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Perseus & the Graeae

Perseus & the Graeae

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What Were the Graeae in Greek Mythology?

Who were the one-eyed sisters of the infamous Gorgons? Keep reading to learn all about the Graeae.

The Graeae, the Gray Ones, were a group of monstrous sisters in Greek mythology. Most authors agreed that there were three of them, all of whom were born as withered old crones.

The Graeae were certainly monstrous, but they did not entirely fit the pattern of other monsters in Greek mythology. They were not immediately violent and their deaths were not a major factor in the story.

Instead, the Graeae were side characters in the larger story of their famous sisters. The three Graeae were the siblings of the three Gorgons and featured in the story of Perseus.

While the Graeae were not as violent and deadly as their sisters, they were still unique and terrifying monsters in their own way. The fears they represented, however, were of a different type.

The intervention of the gods in the world of humans is an important theme in the story of Perseus. Zeus first intervenes by visiting Danaë in the form of a shower of gold and conceiving Perseus. Later, when Perseus is sent on an almost impossible mission to bring back the head of Medusa, Athena and Hermes intervene by providing him with weapons and armor. The inescapable nature of fate is also an important theme in the tale of Perseus. Acrisius tries to escape his fate on many occasions: he locks his daughter in a tower so she cannot have a child after she has a son, Acrisius seals both mother and son in a box and sends them out to sea and much later, when Acrisius discovers that Perseus is still alive, he flees to another region of Greece. In the end, Acrisius cannot escape his fate and is accidentally killed by his grandson during an athletic event.

Perseus was a popular hero in ancient Greek and Roman art, appearing frequently on pottery and in murals. He has been the subject of famous sculptures by Benvenuto Cellini, Antonio Canova, and Salvador Dali, and paintings by artists such as Piero di Cosimo and Edward Burne-Jones. In modern times, the myth of Perseus was used as the main storyline for the 1981 fantasy film Clash of the Titans, although some elements of the myth were changed. The actor who played Perseus in the movie, Harry Hamlin, also provided the voice of Perseus—this time portrayed as a villain—in the PlayStation 2 video game God of War II.


