Medusa
Overview
In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 Medusa , " guardian, protectress") was a Gorgon
Gorgon
In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a terrifying female creature. The name derives from the Greek word gorgós, which means "dreadful." While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a...

, a chthonic
Chthonic
Chthonic designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land or the land as territory...

 monster
Monster
A monster is any fictional creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is somewhat hideous and may produce physical harm or mental fear by either its appearance or its actions...

, and a daughter of Phorcys
Phorcys
In Greek mythology, Phorcys , a primordial sea god, generally cited as the son of Pontus and Gaia. According to the Orphic hymns, Phorcys, Cronus and Rhea were the eldest offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. Classical scholar Karl Kerenyi conflated Phorcys with the similar sea gods Nereus and Proteus...

 and Ceto
Ceto
In ancient Greek, the word ketos - Latinized as cetus - denotes a large fish, a whale, a shark, or a sea monster. The sea monsters slain by Perseus and Heracles were each referred to as a cetus by ancient sources. The term cetacean originates from cetus. In Greek art, cetea were depicted as...

. The author Hyginus
Hyginus
Hyginus can refer to:People:*Gaius Julius Hyginus , Roman poet, author of Fabulae, reputed author of Poeticon astronomicon*Hyginus Gromaticus, Roman surveyor*Pope Hyginus, also a saint, Bishop of Rome about 140...

, (Fabulae, 151) interposes a generation and gives Medusa another chthonic pair as parents. Gazing directly upon her would turn onlookers to stone. She was beheaded by the hero Perseus
Perseus
Perseus ,Perseos and Perseas are not used in English. the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians...

, who thereafter used her head as a weapon until he gave it to the goddess Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

 to place on her shield
Aegis
An aegis is a large collar or cape worn in ancient times to display the protection provided by a high religious authority or the holder of a protective shield signifying the same, such as a bag-like garment that contained a shield. Sometimes the garment and the shield are merged, with a small...

. In classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 the image of the head of Medusa appeared in the evil-averting device
Apotropaic magic
Apotropaic magic is a type of magic intended to "turn away" harm or evil influences."Apotropaic" observances may also be practiced out of vague superstition or out of tradition, as in good luck charm , or gestures like fingers crossed or knocking on wood.Apotropaic is an adjective that means...

 known as the Gorgoneion
Gorgoneion
In Ancient Greece, the Gorgoneion was originally a horror-creating apotropaic pendant showing the Gorgon's head. It was assimilated by the Olympian deities Zeus and Athena: both are said to have worn it as a protective pendant...

.
The three Gorgon
Gorgon
In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a terrifying female creature. The name derives from the Greek word gorgós, which means "dreadful." While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a...

 sisters—Medusa, Stheno
Stheno
Stheno , in Greek mythology, was the eldest of the Gorgons, vicious female monsters with brass hands, sharp fangs and "hair" made of living venomous snakes. The daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, she was born in the caverns beneath Mount Olympus...

, and Euryale
Euryale
Euryale , in Greek mythology, was the second eldest one of the Gorgons, three vicious sisters with brass hands, sharp fangs, and hair of living, venomous snakes. She and her sister Stheno, unlike their sister, Medusa, were not able to turn any creature to stone with her gaze...

—were all children of the ancient marine deities Phorcys
Phorcys
In Greek mythology, Phorcys , a primordial sea god, generally cited as the son of Pontus and Gaia. According to the Orphic hymns, Phorcys, Cronus and Rhea were the eldest offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. Classical scholar Karl Kerenyi conflated Phorcys with the similar sea gods Nereus and Proteus...

 (or Phorkys) and his sister Ceto
Ceto
In ancient Greek, the word ketos - Latinized as cetus - denotes a large fish, a whale, a shark, or a sea monster. The sea monsters slain by Perseus and Heracles were each referred to as a cetus by ancient sources. The term cetacean originates from cetus. In Greek art, cetea were depicted as...

