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Medusa, the Mortal Gorgon, Whose Head is Zeus’s Symbol
Medusa, the Mortal Gorgon, Whose Head is Zeus’s Symbol
Details of the Story
The story as known by the ancient Greeks seems mostly told by Apollodorus in his Library, 2.4. The details are as follows:
- Perseus is required by Polydectes to get a Gorgon’s head so he can save his mother.
- He was helped in this quest by Hermes and Athena. Hermes provided an adamantine (a very hard material) sickle to cut off the head of a Gorgon. Hermes and Athena guided him to the Graeae who could direct him to the Gorgons.
- The Graeae — Hesiod (Theogony, 270) describes them as “γενετῆς πολιάς” which could be translated as grey haired from birth or guardians from birth. He then says that gods and men honor them with that name. There is no honor in being grey. So it is more likely that they are guardians. Their names Enyo (Ἐνυώ) “horror” and the “waster of cities”, and Pemphredo(Πεμφρηδώ) “alarm” suggest this as well.
- The Graeae had but one eye and one tooth between them which Perseus managed to obtain. To get these back the Graeae gave to Perseus:
- The way to the Gorgons
- winged sandals
- the kibisis (a wallet or bag)
- the cap of Hades which rendered the wearer invisible but perceiving.
- He may have already possesed the other weapon he needed, a reflective brazen shield.
- With the winged shoes he flew over the Ocean and found the three Gorgons asleep. By looking at the reflection of Medusa in the shield he cut off the head of Medusa with the sickle and put the head in the kibisis. He then took off in the air with his sandals wearing the cap of Hades which kept the pursuing Gogons from seeing him.
- The previously beautiful Medusa had slept with Poseidon so when her head was cut off from her body issued Pegasus and Chrysaor.
- Eventually her head was placed on the Aegis of Zeus which Athena wore.
- In Apollodorus, Library 2.5.12 Medusa is presented as an empty phantom. She does not seem to be a deity of Hades as are Persephone and Hecate.
The story of Medusa can be interpreted as a personification of the harvest of grain. Medusa can be interpreted as a sheaf of grain whose head is cut of to harvest the grain. from the body of the grain comes the golden grain (Chrysaor) and the chaff (Pegasus) which flies to heaven. The ripe grain results from the marriage of the grain plant with water (Poseidon). The kibisis is the bag that holds the gran until it is ground. The hag’s tooth is the hoe that cultivates the grain. the hag’s eye that the Gaaeae share is not their literal eye but a prophetic eye that allows the grain to be planted and harvested at the proper time. The immortal gogons may be interpred as the symbols of life everlasting while the mortal goddess symbolizes the cycles of life and death that are common in the agricultural year.
But this view fails to answer why this agricultural sacrifice was presented in human terms. The myth seems to justify a human sacrifice without presenting reasons. The ancient Greeks seem to have equated rape with seduction. More recently rape is considered an act of violence. It would seem that the act by Perseus is an un justified act of violence and rape in the present sense. Ancient art objects which have a depiction of rape as their subject do not present the contemporary experience. The victims do not present any opposition and their nudity suggests a feeling of tintallation rather than horror. The artist Audrey Flack has suggested that art objects depicting the myth of Perseus and Medusa present a better representation of rape. and yet the rape of Medusa by Perseus is not presented as a rape or even condemned.
One justification for this act is given by Pausanius, Description of Greece 2.21.5 where he states: “After the death of her father, Phorcus, she reigned over those living around Lake Tritonis, going out hunting and leading the Libyans to battle. On one such occasion, when she was encamped with an army over against the forces of Perseus, who was followed by picked troops from the Peloponnesus, she was assassinated by night. Perseus, admiring her beauty even in death, cut off her head and carried it to show the Greeks.”
Pausanius Description of Greece 2.21.6 presents another possibility as well: “But Procles, the son of Eucrates, a Carthaginian, thought a different account more plausible than the preceding. It is as follows. Among the incredible monsters to be found in the Libyan desert are wild men and wild women. Procles affirmed that he had seen a man from them who had been brought to Rome. So he guessed that a woman wandered from them, reached Lake Tritonis, and harried the neighbours until Perseus killed her; Athena was supposed to have helped him in this exploit, because the people who live around Lake Tritonis are sacred to her.
An additional possibility relates to the possibility that Medusa is a goddess of the Minoan religion and represent a religious cult similar to the worship of Athena. A cult of Athena may have assimilated the cult of Medusa and destroyed the notion of Medusa as a goddess. This is consistent with the idea that Athena wanted the head of Medusa to display on her Aegis so she would be seen as having taken on the power of Medusa.
The sculpture by Cellini of Perseus and Medusa represents the Myth as told by Ovid. Clearly the subject of the statue is the conquest of death. That Medusa is the symbol of death is easy to understand. Her normal representation as a grotesque head, with snakes in her hair is easily connected with the grotesque aspects of death. The snakes connect with the earth, the ultimate of dead bodies. But the notion that Medusa is a woman is a problem.
