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Medusa is one of the most famous monsters in Greek mythology. She is most recognized for having live snakes as hair. Medusa is an ancient icon that is still recreated in art and pop culture today.
See the fact file below for more information on the Medusa or alternatively, you can download our 22-page Medusa worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- According to Hesiod’s Theogony, Medusa was one of the three Gorgon daughters of ancient deities Phorcys and Ceto.
- The Gorgon sisters were siblings of the Graeae (Grey Sisters), Ladon, and Echidna.
- Hesiod also mentioned that the Gorgon sisters lived towards the night by the Hesperides and beyond Oceanus. Later authors, however, placed their abode in Libya.
- Medusa’s other two Gorgon sisters were Stheno and Euryale.
- Medusa was a female creature with wings, and a head of snakes, and a monstrous form just like her sisters.
- In the 5th century, vase-painters and sculptors started envisioning her as a very beautiful and terrifying creature.
- Medusa was the only mortal of the Gorgon sisters.
- Ovid’s poem describes Medusa as originally having stunning beauty.
- Many versions of Medusa’s myth state that she was raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple, which angered Athena. As punishment, she turned Medusa’s hair into serpents. Athena also made Medusa’s face so terrible that just a glance at her face would turn onlookers to stone.
- Ancient people became scared of Medusa. The hero Perseus was ordered to kill Medusa and get her head for King Polydectes, hoping that Perseus would be killed by Medusa, so he could marry Perseus’ mother.
- The gods helped Perseus in his mission. Athena gave him a mirrored shield. Hermes gave him gold and winged sandals; he also received a sword from Hephaestus and a helm of invisibility from Hades.
- Perseus used the reflection from the shield to know where Medusa was and successfully kill her without turning into stone.
- When Medusa met Perseus, she was pregnant by Poseidon. When her head was cut off, a winged horse came out of her severed head and from her body sprang a giant holding a golden sword.
- Numerous stories also claim that many more creatures were born out of Medusa’s blood.
- Some accounts tell of Perseus using the head against opponents he encountered on his way home.
- Upon arrival at Seriphos, he found his mother being forced by the king to marry him. Enraged, Perseus turned the king to stone using the head.
- Perseus then gave Medusa’s head to Athena, who placed it on her shield.
- Gorgon comes from an ancient Greek word that means fierce, terrible, and grim.
- The meaning of each of the Gorgon sisters’ names helps to describe their monstrousness.
- Medusa’s name translates as “to guard or protect”.
- Sthenno’s name means strength, force, or might, while Euryale means broad, wide threshing, wide-stepping.
ART AND CULTURAL REPRESENTATIONS
- Several artworks have depicted Medusa and her sisters.
- A monster, a rallying symbol for liberty, a protective symbol, and as a victim of rape and/or a curse are a few of Medusa’s representations.
- Medusa’s head, also known as the Gorgoneion, was used in ancient times as a shielding apotropaic symbol. It was the most used symbol to ward off evil.
- The Alexander Mosaic found in Pompeii shows shields that bore Medusa’s head.
- Her head can be seen in several Greek and Roman artifacts like breastplates, mosaics, and shields.
- During the Renaissance, artists often made artworks that showed Medusa’s head being held in the air, like in Benvenuto Cellini’s bronze statue.
- In the 19th century, after the French Revolution, Medusa became a popular emblem of Jacobinism.
- Medusa was also used as a figure of “French Liberty”, in opposition to “English Liberty”, which was represented by Athena.
- Radical poets like Percy Bysshe Shelley considered Medusa as a gloomy hero and a victim of cruelty whose weakness, monstrous mutilation, and disfigurement became a kind of revolutionary power in themselves.
- In 1819, Shelley wrote On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery. It was posthumously published by his wife in 1824.
- The severed head of Medusa is one of the most familiar images from Greek mythology.
- Numerous paperback editions of the book Mythology, written by Edith Hamilton, featured Perseus carrying Medusa’s head on their cover, as did some versions of Bulfinch’s Mythology.
- The 1964 horror film The Gorgon was based on the myth of the Medusa. The movie “abandoned the traditional myth entirely and tried to tell a new story”.
- In the 1981 version of the film Clash of the Titans, the director stuck close to ancient sources in representing Medusa but took creative liberties and changed Medusa’s biology.
- The 2010 remake of the film showed Medusa with a human’s face until it warps when she turns her victims to stone.
- The Gorgon sisters and creatures modeled from them have also been featured in video games like Dungeons and Dragons, God of War, and Final Fantasy.
- Some bands and singers have also written songs that are dedicated to and/or inspired by Medusa.
OTHER SYMBOLS AND USES
- Medusa’s head is also used in some flags and emblems. Sicily’s emblem and flag and the municipal coat of arms of Dohalice in the Czech Republic both feature the head of Medusa.
- Numerous scientific names of various plants and animals also honor Medusa. An example is a stalked jellyfish with the scientific name Stauromedusae.
- The designer Versace also uses Medusa’s head as the symbol of his brand.
- Feminism uses Medusa as a symbol of rage despite being formerly beautiful.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Medusa across 22 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Medusa worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Medusa who is one of the most famous monsters in Greek mythology. She is most recognized for having live snakes as hair. Medusa is an ancient icon that is still recreated in art and pop culture today.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Staring at the Truth
- The Cursed Ones
- Versace’s Medusa
- The Art of Medusa
- Medusa’s Poem
- A New Look
- Picture Story
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Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.