 (or Keto), chthonic monsters from an archaic
Archaic
Archaic may refer to a period of time preceding a "classical period":*List of archaeological periods**Archaic Greece**Archaic period in the Americas**Early Dynastic Period of Egypt*Archaic Homo sapiens, people who lived about 300,000 to 30,000 B.P...

 world.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
In Greek mythology
Greek mythology
Greek mythology is the body of myths and legends belonging to the ancient Greeks, concerning their gods and heroes, the nature of the world, and the origins and significance of their own cult and ritual practices. They were a part of religion in ancient Greece...

 Medusa , " guardian, protectress") was a Gorgon
Gorgon
In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a terrifying female creature. The name derives from the Greek word gorgós, which means "dreadful." While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a...

, a chthonic
Chthonic
Chthonic designates, or pertains to, deities or spirits of the underworld, especially in relation to Greek religion. The Greek word khthon is one of several for "earth"; it typically refers to the interior of the soil, rather than the living surface of the land or the land as territory...

 monster
Monster
A monster is any fictional creature, usually found in legends or horror fiction, that is somewhat hideous and may produce physical harm or mental fear by either its appearance or its actions...

, and a daughter of Phorcys
Phorcys
In Greek mythology, Phorcys , a primordial sea god, generally cited as the son of Pontus and Gaia. According to the Orphic hymns, Phorcys, Cronus and Rhea were the eldest offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. Classical scholar Karl Kerenyi conflated Phorcys with the similar sea gods Nereus and Proteus...

 and Ceto
Ceto
In ancient Greek, the word ketos - Latinized as cetus - denotes a large fish, a whale, a shark, or a sea monster. The sea monsters slain by Perseus and Heracles were each referred to as a cetus by ancient sources. The term cetacean originates from cetus. In Greek art, cetea were depicted as...

. The author Hyginus
Hyginus
Hyginus can refer to:People:*Gaius Julius Hyginus , Roman poet, author of Fabulae, reputed author of Poeticon astronomicon*Hyginus Gromaticus, Roman surveyor*Pope Hyginus, also a saint, Bishop of Rome about 140...

, (Fabulae, 151) interposes a generation and gives Medusa another chthonic pair as parents. Gazing directly upon her would turn onlookers to stone. She was beheaded by the hero Perseus
Perseus
Perseus ,Perseos and Perseas are not used in English. the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians...

, who thereafter used her head as a weapon until he gave it to the goddess Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

 to place on her shield
Aegis
An aegis is a large collar or cape worn in ancient times to display the protection provided by a high religious authority or the holder of a protective shield signifying the same, such as a bag-like garment that contained a shield. Sometimes the garment and the shield are merged, with a small...

. In classical antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 the image of the head of Medusa appeared in the evil-averting device
Apotropaic magic
Apotropaic magic is a type of magic intended to "turn away" harm or evil influences."Apotropaic" observances may also be practiced out of vague superstition or out of tradition, as in good luck charm , or gestures like fingers crossed or knocking on wood.Apotropaic is an adjective that means...

 known as the Gorgoneion
Gorgoneion
In Ancient Greece, the Gorgoneion was originally a horror-creating apotropaic pendant showing the Gorgon's head. It was assimilated by the Olympian deities Zeus and Athena: both are said to have worn it as a protective pendant...

.

Medusa in classical mythology

The three Gorgon
Gorgon
In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a terrifying female creature. The name derives from the Greek word gorgós, which means "dreadful." While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a...

 sisters—Medusa, Stheno
Stheno
Stheno , in Greek mythology, was the eldest of the Gorgons, vicious female monsters with brass hands, sharp fangs and "hair" made of living venomous snakes. The daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, she was born in the caverns beneath Mount Olympus...

, and Euryale
Euryale
Euryale , in Greek mythology, was the second eldest one of the Gorgons, three vicious sisters with brass hands, sharp fangs, and hair of living, venomous snakes. She and her sister Stheno, unlike their sister, Medusa, were not able to turn any creature to stone with her gaze...

—were all children of the ancient marine deities Phorcys
Phorcys
In Greek mythology, Phorcys , a primordial sea god, generally cited as the son of Pontus and Gaia. According to the Orphic hymns, Phorcys, Cronus and Rhea were the eldest offspring of Oceanus and Tethys. Classical scholar Karl Kerenyi conflated Phorcys with the similar sea gods Nereus and Proteus...

