Saturday, May 29, 2010

3. The Legend of Perseus - The Greek demi-god

The following post is based on The Clash of the Gods Series on Astro History Channel and a couple of websites on Greek history.


"Perseus is one of Greek’s legendary demi-gods. The following is the story of his colorful and adventurous life, whose path crossed Medusa’s and sealed her tragically unfortunate fate"

PERSEUS - the Demi-God

Argos is one of the many Ancient Greek provinces. It was ruled by King ACRISIUS who has a daughter named DANAE. It was prophesized that a son from Danae would be the tragic end of King Acrisius.
Fearing his downfall, King Acrisius had no other choice but to get rid of her. He couldn’t order an execution as he would loose his respect of his subjects so he decided to do away with her by locking her up in a Bronze tower (or ivory tower ) far away from the kingdom, with no food and no drink. ( in another version of Greek legend, Danae was locked away in a room beneath the earth. Equivalent to a dungeon perhaps) The tower was said to have no windows, no openings. Just a door leading up to the room. Then he waits for the news of her death. Days turned weeks, weeks turned months and yet still no news from the tower. Till it was almost a year, King Acrisius could not wait anymore and he himself went to the tower to see what had happened to her daughter.

When he reached the Tower, he was astounded to hear the beautiful voice of a woman, so distinctively clear singing a lullaby. The voice of her daughter, Danae. He rushed up the tower and to his surprise, it was not just Danae in the small room, but she was with a baby. A healthy handsome baby boy. In an instance he was utmost happy to see both of them well and healthy but the happiness was short lived as his fear of the prophecy took control of him.
His fear turned to anger. For Danae had bore him a grandson out of wedlock. Something which is not acceptable at all, in the Greek culture. Moreover she was a Princess. He wanted to kill both of them right there and then for they shamed his Kingdom. King Acrisus grew even more mad when he learned that the father of his grandson was God Zeus himself!! It is absurd to him because with the condition of such prison cell, there is no chance for her to even be alive, or entertain a visit from the outside world. However, it was believed that Zeus took fancy to her and had entered the tower in the form of golden shower dust and impregnated her. Since then Zeus has taken care of Danae and her baby. 
Back to King Acrisus, because he fears THE GOD of the time, ZEUS, just like the rest of the Greeks, didn’t kill them with his bare hands but decided to shipped both of them away at sea in an enclosed wooden chest. Logically both mother and son would face a tragic end, either by being swallowed by the sea or death by hunger ultimately. Zeus was very angry with this but decided not to punish King Acrisius immediately but later part of his life instead. 

So mother and son cast away safely onto the shores of one of the Greek Islands called Serifos. There they were welcomed and adopted by a childless local couple Dictys who happened to be the brother of the King of Serifos, King POLYDECTES. Both Danae and Perseus lived happily and became the loyal subjects of the king.

As the years passed by Perseus grew up to be a well built, strong charactered young man. Danae was quite a beauty herself and had unfortunately attracted the attention King Polydectes himself. The King had in his mind to make Danae his queen but Perseus was in his way and he is very protective over his mother. Little did the King knew that Perseus is a demi-god. No one on the island knew.
So King Polydectus thought of a plan to rid of Perseus.

It was known at that era, many young men would take the challenge to chop off the head of Medusa. The Greek believed that the head, even when separated from her body, will still be a powerful weapon, as it could still turn any living creature into stone. However, none of the pursuers came back alive. Since the day Medusa was exiled to this Island, many men went to seek her but all of them turned into stone. Medusa’s Island slowly became a garden of stone statues. Some were animals but mostly are of human, man and women, old and young.

In one version of the legend it was said that the King had made a decree to all young man of the island (no exception) to bring him a unique present for his upcoming birthday or some Greek celebration; or: face death themselves by his army. And the man who would bring Medusa’s head would be rewarded handsomely. Technically those lads's lives were already doomed from the minute the decree was made. If they came back with a present that does not satisfy the king, they would be dead. If they face Medusa they would be dead too. So they all decided to embark on one ship, headed for Medusa’s Island.

In another version of the legend it was said that the King had made a proposal to marry Danae and there were disagreement between the King and Perseus. Finally, a temporary truce came about when they both came to an agreement whereby, if Perseus brings Medusa’s head to King Polydectes, the King will not carry out his intention to marry Danae.

Anyhow, either version, Perseus was bound to head for Medusa’s Island.


