By the kind permission of Mr B. Precourt. Perseus and Medusa


  Boooh !!!  
“At the temple of Zeus at Olympia is dedicated a golden shield, with Medusa,
the Gorgon in relief” - Pausanias, Guide to Greece.
“Fair-cheeked” Medusa, Stheno “The Strong One” and Euryale “the Wide-stepping” were formerly the well-known daughters of sea Titans, Porcys and Ceto. Medusa the youngest was reputed very fair although of the three, alone she suffered mortality. Wise as able, the sisters served as priestesses to Athena, goddess of wisdom.
“The Dark-haired One” lusty Poseidon god of the sea, coveted beauteous Medusa. Unpredictably within Athena’s temple, the smitten sea-god raped her, disguised as a horse — oh!, a form he frequently adopted. In disgust and woe Ceto’s daughters changed towards men, losing all judgement to vindictive hate. Meanwhile, Medusa boasted possessing greater beauty than Athena.
Enraged her shrine so defiled, though maybe spite prompting too, Athena by rule of might transformed all three to shapeless sights. Hideous winged creatures appeared, their once fair locks knotting with nodding serpents *16 . . While struck this ignoble deed, Athena’s pet owl, perched upon her shoulder, soundlessly eyed the Gordion coif.*12  Echo wavered, aphonous. Muse Melpomene surely hid aghast behind her mask, eyes transfixed as the blind.
Mortal tragic Medusa, twice punished, though now with heavy womb, retired with her hapless sisters to an island lair. How so wrath-inspired one ignores, but later Athena ordered Perseus slay her.*14 In raging battle, guided by reflections in Athena’s shield to avoid Medusa’s deadly stare, he basely severed her head, some say wielding a harpa (sickle) offered by Hades, some, the sword of Hermes. image This time Melpomene may have dropped her mask, fleeing wobble-footed within high-soled kothornos.

“When she lay helpless in slumber’s power with even her serpent-hair slumber-bound,
I struck, severing her head”
. - Ovid’s stylus for Perseus

Escaping mad pursuit by Medusa’s hissing sisters breathless Perseus presented Athena the dripping trophy. But lo! Pegasos, Poseidon’s seed sprouted through the severed neck as a winged colt, plummeting incarnadine to the sea midst murder’s shrieking chaos. ‘’Alone by the surf-white water’’ Poseidon gaped on, unbidden sire of this immortal foal. Athena spiralled downwards snatching the newborn just in time from the chilling, churning tomb. Gently white as water-foam was the colt she caught. The heart of the unapproachable goddess twitched. His name, Pegasos, signified “ocean springs”. *7

"The double Berekyntian pipes droned a gruesome Libyan lament, one which long ago both Stheno and Euryale sounded hissing and weeping over Medusa, newly gashed, while their snakes from two hundred heads and from the lamentations of their curling and hissing hairs uttered the dirge of Medusa."   - shortened text of Nonnus, Dionysiaca

Athena in cruel refinement set Medusa’s ensnaked mien upon her person, sometimes centring it upon her magic shield — the aegis of Zeus — otherwise, upon her breast as Pausanias recounts. In vengeance, enraged Medusa flashed her sad killing eyes to transform mortals to stone. Thereafter Gorgon became a term describing Medusa’s head or its apotropaic mask, the likeness posed to terrify on shields, breastplates and even walls. It was the “Gorgoneion”, an image of horror. Henceforth Medusa’s gaze pursued mortal warriors upon battlefields as did Athena in battle-splendour, brandishing her aegis which ignored age or death. *1.
  "The betassled, terrible aegis ... and thereon is set grim Gorgon’s head, a thing
of fear and horror."
- Homer, Iliad
  Conflicting interpretations surround these events such as the slaying of Medusa representing a freeing of creative imagination placing Pegasos at its centre, or, the Gorgon’s death-gaze mirroring ones inner self. Some hold that Pegasos was born a horse since his father Poseidon chose this shape when seducing Medusa. Whatever the belief, all agreed upon Medusa’s motherhood of Pegasos upon her mortal death.  
  Nothing is known of Medusa’s feelings toward her son. Only artists reunite the two such as in Corfu, then called Kerkyra. image There, man granted the colt a place beside his ill-fated mother, set behind a lion at the solemn temple of archer-queen Artemis. Sicily repeats the maternal grasp . Reproducing such telling images in coinage was the district of Mysia, a land  confronting both the Marmara and Aegean seas. (see Lampsakos)  
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