About the Gorgons Hesiod states in the Theogony (line 273), “…and the Gorgons who dwell beyond glorious Ocean at the edge towards the night, where the clear-voiced Hesperides are, Sthenno and Eurale, and Medusa who suffered woes, She was mortal, but the others are immortal and ageless, the two of them; with her alone the dark haired one lay down in a soft meadow among spring flowers. When Perseus cut her head off from her neck great Chrysoar and the horse Pegasus sprang forth;…”. In this passage a number of facts about Medusa are revealed. The connection to the Hesperides and Ocean suggests that the Gorgons live in the far west perhaps in the land of the setting sun. After she is singled out as mortal Medusa lies in a meadow of flowers probably with Poseidon. She must have been beautiful to have attracted the attention of the God. Then she is sacrificed as though she has become a spring fertility sacrifice. The desirability of a mortal goddess is plain. Spring is eternal but the cycle of the seasons brings birth, life, and death. It seems that she could be associated with spring, but she is associated only with death. Yet she does not go to Hades. The place of the Gorgons is not far from Elysium. Perhaps the peculiar nature of her existence is related to the spirits of the blessed and not ordinary souls. This is consistent with the birth of Pegasus who is only associated with blessed souls. At any rate she is quite distinct from Persephone and Hecate in spite of her mortality.
In Cellini’s time, the culture was Christian and it was proper to think
of death in terms of beauty because of the promise of eternity. So Cellini
sculpted the head of Medusa as the head of a beautiful woman. In the story
of Medusa, Perseus stalks Medusa and finds her asleep. He then attacks her
even though she has done nothing to him. This is the story of a beautiful,
but innocent woman, who is attacked and killed. There are many rapes which
have this aspect. Sex is a minor issue. A beautiful person is often
Robert Graves suggests that the reality is quite different from
the literal statement in the myth. He thinks that the story was made up
to fit images and not that the images were made to fit the story. His
ideas are discussed on pages 243-246 of The White Goddess. He states
that Medusa was actually a beautiful Libyan Queen who led her troops into
battle and was decapitated by the opposing commander Perseus. Because
she was a warrior-queen she was associated with a battle-goddess like Athena.
Battle-goddesses were associated with snakes because battle brought death.
Snakes were associated with death because they lived in holes in the ground.
The image of Athena often includes snakes either around her, on her shield,
as a fringe around her aegis or around the token of her authority that she
wears in the center of her shield or blouse. This token is the image of
an ugly head, probably meant to strike fear into her enemies, just as a
carved pumpkin is supposed to scare away goblins. The story of Medusa
was an imaginative way to connect the decapitated head of the defeated
queen with the token head on Athena’s aegis.
Hesiod states that Phorkys and his own sister Keto are the parents of monsters including the Gorgons. Thus they are the parents of Medusa. Their nature may reinforce the notion that the Gorgons represent deities from a previous time. When Michael Ventris proved that the language of the Linear B script was a form of Greek he also proved that the Greeks were Indo-Europeans who migrated to the Greek lands from the region of the Caucasus Mountains. These migrants were from a landlocked area with little connection to the sea. But the Minoans were surrounded by the sea on all sides. So their notions of the sea may have influenced the Indo-European immigrants when they arrived. Neither the name ‘Phorkys’ nor ‘Keto’ seem to have Indo-European roots. And both are associated with the sea, the first related to seals and the second related to sea monsters or whales. The offspring of these two generally have names that do not have Indo-European roots. In the “Theogony” of Hesiod he states, “When Perseus cut her head off from her neck, great Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus sprang forth; the latter received his name from being born beside the waters of Ocean the former from holding a golden sword in his hands.” Indo-European roots do not seem to relate to Pegasus in the sense stated by Hesiod. ‘Chrysaor’ from ‘χρύσιεον ἄορ’ has no Indo-European roots also. This word is related to Greek ‘χρυσός’ and seems to be a semitic word related to Hebrew ‘Haruz’, ‘Gold’. Perhaps the Minoans imported gold from the Mid-East. At any rate gold has an ancient place in the culture of the Hebrews and it is mentioned in Genesis 2:10-12.
The name ‘Μέδουσά’ has been related to the the Greek word ‘μεδέουσα’ which Homer uses to apply to Aphrodite and means that she rules. A masculine form is applied to Zeus. This word might relate to the Indo-European word ‘med-‘, ‘To take appropriate measures’, but ‘med-‘ is the root of ‘meditate’. But the head of the goddess Medusa is the symbol of the rule of Zeus and the name may have preceeded the word. In the context of Hesiod Medusa is in the company of non-Indo-European words and so it seems that Medusa is more likely a loan word. One has to wonder if a Minoan word like Medusa means rule.