PERSEUS (Perseus). The famous Argive hero, was a son of Zeus and Danae, and a grandson of Acrisius (Hom. Il. xiv. 310 Hes. Scut. Herc. 229). Acrisius, who had no male issue, consulted the Pythian oracle, and received the answer, that if Danae should give birth to a son, he would kill his father. Acrisius, accordingly, shut up his daughter in a subterraneous apartment, made of brass or stone (Soph. Ant. 947 Lycoph. 838 Horat. Carm. iii. 16). But Zeus having metamorphosed himself into a shower of gold, came down upon her through the roof of the apartment, and became by her the father of Perseus. From this circumstance Perseus is sometimes called chrusopatros or aurigena (Lycoph. 838 Ov. Met. v. 250). When Acrisius discovered that Danaë had given birth to a son, he threw both mother and son into a chest, and put them out to sea but Zeus caused the chest to land in the island of Seriphos, one of the Cyclades, where Dictys, a fisherman, found them, and carried them to his brother, king Polydectes. According to a later or Italian tradition, the chest was carried to the coast of Italy, where king Pilumnus married Danaë, and founded Ardea (Virg. Aen. vii. 410 Serv. ad Aen. vii. 372) or Danaë is said to have come to Italy with two sons, Argus and Argeus, whom she had by Phineus, and took up her abode on the spot where Rome was afterwards built (Serv. ad Aen. viii. 345). But, according to the common story, Polydectes, king of Seriphos, made Danae his slave, and courted her favour, but in vain and in order to obtain the undisturbed possession of her, he sent off Perseus, who had in the meantime grown up to manhood, to the Gorgons, to fetch the head of Medusa, which he said he would give to Hippodameia as a wedding present (Tzetz. ad Lyc. 838). Another account again states that Polydectes married Danaë, and caused Perseus to be brought up in the temple of Athena. When Acrisius learnt this, he went to Polydectes, who, however, interfered on behalf of the boy, and the latter promised not to kill his grandfather. Acrisius. however, was detained in Seriphos by storms, and during that time Polydectes died. During the funeral gaines the wind carried a disk thrown by Perseus against the head of Acrisius, and killed him, whereupon Perseus proceeded to Argos and took possessions of the kingdom of his grandfather (Hygin. Fab. 63). But to return to the common tradition, Athena, with whom Medusa had ventured to contend for the prize of beauty, first showed to Perseus the head of Gorgo in images, near the town of Diecterion in Samos, and advised him to be unconcerned about the two immortal Gorgons, Stheno and Euryale. Perseus then went first to the Graeae, the sisters of the Gorgons, took from them their one tooth and their one eye, and did not restore them to the Graeae until they showed him the way to the nymphs or he cast the tooth and the eye into lake Triton, so that the Graeae were no longer able to guard the Gorgons (Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 12). The nymphs provided Perseus with winged sandals, a bag, and the helmet of Hades, which rendered him invisible, Hermes with a sickle, and Athena with a mirror (Hes. Scut. Her. 220, 222 Eurip. Elect. 460 Anthol. Palat. ix. 557 comp. Hygin. Poet. Astr. ii. 12 Theon, ad Arat. p. 29). Being thus armed, he went to the Gorgons, who dwelt near Tartessus on the coast of the Ocean, whose heads were covered, like those of serpents, with scales, and who had large tusks like boars, brazen hands, and golden wings. He found them asleep, and cut off the head of Medusa, looking at her figure through the mirror, for a look at the monster herself would have changed him into stone. Perseus put her head into the bag which he carried on his back, and as he went away, he was pursued by the winged Gorgons (Hes. Scut. Here. 230 Paus. v. 118. § 1). On his return he visited Aethiopia, where he saved and married Andromeda, by whom he became the father of Perses, whom he left with Cepheus. During this journey Perseus is also said to have come to the Hyperboreans, by whom he was hospitably received (Pind. Pyth. x. 50), and to Atlas, whom, by the head of Gorgo, he changed into the mountain of the same name (Ov. Met. iv. 655 Serv. ad Aen. iv. 246). Phineus, the brother of Cepheus, was likewise changed into stone, and when Perseus returned to Seriphos he found his mother with Dictys in the temple, whither she had fled from the embraces of Polydectes. Perseus found the latter at a repast, and metamorphosed him and all his guests, and, some say, the whole island, into stone (Pind. Pyth. xii. 21 Strab. x. p. 487), and presented the kingdom to Dictys. Perseus then gave the winged sandals and the helmet to Hermes, who restored them to the nymphs and to Hades, and Athena received the head of Gorgo, which was put on the shield or breast-plate of the goddess. Hereupon Perseus went to Argos, accompanied by Cyclopes, skilled in building (Schol. ad Eurip. Or. 953), by Danaë, and Andromeda. Acrisius, remembering the oracle, escaped to Larissa, in the country of the Pelasgians but Perseus followed him, in order to persuade him to return (Paus. ii. 16. § 6). Some writers state that Perseus, on his return to Argos. found Proetus who had expelled his brother Acrisius, in possession of the kingdom (Ov. Met. v. 236, &c.) Perseus slew Proetus, and was afterwards killed by Megapenthes, the son of Proetus, who avenged the death of his father. (Hygin. Fab. 244.) Some again relate that Proetus was expelled, and went to Thebes. (Schol. ad Eurip. Phoen. 1109.) But the common tradition goes on thus: when Teutamidas, king of Larissa, celebrated games in honour of his guest Acrisius, Perseus, who took part in them, accidentally hit the foot of Acrisius, and thus killed him. Acrisius was buried outside the city of Larissa, and Perseus, leaving the kingdom of Argos to Megapenthes, the son of Proetus, received from him in exchange the government of Tiryns. According to others, Perseus remained in Argos, and successfully opposed the introduction of the Bacchic orgies. (Paus. ii. 20. § 3, 22. § 1 comp. Nonn. Dionys. xxxi. 25.) Perseus is said to have founded the towns of Mideia and Mycenae. (Paus. ii. 15. § 4.) By Andromeda he became the father of Alcaeus, Sthenelus, Heleius, Mestor, Electryon, Gorgophone, and Autochthe, (Apollod. ii. 4. §§ 1-5 Tzetz. ad Lyc. 494, 838 Ov. Met. iv. 606, &c. Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. iv. 1091.) Perseus was worshipped as a hero in several places, e.g. between Argos and Mycenae, in Seriphos, and at Athens, where he had an altar in common with Dictys and Clymene. (Paus. ii. 18. § 1.) Herodotus (ii. 91) relates that a temple and a statue of Perseus existed at Chemnis in Egypt, and that the country was blessed whenever he appeared.

