Medusa, Feared Gorgon

Medusa, Feared Gorgon

Medusa is a well-known figure from Greek mythology. Her visage appears in practically every medium, in various circumstances. Medusa is often interpreted as an apotropaic emblem, similar to the modern evil eye. She is a dangerous threat meant to discourage other dangerous threats. Her place in Greek mythology and art is multifaceted and complex, with various implications


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Medusa is famous for her snake-hair and those who gazed at her face would turn to stone. Ancient sources like Homer, Hesiod, and Pindar provide different pictures of the mythological creature. Medusa was one of three Gorgon sisters born to Keto and Phorkys, primordial sea gods; Stheno and Euryale were eternal. The most famous myth tells of her fatal meeting with Perseus. A despicable king requested an unthinkable gift: Medusa's head. Perseus started forth with divine tools, aided by the gods. Using Athena's polished shield, the hero decapitated Medusa while the Gorgons slept. This horrific event gave birth to Medusa's children, the winged horse Pegasos and the giant Chrysaor. Even death couldn't stop Medusa's power, so Perseus had to store her decapitated head in a special sack called a kybisis.

Medusa's power was based on alterity, and it was alive in the minds and memories of old viewers. Her very existence is alien, scary, and potent. In the Odyssey, her head was preserved in Hades to keep the living out. According to the Perseus myth, her visage and glance could turn men to stone. Pindar tells of the Gorgon's awe-inspiring howls. Perseus and Athena had to manage and harness such frightening powers. Ancient Greek painters wore this harness to symbolize the Gorgon in various ages and media. Medusa is a terrible and cryptic figure who has inspired artists to retell her story in history, mythology, and art throughout greek Culture, Rome, and beyond.



Bowers, Susan R. "Medusa and the female gaze." NWSA Journal (1990): 217-235.

(Glennon Medusa in Ancient Greek Art | Essay | The Metropolitan Museum of Art | Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History)

Wilson, Lillian M. "Contributions of Greek art to the Medusa myth." American Journal of Archaeology 24.3 (1920): 232-240.

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