 (or Phorkys) and his sister Ceto
Ceto
In ancient Greek, the word ketos - Latinized as cetus - denotes a large fish, a whale, a shark, or a sea monster. The sea monsters slain by Perseus and Heracles were each referred to as a cetus by ancient sources. The term cetacean originates from cetus. In Greek art, cetea were depicted as...

 (or Keto), chthonic monsters from an archaic
Archaic
Archaic may refer to a period of time preceding a "classical period":*List of archaeological periods**Archaic Greece**Archaic period in the Americas**Early Dynastic Period of Egypt*Archaic Homo sapiens, people who lived about 300,000 to 30,000 B.P...

 world. Their genealogy is shared with other sisters, the Graeae
Graeae
The Graeae , were three sisters who shared one eye and one tooth among them. They are one of several trios of archaic goddesses in Greek mythology. The Graeae were daughters of Phorcys and Ceto...

, as in Aeschylus
Aeschylus
Aeschylus was the first of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived, the others being Sophocles and Euripides, and is often described as the father of tragedy. His name derives from the Greek word aiskhos , meaning "shame"...

's Prometheus Bound
Prometheus Bound
Prometheus Bound is an Ancient Greek tragedy. In Antiquity, this drama was attributed to Aeschylus, but is now considered by some scholars to be the work of another hand, perhaps one as late as ca. 415 BC. Despite these doubts of authorship, the play's designation as Aeschylean has remained...

, which places both trinities of sisters far off "on Kisthene's dreadful plain":

Near them their sisters three, the Gorgons, winged

With snakes for hair— hated of mortal man—


While ancient Greek vase-painters and relief carvers imagined Medusa and her sisters as beings born of monstrous form, sculptors and vase-painters of the fifth century began to envisage her as being beautiful as well as terrifying. In an ode written in 490 BC Pindar
Pindar
Pindar , was an Ancient Greek lyric poet. Of the canonical nine lyric poets of ancient Greece, his work is the best preserved. Quintilian described him as "by far the greatest of the nine lyric poets, in virtue of his inspired magnificence, the beauty of his thoughts and figures, the rich...

 already speaks of "fair-cheeked Medusa".

In a late version of the Medusa myth, related by the Roman poet Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

 (Metamorphoses 4.770), Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, "the jealous aspiration of many suitors," priestess in Athena's temple, but when she and the "Lord of the Sea" Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

 were caught together by Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

's temple, the enraged Athena transformed Medusa's beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. In Ovid's telling, Perseus describes Medusa's punishment by Minerva (Athena) as just and well earned.

In African mythology (prior to Greece's adaptation of Medusa), Medusa was a Libyan goddess
Berber mythology
The traditional Berber mythology is the ancient and native set of beliefs and deities developed by the Berber people in their historical land of North Africa...

.{Walker, Barbara G., The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths & Secrets} She was a serpent goddess of female wisdom.{Walker, Barbara G., The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths & Secrets} Female wisdom, healing, birth, rebirth, and other positive traits of nature have long been associated with serpents.

Death

In most versions of the story, she was beheaded by the hero Perseus
Perseus
Perseus ,Perseos and Perseas are not used in English. the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Perseid dynasty of Danaans there, was the first of the mythic heroes of Greek mythology whose exploits in defeating various archaic monsters provided the founding myths of the Twelve Olympians...

, who was sent to fetch her head by King Polydectes
Polydectes
In Greek mythology, King Polydectes was the ruler of the island of Seriphos, son of Magnes and an unnamed naiad. Polydectes fell in love with Danaë when she and her son Perseus were saved by his brother Dictys . Perseus was very protective of his mother and wouldn't allow Polydectes near Danaë....

 of Seriphos. In his conquest, he received a mirrored shield from Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, gold, winged sandals from Hermes
Hermes
Hermes is the great messenger of the gods in Greek mythology and a guide to the Underworld. Hermes was born on Mount Kyllini in Arcadia. An Olympian god, he is also the patron of boundaries and of the travelers who cross them, of shepherds and cowherds, of the cunning of thieves, of orators and...

