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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
Ancient Rome

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Breastplate with the Head of Medusa
Scythian. 4th century BC

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Perseus and Andromeda
Mengs, Anton Raphael

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Plate with Perseus and Andromeda
Italy, Urbino
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Perseus and Andromeda
Rubens, Pieter Paul
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