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Abode "Argos
Symbol Medusa's head
Personal information
Consort "Andromeda
Children "Perses, "Heleus, "Alcaeus, "Sthenelus, "Electryon, "Mestor, "Cynurus, "Gorgophone, "Autochthe
Parents "Zeus and "Danaë
Siblings "Aeacus, "Angelos, "Aphrodite, "Apollo, "Ares, "Artemis, "Athena, "Eileithyia, "Enyo, "Eris, "Ersa, "Hebe, "Helen of Troy, "Hephaestus, "Heracles, "Hermes, "Minos, "Pandia, "Persephone, "Rhadamanthus, the "Graces, the "Horae, the "Litae, the "Muses, the "Moirai

In "Greek mythology, Perseus ("/ˈpɜːrsiəs, -sjs/; "Greek: Περσεύς), the legendary founder of "Mycenae and of the "Perseid dynasty of "Danaans, was, alongside "Cadmus and "Bellerophon, the greatest "Greek hero and slayer of monsters before the days of "Heracles.[1] He beheaded the "Gorgon "Medusa for "Polydectes and saved "Andromeda from the sea monster "Cetus. He was the son of the mortal "Danaë and the god "Zeus, and the half-brother and great grandfather of "Heracles.



Perseus rescuing Andromeda from Cetus, depicted on an "amphora in the "Altes Museum, Berlin

Because of the obscurity of the name Perseus and the legendary character of its bearer, most etymologists presume that it might be pre-Greek; however, the name of Perseus’ native city was Greek and so were the names of his wife and relatives. There is some idea that it descended into Greek from the "Proto-Indo-European language. In that regard "Robert Graves has proposed the only Greek derivation available. Perseus might be from the Greek verb, "πέρθειν" (perthein), “to waste, ravage, sack, destroy”, some form of which appears in Homeric epithets. According to "Carl Darling Buck (Comparative Grammar of Greek and Latin), the –eus suffix is typically used to form an agent noun, in this case from the "aorist stem, pers-. Pers-eus therefore is a sacker of cities; that is, a soldier by occupation, a fitting name for the first Mycenaean warrior.

The origin of perth- is more obscure. J. B. Hofmann lists the possible root as *bher-, from which Latin ferio, "strike".[2] This corresponds to "Julius Pokorny’s *bher-(3), “scrape, cut.” Ordinarily *bh- descends to Greek as ph-. This difficulty can be overcome by presuming a dissimilation from the –th– in perthein; that is, the Greeks preferred not to say *pherthein. Graves carries the meaning still further, to the perse- in "Persephone, goddess of death. "John Chadwick in the second edition of Documents in Mycenaean Greek speculates about the "Mycenaean goddess pe-re-*82, attested on the "PY Tn 316 tablet ("Linear B: 𐀟𐀩𐁚) and tentatively reconstructed as *Preswa:

”It is tempting to see...the classical "Perse...daughter of "Oceanus...; whether it may be further identified with the first element of Persephone is only speculative.”

A Greek folk etymology connected the name of the "Persian (Pars) people, whom they called the Persai. The native name, however, has always had an -a- in "Persian. "Herodotus[3] recounts this story, devising a foreign son, Perses, from whom the Persians took the name. Apparently the Persians [4] knew the story as "Xerxes tried to use it to bribe the Argives during his invasion of Greece, but ultimately failed to do so.


Origin at Argos[edit]

Perseus was the son of "Zeus and "Danaë, the daughter of "Acrisius, King of "Argos. Disappointed by his lack of luck in having a son, Acrisius consulted the "oracle at Delphi, who warned him that he would one day be killed by his daughter's son. In order to keep Danaë childless, Acrisius imprisoned her in a bronze chamber, open to the sky, in the courtyard of his palace:[5] This "mytheme is also connected to "Ares, "Oenopion, "Eurystheus, and others. Zeus came to her in the form of a shower of gold, and impregnated her.[6] Soon after, their child was born; Perseus—"Perseus Eurymedon,[7] for his mother gave him this name as well" (Apollonius of Rhodes, "Argonautica IV).

