Medusa The Story : From Greek mythology to the famous brand Versace
As shown by the abundance of monuments, works of art, and the entire literary tradition from Homer to the works of modern mythographers, Greek mythology is one of the richest in existence. A quick examination of its various information may lead one to believe that these more or less marvelous legends present themselves as a coherent whole, which would have been codified and ordered by time to be easily understood by a modern mind and frozen once and for all. This is not the case, because the study of mythology is increasingly fertile and leads to constant and regular progress thanks to the discoveries of archaeology, linguistics, or ethnology, just as the interpretation of these myths is in constant evolution.
The mythology of classical antiquity includes a very large number of gods, goddesses, demigods, or heroes. Each natural power can be represented by a deity. Also, there are multiple and divergent sources on the history of deities. As Pausanias wrote in his Periegetic "Greek stories usually have several versions and this is especially true for genealogy." The variety of these stories, all the greater as each, due to the ethnic fragmentation of Greece, can present several variants, their very contradictions, sometimes their inconsistency from one legend to another, reflect the vitality of the Greek genius, who sees in the history of his gods and heroes a living and unchangeable matter.
The Romans adopted the Greek gods and their legends. This is why the same record is generally used by both civilizations. However, some gods were specifically Roman and you can find the list in the cards dedicated to Rome. A whole card tries to give a concise but as clear as possible representation of the (complex) genealogy and a good number of cards give a simplified overview of the filiation of gods and heroes. A dictionary of characters from Greek mythology is currently being compiled.
NOW LET'S TALK ABOUT MEDUSA
Who is Medusa? First, we're going to trace the origin of Medusa. Phorcys is one of the sons of Pontos (the Float) and Gaia (the Earth), although Orphic fragments make him the seventh Titan, and Plato ranks him among the children of Ouranos and Gaia. Married to his sister, Céto, he has many children, all hideous monsters known as Phorcydes. Among them are the Nymphs, the Gorgonians, the Greens. Representations and ancient texts do not always agree in their way of saying or revealing the myth. Medusa has been over-represented over the Story. So we will limit this blog to ancient sources and Greek iconography, which are sufficiently numerous and fertile for the knowledge of myths. There are thousands of them. The Greek architectural 🏺 decoration indeed makes it possible to identify Medusa and the observer can pass in front of it without the risk of being petrified…😅 Medusa is recognized through the subterfuge of the mirror, an object without a body, which, by revealing its identity, becomes deadly.
Medusa Greek mythology story
In Antiquity, Medusa is associated with episodes from the life of Perseus mentioned in many Greek literary traditions. Perseus is the son of Danae whom Zeus impregnated in the form of a shower of gold. A few years later, at a banquet, Polydectes, the king of the island of Seriphos, was offered various gifts: Perseus offers him the head of Medusa It was crazy! But the challenge is difficult to take up because the Gorgonians live hidden, and one of them, Medusa, has the power to turn anyone who looks at her into stone (that’s scary). To complete the challenge, Perseus must first meet the three sisters of the Gorgonians. Born already old, they have only one tooth 🦷 and one eye that they must share. These women are little known and very little represented in mythology.
This unique eye 👀 allows the sisters to live alternately in a state of wakefulness or sleep. Perseus caught the eye and used blackmail to get what he wanted. However, the Greens cannot separate themselves from this magic eye which alerts them in case of danger. Under duress, they have no choice but to give up the helmet of Hades. The alerted eye is exchanged for this helmet which makes invisible. Finally, the old women inform Perseus about the place where the Nymphs are hiding, the only ones who know the lair of the Gorgonians. In their turn, the Nymphs offer the young man winged boots 🥾 and a kibisis, a satchel, where he will place the Gorgon's head. The hero goes to the land of Hesperides where the Gorgon lives. Then he either kills Medusa in his sleep or he does so with a shield held by Athena. On his way back to Seriphos he learns that King Polydectes wanted to rape his mother Danae. He takes out Medusa's head and holds it out in front of him without looking at it, the king and the audience petrify.
