Cultural depictions of Medusa and Gorgons
The mythological monster Medusa and other Gorgons have been featured in art and culture from the days of ancient Greece to the modern day. She has been variously portrayed as a monster, a protective symbol, a rallying symbol for liberty, and a sympathetic rape victim.
Perhaps best recognized by her head of living snakes and by her ability to turn living creatures to stone, Medusa is an ancient icon that remains "one of the most popular and enduring figures of Greek mythology" and "continues to live on in the popular imagination" while other figures have been forgotten.
Ancient times to Renaissance
The Medusa or Gorgon head, known as the Gorgoneion, was used in the ancient world as a protective apotropaic symbol. Among the Ancient Greeks, it was the most widely used symbol to avert evil. Medusa's head, with its goggling eyes, fangs and protruding tongue, was depicted on the shield of Athena herself. Its use in this fashion was depicted in the Alexander Mosaic, a Roman mosaic (ca. 200 BC) in Pompeii. In some cruder representations, the blood flowing under the head can be mistaken for a beard.
By the Renaissance, artists depicted Medusa's head held aloft to represent the realistic human form of the triumphant hero Perseus (such as in the 1554 bronze statue Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini) or Medusa's head was depicted to evoke horror by making the detached head the main subject (as demonstrated by the 1597 painting Medusa by Baroque originator Caravaggio).
After the French Revolution, Medusa was used as a popular emblem of Jacobinism and was often displayed as a figure of "French Liberty." This was in opposition to "English Liberty," which was personified by Athena (whose shield bore Medusa's head). "To radicals like Percy Bysshe Shelley, Medusa was an "abject hero," a victim of tyranny whose weakness, disfiguration, and monstrous mutilation [had] become in themselves a kind of revolutionary power." Shelley's 1819 poem, On the Medusa of Leonardo da Vinci in the Florentine Gallery was published posthomously by his wife Mary Shelley in 1824.Octave Mirbeau's use of Medusa during this time has also been examined.
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Having become "one of the most recognizable images of Greek mythology," Medusa has been featured on the cover of nearly every paperback edition of Edith Hamilton's popular book Mythology since 1942, as well as some editions of Bulfinch's Mythology. Medusa has made countless appearances in animation. The Gorgons are Medusa's sisters and are also mentioned in Charles Dickens' book A Tale of Two Cities.
In popular culture, Medusa was famously depicted in the 1981 film Clash of the Titans." The battle with Medusa was depicted using stop motion animation by special effects creator Ray Harryhausen. Though "the essential story sticks closer to its sources than any other interpretation," the film takes creative liberties and Medusa is imagined differently than "any previous representations, ancient or modern." Medusa is also featured in the film's 2010 remake, her face normally appearing more human-like until it contorts as she turns her victims to stone.
Medusa appears in the film Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, played by Uma Thurman, where she attacks Percy Jackson and his friends while seeking the Pearl of Persephone in her garden centre. The garden centre is populated by various statues of people she has turned to stone. Medusa is defeated when Percy's allies drive a car through a wall. While she is distracted, Percy decapitates her and escapes.
The myth of the Gorgon had also been notably updated and used as the basis for the 1964 Hammer horror film The Gorgon, which "abandoned the traditional myth entirely and tried to tell a new story."
Medusa and Gorgons have been featured in gaming since the advent of role-playing games (RPGs). The seminal RPG Dungeons and Dragons classifies Medusa as a species of monster and Gorgons as scale-covered ox-like creatures that breathe out a gas that turns victims to stone.
Medusa and Gorgons are featured in many popular video games as well. For example, in the role-playing video game Final Fantasy X, the boss Yunalesca appears during her second and final forms to be modeled after her. The God of War series of video games have Gorgons as enemies, depicted as scaly reptile-women with serpentine lower bodies and snakes for hair. Medusa appears as a boss in God of War, as does Euryale in God of War II.
Medusa appears as an enemy that will kill the title character if she sees them in the NES game series Adventures of Lolo.
Medusa's heads and Medusa herself often appear as regular enemies and bosses in the Castlevania series.
Medusa and her sisters all appear as a boss encounter in the game Titan Quest in addition to Gorgon enemies throughout the game's first act.
- On their 1980 album Signing Off, British band UB40 features a song "Madame Medusa" which draws unfavorable comparisons between the mythological monster and United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
- Wilk, Stephen R. Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, June 26, 2000, Front matter, ISBN 0-19-512431-6.
- Wilk, Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, pg. 200
- Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, pp 196ff.
- Might Medici, By Robert Hughes, Time, Dec. 05, 2002
- Judson, B. (2001). The Politics of Medusa: Shelley's Physiognomy of Revolution. ELH. 68(1), 135-154.
- "Ekphrasis and the Other" by W. J. T. Mitchell, excerpted from Picture Theory(The University of Chicago Press);the paper originally appeared in South Atlantic Quarterly XCI (Summer 1992), pg. 695-719.
- Shelley, Percy Bysshe. The Complete Poems of Percy Bysshe Shelley, 14 June 1994, pg. 621, ISBN 0-679-60111-2.
- Claude Herzfeld, La Figure de Méduse dans l'œuvre d'Octave Mirbeau, Librairie Nizet, Paris, 1992, 107 pages.
- Wilk, Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, pg. 209.
- Wilk, Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, pg. 210.
- Wilk, Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon, pg. 207.
- Medusa the Gorgon - Atmosfear.com.au
- GameBanshee-Titan Quest Walkthrough