Fearful for his future, but unwilling to provoke the wrath of the gods by killing the offspring of Zeus and his daughter, Acrisius cast the two into the sea in a wooden chest.[8] Danaë's fearful prayer, made while afloat in the darkness, has been expressed by the poet "Simonides of Ceos. Mother and child washed ashore on the island of "Serifos, where they were taken in by the fisherman "Dictys ("fishing net"), who raised the boy to manhood. The brother of Dictys was "Polydectes ("he who receives/welcomes many"), the king of the island.

Overcoming the Gorgon[edit]

Antonio Canova: Perseo trionfante, 1801, "Musei Vaticani, "Rome
Perseus and the head of Medusa in a Roman fresco at "Stabiae

When Perseus was grown, Polydectes came to fall in love with the beautiful Danaë. Perseus believed Polydectes was less than honourable, and protected his mother from him; then Polydectes plotted to send Perseus away in disgrace. He held a large banquet where each guest was expected to bring a gift.[note 1] Polydectes requested that the guests bring horses, under the pretense that he was collecting contributions for the hand of "Hippodamia, "tamer of horses". Perseus had no horse to give, so he asked Polydectes to name the gift; he would not refuse it. Polydectes held Perseus to his rash promise and demanded the head of the only mortal "Gorgon,[9] "Medusa, whose gaze turned people to stone. "Ovid's account of Medusa's mortality tells that she had once been a woman, vain of her beautiful hair, who was raped by Poseidon in the Temple of "Athena.[10] In punishment for the desecration of her temple, Athena had changed Medusa's hair into hideous snakes "that she may alarm her surprised foes with terror".[11]

Athena instructed Perseus to find the "Hesperides, who were entrusted with weapons needed to defeat the Gorgon. Following Athena's guidance,[12] Perseus sought the "Graeae, sisters of the "Gorgons, to demand the whereabouts of the "Hesperides, the nymphs tending "Hera's orchard. The Graeae were three perpetually old women, who had to share a single eye. As the women passed the eye from one to another, Perseus snatched it from them, holding it for ransom in return for the location of the nymphs.[13] When the sisters led him to the Hesperides, he returned what he had taken.

From the Hesperides he received a knapsack (kibisis) to safely contain Medusa's head. Zeus gave him an "adamantine sword (a "Harpe) and Hades' "helm of darkness to hide. Hermes lent Perseus "winged sandals to fly, and Athena gave him a polished shield. Perseus then proceeded to the Gorgons' cave.

In the cave he came upon the sleeping "Medusa. By viewing Medusa's reflection in his polished shield, he safely approached and cut off her head. From her neck sprang "Pegasus ("he who sprang") and "Chrysaor ("sword of gold"), the result of Poseidon and Medusa's meeting. The other two Gorgons pursued Perseus,[14] but, wearing his helm of darkness, he escaped. From here he proceeded to visit Atlas, king of "Mauretania, who had refused him hospitality; in revenge Perseus turned him to stone.[15]

Marriage to Andromeda[edit]

Julius Troschel: Perseus und Andromeda, c. 1845, "Neue Pinakothek, "Munich

On the way back to Seriphos Island, Perseus stopped in the kingdom of "Aethiopia. This mythical Ethiopia was ruled by King "Cepheus and Queen "Cassiopeia. Cassiopeia, having boasted her daughter "Andromeda equal in beauty to the "Nereids, drew the vengeance of "Poseidon, who sent an inundation on the land and a sea serpent, "Cetus, which destroyed man and beast. The "oracle of Ammon announced that no relief would be found until the king exposed his daughter "Andromeda to the monster, and so she was fastened naked to a rock on the shore. Perseus slew the monster and, setting her free, claimed her in marriage.

