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Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?

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Author Topic: Mythological Monsters: Did they ever exist?  (Read 2630 times)
Moira Kelliey
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« on: February 24, 2007, 09:06:09 pm »

Classical tradition

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 giants 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 between them (see also the Graeae), which they had to swap between themselves.

Other sources 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.

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