Perseus and the Gorgons (307 upper with art)

Chapter 10: Perseus and Bellerophontes, Part 1

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Olympia, Archaeological Museum B975: bronze shield-band relief with Perseus and Medousa

E. Kunze, Archaische Schildbänder, Olympische Forschungen 2 (1950), pl. 57, XIXd

Digital LIMC

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art 45.11.1 (cited as “NY 45.11.1”): Attic red-figure pelike by Polyglotos with Perseus and Medousa

Metropolitan Museum

Digital LIMC

Classical Art Research Centre

Theoi Greek Mythology

Beazley Archive Pottery Database (no image)

Richmond, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts 62.1.1: Attic red-figure hydria by Nausikaa Painter with Perseus and Medousa

Museum of Fine Arts

Beazley Archive Pottery Database (no image)

Description from H.A. Shapiro, Art, Myth, and Culture: Greek Vases from Southern Collections (1981)

Bruce Guthrie photo

Σ Lyk 879 – Scholia to Lykophron, Alexandra – Lykophronis Alexandra 2, p. 284, ed E. Scheer. Berlin 1908.

Greek Text

Polyidos 837 PMG – Poetae Melici Graeci, p. 441, ed. D. L. Page. Oxford 1962.

Polyidos the dithyrambic poet represents him (Atlas) as being a shepherd. He adds that, when Perseus was passing by, the giant questioned the hero about his identity and place of origin. When Perseus’s answers did not convince the giant, the hero was forced to show him the Gorgon’s face and so turned him to stone. And from him, the Atlas mountain got its name (according to Lycophron in his commentary).  (Transl. Mary Emerson)

Met 4.627-62 – Ovid, Metamorphoses

Time came, when day
declining, he began to fear the night,
by which he stopped his flight far in the west—
the realm of Atlas—where he sought repose
till Lucifer might call Aurora’s fires;
Aurora chariot of the Day.

There dwelt
huge Atlas, vaster than the race of man:
son of Iapetus, his lordly sway
extended over those extreme domains,
and over oceans that command their waves
to take the panting coursers of the Sun,
and bathe the wearied Chariot of the Day.

For him a thousand flocks, a thousand herds
overwandered pasture fields; and neighbour tribes
might none disturb that land. Aglint with gold
bright leaves adorn the trees,—boughs golden-wrought
bear apples of pure gold. And Perseus spoke
to Atlas, “O my friend, if thou art moved
to hear the story of a noble race,
the author of my life is Jupiter;
if valiant deeds perhaps are thy delight
mine may deserve thy praise.—Behold of thee
kind treatment I implore—a place of rest.”

But Atlas, mindful of an oracle
since by Themis, the Parnassian, told,
recalled these words, “O Atlas! mark the day
a son of Jupiter shall come to spoil;
for when thy trees been stripped of golden fruit,
the glory shall be his.”

Fearful of this,
Atlas had built solid walls around
his orchard, and secured a dragon, huge,
that kept perpetual guard, and thence expelled
all strangers from his land. Wherefore he said,
“Begone! The glory of your deeds is all
pretense; even Jupiter, will fail your need.”

With that he added force and strove to drive
the hesitating Alien from his doors;
who pled reprieve or threatened with bold words.
Although he dared not rival Atlas’ might,
Perseus made this reply; “For that my love
you hold in light esteem, let this be yours.”
He said no more, but turning his own face,
he showed upon his left Medusa’s head,
abhorrent features.—Atlas, huge and vast,
becomes a mountain—His great beard and hair
are forests, and his shoulders and his hands
mountainous ridges, and his head the top
of a high peak;—his bones are changed to rocks.

Augmented on all sides, enormous height
attains his growth; for so ordained it, ye,
O mighty Gods! who now the heavens’ expanse
unnumbered stars, on him command to rest.  Latin Text

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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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