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

Marriage to Andromeda

On the way back to Seriphos Island, Perseus stopped in the kingdom of Ethiopia. This mythical Ethiopia was ruled by King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia, having boasted herself equal in beauty to the Nereids, drew down the vengeance of Poseidon, who sent an inundation on the land and a sea serpent, Cetus, which destroyed man and beast. The oracle of Ammon announced that no relief would be found until the king exposed his daughter Andromeda to the monster, and so she was fastened to a rock on the shore. Perseus slew the monster and, setting her free, claimed her in marriage.

In the classical myth, he flew using the flying sandals. Renaissance Europe and modern imagery has generated the idea that Perseus flew mounted on Pegasus (though not in the great paintings by Piero di Cosimo and Titian). [note 3]

Perseus turning Phineus and his followers to stone. 17th century painting by Luca Giordano.

Perseus married Andromeda in spite of Phineus, to whom she had before been promised. At the wedding a quarrel took place between the rivals, and Phineus was turned to stone by the sight of the Gorgon's head. ⎘] Andromeda ("queen of men") followed her husband to Tiryns in Argos, and became the ancestress of the family of the Perseidae who ruled at Tiryns through her son with Perseus, Perses. ⎙] After her death she was placed by Athena amongst the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia. [note 4] Sophocles and Euripides (and in more modern times Pierre Corneille) made the episode of Perseus and Andromeda the subject of tragedies, and its incidents were represented in many ancient works of art.

As Perseus was flying in his return above the sands of Libya, according to Apollonius of Rhodes, ⎚] the falling drops of Medusa's blood created a race of toxic serpents, one of whom was to kill the Argonaut Mopsus. On returning to Seriphos and discovering that his mother had to take refuge from the violent advances of Polydectes, Perseus killed him with Medusa's head, and made his brother Dictys, consort of Danaë, king.


Perseus was an ancient and legendary Greek and Roman hero while also being the demigod son of Zeus/Jupiter. His mother was Danae, the daughter of Acrisius, the king of Argos.

When a prophecy revealed to Acrisius that his grandson would kill him, Acrisius imprisoned his daughter Danae to keep her chaste. Zeus, however, fooled Acrisius' precautions by entering the prison disguised as a shower of gold. When Acrisius discovered that Danae had given birth to Perseus, he had the mother and the son thrown into the sea in a chest of wood.

Luckily they reached the island of Seriphos where the king Polydectes offered them hospitality and protection. Perseus was secretly raised on the island and became a courageous young man. Polydectes pretended to marry the daughter of his friend. Everybody had to bring a wedding present, including Perseus. However, Perseus, being poor, had not brought anything, and Polydectes pretended to be furious. After a heated discussion, Perseus said he would bring him anything the king would ask so Polydectes asked for the head of the Gorgon Medusa.

Perseus set forth on his adventure he wandered for days, searching for the Gorgons lair. One night, in an unknown country he realized how hopeless things were. Medusa was a horrible creature, who had snakes growing out of her head instead of hair, and a terrifying gaze that literary petrified anyone who would look into her eyes.