All these episodes were represented on the Greek vases. As early as the first third of the 7th century B.C., a neck amphora 🏺 from Eleusis shows Gorgô decapitated while the other two Gorgons chase Perseus to avenge their sister. One of the greatest writers of the time, Homer gave a little more detail. The two sisters are always represented winged, legs in profile, bust, and face. The head is monstrous: mouth open and tongue pulled out, the eyes are protruding and the nose camouflaged. Medusa's body lies on the ground, her head is thrown into the kibisis: Perseus's sack. The vases illustrate different variants of the myth and even precede the literary 📖 tradition, which the Greek tragedies of Sophocles and Euripides were to develop in the 5th century PC.
Pegasus and Chrysaor bore the children of Medusa who was pregnant at the time of her death. With the help of Athena and Hermes who had given him several weapons including sandals with magic wings, a helmet, a holster, and a mirror-shaped shield, he fought the Gorgon and managed to decapitate it by making Medusa look into the mirror of his shield. From his beheaded head sprang the winged horse Pegasus and the giant Chrysaor. Medusa's sisters, the Gorgonians, then pursued Perseus but were unable to catch him because his magic helmet made him invisible.
Why does she have snake hair?
There's a myth that Medusa was a young woman too proud of her hair. She was dating Poseidon. They kissed in a temple of Athena. This event offended Athena, jealous of Medusa. In revenge, she changed her hair into snakes. 🐍
The most important characteristics of the Gorgon.
Now let's focus in detail on the physical appearance of this mythological character 🐍 as well as some peculiarities that deserve to be mentioned. Thus, Medusa in Mythology has a series of characteristics that make her unique and very recognizable:
- Instead of hair, her head is covered with snakes: as we have seen before, Aphrodite, jealous, decided to take her hair away as it is a clear sign of beauty and femininity.
- She can kill with just a glance: Athena, angry about the relationship between Medusa and Poseidon in her temple, gave him a light in her eyes that is capable of petrifying the one who looks at her and therefore kills him instantly.
- Her blood was used as a poison: the gods of Olympus kept Medusa's blood as a powerful poison to kill any enemy
- Her head was used as a shield: Athena kept Medusa's head because, even though she was dead, her eyes still petrified people; so the Goddess decided to use it as a powerful shield
- The head ended up becoming an amulet: due to Athena's use of Medusa's head, it eventually became a protective amulet among Greek civilization
- These are the characteristics of Medusa in the Greek legend that make this character unforgettable.
Location of events 🌍
While Medusa and her twin sisters, the Nymphs live in indeterminate (aleatory) locations, but several events in the myth are precisely localized: Argos, Tirinthia, Seriphos, and Libya. Perseus is the most important mythical hero of the city of Argos, which is said to be the oldest city in Greece and was founded by Danaos, who came from Egypt.
The legacy of medusa
And when he had killed Medusa, he put his head in his sack and returned to Seriphos. However, as he flew over Libya, drops of Medusa's blood fell to the ground and immediately turned into snakes. It is said that this is why Libya is full of snakes. After that, Perseus gave the head of Medusa to his benefactor, Athena, as a votive gift. The goddess placed her under the aegis of Zeus in his temple.
Although Medusa is generally regarded as a monster, her head is often seen as a protective amulet that would ward off evil. Thus, the image of Medusa's head can be seen in many subsequent Greek and Roman 🏛️ artifacts such as shields, breastplates, and mosaics. For example, a 2,000-year-old Medusa marble head was recently found in an ancient Roman shopping center in Turkey. Today, the best-known image of the Medusa head is part of the logo of the Italian fashion company Versace.
The famous Basilisk is the "son" of Medusa!!
The basilisk was born, like all the snakes mentioned in Greek mythology, from the blood coming from the head of the Gorgon Medusa cut off by Perseus wanting to give it as a gift to Polydects. The names of the snakes that were born from this blood are not specified. Some people believe that the basilisk was born from a hen's egg brooded by a toad.
