Medusa fills the imagination with a very particular kind of fascination. Pity for her situation and dread of what she is capable of make her one of the most recognisable figures from Greek myth. She has transcended that context with her story reimagined by the Romans, the artists of the Renaissance, and she continues to excite wonder today.
We sat down to talk about Medusa and her representation with the fabulous Liv, host of Let's Talk about Myths Baby.
Special Episode - Medusa with Let's Talk About Myths Baby
In this far-reaching conversation, we'll be considering some of the key stories that make up the mythological world of Medusa including:
* How she came to have snakes for hair* The challenges she faced as the mortal Gorgon * And how her representation often reflects the values of the context of the artwork.
Who is Medusa?
When you start to look, Medusa is everywhere (but also, don’t look!). She is an extremely ancient figure best known for the Greek myths associated with the hero Perseus.
Medusa is famous for her snaky hair and ability to turn living things to stone with her gaze. This ability has been immortalised in movies such as Clash of the Titans (1981) and its 2010 remake, and Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (2010).
Her decapitated head—the Gorgoneoin—can be found on the breastplate of the goddess Athena, the logo for Versace and the Sicilian flag, as well as decorating many ancient buildings, floors and pottery.
Medusa endures today as a polyvalent symbol of danger and empowerment. She recently featured in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (2018) and her name is given to the crime network in The Hustle (2019), the gender-swapped reboot of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988).
Join us as we discuss Medusa’s journey to becoming a symbol that can seemingly serve many masters.
Ancient Accounts of Medusa
This is not an exhaustive list, but a guide to those we mention in this discussion and a great place to start reading!
* Hesiod Theogony 270ff * Homer Iliad 5.741 - The Gorgon's head is described as a "ghastly monster" and a "potent symbol of Zeus". Also see 8.349, where Hector's gaze is likened to that of Gorgo and 11.36f for a description of a Gorgon's head on the face of Agamemnon's shield.* Ovid Metamorphoses 4.604-803 * Pseudo-Apollodorus Bibliotheca 2.4
Depictions of Medusa in Art
A great deal of Medusa's complexity has developed through her reception over time. This is particularly apparent in art. We explore a few key examples that draw attention to a range of interpretations
The Rondanini Medusa