Perseus married Andromeda in spite of "Phineus, to whom she had before been promised. At the wedding a quarrel took place between the rivals, and Phineus was turned to stone by the sight of Medusa's head that Perseus had kept.[16] Andromeda ("queen of men") followed her husband to "Tiryns in "Argos, and became the ancestress of the family of the "Perseidae who ruled at "Tiryns through her son with Perseus, "Perses.[17] After her death she was placed by Athena among the constellations in the northern sky, near Perseus and Cassiopeia.[note 2] "Sophocles and "Euripides (and in more modern times "Pierre Corneille) made the episode of Perseus and Andromeda the subject of tragedies, and its incidents were represented in many ancient works of art.

"Edward Burne-Jones: The Baleful Head, 1885, "Staatsgalerie Stuttgart.
This part of the series plays with the theme of the reflected gaze, as Perseus has Andromeda look at the Gorgon's head, but only as reflected in the well.

As Perseus was flying in his return above the sands of "Libya, according to "Apollonius of Rhodes,[18] the falling drops of Medusa's blood created a race of toxic serpents, one of whom was to kill the Argonaut "Mopsus. On returning to Seriphos and discovering that his mother had to take refuge from the violent advances of Polydectes, Perseus killed him with Medusa's head, and made his brother Dictys, consort of Danaë, king.

Oracle fulfilled[edit]

The Doom Fulfilled, 1888, "Southampton City Art Gallery, part of a series paintings revolving around Perseus, created by the "Pre-Raphaelite artist "Edward Burne-Jones

Perseus then returned his magical loans and gave Medusa's head as a "votive gift to "Athena, who set it on "Zeus' shield (which she carried), as the "Gorgoneion (see also: "Aegis). The fulfillment of the oracle was told several ways, each incorporating the mythic theme of exile. In "Pausanias[19] he did not return to Argos, but went instead to "Larissa, where athletic games were being held. He had just invented the "quoit and was making a public display of them when Acrisius, who happened to be visiting, stepped into the trajectory of the quoit and was killed: Thus the oracle was fulfilled. This is an unusual variant on the story of such a prophecy, as Acrisius' actions did not, in this variant, cause his death.

In the "Bibliotheca,[20] the inevitable occurred by another route: Perseus did return to Argos, but when Acrisius learned of his grandson's approach, mindful of the oracle he went into voluntary exile in "Pelasgiotis ("Thessaly). There Teutamides, king of "Larissa, was holding "funeral games for his father. Competing in the discus throw Perseus' throw veered and struck Acrisius, killing him instantly. In a third tradition,[21] Acrisius had been driven into exile by his brother "Proetus. Perseus turned the brother into stone with the Gorgon's head and restored Acrisius to the throne. Then, accused by Acrisius of lying about having slain Medusa, Perseus proves himself by showing Acrisius the Gorgon's head, thus fulfilling the prophecy.

Having killed Acrisius, Perseus, who was next in line for the throne, gave the kingdom to "Megapenthes ("great mourning") son of "Proetus and took over Megapenthes' kingdom of "Tiryns. The story is related in Pausanias,[22] which gives as motivation for the swap that Perseus was ashamed to become king of Argos by inflicting death. In any case, early Greek literature reiterates that manslaughter, even involuntary, requires the exile of the slaughterer, expiation and ritual purification. The exchange might well have been a creative solution to a difficult problem; however, Megapenthes would have been required to avenge his father, which, in legend, he did, but only at the end of Perseus' long and successful reign.

King of Mycenae[edit]

"Piero di Cosimo: Andromeda liberata da Perseo, c. 1515, "Uffizi

The two main sources regarding the legendary life of Perseus—for he was an authentic historical figure to the Greeks— are Pausanias and the "Bibliotheca. Pausanias[23] asserts that the Greeks believed Perseus founded Mycenae. He mentions the shrine to Perseus that stood on the left-hand side of the road from Mycenae to Argos, and also a sacred fountain at Mycenae called Persea. Located outside the walls, this was perhaps the spring that filled the citadel's underground cistern. He states also that "Atreus stored his treasures in an underground chamber there, which is why "Heinrich Schliemann named the largest "tholos tomb the "Treasury of Atreus.