In his despair, a tall woman and a young man with winged sandals appeared and introduced themselves as Athena and Hermes. Hermes said that they were all siblings as Perseus was in fact the son of Zeus, so they would help him in his quest so Hermes offered him his winged sandals and the sickle that was used by Cronus to castrate Uranus while Athena gave him her shield, so that Perseus would not have to look straight into Medusa's eyes. They also gave him further information on how to find the lair of Medusa.

So Perseus went to the cave of the Graeae, who would lead him further in his adventure. The Graeae were three women who shared a single eye among them. So, when one of them was about to give the eye to one of the others, Perseus grabbed it and blackmailed them to aid him. So, the Graeae informed him that he should find the Nymphs of the North to get the Cap of Darkness which would make him invisible, as well as a magic bag.

After getting these two items, Perseus eventually went to the lair of Medusa and her sisters, whom he found sleeping. He wore the Helm of Darkness, and unseen managed to kill Medusa using the sickle he then used the shield to carry the head and place it into the magic bag, for even though it was dead, the head still have the potential to turn someone into stone. Medusa's sisters woke up and attacked Perseus, but he flew away using his winged sandals. On his way back to Seriphus, he had many adventures in one of them, he came across the Titan Atlas, who was condemned to carry the heavens on his shoulders. To release him of his pain, Perseus turned him into stone using Medusa's head, so that he would no longer feel the weight of his burden.

Later on, he saw what looked like a statue chained to a rock, so he went to investigate. He saw that it was not a statue, but a woman, and asked her why she was chained to the rock. "My name is Andromeda", she replied, "and I have been punished because of my vain mother. She boasted that I was more beautiful than the Nereids. Poseidon was angered and said that I must be sacrificed to a sea monster," she said. Even as she spoke a monster rose from the sea. Perseus pulled Medusa's head out of the bag the sea monster turned to stone and crumbled to pieces. Perseus cut Andromeda's chains and took her to her father, King Cepheus of Phoenicia. When Perseus asked Andromeda's hand in marriage, Cepheus gladly agreed. So, Perseus and Andromeda set off for Seriphus.

In Mythology


The King of Argos, Acrisius, visited the oracle of Delphi, in the hopes of having a male heir. However, upon arrival, he was shocked about what  the oracle said. He will be killed by his grandson. Acrisius promptly had his only daughter, Danae, imprisoned in a tower. However, Zeus, seeing Danae and stirred by her beauty, disguised himself as a shaft of golden sunlight and impregnated her. Acrisius, on finding out the news, contemplated his next move. For, if he were to murder his daughter, he would be cursed by the gods, particularly Zeus. He then decided to have her locked up in a chest and thrown into the sea. Danae prayed to Zeus to save her and her son. Zeus guided the chest onto the beach of the island of Seriphos, where she was found by a fisherman named Dictys. Dictys was the brother of Polydectes, King of the island. However, he preferred a much humbler and simpler life than his brother. Polydectes saw Danae and decided to marry her. However, Perseus, who grew into a strong, young man, opposed him.

The Quest for Medusa's Head

The next day, Polydectes held a feast. All his male subjects were ordered to bring a gift to the feast. Because Perseus was poor, he didn't have anything to give at the feast. Polydectes exiled him and ordered him to return only upon killing the only mortal Gorgon, Medusa, and bring back her head as a gift. He expected Perseus to die on this quest so he could live with his new wife in peace.

As soon as Perseus was out of sight of any mortals, two gods appeared: Hermes and Athena. Hermes gave Perseus a sword to slay the Gorgons with, and Athena presented him with a highly-polished shield - he was told to use this as a mirror, because if he looked directly at any of the Gorgons, he would be turned to stone. She also told him to go west and find the Gorgon's sisters, the Graeae - they were the only ones who knew where the Gorgons were.

A representation of one of the three Gorgon's heads

The Graeae (literally "gray ones") were three sister born as old ladies and shared a single eye and tooth amongst themselves. Perseus took the eye from them and threatened to pop it between his fingers if they didn't tell them where the Gorgons lived. They told him it was a swampy island with hardly any light, but just enough to see.

