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Medusa: Was She The Monster

by Zeynep Ezgi BATMAZ

Mythology is a whole another world that feels both so close to and so far from reality. The human-like characteristics of the actors in mythology, specifically Greek mythology, help us understand them better. However, the situations they find themselves in are not what we would go through in our boring lives. Medusa’s story is one of these many stories.


Medusa was one of the three Gorgon sisters. Out of the three sisters, the only mortal one was Medusa. Their parents are not certain, but sometimes Gaia, the goddess of earth, is said to be their mother. Early sea deities Phorcys and Ceto are cited to be their parents in other sources. 


Medusa admired Athena. She admired her strength and her beauty. She admired her so much that she became a priestess in a temple of Athena. Becoming a priestess required lifelong devotion. Among her other duties as a priestess, she needed to stay a virgin for the rest of her life. 


Medusa was known for her beauty. Hearing all about this beautiful woman, Poseidon wanted to see her. He went to Athena’s temple on the island of Sarpedon to see Medusa. He visited the island more than once, which caught the attention of other gods. Especially Athena. She was furious because she was jealous of the fact that Poseidon was interested in someone other than herself. On top of this, the mortal he was interested in was not just anybody; she was one of her servants. Athena confronted Poseidon. She warned him that there would be consequences if he ever dared to visit that temple or see that priestess ever again. But Poseidon, one of the most powerful gods, thought that Athena was crossing a line by threatening him. Despite all her threats, he visited the island one more time. Unfortunately, this time did not end well for Medusa. He assaulted her on the steps of Athena’s holy temple. When Athena heard about what happened, she got even more furious and turned the beautiful Gorgon sister into a monster with serpents on her head instead of hair. Anyone who would look at her face would instantly be turned into stone. She needed to bear the consequences that Poseidon never had to face. 


Soon after all this chaos, the half-god Perseus was sent on a quest to kill and bring Medusa’s head back to Polydectes. Polydectes and Perseus were in conflict because Polydectes wanted to marry Perseus’ mother. He told him that their conflict would end if he went on this quest and brought the Gorgon’s head back to him. Perseus used his shield as a mirror to avoid the deadly stare of Medusa and managed to behead her. That is how it all ended for the beautiful Gorgon. For her whole life, she had to face the consequences of others’ actions, and she died by becoming prey on a challenge of a half-god. 


Some stories have more than one way to tell them. In the chaotic and supernatural world of myths and legends, it is often impossible to know who is good and who is evil. When you hear Medusa’s story from her perspective, it turns out to be a very tragic series of events. Was she really the monster?

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