Apart from these more historical references, the only accounts of him are from folk-etymology: Perseus dropped his cap or found a mushroom (both named myces) at Mycenae, or perhaps the place was named from the lady Mycene, daughter of "Inachus, mentioned in a now-fragmentary poem, the "Megalai Ehoiai.[24] For whatever reasons, perhaps as outposts, Perseus fortified Mycenae according to Apollodorus[25] along with "Midea, an action that implies that they both previously existed. It is unlikely, however, that Apollodorus knew who walled in Mycenae; he was only conjecturing. In any case, Perseus took up official residence in Mycenae with Andromeda.

According to "Hyginus, "Fabulae 244, Megapenthes eventually killed Perseus, to avenge the death of his father.

Regnal titles
Preceded by
"King of Argos Succeeded by
Preceded by
King of "Tiryns Succeeded by
Preceded by
King of "Mycenae Succeeded by


Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons: "Perses, "Alcaeus, "Heleus, "Mestor, "Sthenelus, "Electryon, and "Cynurus, and two daughters, "Gorgophone, and "Autochthe. Perses was left in "Aethiopia and became an ancestor of the "Persians. The other descendants ruled Mycenae from "Electryon to "Eurystheus, after whom "Atreus got the kingdom. However, the Perseids included the great hero, "Heracles, stepson of "Amphitryon, son of "Alcaeus. The Heraclides, or descendants of Heracles, successfully contested the rule of the Atreids.

A statement by the Athenian orator, "Isocrates[26] helps to date Perseus approximately. He said that Heracles was four generations later than Perseus, which corresponds to the legendary succession: Perseus, "Electryon, "Alcmena, and "Heracles, who was a contemporary of "Eurystheus. "Atreus was one generation later, a total of five generations.

Children Perses Alcaeus Sthenelus Heleus Mestor Electryon Cynurus Gorgophone Autochthe
Grandchildren Achaemenid Persians Amphitryon, Anaxo, Perimede Eurytheus, Alcyone, Medusa - Hippothoe Alcmene, Stratobates, Anactor, Gorgophonus, Phylonomus, Celaeneus, Amphimachus, Lysinomus, Archelaus, Chirimachus, Licymnius - "Aphareus, "Leucippus, Tyndareus, Icarius -
Third Generation Descendant - Iphicles; "Melas, Argius, Oeonus "Admete, Perimedes, Alexander, Iphimedon, "Eurybius, Mentor - Taphius Heracles, Iphicles - Idas, Lynceus, Peisus; Phoebe, Hilaeira; "Castor, "Clytemnestra, "Timandra, Phoebe, "Philonoe; "Penelope, "Perileos, "Thoas, "Iphthime, Aletes, Imeusimus, Damasippus -
Fourth Generation Descendant - Iolaus - - Pterelaus Heraclides, Iolaus Mnesileos; Anogon; Cleopatra; Iphigenia, Electra, Orestes, Chrysothemis, Laodice, "Aletes, "Erigone, Helen; Ladocus; "Telemachus, Poliporthes, Acusilaus, Italus -
Fifth Generation Descendant - "Leipephilene - - Chromius, Tyrannus, Antiochus, Mestor, Chersidamas, Eueres, Comaetho "Leipephilene Medon, Strophius; Tisamenus, Penthilus; Persepolis, Latinus, Poliporthes -

On Pegasus[edit]

The replacement of "Bellerophon as the tamer and rider of "Pegasus by the more familiar "culture hero Perseus was not simply an error of painters and poets of the "Renaissance. The transition was a development of Classical times which became the standard image during the Middle Ages and has been adopted by the European poets of the Renaissance and later: "Giovanni Boccaccio's "Genealogia deorum gentilium libri (10.27) identifies Pegasus as the steed of Perseus, and "Pierre Corneille places Perseus upon Pegasus in Andromède.[27] Modern representations of this image include sculptor "Émile Louis Picault's 1888 sculpture Pegasus.