Medusa might have been a vegetative goddess who had to die like the grain dies in the winter, only to be reborn in the spring. It has been suggested that the decapitating of Medusa relates to the ending of a drought by releasing of rain from a spring or body of water. When her head is cut off Pegaseus (of the springs) is released and Chrysaor is released. Chrysaor is related to a golden blade and might be a reference to golden blades of grain. The names of the gorgons may relate to the threshing process. Euryale seems quite close to ‘euryalos’ which means threshing floor. Stheno is quite close to ‘sthenos’ which relates to bodily strength. Medusa has been related to ‘medomai’ which means make skillfully. It seems entirely possible that the relation between Medusa and Poseidon referenced a natural disaster, such as a drought, that destroyed a temple of Athena. It may also relate to the way a natural disaster destroys the best laid plans of men. Natural disasters relate to the power of Zeus and so fit with the use of the Medusa head as a symbol of Zeus’s power.
It may be interesting to compare Medusa and Persephone. Medusa is raped. Then Medusa dies and is reborn as water and grain. Persephone is raped and is taken to Hades. This is the same as death. Then she is reborn in the Spring when she spends time with her mother, Demeter. She is one of the few deities that can travel in and out of Hades. In some myths it is Persephone who deals with the dead and not Hades. So she is Queen of the dead. Likewise Medusa is a goddess of death. One would expect that when she was killed that her soul went to Hades. In fact in book 11 of the Odyssey, the last 7 lines Homer seems to reference the head of Medusa in the hands of Persephone. One would expect, after death that her entire soul would be in Hades. It seems likely that the notion of mortal goddess relates to the notion of death and rebirth that is found with such deities as Dionysus and Osiris. It is also related to the notion of initiation and change of state, like the marriage ceremony, with death being just such a change of state.
The connection of Medusa to the Minoan Culture seems quite strong. The reasons are:
- Few of the names of the children of Phorcys and Ceto have Indo-European roots. The suggestion is that these are deities adopted from the Minoan Pantheon. This is also suggested by the fact that the children are often related to the sea. In some cases there are pairs of deities with similar realms. Medusa is plainly a goddess of death but any derivation of her name is unrelated to death. Ker is the goddess of death and her name is derived from Indo-European ‘4. k̑er-, and k̑erə- : k̑rē-‘, ‘to harm, injure; ruined, spoiled’.
- On the Polyphemus vase the Gorgons are represented as insects. This corresponds with the depiction of dancers on the ring of Isopata which have insect heads
- Snakes are a common inclusion in Minoan Art. Medusa may,in fact, be the snake goddess of the Minoan Culture.
- Many of the children of Phorcus and Ceto are related to the sea. This seems to connect these children to the Minoan culture that was quite dependent upon the sea.
- the Second Palace Period “Harvester Vase” (an egg-shaped rhyton, or pouring vessel), has 27 male figures, led by another, each carry hoes. This suggests that the Minoan culture was, agriculturally a hoe culture.
- The gold ring from archanes,tholos a, impression. Herakleion archaeological Museum, precious
metal 989 contains a separated eye image consistent with the use of a hag’s eye.
There is an index to ancient references to Medusa at:
Recent images of Medusa:
- Medusa by Elihu Vedder
- The Blood of the Medusa by Fernand Khnopff
- The Sleeping Medusa by Fernand Khnopff
- Medusa by Jean Delville
- Medusa by Lucien LÅvy-Dhurmer
- The Head of Medusa by Simeon Solomon
- A paper on the Gorgon Medusa is at: Click here.
- Spinner, Stephanie/ Swan, Susan Elizabeth (Ilt), Snake Hair : The Story of
Medusa (All Aboard Books Reading Level 2), Grosset & Dunlap, July 1999,
- Garber, Marjorie (Edt)/ Vickers, Nancy J. (Edt), “Medusa Reader”, Routledge,
June 2001, ISBN: 0415900980, An interpretive anthology of images and references
depicting the Medusa from Homer to the present, it is intended for both
scholars and general readers.
To ask a question about this topic note the topic (Medusa) and
Questions and Answers:
Question: What is the picture showing the image of rape?
Answer: Audrey Flack thinks that the killing of Medusa by Perseus presents
that image. This is the subject of a number of works of art including
- c. 450-440 B.C.E. RF pelike attributed to Polygnotos (Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art)
- Cellini, (1500-1571), (Florence: Loggia dei Lanzi)
- 1804-08, Canova (1757-1822) (Metropolitan Museum of Fine Art)
Question: THE SYMBOL OF MEDUSA HAIR BEING SNAKE DOES THIS SEEM TO INPLY SHE WAS BLACK WITH DREADLOCKS?
Answer: No! This is definitely not the case, but it is a good question. You
need to understand how the story of Medusa came to be. Athena is a goddess
who has been worshipped a long time. In fact her worship began many thousands
of years ago in what is now the Sahara desert in western Africa. At that time
the area was green. When the Sahara dried up the people migrated and took
their stories and goddesses with them. Some went to Crete where the worship
of Athena took hold. Then the worship moved to mainland Greece. When the
worship of Athena arrived in Greece, she was pictured much as she is today with
and ugly face on the wrap that she wears for protection. People wanted to
know where the face came from. The story of Medusa was the response. The
snakes are there because they are a symbol of Athena. Sometimes they appear
in the hair of the ugly head, sometimes as the fringe of the wrap (called the
aegis), and sometimes crawling around her feet. Because snakes live in the
ground they are a symbol of death. In her early worship Athena was a goddess
of life and death. The head of Medusa is a symbol of death for this reason,
and the story of Perseus is a struggle of life over death. For the Greeks the
story also warned beautiful women to be careful or they would be raped and
their life would turn ugly.