, a sword from Hephaestus and Hades' helm of invisibility. Medusa was the only one of the three Gorgons who was mortal, so Perseus was able to slay her while looking at the reflection from the mirrored shield he received from Athena. During that time, Medusa was pregnant by Poseidon
Poseidon
Poseidon was the god of the sea, and, as "Earth-Shaker," of the earthquakes in Greek mythology. The name of the sea-god Nethuns in Etruscan was adopted in Latin for Neptune in Roman mythology: both were sea gods analogous to Poseidon...

. When Perseus beheaded her, Pegasus
Pegasus
Pegasus is one of the best known fantastical as well as mythological creatures in Greek mythology. He is a winged divine horse, usually white in color. He was sired by Poseidon, in his role as horse-god, and foaled by the Gorgon Medusa. He was the brother of Chrysaor, born at a single birthing...

, a winged horse, and Chrysaor
Chrysaor
In Greek mythology, Chrysaor , the brother of Pegasus, was often depicted as a young man, the son of Poseidon and Medusa. However, Chrysaor is sometimes said to be a giant or a winged boar. Chrysaor and his brother, the winged horse Pegasus, were not born until Perseus chopped off Medusa's head...

, a golden-sworded giant, sprang from her body.
Jane Ellen Harrison
Jane Ellen Harrison
Jane Ellen Harrison was a British classical scholar, linguist and feminist. Harrison is one of the founders, with Karl Kerenyi and Walter Burkert, of modern studies in Greek mythology. She applied 19th century archaeological discoveries to the interpretation of Greek religion in ways that have...

 argues that "her potency only begins when her head is severed, and that potency resides in the head; she is in a word a mask with a body later appended... the basis of the Gorgoneion
Gorgoneion
In Ancient Greece, the Gorgoneion was originally a horror-creating apotropaic pendant showing the Gorgon's head. It was assimilated by the Olympian deities Zeus and Athena: both are said to have worn it as a protective pendant...

 is a cultus object, a ritual mask misunderstood."

In Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

xi, Homer does not specifically mention the Gorgon
Gorgon
In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a terrifying female creature. The name derives from the Greek word gorgós, which means "dreadful." While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a...

 Medusa:
Harrison's translation states "the Gorgon was made out of the terror, not the terror out of the Gorgon."

According to Ovid
Ovid
Publius Ovidius Naso , known as Ovid in the English-speaking world, was a Roman poet who is best known as the author of the three major collections of erotic poetry: Heroides, Amores, and Ars Amatoria...

, in northwest Africa, Perseus flew past the Titan
Titan (mythology)
In Greek mythology, the Titans were a race of powerful deities, descendants of Gaia and Uranus, that ruled during the legendary Golden Age....

 Atlas
Atlas (mythology)
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the primordial Titan who supported the heavens. Although associated with various places, he became commonly identified with the Atlas Mountains in north-west Africa...

, who stood holding the sky aloft, and transformed him into stone. In a similar manner, the coral
Coral (precious)
Precious coral or red coral is the common name given to Corallium rubrum and several related species of marine coral. The distinguishing characteristic of precious corals is their durable and intensely colored red or pink skeleton, which is used for making jewelry.-Habitat:Red corals grow on rocky...

s of the Red Sea
Red Sea
The Red Sea is a seawater inlet of the Indian Ocean, lying between Africa and Asia. The connection to the ocean is in the south through the Bab el Mandeb strait and the Gulf of Aden. In the north, there is the Sinai Peninsula, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Gulf of Suez...

 were said to have been formed of Medusa's blood spilled onto seaweed
Seaweed
Seaweed is a loose, colloquial term encompassing macroscopic, multicellular, benthic marine algae. The term includes some members of the red, brown and green algae...

 when Perseus laid down the petrifying head beside the shore during his short stay in Ethiopia
Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

 where he saved and wed his future wife, the lovely princess Andromeda
Andromeda (mythology)
Andromeda is a princess from Greek mythology who, as divine punishment for her mother's bragging, the Boast of Cassiopeia, was chained to a rock as a sacrifice to a sea monster. She was saved from death by Perseus, her future husband. Her name is the Latinized form of the Greek Ἀνδρομέδη...

