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Greek Mythology: Who is Medusa?
The origins of Medusa are little known in modern society although she is easily recognisable due to her numerous references in Art, Music and Literature. She is known as being the headless petrified woman an image some find disturbing.
Medusa, in Greek mythology, a mortal woman who was transformed into a Gorgon, a dragon-like creature with snakes for hair. According to myth, Medusa was once a lovely maiden, but when she dared compete with Athena—either by taking too much pride in her hair or by having a love affair with the god Poseidon—the vengeful goddess turned Medusa into a monster. Medusa’s head was then so hideous that anyone who looked at it was turned to stone.
Medusa was eventually slain by Perseus, who cut off her head with the assistance of Athena and Hermes.
Because Perseus dared not look at Medusa, Athena guided his hand while he viewed the reflection of Medusa’s head in his shield. The severed head was given to Athena, who is sometimes depicted with the head of Medusa on her shield. After Medusa’s death the winged horse Pegasus—her son by Poseidon, who had disguised himself as a horse—sprang from the blood that gushed from her neck.
Medusa has been portrayed many times in art. In earlier art she is shown as a Gorgon, always hideous, with a huge mouth and lolling tongue. If given a body, she is shown running. Later artists made Medusa beautiful.
Particularly famous pieces of art include a sculpture by Salvador Dali which depicts Persues the slayer of Medusa holding her head. The famous painter also depicted Medusa in a canvas painting although it did survive.
In literature Medusa is referenced in a poem by the Famous confessional Poet Sylvia Plath in her collection Ariel.