Before Perseus traveled to the island of the Gorgons, he first went to the land of Hyperborea where he received three special items: a magic wallet (to place Medusa's severed head in once she's vanquished), a pair of winged sandals (to travel back to his home), and an invisible cap (to hide himself from her immortal sisters, Euryale and Sthenno ).

Perseus landed on the island to find the three Gorgons laying on the ground sleeping (courtesy of Hypnos). Using the shield as a mirror, Perseus approached the sleeping Gorgons. When he was close enough, he brought the sword down upon Medusa's head, severing it from the body and having it roll and wake the other Gorgons. From her blood sprang the winged horse, Pegasus, and his human brother Chrysaor. He stuffed her head in his pouch, but the remaining Gorgons woke and flew at Perseus. He hid himself from them using the cap of darkness and then, using his winged sandles, he flew back home. It is said that when Perseus flew across the desert in Egypt, Medusa's blood leaked from the purse and touched the sand and created the poisonous snakes that live there today.

He arrived home during his mother's forced wedding. Polydectes, furious upon the hero's return, ordered him to present the head as a wedding gift. Perseus yelled, "Mother, cover your eyes!" He then pulled Medusa's head out of his pouch and turned everyone to stone. He then went to Athena's temple and gave the goddess the shield with Medusa's image etched on it, which she named the Aegis. Then he threw Medusa's head into the ocean where it drifted across the sea, creating coral on the way.


On his way home from his quest, Perseus passed by the land of Aethiopia where he saw Andromeda, the daughter of Cepheus and Cassiopeia (king and queen of Aethiopis), chained to a rock by the sea. He freed her and killed the sea monster that was about to eat Andromeda by showing the monster Medusa's severed head, instantly turning it to stone. After saving the king's daughter and Aethiopia from the sea monster's wrath, the king gave consent to Perseus to marry Andromeda. 

The sea monster was Cetus, sent by Poseidon in revenge for Cassiopeia saying Andromeda was more beautiful than his wife, Amphitrite.

Death of Acrisius

Perseus later returned to Greece, where he decided to compete in the Olympics, in Olympia. Also attending were many royals, in particular, King Acrisius. As Acrisius sat down in the stands, the discus event was beginning. Perseus, competing at the time, threw the discus with such force it flew into the stands and inadvertently killed Acrisius, thus fulfilling the oracle's prophecy. Perseus, in shame, traded his kingdom of Argos, for that of his cousin Megapenthes'. Thus Perseus, now King of Tiryns and Mycenae (which he founded), married Andromeda and had many children and grandchildren, who frequently intermarried with the descendants of Pelops.

Now having knowledge of where Medusa was to be found, Perseus made use of Hermes’ sandals to make his way to Samos. Outside of a cavern, Perseus would find stone statues of animals and men, victims of Medusa’s stony gaze.

Perseus entered the lair of the Medusa, and made his way close to the monster. The reflective nature of Athena’s shield allowed Perseus to locate the Gorgon without being turned to stone, and when within reached, the Greek hero swing the sword of Hermes, decapitating Medusa. Perseus then took up the head of Medusa and placed it in the satchel.

The remaining two Gorgons, Euryale and Stheino, became aware of the presence of Perseus and gave chase to the slayer of their sister, but the winged sandals of Hermes, and the helmet of Hades, allowed Perseus to escape.

Perseus & the Graeae - History

THE Graeae were three sisters who were gray-haired from their birth, whence their name. The Gorgons were monstrous females with huge teeth like those of swine, brazen claws, and snaky hair. None of these beings make much figure in mythology except Medusa, the Gorgon, whose story we shall next advert to. We mention them chiefly to introduce an ingenious theory of some modern writers, namely, that the Gorgons and Graeae were only personifications of the terrors of the sea, the former denoting the strong billows of the wide open main, and the latter the white-crested waves that dash against the rocks of the coast. Their names in Greek signify the above epithets.