. Furthermore the poisonous vipers of the Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

, in the Argonautica 4.1515, Ovid's Metamorphoses 4.770 and Lucan's Pharsalia
Pharsalia
The Pharsalia is a Roman epic poem by the poet Lucan, telling of the civil war between Julius Caesar and the forces of the Roman Senate led by Pompey the Great...

9.820, were said to have grown from spilt drops of her blood.

Perseus then flew to Seriphos, where his mother was about to be forced into marriage with the king. King Polydectes was turned into stone by the gaze of Medusa's head. Then Perseus gave the Gorgon's head to Athena, who placed it on her shield, the Aegis
Aegis
An aegis is a large collar or cape worn in ancient times to display the protection provided by a high religious authority or the holder of a protective shield signifying the same, such as a bag-like garment that contained a shield. Sometimes the garment and the shield are merged, with a small...

.

Some classical references refer to three Gorgons; Harrison considered that the tripling of Medusa into a trio of sisters was a secondary feature in the myth:

Psychoanalysis

In 1940, Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud , born Sigismund Schlomo Freud , was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis...

's Das Medusenhaupt (Medusa's Head
Medusa's Head
Medusa's Head , by Sigmund Freud, was an essay contributing to a body of criticism surrounding the Medusa Myth.Freud argues that decapitation equals castration. The terror of Medusa is thus a terror of castration that is linked to the sight of something...

)
was published posthumously. This article laid the framework for his significant contribution to a body of criticism surrounding the monster. Medusa is presented as "the supreme talisman
Amulet
An amulet, similar to a talisman , is any object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner.Potential amulets include gems, especially engraved gems, statues, coins, drawings, pendants, rings, plants and animals; even words said in certain occasions—for example: vade retro satana—, to...

 who provides the image of castration
Castration
Castration is any action, surgical, chemical, or otherwise, by which a male loses the functions of the testicles or a female loses the functions of the ovaries.-Humans:...

 — associated in the child's mind with the discovery of maternal sexuality — and its denial." Psychoanalysis continue archetypal literary criticism
Archetypal literary criticism
Archetypal literary criticism is a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on recurring myths and archetypes in the narrative, symbols, images, and character types in a literary work...

 to the present day: Beth Seelig analyzes Medusa's punishment from the aspect of the crime of having been raped rather than having willingly consented in Athena's temple as an outcome of the goddess' unresolved conflicts with her own father, Zeus
Zeus
In the ancient Greek religion, Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men" who ruled the Olympians of Mount Olympus as a father ruled the family. He was the god of sky and thunder in Greek mythology. His Roman counterpart is Jupiter and his Etruscan counterpart is Tinia.Zeus was the child of Cronus...

.

Feminism

In the 20th century, feminists reassessed Medusa's appearances in literature and in modern culture, including the use of Medusa as a logo
Logo
A logo is a graphic mark or emblem commonly used by commercial enterprises, organizations and even individuals to aid and promote instant public recognition...

 by fashion company Versace. The name "Medusa" itself is often used in ways not directly connected to the mythological figure but to suggest the gorgon's abilities or to connote
Connotation
A connotation is a commonly understood subjective cultural or emotional association that some word or phrase carries, in addition to the word's or phrase's explicit or literal meaning, which is its denotation....

 malevolence; despite her origins as a beauty, the name in common usage "came to mean monster." The book Female Rage: Unlocking Its Secrets, Claiming Its Power by Mary Valentis and Anne Devane notes that "When we asked women what female rage looks like to them, it was always Medusa, the snaky-haired monster of myth, who came to mind ... In one interview after another we were told that Medusa is 'the most horrific woman in the world' ... [though] none of the women we interviewed could remember the details of the myth."
Medusa's visage has since been adopted by many women as a symbol of female rage; one of the first publications to express this idea was a 1978 issue of Women: A Journal of Liberation. The cover featured the image of a Gorgon, which the editors explained "can be a map to guide us through our terrors, through the depths of our anger into the sources of our power as women." In a 1986 article for Women of Power magazine called "Ancient Gorgons: A Face for Contemporary Women's Rage," Emily Erwin Culpepper wrote that "The Amazon Gorgon face is female fury personified. The Gorgon/Medusa image has been rapidly adopted by large numbers of feminists who recognize her as one face of our own rage."