Perseus, together with all the other lads from the Island of Serifos made their way towards Medusa’s Island on a ship, had almost lost hope to be victorious over this task. For he could not think of anyway to defeat Medusa. He has no weapons to begin with. Swords, bows with arrows are known to be not effective enough for such a challenge. He knelt down at the head of the ship and prayed to the Gods for help and for them to protect his mother from harm.

The Winged Sandals

His prayers were heard and Athena (One of Zeus’s wives, the God of War) sent help through Hermes ( One of Zeus’s brother who serves as a messenger for all the Gods).

One version of the legend says that Perseus was given a pair of winged sandals which belongs to the Nymphs, a mythical creature, servant to Athena. These winged sandals will enable Perseus to fly to far away places unreachable by land or water, where the Gorgons lived. Medusa is one of the Gorgons now. (She used to be a high priestess in the Temple of Athena, the Parthenon, and served the God of War, Athena herself, till the fateful day when she was raped by Poseidon and angered Athena who then turned Medusa into Gorgon and exiled her from the city.)

In another version, the legend says that Hermes was sent by Zeus to help Perseus by handing him the winged sandals.

In some other version, Perseus went to the Graie sisters first who then told him where to find the Nymphs who then gave him the winged sandals. This item is supposedly a wallet which can be fitted on anywhere on the body. And when attached, and they will aid the wearer to fly.

The Graie sisters - 3 old hags with one eye

Anyhow, Perseus had now, his first magic item, to help him pursue his journey. It was made known to Perseus that for his weapons, he would have to retrieve them from the Nymphs on their Island. No one knows where this Island was, except the 3 hideous sisters known as the Graie Sisters, on a far away Island.

Perseus's immediate task was to seek this Graie sisters. It was believed that whoever get to meet these 3 sisters could only ask 1 question. The unique feature of these Graie sisters was that they only have one eye to see and they share among them.

With the winged sandals, Perseus flew to this far away Island where the Graie sisters lived. When he found them, Perseus pulled a trick on them and stole their only eye. With the eye in his hands he had the upper hand of the situation and took this advantage to ask more than 1 question. So the Graie sisters told him where to find the Nymphs and what weapons he will find or need to defeat Medusa.

 The Nymphs’s weapons

The Nymphs was said to live along the River Styx, a river which separated the land of the living from the land of the dead. It’is a gateway to Hades ( One of Zeus's brothers) who ruled the underworld. Synonymly, the gates of Hell. Off Perseus flew from the land of the Graie sisters to River Styx to find the needed weapons.

First he found the SWORD OF ZEUS, a sword that would never be bent or broken, will cut into anything, be it steel, stone or creatures protected by magic spells or special powers. Next was the SHIELD OF ATHENA. A shield made of strong protective metal facing out and finely polished on the inside, as good as a mirror. The 3rd weapon was a the HELMET OF HADES. A headgear which could make him invisible.

Which ever version it may have been, the bottom line is that Perseus obtained all this weapons to face Medusa.

With these collected, he made his way to Medusa’s Island.

The end of Medusa

Perseus, upon reaching Medusa’s Island saw the rest of the lads from the Island of Serifos came ashore and together they made their way into Medusa's domain.

Perseus knew that to face Medusa head-on was suicidal. So instead of walking forward, he walked backwards, using his shield as a reflector to detect Medusa’s whereabouts. At last he found her by listerning to the screaming of the terrified lads who had the misfortune of confronting Medusa. He put his helmet on so that he’s invincible. Walked slowly backwards towards Medusa, and when the position was good, he closed his eyes and raised his sword. With one forceful blow he decapitated Medusa’s head, off her body rolling down the passageways of her lair. Slowly he searched for the head and bagged it.

He then called upon the remainder of the lads to go back to the ship and sail home. At first the young lads were afraid to do so, for fear of being procecuted by King Polydectes's  army but Perseus assured them that by the time they get home everything will be back to normal if not better.

So Perseus flew himself towards Serifos, ahead of the ship, with Medusa’s head in the sack hung from his waist.

It was believed that, while flying, the blood from Medusa’s head dripped. The ones that dripped over the Sahara Desert was believed to be the first generation of snakes which survived till today. Also the ones which dripped over the land of Greece became snakes there as well.

And sometime along this journey, two of Medusa’s sons were borned. From one of her blood drops emerged PEGASUS the winged horse. And CHRYSAOR was believed to be borned from her neck. Chrysaor was of a human form who sometimes could take the form of a winged boar or a gold armored giant.

Perseus's detour 

In one version of the legend, as he was passing through Ethiopia, he rescued the princess Andromeda as she was about to be sacrificed to a sea monster the Cetus or Kracken.

