To Everna and Beyond!

An exploration of Fantasy and Science Fiction Worlds in literature and multimedia entertainment
The official blog and novelblog for Evernade Saga and FireHeart Saga by Andry Chang

"Come forth, Paladins! Fulfill your destiny!"

Explore Worlds in Clicks

Loading...

FireHeart Highlights!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Gorgon

Monstropedia Eternia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search

In Greek mythology, the Gorgon (plural: Gorgons) (Greek: Γοργών or Γοργώ Gorgon/Gorgo, "terrible" or, according to some, "loud-roaring") was a vicious female monster with sharp fangs and hair of living, venomous snakes.

Contents

[hide]

[edit] Classical tradition

Baroque Medusa combined beauty and horror: Medusa, after 1590, by Caravaggio.
Baroque Medusa combined beauty and horror: Medusa, after 1590, by Caravaggio.

Gorgons are sometimes depicted as having wings of gold, brazen claws, and the tusks of boars. According to the myths, seeing the face of a Gorgon turned the viewer to stone.

Homer speaks of only one Gorgon, whose head is represented in the Iliad as fixed in the center of the aegis of Zeus:

"About her shoulders she flung the tasselled aegis, fraught with terror...and therein is the head of the dread monster, the Gorgon, dread and awful, a portent of Zeus that beareth the aegis."(5.735ff)

Its earthly counterpart is a device on the shield of Agamemnon:

"...and therein was set as a crown the Gorgon, grim of aspect, glaring terribly, and about her were Terror and Rout."(11.35ff)

In the Odyssey, she is a monster of the underworld:

"...and pale fear seized me, lest august Persephone might send forth upon me from out of the house of Hades the head of the Gorgon, that awful monster..."(11.635)

Hesiod (Theogony, Shield of Heracles) increases the number of Gorgons to three—Stheno (the mighty), Euryale (the far-springer) and Medusa (the queen), and makes them the daughters of the sea-god Phorcys and of Keto. Their home is on the farthest side of the western ocean; according to later authorities, in Libya. The Attic tradition, reproduced in Euripides (Ion), regarded the Gorgon as a monster, produced by Gaia to aid her sons the Titans against the gods and slain by Athena. Of the three Gorgons, only Medusa is mortal.

According to Ovid (Metamorphoses), Medusa alone had serpents in her hair, and this was due to Athena (Roman Minerva) cursing her. Medusa had copulated with Poseidon (Roman Neptune), who was aroused by the golden color of Medusa's hair, in a temple of Athena. Athena therefore changed the enticing golden locks into serpents. Aeschylus says that the three Gorgons had only one tooth and one eye among them (see also the Graeae), which they had to swap among themselves.

Other stories claim that each of three Gorgon sisters, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, had snakes for hair, and had the power to turn anyone who looked at them to stone. Apollodorus (11.2.6, 2.4.1, 22.4.2) provides a good summary of the Gorgon myth, while Pausanias (5.10.4, 8.47.5, many other places) supplies the details of where and how the Gorgons were represented in Greek art and architecture.

[edit] Perseus and Medusa

The Gorgon just before being beheaded by Perseus, as depicted on a pediment from the Atremis Temple on display at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu.
The Gorgon just before being beheaded by Perseus, as depicted on a pediment from the Atremis Temple on display at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu.

Medusa was the only one of the three who was mortal; hence Perseus was able to kill her by cutting off her head while looking at her in the reflection in a mirrored shield he got from the Graeae. Some authors say that Perseus was armed with a scythe by Hermes (Mercury) and a mirror (or a shield) by Athena (Minerva). Whether the mirrored shield or the scythe, these weapons allowed him to defeat Medusa easily. From the blood that spurted from her neck sprang Chrysaor and Pegasus (other sources say that each drop of blood became a snake), her two sons by Poseidon. He gave the head, which had the power of turning into stone all who looked upon it, to Athena, who placed it in her shield. According to another account, Perseus buried it in the marketplace of Argos.