Nihilism

Medusa has sometimes appeared as representing notions of scientific determinism and nihilism
Nihilism
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...

, especially in contrast with romantic idealism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

. In this interpretation of Medusa, attempts to avoid looking into her eyes represent avoiding the ostensibly depressing reality that the universe is meaningless. Jack London
Jack London
John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

 uses Medusa in this way in his novel The Mutiny of the Elsinore
The Mutiny of the Elsinore (novel)
The Mutiny of the Elsinore is a novel by the American writer Jack London first published in 1914. After death of the captain, the crew of a ship split between the two senior surviving mates. During the conflict, the narrator developes as a strong character, rather as in The Sea-Wolf...

:

Medusa in art

From ancient times, the Medusa was immortalized in numerous works of art, including:
  • Medusa on the breastplate of Alexander the Great, as depicted in the Alexander Mosaic
    Alexander Mosaic
    The Alexander Mosaic, dating from circa 100 BC, is a famous Roman floor mosaic originally from the House of the Faun in Pompeii. It depicts a battle between the armies of Alexander the Great and Darius III of Persia and measures 5.82 x 3.13m .-Battle:The mosaic illustrates a battle in which...

     from Pompeii
    Pompeii
    The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Along with Herculaneum, Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning...

    's House of the Faun
    House of the Faun
    The House of the Faun , built during the 2nd century BC, was one of the largest, and most impressive private residences in Pompeii, Italy, and housed many great pieces of art...

     (c. 200 BC)
  • Medusa column bases of Basilica Cistern
    Basilica Cistern
    The Basilica Cistern , is the largest of several hundred ancient cisterns that lie beneath the city of Istanbul , Turkey...

     in Constantionople.
  • The "Rondanini Medusa", a Roman copy of the Gorgoneion
    Gorgoneion
    In Ancient Greece, the Gorgoneion was originally a horror-creating apotropaic pendant showing the Gorgon's head. It was assimilated by the Olympian deities Zeus and Athena: both are said to have worn it as a protective pendant...

    on the aegis
    Aegis
    An aegis is a large collar or cape worn in ancient times to display the protection provided by a high religious authority or the holder of a protective shield signifying the same, such as a bag-like garment that contained a shield. Sometimes the garment and the shield are merged, with a small...

     of Athena
    Athena
    In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

    ; later used as a model for the Gorgon's head in Antonio Canova
    Antonio Canova
    Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor from the Republic of Venice who became famous for his marble sculptures that delicately rendered nude flesh...

    's marble Perseus with the Head of Medusa (1798–1801)
  • Medusa
    Medusa (Leonardo da Vinci)
    Medusa is either of two paintings attributed by Giorgio Vasari to Leonardo da Vinci. Neither painting survives.- First version :In his Vita di Leonardo , Vasari reports that, as a very young man, Leonardo represented the head of Medusa on a wooden shield:Although art historians have doubted the...

     (oil on canvas) by Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo da Vinci
    Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

  • Perseus with the Head of Medusa (bronze sculpture) by Benvenuto Cellini
    Benvenuto Cellini
    Benvenuto Cellini was an Italian goldsmith, sculptor, painter, soldier and musician, who also wrote a famous autobiography. He was one of the most important artists of Mannerism.-Youth:...

     (1554)
  • Medusa
    Medusa (Caravaggio)
    Caravaggio painted two versions of Medusa, the first in 1596 and the other presumably in 1597. The first version, also known as Murtula, by the name of the poet who wrote about it is signed Michel A F and is in private hands; the second version, shown here, is slightly bigger and is not signed;...

     (oil on canvas) by Caravaggio
    Caravaggio
    Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio was an Italian artist active in Rome, Naples, Malta, and Sicily between 1593 and 1610. His paintings, which combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting, had a formative influence on the Baroque...

