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Medusa in Greek Myth: A Rape Victim Became a Monster

Medusa in Greek Myth: A Rape Victim Became a Monster

Being the inspiration for many modern blockbuster, Medusa has gained so much fame since then. Most of the time, modern movies and books will choose Medusa to be the villain from whom the hero will somehow slay. Her power and appearance in such artwork result in the common knowledge that Medusa is a monster. To a certain extent, she is. But Medusa in Greek Myth used to be a rape victim before becoming a monster. Should this change our viewpoint about Medusa?

Medusa in Greek Myth

In Greek mythology, Medusa had two more sisters who were Sthenno and Euryale. Both of her sisters were immortal and she was not. In Metamorphoses by Ovid, Medusa appeared to be a beautiful maiden. She was beautiful and shining in her youthful age. Her beauty drew the attention of many men and it finally caught the eye of Poseidon god of sea. The beauty of Medusa, of course, made women around the cosmos jealous.

Poseidon desired Medusa so much that he abused her in the sacred temple of Athena. This was an insult to Athena. She was mad as hell that she cursed the beautiful Medusa. She turned the hair of Medusa into the snakes. Athena cursed that anyone who looked at the eyes of Medusa would turn stone.

The Death of Medusa in Greek Myth

One famous tale of Medusa was her death. But this tale does not revolve much about her. Rather, it revolves around the hero Perseus who was in his prime of youth. Perseus was actually the son of Zeus but he lived in the human world.

Medusa used to be a beautiful maiden until Poseidon violated her
Medusa used to be a beautiful maiden until Poseidon violated her

King Polydectes of Seriphus fell for Perseus’s so hard that he wanted to have her. For Perseus didn’t agree this love affair, King Polydectes came up with an idea to urge Perseus to go and kill Medusa and become a hero. The King hoped he could rid of this young Perseus for good. But he forgot Perseus was the son of Zeus.

On his journey to behead Medusa, Perseus was aided by the gods. He received many gifts from the gods: the shining shield of Athena, the Cap of invisibility of Hades, the flying sandals of Hermes, and the sword of Hephaestus.

The shining shield of Athena mirrored Medusa. Perseus caught the opportunity and beheaded Medusa with the magical sword. From the body of Medusa sprang out two mythological figures: Pegasus, a winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword. At the time, she was carrying the baby of Poseidon.

Statue of Perseus beheading Medusa in Greek Myth
Statue of Perseus beheading Medusa

Perseus kept the head of Medusa as a talisman in his upcoming combat. At the end of the day, he gave the head of Medusa to Athena who placed the head in her shield.

The symbol of protection and love with no way back

No one could deny the fact that Medusa is a dangerous monster. For turning a lively person into stone with a look seems to scare people off.

But Medusa has become a symbol of protection and this is undoubted. The head of Medusa helps to scare the evil off. That is why Athena put Medusa’s head in her shield. Archaeologists unearthed some artifacts resembling Medusa’s head dating back to the 2nd and 4th century. Coins of Perseus holding the head of Medusa also revealed themselves after centuries resting under the surface.

Versace's logo inspired by Medusa's head
Versace’s logo inspired by Medusa’s head

In this day and age, the most famous appearance of Medusa was the Versace’s logo. Versace was a fashion company. The Italian founder of the company, Gianni Versace, explained why he chose Medusa to be his company’s logo. It is because Medusa in Greek myth made people love her without a way back. Once falling for Medusa, even Poseidon could not resist the temptation. This is the core success that Versace company has been attempting to achieve.

Why Athena punished Medusa in Greek myth instead of Poseidon?

It has been an interesting topic to discuss when it comes to why Athena punished Medusa the victim of the rape.

When Poseidon was approaching Medusa, she ran away to the nearest building. Incidentally, the building she came in was the shrine of Athena. Poseidon managed to catch and violate her despite her refusal. In her despair, Medusa called out Athena for help but it backfired. As Athena did appear. But she didn’t help. She felt an insult instead and was determined to punish Medusa for insulting her altar.

The first reason for why Athena punished Medusa instead of Poseidon is: she could not punish Poseidon. After all, Poseidon was the chief god of the sea. Only Zeus could have a chance to punish Poseidon for what he did. Athena the goddess of war could not. That is not to mention Poseidon was the uncle of Athena.

The second reason which scholars theorized: Athena’s teaching to humanity. Beauty is the source of struggle.

The third reason might be that gods found their great pleasure in punishing other. Gods are cruel in many mythologies. Most stories told gods punishing humanity just because they liked it.

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