perseus was able to slay her while looking at the reflection from the mirrored shield he received from Athena. During that time, Medusa was pregnant by Poseidon. Again, what's with the ancient Greeks?
The corals of the Red Sea were said to have been formed of Medusa's blood spilled onto seaweed when Perseus laid down the petrifying head beside the shore during his short stay in Ethiopia where he saved and wed his future wife, the lovely princess Andromeda. The poisonous vipers of the Sahara were said to have grown from spilt drops of her blood.
Perseus then flew to Seriphos, where his mother was about to be forced into marriage with the king. King Polydectes was turned into stone by the gaze of Medusa's head. Then Perseus gave the Gorgon's head to Athena, who placed it on her shield, the Aegis.
Poor Medusa. You got a bad rap in mythology. No wonder Bernini makes her look so sad. Someone should re-write your story. Maybe me.
I write about power dynamics in relationships, the empowerment of women, and the ethical and moral dilemmas love can create in our lives. This is a space where I meditate on those themes and share them with the word. Who knows, my next novel may start right here...