Aristotle, one of history's greatest philosophers is said to have mentioned the lethal power of basil: "It is true that if basil can kill us, we can kill it by presenting it with the polished surface of a mirror: the poisonous vapors that it throws from its eyes will strike the ice, and, by reflection, will return the death it wishes to give" and Alexander the Great, one of the most tenacious conquerors, would have had a shield polished like a mirror forged to protect himself from the basilisk when he was on his way to conquer Asia.
To learn more about the basilisk snake we have an article about it that will remind you of the importance of this fascinating creature.
Medusa and Versace 💍
Gianni Versace was a fashion rock star. The degree to which fashion and pop culture became synonymous is due in large part to his work: he was a true innovator who masterfully turned fashion into a form of artistic, glamorous and theatrical performance, sexy and driven celebrity.
Versace's superstar image, however, was not guided solely by a taste for anti-conformism. He was indeed a master designer, fuelled by a fearless passion for his craft and an appreciation for classical art and architecture, which he used to redefine the world of fashion.
1. Greek Influence
Hellenic heritage and mythology were among the muses of Gianni Versace. He was born, after all, in Reggio Calabria in southern Italy, part of the region once known as Magna Graeca or Greater Greece. The Greeks colonized Magna Graeca several centuries ago, and in doing so, left an indelible imprint of Greek culture and tradition, many of which continues to this day.
Those early years in Reggio Calabria can be the marks Versace became aware of the head of Medusa: it is presented on the flag of neighboring Sicily in a silhouette that bears resemblance to Versace's representation of the mythical character. But it was the deep symbolism of Medusa that forced Versace to adopt the figure as the central image of the Versace logo.
2. Medusa by Gianni Versace
Gianni Versace's incarnation of Medusa is based on a more seductive representation of the legendary mortal, Medusa is evocative of the power, strength, and beauty that constitutes a favorable sense of mythology. The Versace Medusa head, as it appears in the brand's logo, is an expression of Versace's vision: it encompasses Versace's taste for tradition and classic nuance with its desire to amaze the public with designs that are striking in their brilliance, originality, and style.
The Versace Medusa logo head features the head of Medusa in its center depicted as a beautiful woman with a supernatural aura. Rather than hair snakes, the Versace Medusa logo represents a moment when her golden hair is overflowing. Her beauty is evident in her proportional functions and excessive lips, but her eyes remain hollow, her intentions ambiguous.
Medusa's head is surrounded by a ring of Greek keys decorative motifs based on simple lines that twist like a labyrinth another quintessential Versace design motif. The name "Versace" is usually printed in the image below, although the logo is among the most recognizable in the world, with or without the name. The Medusa logo head appears on all sorts of objects, including Versace Versace sunglasses, Versace pendants, Versace writing instruments, and Versace watches.
Medusa's symbol for the world
Since the dawn of time, man has sought to give shape to his fears. Fear of the frightening realities that surrounded him, of the forces of nature, that he did not understand (science was not developed), but also fear of the dark forces of his inner world, anguish in front of sexuality, destructiveness, death, otherness. To better control them, man-made them into divinities; he organized rites and sacrifices to attract their favors, he invented myths to give meaning and content to these rites. These myths have evolved into physical representations.
Some representations of fear have been lost in the mists of time, others have developed, others still reappear regularly, in phase with certain eras. Medusa, also called Gorgô, is one of these. For twenty-seven centuries, she has regularly haunted our imagination with "her eyes that kill": whoever crosses her gaze is immediately and irrevocably made rigid with fear, transformed into stone. Everything in this myth revolves around seeing and being seen, which is why, in a reflection on the image, the study of this myth and its derivatives naturally has its place.
In its early representations, its round face fixed straight in the eyes and has a component, the bestial (snake) and the human ☯️; it is embellished with ox horns or ears, snake hair, split by a wide mouth revealing fangs of fawn or boar tusks. On this face furrowed with deep wrinkles, with a hairy or bearded chin, the tongue is stung, protruding outwards, the eyes sticking out. But this primitive image will very quickly evolve and gradually transform itself in the following centuries into a beautiful and seductive young girl, keeping however its essential characteristics: fixed gaze, facility, snake hair. She is reduced and humanized, becomes a figurine, an amulet, a talisman.