Queen Cassiopeia and Poseidon
The reason why she was chained naked to a rock as an offering to the sea monster know as CETUS was because both her parents King Cepheus and Queen Cassiopeia boasted of their daughter's beauty to be equal to the Nerieds. (The Nerieds are sea nymphs, the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris. They often accompany the Sea God, Poseidon, and are always friendly and helpful towards sailors fighting perilous storms). This boastful parents had angered Poseidon who then sent the sea serpent to devour Andromeda. The oracle of Ammon announced that no relief would be found until the king exposed his daughter Andromeda to the monster.

It was this moment when Perseus happen to fly by and saw her shivering in fear, chained to the rocks and almost instantly fell in love with her. After defeating the monster using Medusa's head, Perseus asked the King and Queen of Ethiopia for her hand in marriage and subsequently took her with him as his wife.  But not after turning her intended husband Phineus into stone in a fight over Andromeda as Andromeda was betrothed to Phineus.

Perseus back in Serifos

On the Isle of Serifos, about to be made a queen against her will one bright and cool but clear evening, Danae prayed hard that her son would somehow arrive in time to stop the ceremony. Ever since his journey, she had never stopped praying for his safety and victory.

Confident that Perseus would not made it back alive from the Island of Medusa, King Polydectes had arranged for his wedding to proceed and also had invited King Acrisius, Danae's father, as well.

Perseus, racing his way through the sky, finally arrived just in time before King Polydectes’s seals his wedding vows to Danae. It was a blessed gift for Perseus to find that two of his most hated archenemy were there standing on the same soil breathing the same air. He walked up towards the ceremonial podium on top of the hill overlooking the sea, greeted with murmurs of surprise from the villagers attending the ceremony.

He halted his steps a couple of feet away behind his mother. King Polydectes was facing the hillside while his mother facing the sea as well as the king. The priest was diagonally facing the the King with King Acrisius a couple of feet away, also facing the hillside as well. He called out to his mother to not to move and inch but stay facing and look towards the sea.

In the split second, while King Polydectes and King Acrisius were still overwhelmed by Perseus's presence, Perseus took out Medusa’s head and held it up high and clear for both Kings to see. And instantly they were drawn to the thing Perseus held up but it was already to late to turn away. So they both turned into stone together with everyone who were standing facing the hillside in front of Perseus and his mother.

In another version of this legend. Perseus's grandfather, King Acrisius was not at the intended wedding ceremony at all. After turning King Polydectes into stone, Perseus and his mother Danae went back to Greece and it was there, Perseus accidentally killed his grandfather, Acrisius, with a discus while throwing it, in a funeral game (as he had been warned in the past). According to one legend, then on Perseus went to Asia, where his son Perses ruled over the Persians, from whom they were said to have gotten their name.

It was said that after King Polydectes turned to stone, Perseus returned the sandals, satchel and cap to Hermes; he gave the Gorgon's head to Athene, who emblazoned it upon the aegis which protected her in battle.

Finally Zeus’s punishment on both Kings were expedited.

From this day onwards, Perseus has earned his place as a hero in Greece.

LIFE THE WAY I SEE IT – it doesn’t matter what religion we embrace but the bottom line is, if we anger GOD, we will get what’s due either immediately or later on in due course of our lives. The bond of love and devotion between a son and his mother will always be rewarded handsomely in the end. And with every death, there will be a new beginning among the living.
Dear Readers,
Hope you have enjoyed reading this one as well. There are so many versions to Perseus legend and I chose the above to share with you.
With this 3rd Greek Legend posted, I will take a break from writing for a while as I have a very interesting book on my hands to read - The White Queen by Philippa Gregory

I have always been a fan and a follower of the stories of Kings and Queens of the past. Especially the Tudors of England (the 16th century). King Henry VIII and the 6 wives of his, the famous one Anne Boleyn and his daughter Queen Elizabeth the virgin queen . I love the way Philippa Gregory writes about the Tudors. Author: Philippa Gregory . I started with her book titled “The other Boleyn Girl” and I must say that from this book, I learned so much about the Tudor's Era, the twist and turn of their lives at court, the politics and how they lived. Which lead me to read other books of hers on other characters which were involved with the Tudors.

The new book I am about to embark on is titled "The White Queen" a story of The Plantagenets of England (the 15th Century). An era before the Tudors. I shall share with you the story when I have finished reading.
In the mean time, should there be any subject that intrigues me, I may put some small posts of them, form time to time. Do come abck to check in on my blog, readers.

Till we meet again - take care and stay healthy


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