Who is Perseus?


Quick Answer

A major figure in Greek myth, Perseus, a son of Zeus, founded Mycenae and established the Perseid dynasty of Danaans in honor of his mother. His exploits, principally his beheading of the Gorgon Medusa, form one of the bases for the myths of the Olympians.

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Full Answer

Born to Zeus and the mortal woman Danaë, Perseus is fated by the Oracle of Apollo to kill his grandfather, King Acrisius of Argos. Rather than commit fratricide and invoke the wrath of the gods, Acrisius sets Danaë and Perseus adrift on the sea in a wooden chest. They arrive safely on the island Seriphos, where Perseus grows to adulthood. Although Danaë doesn’t share his interest, King Polydectes becomes smitten with her, but promises not to force marriage on her if Perseus brings him the Gorgon Medusa’s head. With no way to accomplish this feat, Perseus wanders hopelessly until Athena and Hermes arrive to help.

The pair provides Perseus instructions on how to find Medusa’s cave and give him important tools, such as winged sandals and a sickle from Hermes, Hades’ helmet of invisibility and Athena’s shield. During his quest, Perseus meets the Graeae, sisters of the Gorgons, and beheads Medusa. He then rescues his future wife, Andromeda, from Cetus. On the way back to Seriphos, the couple stops at Larisa and Perseus joins in games being held there, during which he accidentally kills Acrisius with a discus, fulfilling the Oracle's prophecy. After a long life, Perseus was slain by Dionysis, and he and Danaë were transformed into stars so that they could live together in the sky.

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