Later Christians took the story and made the head beautiful because of the
Christian promise of a beautiful afterlife in heaven. So the head of Medusa
in the statue of Perseus and Medusa by Cellini is beautiful.
There is an interesting twist on your question though. A culture depicts
its deities in its own image. Since Athena originated in Africa, she began as a
black. By the time she came to Greece she was depicted as white. But because
the Medusa story was late and Greek, Medusa was white. It might be proper
to depict Athena as black with dreadlocks but not Medusa.
Question: who is medusa
Answer: Medusa was a fearsome monster called a Gorgon. Her face had a
strange power. If you looked at her face you were turned to stone. Athena
helped Peseus to kill Medusa because she wanted to wear Medusa’s head on
her Aegis as a warning to strangers and young women.
Question: what clothing did people wear in Ancient Greece
Answer: the page on clothing is at:
Question: what kind of dresses did goddesses wore
Answer: the page on clothing is at:
Question: women,men,and children
Answer: If women treat their children with consideration they are less
likely to grow up to be abusive when they are adults. If men treat women
with consideration, the women are less likely to abuse their male children.
If children are respectful of their parents they are more lilely to be treated
with respect and thay can look forward to being productive adults.
Question: do you have any pictures of medusa and the gorgons.
Question: how the medusa died
Answer: According to the myth of Medusa she was mortal and Perseus cut
her head off and put it in a bag, resulting in her death. But she lost
none of her powers, and when Athena sewed her head on the Aegis, she still
had her powers. In the myth she does not seem really dead. The myth
seems to have two purposes: one is to explain the ugly mask on the Aegis of
Athena; two is to relate the story of Queen Medusa, who actually got her
head cut off by a general who conquered her named Perseus. The mask on
the Aegis is probably an image of the goddess Athena herself, at a time in
the distant past when she was the head of all the deities. This was the
mask she wore when she wanted project her supreme power in the face of
some awful threat. Medusa is believed to have been a queen in Africa some
3000 BCE or so.
Question: why had she snakes for hair
Answer: Snakes are a symbol of death and danger. She was warning young
women not to be careless or they would wind up like Medusa, ugly and dead.
Question: i am doing a project where i have yo make up posters, advertisement, and brochures for a package tour of five places visited by Odysseus. can you help me ?
Answer: Of course. Do I get a share of the profits?
Question: How does Medusa’s head look like?
Question: Wasn’t Medusa the godess with the snakes for hair?
Answer: Yes, but remember that those are Athena’s snakes. The aegis that
Athena wears, which is either a shield or a cuirass, is always decorated
with snakes because Athena was once the snake goddess. The gorgoneon is the
head in the middle of the aegis that has snakes because of Athena’s association
with snakes. This is Medusa’s actual head, according to the myth. The myth
explains the head, but the head preceeded the story by a long time.
Question: can we see a picture PLEASE!!!???
Answer: Click on the links and a picture will appear. I cannot display
work on this page that another has the rights to, but a picture of medusa
is easy to draw. There are two types. The left one is medusa as a women.
The right one is medusa as a monster.
Question: I have heard that the sight of the medusa’s head not onely turned
the viewer to stone, but the sight of the back of her head would cause the
viewer to have an orgasm, potentially an even more dangerous event.
Where can I find a reference to this quality of the Medusa?
Answer: Freudian psychology works because religiosity supresses sex in
our culture. The result is that information about sex in our culture is sort
of sparce. The neat thing about Greek myths is that they toy with sexual
repression in a productive way. But relating the back of Medusa’s head to
an orgasm seems nonproductive. Medusa’s head has always been attached to
the Aegis of Athena. But it is Aphrodite and not Athena that should be in
control of orgasms. In fact the power of Aphrodite is so strong that just
her image can produce an orgasm. Medusa, herself, had that power when she
was young, but, according to the myth, she lost it when she was raped in
the Temple of Athena. There is a moral here if you think about it.
Question: Do you have a picture of medusa showing Athena turning her curls
Answer: No, because Athena did not do this. The Gorgon on the aegis of
Athena has snakes because snakes are sacred to Athena. The following story
of Medusa from Pausanias Description of Greece says nothing about
snakes: “Not far from the building in the market-place of Argos is a mound of
earth, in which they say lies the head of the Gorgon Medusa. I omit the
miraculous, but give the rational parts of the story about her. After the
death of her father, Phorcus, she reigned over those living around Lake
Tritonis, going out hunting and leading the Libyans to battle. On one such
occasion, when she was encamped with an army over against the forces of
Perseus, who was followed by picked troops from the Peloponnesus, she was
assassinated by night. Perseus, admiring her beauty even in death, cut off her
head and carried it to show the Greeks.  But Procles, the son of Eucrates,
a Carthaginian, thought a different account more plausible than the preceding.
