What Are Some Interesting Facts About Medusa?

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In early versions of her story amongst the Ancient Greeks, Medusa was born as a gorgon, while later in antiquity, she was turned into one by the goddess Athena. In myth, looking at her turned people to stone. Medusa was a chthonic deity, meaning she lived underground, representing fertility, death and rebirth. Perseus, a hero, must kill Medusa and collect her head to save his mother.

She was the mortal daughter of the titans Phorcys and Ceto. The earliest mention in Greek of Medusa is in Hesiod’s “Theogony,” where he lumped her and her two immortal sisters together as gorgons with the identical features and powers, except that Medusa was mortal. By the Classical Period, Medusa was thought to have been beautiful at one point in her life, as mentioned by Pindar.

The Roman poet Ovid told Medusa’s myth in the greatest detail, as available to modern readers in 2014. Medusa was a tragic figure in his “Metamorphoses,” at the mercy of forces far beyond her control. While the exceedingly beautiful Medusa, with dazzling locks of hair, was visiting a temple of the virgin goddess Athena, Poseidon, the sea god, lusted after Medusa. He tried to seduce her and proceeded to rape her. Athena, made furious, transformed Medusa into a scaly gorgon with snakes for hair who turned anyone who saw her to stone.

After Perseus kills Medusa by beheading, Pegasus and Chrysaor spring out of her body. Perseus uses the gorgon’s head to defeat his enemies and save Andromeda from a sea monster sent by Poseidon. He returns Medusa’s head to Athena, who places it on her shield and uses Medusa’s scaly skin to create her impenetrable Aegis.