     (1597)
  • Head of Medusa, by Peter Paul Rubens (1618)
  • Medusa is played by a countertenor
    Countertenor
    A countertenor is a male singing voice whose vocal range is equivalent to that of a contralto, mezzo-soprano, or a soprano, usually through use of falsetto, or far more rarely than normal, modal voice. A pre-pubescent male who has this ability is called a treble...

     in Jean-Baptiste Lully
    Jean-Baptiste Lully
    Jean-Baptiste de Lully was an Italian-born French composer who spent most of his life working in the court of Louis XIV of France. He is considered the chief master of the French Baroque style. Lully disavowed any Italian influence in French music of the period. He became a French subject in...

     and Philippe Quinault
    Philippe Quinault
    Philippe Quinault , French dramatist and librettist, was born in Paris.- Biography :Quinault was educated by the liberality of François Tristan l'Hermite, the author of Marianne. Quinault's first play was produced at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1653, when he was only eighteen...

    's opera
    Opera
    Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

    , Persée
    Persée
    Persée is a tragédie lyrique with music by Jean-Baptiste Lully and a libretto by Philippe Quinault, first performed in 1682 at the Paris Opéra.-Roles:-Synopsis:...

    (1682). She sings the aria "J'ay perdu la beauté qui me rendit si vaine."
  • Perseus Turning Phineus and his Followers to Stone (oil on canvas) by Luca Giordano
    Luca Giordano
    Luca Giordano was an Italian late Baroque painter and printmaker in etching. Fluent and decorative, he worked successfully in Naples and Rome, Florence and Venice, before spending a decade in Spain....

     (early 1680s).
  • Perseus with the Head of Medusa (marble sculpture) by Antonio Canova
    Antonio Canova
    Antonio Canova was an Italian sculptor from the Republic of Venice who became famous for his marble sculptures that delicately rendered nude flesh...

     (1801)
  • Medusa (oil on canvas) by Arnold Böcklin
    Arnold Böcklin
    Arnold Böcklin was a Swiss symbolist painter.-Life and art:He was born at Basel. His father, Christian Frederick Böcklin , was descended from an old family of Schaffhausen, and engaged in the silk trade. His mother, Ursula Lippe, was a native of the same city...

     (c. 1878)
  • Perseus (bronze sculpture) by Salvador Dalí
    Salvador Dalí
    Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol , commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres,Spain....

  • Medusa (oil on canvas) by James Miller
    James Miller (painter)
    -External links:* *...

     (2010)


Medusa remained a common theme in art in the nineteenth century, when her myth was retold in Thomas Bulfinch
Thomas Bulfinch
Thomas Bulfinch was an American writer, born in Newton, Massachusetts. Bulfinch belonged to a well educated Bostonian merchant family of modest means. His father was Charles Bulfinch, the architect of the Massachusetts State House in Boston and parts of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C....

's Mythology. Edward Burne-Jones
Edward Burne-Jones
Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1st Baronet was a British artist and designer closely associated with the later phase of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, who worked closely with William Morris on a wide range of decorative arts as a founding partner in Morris, Marshall, Faulkner, and Company...

' Perseus Cycle of paintings and a drawing by Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Beardsley
Aubrey Vincent Beardsley was an English illustrator and author. His drawings, done in black ink and influenced by the style of Japanese woodcuts, emphasized the grotesque, the decadent, and the erotic. He was a leading figure in the Aesthetic movement which also included Oscar Wilde and James A....

 gave way to the twentieth century works of Paul Klee
Paul Klee
Paul Klee was born in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and is considered both a German and a Swiss painter. His highly individual style was influenced by movements in art that included expressionism, cubism, and surrealism. He was, as well, a student of orientalism...

, John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent
John Singer Sargent was an American artist, considered the "leading portrait painter of his generation" for his evocations of Edwardian era luxury. During his career, he created roughly 900 oil paintings and more than 2,000 watercolors, as well as countless sketches and charcoal drawings...

, Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

, Pierre et Gilles
Pierre et Gilles
Pierre et Gilles, Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard, are French artists and romantic partners. They produce highly stylized photographs, building their own sets and costumes as well as retouching the photographs...

, and Auguste Rodin
Auguste Rodin
François-Auguste-René Rodin , known as Auguste Rodin , was a French sculptor. Although Rodin is generally considered the progenitor of modern sculpture, he did not set out to rebel against the past...

's bronze sculpture The Gates of Hell.