It is as follows. Among the incredible monsters to be found in the Libyan
desert are wild men and wild women. Procles affirmed that he had seen a man
from them who had been brought to Rome. So he guessed that a woman wandered
from them, reached Lake Tritonis, and harried the neighbours until Perseus
killed her; Athena was supposed to have helped him in this exploit, because
the people who live around Lake Tritonis are sacred to her.
Question: Is Pluto and Hades the same god? And could you give me a picture
of them( I am 8 years old so can you explain it to me not to write really hard
words to spell
Answer: Hades is the god of the Greeks. When the Romans conquered the
Greeks they saw that Hades and Pluto had similar duties so they merged them.
Question: coloured pictures of clothing , buildings, bed rooms, trireme in
Answer: Clothes were quite colorful in ancient Greece, but the colors do
not come down to us. Click on the Menu directory below then click on clothes
and architecture. the trireme is at:
Question: How did the concept of Medusa influence ancient Greek society,
and what does the belief in her show about their attitude towards women, their
lifestyles and their cultureas well as their concepts about women, rape, evil,
beauty, ugliness, life, fear, etc? What explanations does the ledgend offer,
or what ideas or opinions does it justify? Also, of what importance to the
society was this ledgend, how did it affect their ideas and philosophies? And
finally, are characters like Medusa fairly similar throughout myths of
other ancient civilizations? Does the ledgend of Medusa bear any striking
resemblence to one that you may have noted in another culture? (Was this a
fairly common myth, or at least structure and concept of myth that was
employed in explaining/ defining the concepts of women, rape, evil, beauty,
ugliness, life, fear, etc. that Medusa explains?
Answer: The myth of Medusa did not inflence ancient Greek society so much
as it was a reflection of what the society beleived. On the surface the myth
refers to the conquest of death with the help of Athena, the goddess of wisdom.
Below that is the warning to women that if they are not careful they will be
As to the attitude toward women there is a difficult situation: In the
Iliad Homer says: “Those again who held Pelasgic Argos, Alos,
Alope, and Trachis; and those of Phthia and Hellas the land of fair women, who
were called Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans; these had fifty ships, over
which Achilles was in command.” There may be significance in the fact that
Helen was the most beautiful woman in the world, and the fact that Hellas
was the land of fair women. Apollodorus (1.7.3) states that: “Hellen had
Dorus, Xuthus, and Aeolus1 by a nymph Orseis. Those who were called Greeks he
named Hellenes after himself, and divided the country among his sons. Xuthus
received Peloponnese and begat Achaeus and Ion by Creusa, daughter of
Erechtheus, and from Achaeus and Ion the Achaeans and Ionians derive their
names. Dorus received the country over against Peloponnese and called the
settlers Dorians after himself.3 Aeolus reigned over the regions about
Thessaly and named the inhabitants Aeolians.” This suggests that Hellenes were
named after a man “Hellen”. But there is also a Helle. Robert Graves suggests
that Helen and Helle were one and the same goddess. This gives new meaning
to the phrase Hellas the land of fair women. The women of Greece were so fair
that the gods could not resist them. A number of the fairest were raped
by the gods. This was hard on the women, but good for the descendents who
could then trace their ancestry to the gods.
The ancient Greeks were great story tellers. What they did was to take the
results of other cultures myths and rearrange them in unique ways. Sometimes
it is possible to trace the other myths, but often the result is different.
The myth of Medusa is one of those myths that are unique to the ancient Greek
storytellers. The story is attached to Athena though and Medusa seems to have
been an African women queen at the head of an army. She was defeated by a
male general Perseus with the help of Athena (wisdom) before Athena came from
North Africa to Crete.
Question: who did Medusa come to be the gorgan that she is seen as?
Answer: This was a matter of mythical magic. Medusa was so beautiful as
a young woman that she attracted the attention of Poseidon. She was
thoughtless one night and visited the temple of Athena alone. Poseidon
caught her there and raped her. From this act Pegasus was born. But the
experience was not kind to Medusa and she turned horribly ugly. This was
partly because Athena was disgusted that such a thing should happen in her
temple. She wished to punish Medusa so that other young women would take
Question: What did she do in the underworld?
Answer: Apollodorus, Library and Epitome, 2.5.12, “And having come to
Taenarum in Laconia, [p. 235] where is the mouth of the descent to Hades, he
descended through it.3 But when the souls saw him, they fled, save Meleager
and the Gorgon Medusa. And Hercules drew his sword against the Gorgon, as if
she were alive, but he learned from Hermes that she was an empty phantom.”
Question: can you send me a good picture of her head after it was cut off?
Answer: The best picture was done by Benvenuto Cellini during the Renaisance
in Italy:Click here
Question: Was posiedon her son?
Answer: No. Poseidon was her lover. Pegasus was her son.
Question: What did Chrysaor look like?
Answer: Hesiod says:
“And when Perseus cut off her head, there
sprang forth great Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus who is so
called because he was born near the springs (pegae) of Ocean; and
that other, because he held a golden blade (aor) in his hands.