If you want to show your fanaticism for this incredible creature that has always fascinated our antecedents. Then here's the Medusa Head Necklace.
Importance of Medusa in Greek Mythology
And why is Medusa so important in Greek and Roman mythology and our current culture? It is clear that, among all the characters of Ancient Greece, the myth of Medusa is one of those that have left the most mark on our civilization and that has made great artists and painters of the stature of Leonardo, Rubens or Klimt end up being inspired by this mythological story for the elaboration of some of their paintings.
Of Medusa, we are struck by her fateful and unjust story in which, through a sexual relationship (consensual or not, we do not know for sure) she was cursed throughout her life until she was beheaded. The fury of the Gods is present again in this Greek myth that, once again, shows us that before the divine force, there is nothing and nobody that can fight.
A beautiful woman like Medusa was relegated to a horrible monster that could not even look at her surroundings without killing her. A condemnation that ended up making her a symbol of a dangerous, independent, and strong woman.
For this reason, the myth of Medusa has permeated deeply into our current culture since, in addition to the initial label of "evil woman", if we investigate her myth we find that she is still a victim of divine fury. However, her iconography has reached us today, representing her as the lady of the beasts, the mediator between heaven and hell, the one who reflects the cycle of life (life, death, and rebirth) and, above all, the representative of the feminine mysteries.
Medusa a symbol of fear or injustice to a beautiful woman?⚖️
All the texts evoking Medusa go in the same direction. Homer already describes a terrifying Medusa: she lives with her two sisters, the "Gorgonians", on the borders of the world of gods and the world of men, on the borders of the Night, at the gates of Hades, the hell of the Greeks that she guards and from which, like a scarecrow, she makes them flee.
But this figure of fear would probably not have known such a posterity without the myth in which it finds its place, which Hesiod mentions as early as the vice century BC: the myth of Perseus. A child exposed because the oracle had predicted that he would kill his grandfather, Perseus, once he became an adult, to save his mother Danae from the tyrant Polydectes, promises him the head of Medusa, a fabulous weapon by his gaze that changes into a stone that crosses him. For the rest of the story, we have told at the beginning of the text.
According to J.-P. Vernant, it is only when the research from Euclid to Ptolemy leading to an optical science developed in Greece from the fourth century B.C. onwards, that the theme of the mirror or shield held out to Perseus by Athena to help her decapitate Medusa using its reflection on the polished surface of the bronze appears in other versions of the myth. In these versions, Gorgô, or Medusa, becomes a beautiful girl punished by Athena for the excess of her beauty, or for seducing Poseidon. From this union will be born, moreover, from the bloody neck of Medusa, at the time of the decapitation, Pegasus, the archetypal horse, as well as Chrysaor.
Medusa in Art
Medusa in the Sculptures 🗿
- "Fernand Khnopff" makes a Medusa Head in the shape of a crucifix (1900).
- "Camille Claudel" creates Perseus and the Gorgon in 1902.
- "Antoine Bourdelle" makes a Head of Medusa in 1925.
- "Alberto Giacometti" makes a Head of Medusa (1935);
- "Julio González" makes La Montserrat, depicting a screaming woman. This sculpture likened to Medusa by Jean Clair, was placed next to Picasso's painting Guernica in the Spanish pavilion at the 1937 Universal Exhibition.
- "Audrey Flack" created a Colossal Head of Medusa in 1990, in fiberglass covered with polychrome terracotta, which was exhibited in New York.
- More contemporary: In 2017, "Damien Hirst" sculpts a Medusa head in gold and silver, as part of his exhibition Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable. This statue represents the head of the Gorgon. This work is exhibited in 2019 in several French museums.
Medusa in the Movies 📽
The Medusa appears in many films such for example:
- "Percy Jackson: The Lightning Thief" an American-Canadian-British film directed by Chris Columbus...
- "Clash of the Titans" Fantasy and Anglo-American mythology, directed by Desmond Davis and released in 1981.
- "Miss Peregrine and the Special Children" American-Belgian-British fantasy film directed by Tim Burton
Medusa in Video Games 🎮
Of course, as a creature associated with Greek mythology, Medusa is often included in video games. It is often an enemy during or a final boss, but sometimes it is also a playable character! Maybe you've played some of them?