In flags and emblems

The head of Medusa is featured on some regional symbols. One example is that of the flag and emblem of Sicily
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, together with the three legged trinacria. The inclusion of Medusa in the center implies the protection of the goddess Athena
Athena
In Greek mythology, Athena, Athenê, or Athene , also referred to as Pallas Athena/Athene , is the goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration, civilization, warfare, strength, strategy, the arts, crafts, justice, and skill. Minerva, Athena's Roman incarnation, embodies similar attributes. Athena is...

, who wore the Gorgon's likeness on her aegis
Aegis
An aegis is a large collar or cape worn in ancient times to display the protection provided by a high religious authority or the holder of a protective shield signifying the same, such as a bag-like garment that contained a shield. Sometimes the garment and the shield are merged, with a small...

, as said above. Another example is the coat of arms of Dohalice
Dohalice
Dohalice is a village in the Czech Republic. Its coat of arms is known to show the head of Medusa....

 village in the Czech Republic
Czech Republic
The Czech Republic is a landlocked country in Central Europe. The country is bordered by Poland to the northeast, Slovakia to the east, Austria to the south, and Germany to the west and northwest....

.

In popular culture

The petrifying image of Medusa makes an instantly recognizable feature in market-driven popular culture. Medusa has been featured in several media related topics, including videogames, movies and books.

See also

  • Apotropaic symbols
  • Caput Medusae
  • Euryale
    Euryale
    Euryale , in Greek mythology, was the second eldest one of the Gorgons, three vicious sisters with brass hands, sharp fangs, and hair of living, venomous snakes. She and her sister Stheno, unlike their sister, Medusa, were not able to turn any creature to stone with her gaze...

  • Gorgon
    Gorgon
    In Greek mythology, the Gorgon was a terrifying female creature. The name derives from the Greek word gorgós, which means "dreadful." While descriptions of Gorgons vary across Greek literature, the term commonly refers to any of three sisters who had hair of living, venomous snakes, and a...

  • Medea
    Medea
    Medea is a woman in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of King Aeëtes of Colchis, niece of Circe, granddaughter of the sun god Helios, and later wife to the hero Jason, with whom she had two children, Mermeros and Pheres. In Euripides's play Medea, Jason leaves Medea when Creon, king of...

  • Stheno
    Stheno
    Stheno , in Greek mythology, was the eldest of the Gorgons, vicious female monsters with brass hands, sharp fangs and "hair" made of living venomous snakes. The daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, she was born in the caverns beneath Mount Olympus...

  • Theodontius
    Theodontius
    Theodontius was the author of a now lost Latin work on mythology. He was extensively quoted in Giovanni Boccaccio's Genealogia Deorum Gentilium, but is otherwise almost unknown. Boccaccio says that he knew Theodontius's work through the Collections of Paul of Perugia, which Paul's wife burnt after...


Primary sources

  • Servius, In Aeneida vi.289
  • Lucan, Bellum civile ix.624–684
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses iv.774–785, 790–801

Secondary sources

  • Garber, Marjorie, Vickers, Nancy, The Medusa Reader, Routledge; 1 edition (February 26, 2003), ISBN 978-0415900997.
  • Harrison, Jane Ellen
    Jane Ellen Harrison
    Jane Ellen Harrison was a British classical scholar, linguist and feminist. Harrison is one of the founders, with Karl Kerenyi and Walter Burkert, of modern studies in Greek mythology. She applied 19th century archaeological discoveries to the interpretation of Greek religion in ways that have...

     (1903) 3rd ed. 1922. Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion,: "The Ker as Gorgon"
  • Smith, William
    William Smith (lexicographer)
    Sir William Smith Kt. was a noted English lexicographer.-Early life:Born at Enfield in 1813 of Nonconformist parents, he was originally destined for a theological career, but instead was articled to a solicitor. In his spare time he taught himself classics, and when he entered University College...

    ; Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
    Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology
    The Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology is an encyclopedia/biographical dictionary.- Characteristic :...

    , London (1873). "Perseus"
  • Wilk, Stephen R, Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, Oxford University Press, 2007, ISBN 978-0195341317
  • Walker, Barbara G., The Women's Encyclopedia of Myths & Secrets

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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