Now Pegasus flew away and left the earth, the mother of flocks,
and came to the deathless gods: and he dwells in the house of
Zeus and brings to wise Zeus the thunder and lightning. But
Chrysaor was joined in love to Callirrhoe, the daughter of
glorious Ocean, and begot three-headed Geryones. Him mighty
Heracles slew in sea-girt Erythea by his shambling oxen on that
day when he drove the wide-browed oxen to holy Tiryns, and had
crossed the ford of Ocean and killed Orthus and Eurytion the
herdsman in the dim stead out beyond glorious Ocean.”
Question: Can you give me a site that shows the differences between the
rights of women today and women in ancient Greece?
Answer: Women in ancient Greece did not have any rights. Only some of
the men had a few rights.
Question: Isn’t there a connection between Isis and the creation of the Greek Medusa?
Answer: Isis is more like Aphrodite, but Athena came from Africa like Isis
while Aphrodite came from Phonecia like Astarte. Though Medusa and Lamia
began as Queens in Africa, by the time they are part of Greek Mythology they
seem to take on the appearance and character of a Sumerian goddess. Lamashtu
has many of the traits and characteristics of Gorgons and Lamia. See:
Question: i read a book that said that posidon had sex with medusa in one
of athenas temples so athena got mad and turned her into an ugly woman and
posidon woke up and was scared and ran…and also athena was still mad and
gave perseus gifts to help chop off her head…perseus wanted to chop off her
head for his mothers house master…thier is more of this story but i was
wondering if this was a diffrent version…please check up on this and don’t
just dismiss it….thank you …also i also heard that when her head was
chopped off the pegusus and some other guy sprang from her neck because she
couldn’t bear children normally and had sex with
posidon …please email me any answers or just that you have responded
Answers: Yes, these are stories about Medusa. But there are problems:
- If Poseidon raped Medusa, why would Athena punish Medusa?
- When women cannot bear normally they have no children.
- Could Medusa actually be the mother of a winged horse that looks nothing
like her or the father Poseidon?
- Why would anyone want the head of a an ugly woman? It is said that when
Medusa met your gaze she would turn you into stone. It is also said that
Athena wanted the head because she wanted this power. But whoever heard of
the power of a living person being transferred through a dead head. And
besides why would Athena want this power?
Question: what is the roman equivalent to medusa? and what word comes from her?
Answer: Medusa refers to jellyfish. Medusoid is jellyfish like.
Question: Hi I am doing a project on Medusa that is due TOMORROW!! yes,
I repeat TOMORROW!!! will you please help me?? I have been looking for sites
and i couldn’t find any,,,, and then I came to your site and found it!! It was
amazing!! I am 13,, and I was wondering if you could give me the following
info ASAP: Medusas domain
what she is the godess of
what gods she is related too
Athena – Her head is on Athena’s aegis. Her myths explain how it got there.
Question: How old was she
Answer: She was killed by Perseus perhaps 100 years before the Trojan war.
Athena came to Crete from Africa. If Athena was important to the Minoan
civilization she was in Crete for about 1700 years after that civilization was
established. Medusa came with Athena from Africa where she was born as an
Amazon princess. She must have been over 1700 years old when she was killed.
Question: Was Meduce a human?
Answer: No. She was a mortal goddess.
Question: what is an aegis
Answer: The Aegis is the shield of Zeus which Athena carries or wears. It
is more of a goatskin that Athena wears as a wrap, or streched on a shield.
It is representative of the protection that Zeus can provide.
Question: WHERE AND WHEN WAS MEDUSA BORN?
Answer: She was born near Lake Tritonis, in what is now Tunisia, over 5900
years ago. She was born an Amazon princess and became a mortal goddess.
Question: in the movie clas of the titans medusa was evil, was /is she really evil ?
Answer: As a goddess of death she appears evil to most, but not all
persons. But as with most people she must be judged by what she does, not
by what she is. Because she became a goddess of death by being victimized
it might be wrong to jump to conclusions.
Question: I am self-publishing a chapbook of my poems. The book will be
titled Dark Mother/Living on the Borderline. Are the images posted above
public domain. I am interested in using Medusa by Lucien LAvy-Dhurmer in the
background of the cover of the book. Thank you Cynthia
Answer: Picture of interest
To get permission you must contact the Musee d’Orsay, Paris. Medusa is not
a godd image for the cover of your book. She is too easily missunderstood
by people today. Medea may be more meaningful.
Question: Was madusa a mortal or what. Ok I am wondering because it says she was a mortal goddess. So doesn’t that make her a mortal? could you please explain this. And I have one more question am I right, Was Medusa once beautiful and then after being raped by poseidon in the temple she turned ugly? Is that right? If so what made her turn ugly?
Answer: The story of Medusa has always been about the conquest of death.
What the story says is that you can defeat death. This means that death is
mortal. Once Medusa was a beautiful young woman who became careless. As a
result of her carelessness she was raped. She is the symbol of a careless
victim; one who does not lock her house or shows evil strangers where she
lives. Poseidon raped her to punish her carelessness and have her serve an
an example. She was a good example because her punishment made her miserable.
