When it comes to well known characters in Greek mythology, Medusa possesses characteristics that are truly unforgettable. With an evil glare and serpents attached to her body, the mythical creature has appeared in ancient myths, as well as in modern movies. In this article, you will learn more about Medusa.
Who is Medusa?
In Greek mythology, Medusa (whose name translates in ‘guardian’ and ‘protectress’) was a female monster called a Gorgon. Known as monstrous feminine creatures, Gorgons were known for their ability to turn anyone who stared into their eyes into stone. The hair of Gorgons was made out of living snakes. Their hands were comprised of brass and in their mouths, they had sharp fangs. Beards also grew on the faces of the gorgons. Medusa and her sisters lived in the far west, which was close to the ocean. They served as guards to the entrance of the Underworld.
Medusa was the most famous of the Gorgons, but there were two others , Euryale and Stheno. Medusa was the only one of the three that was mortal. All three were daughters of Phorcys (primordial sea god) and Ceto (primordial sea goddess).
In Greek mythology, Medusa was beheaded by Perseus , a hero who then used her head as a weapon. Medusa’s head was later given to the goddess Athena so that she could place it on her shield. In classic myths, the image of the head of Medusa was used as a device to prevent evil , referred to as Gorgoneion.
Medusa in Classic Mythology
Ancient marine deities gave birth to Medusa and her two sisters. Aeschylus mentions the sisters in “Prometheus Bound” and states: “Near them their sisters three, the Gorgons, winged With snakes for hair” hated of mortal man”.”
The vase painters and relief carvers of ancient Greek times saw Medusa and her sisters as monstrous, but this perception later changed. During the 5th century, her image began to transform. She was still seen as a terrifying creature, but she was also beautiful. This is evident in an ode penned by Pindar in 490 BC, which refers to a “fair-cheeked Medusa.” In modern movies, sometimes she is portrayed as hideous, while other times, she is depicted as an attractive woman with a head full of snakes.
The Roman poet Ovid referred to Medusa as a beautiful maiden and called her “the jealous aspiration of many suitors,” who was once a priestess in Athena’s temple. Ovid says that Medusa lying down with Poseidon (“Lord of the Sea”) in Athena’s temple is why she was cursed. There are other mythological accounts that say Medusa was raped. However, Athena was so angry with the maiden that she turned Medusa’s beautiful hair into serpents. Her face was made so horrific that the mere sight would turn anyone to stone. In Ovid’s tale, he says that Perseus believes Medusa’s punishment is well deserved.