The Story of Perseus
The popular hero of the Greek myths Perseus acquired particular fame
for his two heroic deeds - the victory over the Gorgon and the liberation
of Andromeda. The myths tell that the grandfather of Perseus, king Acrisios,
was predicted to die at the hand of his grandson. Acrisios imprisoned
his daughter Danae in a copper tower. But Zeus descended from the roof
in a shower of gold and in a due time Danae gave birth to a son. When
Acrisios heard the yell of a new-born baby he ordered to put Danae and
her son in a chest and cast it on the sea. But the gods saved the son
of Zeus - the waves brought the chest on to the coast of the Island of
Seriphos. Dictys, a fisherman, found Danae and Perseus and brought up
Perseus in his house. The king Polydectes having fallen in love with Danae
decided to send Perseus to kill the Gorgon Medusa and demanded her head.
The gods advised Perseus to go to the remote countries to see the Graiae,
three sisters who had one eye and one tooth between them and took them
in turn. Perseus took possession of both the eye and the tooth and exchanged
them for the secret, guarded by the Graiae. They showed him the way to
the Nymphs who had winged sandals, a cap that would make anybody invisible
and a magic bag.
Athena provided Perseus with a shield polished like a mirror and wisely
advised him how to avoid the magic gaze of Medusa turning everybody who
looked at her into stone. She told him to watch the reflection of the
Gorgon on the shield. Hermes gave Perseus a sharp sword. So Perseus flew
to the land's end where Medusa with her Gorgon sisters lived. He managed
to cut off the Medusa's head, to hide it in his bag and disappear from
the sight of the Gorgon sisters with the help of the cap of Hades. When
he flew across the sea he beheld Andromeda, daughter of the Ethiopian
king Cepheus, bound to the rock. A terrible sea-monster ready to tear
her to pieces was raising from the bottom of the sea. Poseidon sent the
sea-monster to devastate Ethiopia to take revenge on the queen Cassiopeia
for boasting that her daughter was more beautiful than all the Nereids.
Andromeda was the only one to be exposed as a prey to the monster and
to stop it from devastating the land of Cepheus, as the oracle said. Perseus
defeated him and married Andromeda. When he returned to Seriphos he protected
his mother from the claims of Polydectes by turning him into stone by
means of Medusa's head. The brother of Polydectes Dictys became the ruler
of the island.
The head of Medusa was presented by Perseus to Athena who put it on her
aegis. The prediction of the oracle to the king Acrisios came true - during
a discus-throwing gymnastic tournament Perseus badly wounded Acrisios.
The wound turned to be fatal.
Perseus in Flight
Breastplate with the Head of Medusa
Scythian. 4th century BC
Perseus and Andromeda
Mengs, Anton Raphael
Plate with Perseus and Andromeda