Perseus and the Gorgons (page 306 with art)

Chapter 10: Perseus and Bellerophontes, Part 1

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Aischylos, Phorkides fr 262 I R – Tragicorum Graecorum Fragmenta 3, pp. 362-63 ed. S. L. Radt. Göttingen 1985.

It seems that [Perseus] also took the curved blade made of adamant from Hephaistos. As the tragic poet Aischylos says in his Phorkides, the Gorgons had the Graiai as their lookouts.  But they only had one eye between them and they handed it round to one another as each went on guard.  Perseus, having watched carefully, stole it as it was handed over and threw it into the Tritonian marsh.  Thus, coming upon the Gorgons who were fast asleep, he took Medusa’s head.  (Transl. Mary Emerson).

Py 12.13 – Pindar, Pythian Odes

Yes, he [Perseus] brought darkness on the monstrous race of Phorcus.   Greek Text

Athens, National Museum 1291: Attic red-figure pyxis lid with Perseus and Graiai


Fig. 34 (detail of Perseus and Graiai) from Louis Séchan, Études sur la tragédie grecque dans ses rapports avec la céramique (1926)

Photo in Digital LIMC

Bullfinch’s Mythology

Beazley Archive Pottery Database (no image)

Delos, Archaeological Museum B7263: Attic red-figure krater fragment with Perseus and one of Graiai

Photo in Digital LIMC

Theoi Greek Mythology

Beazley Archive Pottery Database

Metaponto, Antiquarium 20.145 (cited in note 13 for p. 306): Attic red-figure column krater with three elderly, blind women who may be the Graiai (Perseus fleeing with Medousa’s head is on opposite side of this vase)

Beazley Archive Pottery Database (no image)

J.H. Oakley, “Perseus, the Graiai and Aeschylus’ Phorkides,” American Journal of Archaeology 92.3 (1988), p. 384 Figs. 1-2 (available through JStor)

 Py 10.29-36 – Pindar, Pythian Odes

Neither by ship nor on foot could you find [30] the marvellous road to the meeting-place of the Hyperboreans— Once Perseus, the leader of his people, entered their homes and feasted among them, when he found them sacrificing glorious hecatombs of donkeys to the god. In the festivities of those people [35] and in their praises Apollo rejoices most, and he laughs when he sees the erect arrogance of the beasts.   Greek Text

PD 791-800 – Aischylos, Prometheus Desmotes (Prometheus Vinctus, Prometheus Bound)

When you have crossed the stream that bounds the two continents, toward the flaming east, where the sun walks,…… crossing the surging sea until you reach the Gorgonean plains of Cisthene, where the daughters of Phorcys dwell, ancient maids, [795] three in number, shaped like swans, possessing one eye amongst them and a single tooth; neither does the sun with his beams look down upon them, nor ever the nightly moon. And near them are their three winged sisters, the snake-haired Gorgons, loathed of mankind, [800] whom no one of mortal kind shall look upon and still draw breath.  Greek Text

ApB 2.4.2 – Apollodoros, Bibliotheke (Library)

And having received also from Hermes an adamantine sickle he [Perseus] flew to the ocean and caught the Gorgons asleep. They were Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. Now Medusa alone was mortal; for that reason Perseus was sent to fetch her head. But the Gorgons had heads twined about with the scales of dragons, and great tusks like swine’s, and brazen hands, and golden wings, by which they flew; and they turned to stone such as beheld them. So Perseus stood over them as they slept, and while Athena guided his hand and he looked with averted gaze on a brazen shield, in which he beheld the image of the Gorgon, he beheaded her.  Greek Text

 4.782-3 – Ovid, Metamorphoses

But yet that he through brightnesse of his monstrous brazen shield
The which he in his left hand bare, Medusas face beheld.   Latin Text

Lucan, Pharsalia 9.669-670

… a burnished shield
Of yellow brass upon his other arm,
Her gift, he bore: in which she bade him see
The fatal face unscathed.   Latin Text

DMar 14 – Loukianos, Dialogi Marini (Dialogues of the Sea-gods)

Athene showed him [Perseus] the reflection of the Gorgon in her shield, which is as bright as any mirror; so he took hold of her hair in his left hand, grasped his scimetar with the right, still looking at the reflection, cut off her head, and was off before her sisters woke up.   Greek Text

Boston, Museum of Fine Arts 1970.237: Apulian red-figure bell krater by the Tarpoley Painter with Perseus and Athena holding head of Medousa

Museum of Fine Arts

Theoi Greek Mythology

London, British Museum B620: Etruscan bronze mirror with Perseus and Athena holding head of Medousa


British Museum Image of B620 and drawing

British Museum

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Literary sources edited by Silvio Curtis, Teaching assistant, Department of Classics, Univ. of Georgia, spring 2014.

Edited by Frances Van Keuren, Prof. Emerita, Lamar Dodd School of Art, Univ. of Georgia, December 2017

Literary sources updated by Elena Bianchelli, Retired Senior Lecturer of Classical Languages and Culture, Univ. of Georgia, May 2023.

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