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Medusa and Perseus

Corfu Medusa
Medusa herself, from the pediment
of the Temple of Artemis on Corfu, about 600 BC

According to one version of the Greek story, Medusa was once a lovely young girl who had a boyfriend she loved very much. One afternoon she and her boyfriend were looking for a place where they could be alone, and they went into a temple of the goddess Athena. Seeing that nobody else was there, they sat down to talk, and soon they started to kiss.

Athena, looking down from the sky, saw Medusa kissing her boyfriend, and Athena was very angry that they would use her temple this way. Athena made Medusa grow very ugly, and have snakes instead of hair.

Medusa's sisters
Medusa's sisters, from an Athenian
Proto-Geometric vase about 675-650 BC

Medusa's boyfriend ran away, frightened.

After that Medusa went away from other people and hid herself, and she lived with her sisters (who had also gotten ugly) for many years. They were so ugly that if you looked at them you would turn into a stone statue!

Greek storytellers think that if you're ugly, it means you're also bad, or the gods don't like you. Find examples from modern television shows of the same (wrong) thinking.

More about Medusa (Perseus)

Bibliography and further reading about Medusa:

Snake Hair: The Story of Medusa (All Aboard Books Reading Level 2)
by Stephanie Spinner and Susan Swan. A beginning reader book, just a few sentences on each page, and big pictures done with paper collage. My daughter and I loved this one.

Say Cheese, Medusa! Myth-O-Mania, by Kate McMullan (2002). A "cool" retelling of the story, with a lot of puns.

D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths, by Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire.

Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, by Stephen R. Wilk (1999). For adults. Traces the story of Medusa using the ancient sources (writing and art) and then through the centuries to modern times.

More about Medusa and Perseus
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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