Perseus was the son of Jupiter and Danae. His grandfather Acrisius, alarmed by an oracle which had told him that his daughter's child would be the instrument of his death, caused the mother and child to be shut up in a chest and set adrift on the sea. The chest floated towards Seriphus, where it was found by a fisherman who conveyed the mother and infant to Polydectes, the king of the country, by whom they were treated with kindness. When Perseus was grown up Polydectes sent him to attempt the conquest of Medusa, a terrible monster who had laid waste the country. She was once a beautiful maiden whose hair was her chief glory but as she dared to vie in beauty with Minerva, the goddess deprived her of her charms and changed her beautiful ringlets into hissing serpents. She became a cruel monster of so frightful an aspect that no living thing could behold her without being turned into stone. All around the cavern where she dwelt might be seen the stony figures of men and animals which had chanced to catch a glimpse of her and had been petrified with the sight. Perseus, favoured by Minerva and Mercury, the former of whom lent him her shield and the latter his winged shoes, approached Medusa while she slept and taking care not to look directly at her, but guided by her image reflected in the bright shield which he bore, he cut off her head and gave it to Minerva, who fixed it in the middle of her AEgis.

Milton, in his "Comus," thus alludes to the AEgis:

"What thus snaky-headed Gorgon-shield
That wise Minerva wore, unconquered virgin,
Wherewith she freezed her foes to congealed stone,
But rigid looks of chaste austerity,
And noble grace that dashed brute violence
With sudden adoration and blank awe!"

Armstrong, the poet of the "Art of Preserving Health," thus describes the effect of frost upon the waters:

"Now blows the surly North and chills throughout
The stiffening regions, while by stronger charms
Than Circe e'er or fell Medea brewed,
Each brook that wont to prattle to its banks
Lies all bestilled and wedged betwixt its banks,
Nor moves the withered reeds.
The surges baited by the fierce North-east,
Tossing with fretful spleen their angry heads,
E'en in the foam of all their madness struck
To monumental ice.


After the slaughter of Medusa, Perseus, bearing with him the head of the Gorgon, flew far and wide, over land and sea. As night came on, he reached the western limit of the earth, where the sun goes down. Here he would gladly have rested till morning. It was the realm of King Atlas, whose bulk surpassed that of all other men. He was rich iii flocks and herds and had no neighbour or rival to dispute his state. But his chief pride was in his gardens whose fruit was of gold, hanging from golden branches, half hid with golden leaves. Perseus said to him, "I come as a guest. If you honour illustrious descent, I claim Jupiter for my father if mighty deeds, I plead the conquest of the Gorgon. I seek rest and food." But Atlas remembered that an ancient prophecy had warned him that a son of Jove should one day rob him of His golden apples. So he answered, "Begone! or neither your false claims of glory nor parentage shall protect you" and he attempted to thrust him out. Perseus, finding the giant too strong for him, said, "Since you value my friendship so little, deign to accept a present" and turning his face away, he held up the Gorgon's head. Atlas, with all his bulk, was changed into stone. His beard and hair became forests, his arms and shoulders cliffs, his head a summit, and his bones rocks. Each part increased in bulk till be became a mountain, and (such was the pleasure of the gods) heaven with all its stars rests upon his shoulders.

