The True Story Of Medusa (Gorgo) In Greek Mythology

In Greek mythology, Medusa meaning ("guardian, protectress") also called Gorgo, was one of the three monstrous Gorgons, generally described as winged human females with living venomous snakes in place of hair. Those who gazed into her eyes would turn to stone. Most sources describe her as the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, although the author Hyginus makes her the daughter of Gorgon and Ceto. According to Hesiod and Aeschylus, she lived and died on an island named Sarpedon, somewhere near Cisthene.

The True Story Of Medusa In Greek Mythology


One of three Gorgon sisters, Medusa was the only one who was not immortal. The other two sisters were Stheno and Euryale. Gaia is sometimes said to be the mother of Medusa; other sources cite the early sea deities Phorcys and Ceto as the parents of the trio of Gorgons. It is generally believed that she was born at sea. The Greek poet Hesiod wrote that Medusa lived close to the Hesperides in the Western Ocean near Sarpedon. Herodotus the historian said her home was Libya.

Medusa When She Was Beautiful
Medusa When She Was Beautiful - Bing Images

In a late version of the Medusa myth, related by the Roman poet Ovid (Metamorphoses 4.770), Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, "the jealous aspiration of many suitors," but because Poseidon (one of the Twelve Olympians in ancient Greek religion and myth, god of the sea, storms, earthquakes and horses) had raped her in Athena'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 story

The god Neptune sees Medusa, desires her, and decides that, because he is a god, he is entitled to her body. He rapes her in Minerva’s temple, and Minerva, incensed that her temple has been defiled, punishes the victim rather than the perpetrator. Minerva transforms Medusa into a snake-haired monster who now, instead of inspiring men’s desire, literally petrifies them.


In Ovid's telling, Perseus describes Medusa's punishment by Minerva (Athena) as just and well earned.

Who killed Medusa

perseus holding medusa's head
Perseus holding medusa's head

Perseus was the one who killed Medusa by beheading her in her cave. Who was Perseus? He was the son of Danae and Zeus. Danae was locked in a bronze chamber by her father Acrisius, however Zeus impregnated her by turning into shower of gold. Acrisius however locked both Danae and Perseus in a chest and threw them in the sea. They were saved by Dictys and Perseus was raised by him. Dictys had a brother, Polydectes that fell in love with Danae and he wanted to marry her but Perseus didn’t allow. Polydectes wanted to get rid of him and organized a banquet and demanded that everyone should bring a horse as a gift. Perseus didn’t have one and Polydectes told him that he has to bring him Medusa’s head.

How was Medusa killed by Perseus

medusa's head
Medusa's head

In most versions of the story, she was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who was sent to fetch her head by King Polydectes of Seriphus because Polydectes wanted to marry Perseus's mother. The gods were well aware of this, and Perseus received help. He received a mirrored shield from Athena, gold, winged sandals from Hermes, a sword from Hephaestus and Hades's helm of invisibility. Since Medusa was the only one of the three Gorgons who was mortal, 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. When Perseus beheaded her, Pegasus, a winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword, sprang from her body.

Pegasus, a winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword, sprang from Medusa's body

What did Perseus do with Medusa's head after cutting it?

perseus holding medusa's head

According to Ovid, in northwest Africa, Perseus flew past the Titan Atlas, who stood holding the sky aloft, and transformed him into stone when he tried to attack him. When Perseus asked Atlas for a place to rest for a short while, his request was refused. Knowing that he would not be able to defeat the Titan with brute force alone, he took out Medusa’s head and Atlas was turned into a mountain.

Titan Atlas
Titan Atlas vs Perseus

In a similar manner, the corals of the Red Sea were said to have been formed of Medusa's blood spilled onto seaweed when Perseus laid down the petrifying head beside the shore during his short stay in Ethiopia where he saved and wed his future wife, the lovely princess Andromeda. Furthermore, the poisonous vipers of the Sahara were said to have grown from spilt drops of her blood. The blood of Medusa also spawned the Amphisbaena (a horned dragon-like creature with a snake-headed tail).

The blood of Medusa also spawned the Amphisbaena
The blood of Medusa also spawned the Amphisbaena

Perseus then flew to Seriphos, where his mother was being forced into marriage with the king, Polydectes, who was turned into stone by the head.


Perseus gave Medusa’s head to Athena, who wears it on her aegis whenever she goes into battle.

athena's shield
Athena's shield

The Medusa story has also been interpreted in contemporary art as a classic case of rape-victim blaming, by the Goddess Athena. Inspired by the #metoo movement, contemporary figurative artist Judy Takács returns Medusa's beauty along with a hashtag stigmata in her portrait, #Me(dusa)too.

In the 20th century, feminists reassessed Medusa's appearances in literature and in modern culture, including the use of Medusa as a logo 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 malevolence; despite her origins as a beauty, the name in common usage "came to mean monster.

When Medusa pops up in pop culture today, her deeper significance is largely ignored. For example, in the 2010 film adaptation of Clash of the Titans, Perseus rallies his men before confronting Medusa: “I know we’re all afraid. But my father told me: Someday, someone was gonna have to take a stand. Someday, someone was gonna have to say enough! This could be that day. Trust your senses. And don't look this bitch in the eye.” In the film, Perseus knows Medusa has been raped, but she’s nonetheless treated with indifference by the plot, and with hostility by the other characters.

Video Illustration of Medusa


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