Her misery made her ugly and her ugliness came to symbolize the living death
that misery and ugliness can become. She was deified because of the
effectiveness of this symbolization. Perseus killed her and put her out
of her misery. He proved that death and misery can be overcome and transformed
into beauty and joy.
Question: Medusa was a gorgon right. And she had 3 sisters correct? So were there only 3 gorgons? Or were there more and only some were known. If there were more what were there names?
Answer: There were three Gorgons but I am not at all sure they are
sisters. Their names are Stheino, Euryale, and Medusa.
Question: Ok I ahve heard many contracdictions to this myth… Some say Medusa had dredlocks and was beautiful. Then it says that Medusa never had dredlocks and is hideous. Which one is the real truth? Was she ugly then beautiful ? or never beautiful? Please help me Im doing a report on Medusa and I ahve many questions. thank-you.
Answer: First she was externally beautiful but internally ugly. When she
was deified she became internally beautiful but externally ugly. When she
was killed the external uglyness dropped away and she became beautiful again.
Question: I want to be Medusa for Halloween, for my High School dance and I was wondering if you could give me any advice on what to wear or how to get my hair to look like it has been turned to snakes?
Answer: Wear a chiton and braid your hair into many braids. Have them
stick straight out. This is probably how Medusa wore her hair. Braiding was
perhaps a sign of divinity. Costume shops often carry a Medusa costume.
Question: Who was Medusa’s mother?
Answer: Mothers of monsters such as Medusa included Ceto and Echida so
either of these has been assigned to Medusa as her mother. The story
of Medusa suggests that Athena is her mother because her story seems to
be a justification of Athena’s power. But her African origins suggest
the reverse, namely Medusa is equivalent to Metis, the mother of Athena.
This would make her the daughter of Tethys.
Question: What type of clothing do you depict was worn by Medusa? Did the snakes on her head, also change her body appearance?
Answer: I like to image medusa as a snake goddess. She wears a flounced-
full skirt, girdle-sash, and a vest exposing her breasts. She does not wear
snakes in her hair but rather many braids that stick out from her head and
look like snakes. I also like to picture her with a beautiful body and face.
Question: In my class my teacher told me that it was aphrodite that turned Medusa into
a gorgon. he said that Medusa was once beautiful and poseidon fell in love
with her. they had sex and Aphrodite was jealous since she wants all guys to
love her. so, making sure that no other man would love her she turned her
into an ugly beast. is this true?
Answer: No. Medusa entered the temple of Athena and was raped by Poseidon
there. Athena felt this defiled her temple and punished Medusa by making her
into an ugly beast.
Question: what does medusa represent as an archetype
Answer: This is quite confusing depending upon what aspect of Medusa is
considered. The icon on the shield or aegis of Athena is clearly a talisman
intended to bring death, or at least fear, to enemies of Athena. In ancient
Greece this icon was described as the symbol of Zeus. Yet it is more likely
to have been the symbol of the main goddess that preceeded zeus in the times
when women goddesses were more powerful than men.
This talisman gave rise to the story that Medusa was a goddess of death,
although she was mortal. In ancient Greece death was viewed as awful and ugly.
So Medusa was pictured in a corresponding way. But Christians viewed
death as beautiful so Cellini sculpted a beautiful face on his Medusa.
When you consider the fact that Medusa became a goddess of death by being
raped the situation becomes more complex. It seems to have been the custom
in some ancient societies for men to acquire wives by raping women. The
practice of carrying wives over the threshold is a relic of this. But why
would a women suddenly become ugly because she became a wife. She might
become ugly out of anger at being raped. Death would only play a part because
birth and death are related as opposite ends of a life. The snake goddess
of pre-Greek times was related to birth and death because a snake could grab
its tail and form a circle. This circle represented the cycle of life and
Question: Do you have an actual picture of medusa?
Answer: No. And nobody else does either. No one who saw Medusa drew her
picture or photographed her. The first pictures of Medusa appeared some
500 years after she was killed and went to Hades.
Question: what is pegusus’s job
Answer: Since Pegasus was born a winged horse you would expect his job
would be to provide transportation through the air. And so he was used
until his rider stupidly thought he ought to be sitting at the table of the
gods. He was also good at producing springs by striking his hoof against
the ground. There ought to be some connection between the blood of Medusa
and the role of Pegasus. This is something to consider.
Question: I’d like to know in which among the literary fonts Medusa is described as “beauty face”, instead of hideous face.
Answer: In the Odyssey the dead Achilles tells Odysseus “‘Say not a word,’
he answered, ‘in death’s favour; I would rather be a paid servant in a poor
man’s house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead.” (Book XI).
As long as their religion survived the ancient Greeks believed the goddess
of death had a hideous face. The victory of Perseus over Medusa was a victory
over a hideous death. The Ancient Greek religion was broken by Christianity
in about 125 AD. The Christians felt that good souls went to heaven to set at
the feet of God in the company of the beautiful angels. They took the story
of Perseus and made it available to every saved Christian. You defeated death
by embrasing Christianity and salvation. And since you spent eternity
in heaven, death was not hideous, but beautiful. Christian artists then
represented Medusa as having a beautiful face.