- "Call of Duty: Black Ops VI", Méduse apparaît comme la soi-disant Oracle de Delphes dans une des cartes et piège les joueurs afin qu'ils tuent un Persée zombifié et qu'elle soit libérée. Ses sœurs font également une apparition, mais sont cependant décédées.
- "Assassin's Creed Odyssey", it is discovered that Medusa was human before being transformed by the effects of the apple from the Garden of Eden.
- "Castlevania", Medusa is a boss that appears often.
- In "League of Legends", the character Cassiopeia seems to have been directly inspired by it.
-The first two parts of the "God of War" trilogy Meduse appear as a punctual opponent of the main character, Kratos.
Medusa in Literature 📖
- The novel "A Severed Head" published in 1961 by the British novelist Iris Murdoch alludes to the Freudian interpretation of Medusa's head.
- In the novel "Our Lady the Mermaid" (1949) by Strátis Myrivílis depicts an icon of the "Virgin Gorgon", half woman and half fish.
- The short story "La Gorgona", by Andréas Karkavitsas, where she is the sister of Alexander the Great, whom she desperately seeks all over the world. In
- "The Head of Medusa" (1963), part of a trilogy by the Greek writer Pandelís Prevelákis.
- The British Tanith Lee devoted a short story to him in "The Gorgon and Other Beastly Tales" (1985).
- The French writer Mathieu Gaborit integrates a people of snake-haired women called Medusas into the world of his baroque fantasy novel "Les Chroniques des Crépusculaires" (1999).
- In the "Malphas" series, four fantasy novels published from 2011 to 2014, Quebec writer Patrick Senécal has created two characters of witches, a mother (Médusa Fudd) and her daughter (Mélusine Fudd). Affirming in the series that they were Medusas.
- During the 21st century, Medusa appears notably in Rick Riordan's fantasy novel "Percy Jackson" (in 2005-2010).
- Claude Louis-Combet gives a rewriting of the myth of Medusa and Perseus in his story "Gorgô" (2011).
Medusa in Paintings 🎨
- Fernand Khnopff realized in pencil on paper a Study for the "Blood of the Medusa" (1898). According to David Leeming, this drawing would be a perfect illustration of the evils of capitalism that Marx saw in the world.
- Franz von Stuck paints Perseus holding the head of Medusa (1908).
- The Austrian Julius Klinger often treats the theme of Medusa. In "Vertreibung", we see a decapitated woman holding her head in one hand and the knot of snakes in the other.
- Alexej von Jawlensky paints a Medusa with very large eyes whose vertical pupils are reminiscent of a feline.
- "Medusa" by Carlos Schwabe, with a face full of serene sadness (1923).
- In the mid-1980s, Keith Haring produced a series of lithographs entitled "Medusa Head".
- Medusa is also among the 1,038 women referenced in Judy Chicago's contemporary artwork "The Dinner Party" (1974-1979). In it, we can see the Amazons but also Medusa who is presented as a warrior queen defeated by the Greek people.
Medusa is also on The Vipers House too!
If you've made it to the end of this article, it's because you must be passionate about all the myths and legends surrounding this unique creature. And you know what else? 🐍The Vipers House🐍 offers many merchandising products around the Medusa: T-Shirts, Jewelry...! 🤩
The Medusa Head T-Shirt: a great classic that says a lot with its provocative look!
The Steel Medusa Ring: a very worked jewel with the famous scythe that you now know better than anyone else on a unique 3D look that makes the difference!
Monstrous Medusa is part of the mythological stories of the ancient Greek or ancient Rome, gathering many gods, such as Zeus, Aphrodite, Athena. Everybody knows that the problems began when mortals mixed with the divine (All the sons of Zeus). All these stories exist thanks to the historians who discovered the myths in the Greek literature representing the ancient Greek religion. The Gorgon's relationship with the gods of the oceans was the beginning of its loss, jealousy was the sword with which its head was sliced. Now the snake hair represents in many brands luxury (Versace). But also it is represented in many video games like movies.