Archaic (Etruscan) fanged goggle-eyed gorgoneion flanked by sphinxes on a hydria from Vulci, 540-530 BC
Archaic (Etruscan) fanged goggle-eyed gorgoneion flanked by sphinxes on a hydria from Vulci, 540-530 BC

[edit] Protective and healing powers

In Ancient Greece a Gorgoneion (or stone head, engraving or drawing of a Gorgon face, often with snakes protruding wildly and tongue sticking out between the fangs) was frequently used as an apotropaic symbol [1] and placed on doors, walls, coins, shields, breastplates, and tombstones in the hopes of warding off evil. In this regard Gorgoneia are similar to the sometimes grotesque faces on Chinese soldiers’ shields, also used generally as an amulet, a protection against the evil eye. In some cruder representations, the blood flowing under the head can be mistaken for a beard.

In Greek mythology, blood taken from the right side of a Gorgon could bring the dead back to life, yet blood taken from the left side was an instantly fatal poison. Athena gave a vial of the healing blood to Asclepius, which ultimately brought about his demise. Heracles is said to have obtained a lock of Medusa’s hair (which possessed the same powers as the head) from Athena and given it to Sterope, the daughter of Cepheus[disambiguation needed], as a protection for the town of Tegea against attack. According to the later idea of Medusa as a beautiful maiden, whose hair had been changed into snakes by Athena, the head was represented in works of art with a wonderfully handsome face, wrapped in the calm repose of death.

[edit] Origins

The concept of the gorgon is at least as old in mythology as Perseus and Zeus. The name is Greek, being from gorgos, "terrible." There are a few cognates: Old Irish garg, "wild", Armenian karcr, "hard". Hoffman's suggested root is *gragnis; Émile Boisacq's, *greg-. The root would not be a commonly used one.

Athena wears the primitive form of the Gorgoneion; cup by Douris, early 5th century BC
Athena wears the primitive form of the Gorgoneion; cup by Douris, early 5th century BC

The name of the most senior "terrible one", Medusa, is better Greek, being the feminine present participle of medein, "to rule over."[citation needed] The masculine, Medon, "ruler", is a Homeric name. The Indo-European root, *me-, "measure", generates a large number of words.

Author Marija Gimbutas (Language of the Goddess) believed she saw the prototype of the Gorgoneion in Neolithic art motifs, especially in anthropomorphic vases and terra cotta masks inlaid with gold. The large eyes, as well as Athena's flashing eyes, are a symbol termed "the divine eyes" by Gimbutas (who did not originate the perception), appearing also in Athena's bird, the owl. They can be represented by spirals, wheels, concentric circles, and other ways. The fangs of the gorgoneion are snakes' fangs. Snakes are a symbol of appeasement and increase.[citation needed] Sometimes Gorgoneia are endowed with birds' feet or bee wings[citation needed], more symbols of regeneration[citation needed]. The lolling tongue is a symbol of death.[citation needed]

[edit] Gorgons in popular culture

Like cyclops, harpies, and other beasts of Greek mythology, gorgons have been popularized in modern times by the fantasy genre such as in books, comics, role-playing games, and video games.

[edit] References

  1. ^ Garber, Marjorie. The Medusa Reader, 24 February 2003, Introduction, pg. 2, ISBN 0-415-90099-9.

This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain. Additional material has been added from the 1824 Lempriere's Dictionary.

No comments:

vadisworld - my way, my world

GetAmped Fansite - KICK ASS Inc.

FireHeart Blog List

Vadis' Technorati Favourites

Pyr Publishing

Pat's Fantasy Hotlist

Sources and Studies Lookup

Online Reference
Dictionary, Encyclopedia & more
Word:
Look in: Dictionary & thesaurus
Computing Dictionary
Medical Dictionary
Legal Dictionary
Financial Dictionary
Acronyms
Idioms
Wikipedia Encyclopedia
Columbia Encyclopedia
by:

FireHeart Most Wanted!