Perseus Myths

by Pauline Aira Salazar

Persesu, the hero that killled the terrible Medusa

Persesu, the hero that killled the terrible Medusa

Acrisius, the king of Argos, had a daughter, Danaë, but he wanted badly to have a son, too. He asked the Pythian oracle about this, and he found out that his daughter would have a son who would kill him. Afraid of what he heard, he decided to build a bronze chamber underground and he locked Danaë in there, in order to prevent her from having children (she was not married).

But Zeus, who could see everything, noticed the beautiful girl and fell in love with her. In order to get to her, he turned into a shower of gold which dripped inside from the ceiling. (Of course, we all know that Zeus could transform into anything he wanted to, in order to get near a lady. In this case, the shower of gold was also interpreted as the power of money over the heart.) There is also another version, according to which Perseus' father was in fact Proetus, Danaë's uncle, twin brother of Acrisius.

Anyway, when king Acrisius discovered that his daughter had a son, he was very furious. We don't know whether he really believed that Perseus was Zeus' son. Even if the little one was his brother's son, he had no reason of being happy. Anyway, he just couldn't kill them, so he decided to put the mother and child into a chest and threw it into the sea.

Danaë prayed a lot to be saved and Zeus guided the chest to the shores of the island of Seriphos/Seriphus, in the island group of the Cyclades. There, a fisherman called Dictys saw the chest floating and pulled it ashore.

Dictys was poor, but he did his best and raised Perseus like his son. Growing up, the boy became very strong and courageous... and he was handsome, too!

But Dictys has a brother, Polydectes, who was the king of the island. The king fell in love with Danaë and wanted to make her his wife, but Perseus would protect his mother all the time. That's why Polydectes thought about a stratagem, in order to send Perseus on a wild goose chase.

He invited his friends - and Perseus, too - to a banquet, where he asked them to bring him gifts, because, he said, he wanted to ask Hippodamia in marriage. Everyone agreed that horses were the best gift for her, as her very name meant "tamer of horses". Only Perseus was so poor, that he could not bring anything. But he declared he was ready to go and look for whatever gift the king wanted... and that's how Polydectes tricked him into bringing Medusa's head.

King Polydectes sent Perseus to bring him the head of the only mortal gorgon, Medusa. This way, he could remain alone with Danaë and force her to marry him.

Luckily for our hero, goddess Athena decided to help him. She gave him a bronze shield which was polished like a mirror and she told him to look for the Graeae, three of the Phorcydes, who were sisters of the Gorgons and knew their whereabouts. God Hermes helped Perseus, too, by giving him an adamantine sickle.

The Graeae (Enyo, Deino and Pephredo) were three old women who shared one eye and one tooth among them. Perseus took their eye when they were passing it from one sister to the other and told them he'd give it back if they told him where he could find the "Nymphs" (in this case, the Hesperides). After they showed him the way, he gave them back the eye and the tooth.

Using the winged sandals, Perseus flew to the Okeanos, where the Gorgons lived. Their names were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. They had tusks just like boars, their hands were made of bronze and they also had wings made of gold. Whoever looked at them was turned into stone.

Our hero put on the helmet of invisibility and waited until all the Gorgons fell asleep. Then, moving silently with the winged sandals, he went where Medusa slept, looking at her image reflected in the bronze shield. When he beheaded her, the winged horse Pegasus and Chrysaor.

As soon as he killed her, he put her head into the sack, without looking at it. Her sister woke up and tried to catch him, but he was invisible and he managed to escape.

Later he arrived in Aethiopia, he saw a beautiful girl tied with chains to a rock. He found out that she was the daughter of Cepheus, king of Aethiopia, and of his wife, Cassiopeia.

All this had happened because Cassiopeia had boasted that both her and her daughter were more beautiful than the Nereids. The sea nymphs complained to Poseidon, who sent a sea monster, Cetus, to plague the country. The king and queen consulted an oracle, who told them to sacrifice their daughter to the monster, in order to save the kingdom.

That's when Perseus appeared. He instantly fell in love with Andromeda and told her parents that he wanted to save her and make her his wife. Cepheus and Cassiopeia quickly agreed, because they saw the monster approaching.

Perseus used Medusa's head to turn the monster into stone.

After that, he went to the shore. He made a bed of algae, put Medusa's head on them and covered it, so as to prevent the others from seeing it and being turned into stone. He noticed that the algae absorbed the poison from the snakes on the head and turned into stone.

The hero made three altars, dedicated to the gods who had helped him: Athena, Hermes and Zeus. Everybody was happy, so Perseus and Andromeda wed immediately after that. During the banquet, the guests asked him to tell them about his adventures.

All of a sudden, a big noise is heard from the entrance. It was Phineus, Cepheus' brother and Andromeda's first fiance. He protested that it was not fair for Perseus to marry her. Cepheus said that Phineus should have done something when Andromeda was tied to the rock.

Perseus tried to avoid the fight, but Phineus and his men started to throw javelins at Perseus and the other guests. The hero had no choice but to react, he took Medusa's head and warned his friends to cover their eyes. All his enemies were turned into marble statues.

Phineus was looking at his men and he was trying to encourage them to continue their fight. When he saw that they had all become statues, in strange positions, he was afraid to look at Perseus. He begged the hero to spare his life and leave all this behind them. Perseus promised that his sword would not touch Phineus, on the contrary, Phineus would remain as monument for her betrothed to always see him. And then, of course, showed him Medusa's head and turned him into a statue.

Perseus and Andromeda returned to Seriphos. In the end they had many children together, the Perseides: sons Perses, Alcaeus, Sthenelus, Heleus, Mestor, Electryon, and one daughter, Gorgophone.

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