She’s Everywhere

You’ve heard of her, you’ve probably seen her. She is one of the most well known monsters of myth. Her name… is Medusa.

Now most people picture Medusa as a beautiful woman with snakes for hair, but that wasn’t always what she looked like. In the much older myths, Medusa is born a monster by two ocean deities, Phorkys and Keto. Medusa was one of three Gorgons, and was the only one that was mortal. The Medusa I’m focusing on is the older Medusa, the monstrous one. When I say you’ve probably seen her, it’s because her head and face were a very popular motif used in numerous ways by the ancient Greeks. You may not have even realized you’d seen her face before, or realized that she is actually Medusa. This Medusa is off-putting. Her face is very round, with large tusks coming from her mouth and serpents sprouting from her head. My personal favorite feature of the ancient Medusa, is the large lolling tongue. She stares straight out at you, something that is atypical at the time. Usually people and even monsters were shown from their profile, but Medusa had to be staring straight out at you.

There is a reason that Medusa kept her view outwards. In the myth of her death, the “Hero” Perseus is given the task to bring a king her head. The only way Perseus was going to be able to pull this off is with the help the Gods, and boy do they help him. He gets winged sandals from Hermes, a reflective shield from Athena, a sword whose origins depends on the source (Possibly Hermes, Zeus, or Hephaestus even), and Hade’s helm of invisibility. No other “hero” was helped to this extent. It wasn’t abnormal for Athena to help, but it is weird of Hades, as he didn’t get involved in mortal affairs unless they came to him. It is because of all of this, that I put hero in quotations. Once he has beheaded Medusa, he keeps her head in a special bag, because her gaze is still very powerful. In the end it is passed on to Athena, who places the head on her shield, and her aegis. An aegis is a breastplate that is typically used by Athena and Zeus.

The photo above is an example of Medusa’s head as an aegis. Aegis also means “under the protection of”, which is where I get to my point. Medusa’s head is everywhere. In a similar fashion to the evil eye, Medusa’s head staring straight out kept evil at bay. This motif became very popular, and was used on a wide variety of things that were made. This included red and black pottery, a topic I intend to cover, armor, coins, and even on just regular drinking cups, The Met cited one that would suddenly appear on the bottom after the person would finish their drink to startle them. Medusa’s head is almost always shown on Athena’s shield in a lot of art, especially on the pottery previously mentioned.

Once the ancient period turns into the classical period, Medusa’s appearance starts to change. She no longer has the tusks and tongue, and instead has the face of a human woman. This is likely due to the newer versions of the myth surfacing, which I am not going to get into. Even with the face change, Medusa is still staring outwards, with snakes for hair. She continues to be a source of protection for the wearer, like the necklace above, and she is a protector even now as she has been adapted into current social movements. It is also worth noting that she is in the center of Sicily’s regional flag.

Medusa is everywhere. We will never get away from her. Her head’s motif will be continue to be repeated in many different ways, and her stories will continue to be told. There is one thing about this monster, beheaded by a “hero” that will always bother me. Medusa, the monster, had actually never killed anyone. Perseus was expected to be killed by her, it is why he was sent for her head. But there is nothing from antiquity that indicates her ever killing anyone. So, is this monster that lived far from humanity, really a monster at all?


Albert, L., & Richard, S. (2021). In Greek mythology: The gods, goddesses, and heroes handbook: From aphrodite to zeus, a profile of who’s who in Greek mythology (pp. 149–155). essay, Adams Media.

Bianco, P. (2018, September 29). Trinacria: The symbol of Sicily. Excursions Sicily. (Flag Picture Source)

Glennon, M. (1AD, January 1). Medusa in ancient greek art: Essay: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Heilbrunn timeline of art history. The Met’s Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.,historical%20record%20of%20the%20Greeks.

Gorgones & MEDOUSA. MEDUSA & GORGONS (Medousa & Gorgones) – Snake-Haired Monsters of Greek Mythology. (n.d.). (Cover Photo Source)

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