Argive genealogy in Greek mythology[edit]

"Argive "genealogy in "Greek mythology
"Inachus "Melia
"Zeus "Io "Phoroneus
"Epaphus "Memphis
"Libya "Poseidon
"Belus "Achiroë "Agenor "Telephassa
"Danaus "Pieria "Aegyptus "Cadmus "Cilix "Europa "Phoenix
Mantineus "Hypermnestra "Lynceus "Harmonia "Zeus
"Sparta "Lacedaemon "Ocalea "Abas "Agave "Sarpedon "Rhadamanthus
"Eurydice "Acrisius "Ino "Minos
"Zeus "Danaë "Semele "Zeus
Perseus "Dionysus
Colour key:


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Such a banquet, to which each guest brings a gift, was an eranos. The name of Polydectes, "receiver of many", characterizes his role as intended host but is also a "euphemism for the Lord of the Underworld, as in the "Homeric Hymn to Demeter 9, 17.
  2. ^ "Catasterismi.


  1. ^ "Kerenyi, Karl, 1959. The Heroes of the Greeks (London: Thames and Hudson) p. 75.
  2. ^ Hofmann, J. B. (1950). Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Griechischen (in German). Munich: R. Oldenbourg. 
  3. ^ Herodotus, vii.61
  4. ^ Herodotus vii.150
  5. ^ "Even thus endured Danaë in her beauty to change the light of day for brass-bound walls; and in that chamber, secret as the grave, she was held close" ("Sophocles, "Antigone). In post-Renaissance paintings the setting is often a locked tower.
  6. ^ Trzaskoma, Stephen; et al. (2004). Anthology of classical myth: primary sources in translation. Indianopolis, IN: Hackett. "ISBN "978-0-87220-721-9. 
  7. ^ Eurymedon: "far-ruling"
  8. ^ For the familiar motif of the "Exposed Child in the account of "Moses especially, see "Childs, Brevard S. (1965). "The Birth of Moses". Journal of Biblical Literature. 84 (2): 109–122. "JSTOR 3264132.  And Redford, Donald B. (1967). "The Literary Motif of the Exposed Child (Cf. Ex. ii 1–10)". Numen. 14 (3): 209–228. "doi:10.2307/3269606.  Another example of this mytheme is the Indian figure of "Karna.
  9. ^ Hesiod, Theogony 277
  10. ^ Ovid, as a Roman writer, uses the Roman names for Poseidon and Athena, "Neptune" and "Minerva" respectively.
  11. ^ Ovid, Metamorphoses iv, 792–802, "Henry Thomas Riley's translation
  12. ^ "The Myth of Perseus and Medusa", obtained from "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-03-28. Retrieved 2010-04-07. 
  13. ^ "PERSEUS : Hero ; Greek mythology" obtained from http://www.theoi.com/Heros/Perseus.html
  14. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, "Bibliotheke 2. 37–39.
  15. ^ William Godwin (1876). "Lives of the Necromancers". p. 39. 
  16. ^ "Ovid, "Metamorphoses 5.1–235.
  17. ^ Perseus and Andromeda had seven sons: "Perseides, "Perses, "Alcaeus, "Heleus, "Mestor, "Sthenelus, and "Electryon, and one daughter, "Gorgophone. Their descendants also ruled Mycenae, from "Electryon to "Eurystheus, after whom "Atreus attained the kingdom. Among the Perseids was the great hero "Heracles. According to this mythology, Perseus is the ancestor of the "Persians.
  18. ^ "Argonautica, IV.
  19. ^ Pausanias, 2.16.2
  20. ^ 2.4.4
  21. ^ "Metamorphoses, 5.177
  22. ^ Pausanias, 2.16.3
  23. ^ 2.15.4, 2.16.3–6, 2.18.1
  24. ^ "Hesiod, Megalai Ehoiai fr. 246.
  25. ^ 2.4.4, pros-teichisas, "walling in"
  26. ^ 4.07
  27. ^ Johnston, George Burke (1955). ""Jonson's". The Review of English Studies. New Series. 6 (21): 65–67. "doi:10.1093/res/VI.21.65. "JSTOR 510816. 

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