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Medusa

Serpentine hair sets Medusa apart

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Medusa

Medusa in her "beautiful" form

turinboy/Flickr/CC BY 2.0
Medusa

Medusa - in her better known "monstrous" form.

Meet Medusa, one of the more unusual divine figures of ancient Greece. Is she all that's left of a more ancient and powerful goddess, or a demi-goddess at best? Here are some fast facts on Medusa.

Appearance: Usually only Medusa's head is shown, a broad round face sometimes showing tusks, with hair made of writhing snakes. Some believe this is based on what a partially-decomposed human skull looks like.

Medusa's Symbol or Attribute: Her gaze, which can turn observers into stone, and the hair-snakes.

Medusa's Strengths: Can stop anything in its tracks. Even her severed head will instantly turn anything into stone, including those who see it by accident.

Medusa's Weaknesses: Perseus was able to trick her and cut off her head.

Birthplace:Her exact birthplace in ancient Greece is not mentioned. As both her parents were divinities of the sea, she may have been born "at sea" without a specific location on land.

Family: One of a trio of 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 deities Phorcys and Ceto as the parents of the trio of Gorgons.

Spouse: Generally considered unmarried, though she did lie with Poseidon, and one account of her myth indicates the hero Perseus was her husband as well as her slayer.

Children: Pegasus, the winged horse, was said to have sprung from her severed head, along with Chrysaor, the hero of the golden sword.

Some Major Temple Sites: In modern times, her carved image adorns a rock off the coast of the popular Red Beach outside of Matala, Crete. In ancient times, she did not have any known temples.

Basic Story of Medusa: The hero Perseus, instructed by Athena, seeks Medusa's head. Athena tells him to only look at Medusa's reflection in his highly-polished shield. He obeys and succeeds in lopping off her head, which still retained its power to turn people into stone. An image of this head was placed on Athena's own armor or shown on her shield. By association, the image of Medusa was thought to be protective and it was used in a variety of ways on bronze objects, vases, and other items.

Medusa is enjoying something of a renaissance as she was featured in the "Clash of the Titans" movies, which have stimulated interest in her and in Greek mythology in general.

Interesting Fact: While Medusa is usually considered to be ugly, one myth states that it was her great beauty that paralyzed all observers.

Her "monstrous" form is believed by some scholars to represent a partially-decomposed human skull, when the teeth begin to show through the decaying lips.

Alternate Names and Spellings: Medousa, the Gorgon, Gorgen.

Clip Art for Medusa: Medusa Images

More Fast Facts on Greek Gods and Goddesses:

The 12 Olympians - Gods and Goddesses - Greek Gods and Goddesses - Temple Sites - The Titans - Aphrodite - Apollo - Ares - Artemis - Atalanta - Athena - Centaurs - Cyclopes - Demeter- Dionysos - Eros - Gaia - Hades - Helios - Hephaestus - Hera - Hercules - Hermes - Kronos - The Kraken - Medusa - Nike - Pan- Pandora - Pegasus - Persephone - Perseus - Poseidon - Rhea - Selene - Zeus.

Find books on Greek Mythology: Top Picks on Books on Greek Mythology
Planning your trip to Greece? Airfares to Greece

Pictures of other Greek Gods and Goddesses: Greek Deities Clip Art Images

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