Perseus, continuing his flight, arrived at the country of the AEthiopians, of which Cepheus was king. Cassiopeia his queen, proud of her beauty, had dared to compare herself to the Sea-nymphs, which roused their indignation to such a degree that they sent a prodigious sea-monster to ravage the coast. To appease the deities, Cepheus was directed by the oracle to expose his daughter Andromeda to be devoured by the monster. As Perseus looked down from his aerial height he beheld the virgin chained to a rock, and waiting the approach of the serpent. She was so pale and motionless that if it had not been for her flowing tears and her hair that moved in the breeze, he would have taken her for a marble statue. He was so startled at the sight that he almost forgot to wave his wings. As he hovered over her he said, "O virgin, undeserving of those chains, but rather of such as bind fond lovers together, tell me, I beseech you, your name, and the name of your country, and why you are thus bound." At first she was silent from modesty, and, if she could, would have hid her face with her hands but when he repeated his questions, for fear she might be thought guilty of some fault which she dared not tell, she disclosed her name And that of her country, and her mother's pride of beauty. Before she had done speaking, a sound was heard off upon the water, and the sea-monster appeared, with his head raised above the surface, cleaving the waves with his broad breast. The virgin shrieked, the father and mother who had now arrived at the scene, wretched both, but the mother more justly so, stood by, not able to afford protection, but only to pour forth lamentations and to embrace the victim. Then spoke Perseus "There will be time enough for tears this hour is all we have for rescue. My rank as the son of Jove and my renown as the slayer of the Gorgon might make me acceptable as a suitor but I will try to win her by services rendered, if the gods will only be propitious. If she be rescued by my valour, I demand that she be my reward." The parents consent (how could they hesitate?) and promise a royal dowry with her.

And now the monster was within the range of a stone thrown by a skilful slinger, when with a sudden bound the youth soared into the air. As an eagle, when from his lofty flight he sees a serpent basking in the sun, pounces upon him and seizes him by the neck to prevent him from turning his head round and using his fangs, so the youth darted down upon the back of the monster and plunged his sword into its shoulder. Irritated by the wound, the monster raised himself into the air, then plunged into the depth then, like a wild boar surrounded by a pack of barking dogs, turned swiftly from side to side, while the youth eluded its attacks by means of his wings. Wherever he can find a passage for his sword between the scales he makes a wound, piercing now the side, now the flank, as it slopes towards the tail. The brute spouts from his nostrils water mixed with blood. The wings of the hero are wet with it, and he dares no longer trust to them. Alighting on a rock which rose above the waves, and holding on by a projecting fragment, as the monster floated near he gave him a death stroke. The people who had gathered on the shore shouted so that the hills reechoed with the sound. The parents, transported with joy, embraced their future son-in-law, calling him their deliverer and the saviour of their house, and the virgin, both cause and reward of the contest, descended from the rock.

Cassiopeia was an AEthiopian, and consequently, in spite of her boasted beauty, black at least so Milton seems to have thought, who alludes to this story in his "Penseroso," where he addresses Melancholy as the

". goddess, sage and holy,
Whose saintly visage is too bright
To hit the sense of human sight,
And, therefore, to our weaker view,
O'erlaid with black, staid Wisdom's hue.
Black, but such as in esteem
Prince Memnon's sister might beseem.
Or that starred AEthiop queen that strove
To set her beauty's praise above
The sea-nymphs, and their powers offended."

Cassiopeia is called "the starred AEthiop, queen" because after her death she was placed among the stars, forming the constellation of that name. Though she attained this honour, yet the Sea-Nymphs, her old enemies, prevailed so far as to cause her to be placed in that part of the heaven near the pole, where every night she is half the time held with her head downward, to give her a lesson of humility.

Memnon was an AEthiopian prince, of whom we shall tell in a future chapter.


The joyful parents, with Perseus and Andromeda, repaired to the palace, where a banquet was spread for them, and all was joy and festivity. But suddenly a noise was heard of warlike clamour, and Phineus, the betrothed of the virgin, with a party of his adherents, burst in, demanding the maiden as his own. It was in vain that Cepheus remonstrated- "You should have claimed her when she lay bound to the rock, the monster's victim. The sentence of the gods dooming her to such a fate dissolved all engagements, as death itself would have done." Phineus made no reply, but hurled his javelin at Perseus, but it missed its mark and fell harmless. Perseus would have thrown his in turn, but the cowardly assailant ran and took shelter behind the altar. But his act was a signal for an onset by his hand upon the guests of Cepheus. They defended themselves and a general conflict ensued, the old king retreating from the scene after fruitless expostulations, calling the gods to witness that he was guiltless of this outrage on the rights of hospitality.

