It’s likely you’re familiar with the story of Perseus’s confrontation with Medusa, the gorgon with a reptilian hairstyle and features so hideous she could turn men to stone. However there are more to gorgons than the story of Perseus and Medusa. For example, reliefs of gorgons were often placed near the doorways of Greek homes to ward off evil.
In ancient Greek mythology, the gorgons were three sisters: Sthenno, Euryale, and Medusa. They were often portrayed as winged women with broad faces, fangs and lolling tongues. In some accounts, all of the gorgons have snakes in their hair. In others, only Medusa. In 700 AD, the poet Hesiod imagined the gorgons as the daughters of the sea gods Keto and Porcys. They were sea demons who built up coral reefs. I suppose that could be seen as a way of protecting the coastline from invasion.
The Roman poet Ovid who wrote around 8 AD, but was noted for preserving the accuracy of classical legend, said Medusa was a beautiful priestess of Athena who had taken a vow of chastity. She broke the vow by having an affair with Poseidon. In retribution, Athena gave her the familiar hideous countenance with snakes in the hair and the curse of turning men to stone. Here we see a bust by Gianlorenzo Bernini executed around 1630 based on this version of the story. Bernini does an exquisite job of capturing Medusa’s emotion.
It’s often said that the gorgons Sthenno and Euryale were immortal while Medusa was not. It’s not clear to me why Medusa is explicitly set apart. Was it a literary device to allow Perseus the ability to kill her? Was it simply the fact that Perseus succeeded and her sisters never died? Or, was it part of Medusa’s curse for breaking her vow of chastity? Who knows.
In Dragon’s Fall: Rise of the Scarlet Order, the vampire Theron is fascinated with gorgons. As a vampire, he shares their fanged countenance and immortality, albeit, like Medusa he can be killed. However, he is vain enough to prefer to think of himself as a tragic, beautiful figure, like Medusa, rather than a hideous creature.
If you enjoyed this look at gorgons and how they relate to my novel, I hope you’ll take time to learn more. The novel is an adventurous love story that winds its way through the ages from Hellenistic Greece through the middle ages. Dragon’s Fall is available at the following on-line bookstores: