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The Mortal Gorgon


The Three Gorgons
The Murder of Medusa
Images of the Gorgons
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The Three Gorgons

Medusa and her sisters, Sthenno and Euryale, are the daughters of the ancient, pre-Titan Immortals, Phorkys and Keto. All three sisters were so hideous that the shock of seeing them would turn anyone to stone. All three sisters had snakes writhing on their heads and around their waists. Medusa, Sthenno and Euryale are generally called the Gorgons but Medusa has the honor of being called The Gorgon, or in the singular, Gorgo.

Sthenno and Euryale are immortal but Medusa was mortal and ruthlessly killed by the son of Zeus, Perseus. As to how Medusa could be the only mortal daughter born to immortal beings is hard to comprehend but we must simply take it as a fact. Other children of Phorkys and Keto, and therefore sisters of the Gorgons, are the Hesperides and the Graiae. All of the children of Phorkys and Keto live in the mysterious West, beyond Okeanos [Ocean] in the utmost place towards the abode of Nix [Night].

The aegis of Zeus has a depiction of the head of Medusa as the centerpiece surrounded by images of Phobos [Panic] and Eris [Discord or Strife]. On the aegis, Medusa's head was topped with snakes and her tongue lolls from her gaping mouth. The Gorgon head was meant to be a portent of the awful and ruthless power of Zeus.

The Murder of Medusa

Perseus and Medusa

The fate of Medusa was sealed when Zeus became infatuated with Princess Danae, the daughter of King Akrisios of Argos. The king was told by an oracle that Danae would have a son who would take his throne. To thwart the oracle, Akrisios had Danae locked in a bronze vault so she could not be seduced or wed ... Zeus came to her inside the vault as a shower of gold and Perseus was a result of Zeus's touch.

Akrisios took Danae and her new-born son and set them adrift in a coffin-like box thinking that they would die at sea but the box washed ashore on the island of Seriphos and was found by a man named Diktys who happened to be the brother of the king of Seriphos, Polydektes.

Danae and Perseus made their home on Seriphos and King Polydektes fell in love with Danae but she did not return his affection. As Perseus grew older he became an imposing young man and King Polydektes thought that if he could get rid of Perseus he would be able to seduce Danae. He devised a plan to send Perseus on what he thought would be a suicidal mission ... Polydektes convinced Perseus to bring him the head of Medusa. Polydektes was sure that Perseus would die on this quest but, being the son of Zeus, Perseus had the protection of Athene and the assistance of Hermes to assure his success.

Perseus first sought out the sisters of the Gorgons, the Graiai [the Gray Sisters], who were three women, gray from birth, who shared one tooth and one eye between them. Perseus stole their tooth and eye and, using them as ransom, forced the Graiai to give him the location of the Nymphs who had possession of the Cap of Hades [which would make him invisible], a pair of winged sandals [for flying] and a kibisis [a bag to hold Medusa's head]. Perseus later obtained a sickle [or sword] from Hermes and set out to slay Medusa.

With the help of Athene, Perseus found the Gorgons asleep and was able to cut off Medusa's head before they detected his presence. After the attack on their sister, Sthenno and Euryale chased Perseus but his flying sandals saved him. As Perseus flew over the Libyan desert, the drops of blood from Medusa's severed head produced a brood of vile serpents, the winged horse Pegasos and the monster with the golden sword, Chrysaor.

While returning to the island of Seriphos, Perseus encountered the beautiful Andromeda, the doomed daughter of Kepheus and Kassiopeia. Kassiopeia had boasted that she was as beautiful as the Nereids and to avenge the insult, Poseidon [lord of the sea], sent floods and one of his monsters to ravage Kepheus's kingdom of Ethiopia. The only way to call off the wrath of Poseidon was to sacrifice Andromeda to the monster. Using the head of Medusa, or perhaps only his sword, Perseus was able to destroy Poseidon's monster and save Andromeda but king Kepheus's brother Phineus refused to let Perseus claim Andromeda for his wife so Perseus showed Phineus the head of Medusa for his defiance and turned him to stone. Perseus finally gave Medusa's head to Athene to place on her shield.

Images of the Gorgons
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