Perseus and his friends maintained for some time the unequal contest but the numbers of the assailants were too great for them, and destruction seemed inevitable, when a sudden thought struck Perseus,- "I will make my enemy defend me." Then with a loud voice he exclaimed, "If I have any friend here let him turn away his eyes!" and held aloft the Gorgon's head. "Seek not to frighten us with your jugglery," said Thescelus, and raised his javelin in the act to throw, and became stone in the very attitude. Ampyx was about to plunge his sword into the body of a prostrate foe, but his arm stiffened and he could neither thrust forward nor withdraw it. Another, in the midst of a vociferous challenge, stopped, his mouth open, but no sound issuing. One of Perseus's friends, Aconteus, caught sight of the Gorgon and stiffened like the rest. Astyages struck him with his sword, but instead of wounding, it recoiled with a ringing noise.

Phineus beheld this dreadful result of his unjust aggression, and felt confounded. He called aloud to his friends, but got no answer he touched them and found them stone. Falling on his knees and stretching out his hands to Perseus, but turning his head away, he begged for mercy. "Take all," said he, "give me but my life." "Base coward," said Perseus, "thus much I will grant you no weapon shall touch you moreover, you shall be preserved in my house as a memorial of these events." So saying, he held the Gorgon's head to the side where Phineus was looking, and in the very form which he knelt, with his hands outstretched and face averted, he became fixed immovably, a mass of stone!

The following allusion to Perseus is from Milman's "Samor":

"As 'mid the fabled Libyan bridal stood
Perseus in stern tranquillity of wrath,
Half stood, half floated on his ankle-plumes
Out-swelling, while the bright face on his shield
Looked into stone the raging fray so rose,
But with no magic arms, wearing alone
Th' appalling and control of his firm look,
The Briton Samor at his rising awe
Went abroad, and the riotous hall was mute."

Perseus, hero of necessity

Now that we’ve finished with the labours of Hercules, let’s look at another Greek hero: Persesus, who was Hercules’ ancestor. Acrisius, the king of Argos, was warned by a soothsayer that he would be killed by his daughter’s son. To save his life, the king imprisoned his daughter Danae in a huge tower. But Danae’s beauty drew the eyes of the king of gods, Zeus. He visited her as a golden shower of rain. Of their union was born Perseus.

When Acrisius found that Danae had borne a son despite his precautions, he put mother and baby into a huge chest and threw it into the sea.

After many days, the chest came ashore at the island of Seriphos, and Danae and Persues were rescued by a fisherman names Dictys. Perseus grew into a strong, handsome young man, but Dictys’ brother Polydectes, the king of the island, wanted to get rid of Perseus so that he could carry away Danae. As part of his plan, he held a big dinner at which people had to bring him expensive gifts. Perseus, who was invited, couldn’t bring anything. Polydectes humiliated him and an angry Perseus swore that he would bring the king the head of Medusa, the gorgon.

Off on a quest

Perseus asked Dictys to look after his mother and set out on his quest. On the way, he met the god Hermes who gave him a pair of winged sandals that would carry him anywhere and a helmet that would make him invisible. The goddess Athena gave him a special sword that would cut the gorgon’s neck, a highly polished shield through which he should see the gorgon, and a bag to hide the head. They also told him to seek out the Graeae, three sisters who had but one eye between them, to find out the way to the gorgon’s lair.

Once Perseus reached the cave where the Graeae lived, he hid himself. The three old women were huddled around the fire passing the eye to each other. Perseus watched for his chance and grabbed the eye. This forced the women to tell him how to reach Medusa’s home.

When he got there, Medusa and her sisters were asleep. Perseus put on his helmet and held up the shield so he could use the image reflected on its surface. He cut off her head, put the severed head in the bag and flew away before Medusa’s sisters realised what had happened.

Who was Medusa?

Medusa was a beautiful woman who was cursed by Athena for profaning her temple. Her hair was turned into snakes her face acquired a greenish tinge and her expression would turn anyone who looked on her into stone. She had two sisters, Sthenno and Euryale

Watch the video: Perseus Against the Monsters 1963 With English Subtitles (August 2022).