Question: i have to do my hair like medusa’s. do you have a suggestion on how I should do it?
Answer: Yes. Medusa’s hair just looked like snakes. Rather her hair was
braided entirely. Braid your hair so it sticks out in all directions. The
end of each braid can be decorated with a snake’s head made out of paper.
the snake is a symbol of life and death. The snake swallowing its tail is
a good symbol. You could wear such a snake as a crown if you like.
Question: what character did the romans trae their ancestry to the trojan war?
Question: What sprang from Medusa’s blood
Answer: From Medusa’s blood sprang forth the winged horse Pegasus
Question: As part of my art assignment I have to draw three works describing the life
of a mythological character. I have chosen to draw Medusa. However, I don’t
know how to portray her stone victims. I was wondering if you had any
pictures of this that may be useful. In fact any pictures of anything stone
would be helpful. I’ve been searching for a good hour for something even
remotely stone, and your site was the closest I’ve been to it.
I would greatly appreciate anything you have to help.
Answer: Interestingly there are no known victims of Medea before her death.
All of her victims are recorded after her death. Stone statuary from ancient
Greece is quite common. Here are some stone victims:
- Daughter of Niobe
- Daughter of Niobe
- Laocoon, Musei Vaticani
- Glyptothek: Figure from the Ostgiebel of the Aphaia temple of Aegina, around 490
Question: what did medusa look like with her head on her(picture wise).
Answer: I picture Medusa as a normal beautiful woman with her head covered
with braids that are sticking out in every direction. But her role as a
goddess of death often gives her a creepy appearance:
Question: Are Medusa’s parents Phorkys and Keto?
Answer: Yes, according to Hesiod.
Question: Where did she come from
Answer: Common ornaments include images to scare away evil. One such
ornament on the shield of Athena seems to have given rise to the story of
Medusa. It is an answer to the question “Where did the ugly head come from?”.
Medusa is a goddess of death because this is what motivates the images in the
first place. That Medusa should be a mortal goddess is outrageous but it
became a popular story of the conquest of death.
Question: was medusa a female
Question: The main moral of Medusa is that through knowledge and the
performance of heroic acts, death can be oversome. A secondary moral
is that girls must be careful because if they put themselves in a
compromising situation and sex is forced upon them they will become ugly and
their life will become a death.
Question: HAS MEDUSA GOT THREE SISTERS
Answer: Probably not. When she was alive she had two immortal sisters.
After she was killed she went to Hades. Normally when a sister dies she is
no longer counted, but Medusa is a problem. Did she become immortal? Normally
a soul is immortal but resident in Hades. But Medusa being a mortal goddess
may not have stayed in Hades. She may have become an immortal goddess and
went to be with her sisters in Olympus. In this case she has two sisters.
But if she is alone in Hades then she really has no sisters.
Question: I know this is purely speculatory, but when Medusa dies, did she go to Elysium? Was she judged by Hades and Rhadamanthus? Or did she go straight to the pits of Tartarus because she was a gorgon?
Answer: The concept of Medusa as a mortal goddess is somewhat of a contradiction. But her situation is somewhat similar to that of Persephone. When she is dead she is in Hades, while when she is alive she is on earth. All we have is the story of Perseus and Medusa so we do not have any information about Medusa moving out of Hades as we do for Persephone. Medusa is part of the family of Ceto and most of this family seem to be related to Minoan deities. In that culture she may have been a goddess of death just as Persephone was for the ancient Greeks. In that culture death and rebirth seem to have been important and this seems to have been preserved in the myths of Dionysus. It is possible that Medusa was a female precursor of Dionysus. What we have then is a death myth as we have for Dionysus but no rebirth myth.
Elysium is a place for mortals. A goddess such as Medusa would be in Hades with Persephone when she was dead. When she was alive she would be in Olympus with Zeus. Heroes and heroines such as Achilles and Helen went to Elysium.
Not every goddess is at Olympus. Eris, for example, is excluded. But the decision is for Zeus. Likewise there is priority list with different status given to different deities. Medusa would not have had very high status in Olympus but she probably would have been there. In Hades the decision is made by the ruling god there. Other beings with high status in Hades included Persephone and Hecate. As a goddess Medusa would have had high status in Hades above the mortal dead but not as high as Hecate. Even though Rhadamanthus judged the dead he was still a mortal and so probably would not have judged Medusa as she was a goddess. His status is not unlike that of Achilles. In the Odyssey the shade of Achilles is plainly in Hades. But he actually has a life of sorts in Elysium. Rhadamanthus would have been in Elysium as well.
Tartarus is a place where Zeus seems to have confined deities whose powers needed restraint. The Gorgons were not of this sort. In fact the Gorgons were helpful to Zeus. That is why the head of Medusa appears on the Aegis of Zeus. This represents the power of Zeus when he is angry.
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