Medusa was never always considered a monster. In fact, it was the opposite. Her name meant "Guardian, ruler or to protect." She was the youngest daughter of the two sea titans, Phorcys and Ceta. Medusa along with her sisters, Stheno and Euryale was a gorgon as well and among them was the most beautiful and the only mortal one of the three.
She had great beauty and many men lusted for her but she remained a pure virgin as she desired to serve Goddess Athena as a priestess in her temple. Many visited the temple to have a glance at her beauty and even claimed that Athena had no comparison to Mudusa's looks or her long silky hair. This challenged Athena's jealousy.
One day, Medusa walked along the shores of the sea when Poseidon, the sea god spotted her and instantly fell for her looks. He tried to win her over but was rejected multiple times because if she wished to be priestess in Athena's temple, she must stay a virgin. Poseidon, however did not stop there, he took her as a possession that he could easily take away from Athena as the two had conflicts with each other during that time. He got tired of being rejected so he decided to take her by force. Medusa asked for Athena's protection but her request was delayed. She fell into the hands of Poseiden who raped her inside Athena's temple of worship and left Medusa in her miserable state. Moments later, Athena arrived and was enraged with the events that had happened and decided to punish Medusa because punishments against gods was unthinkable.
Athena cursed Medusa. The hair that Athena was once envious of, turned into a head of venomous snakes, her beautiful skin into hideous scales. Medusa became the most hedious out of the three sisters. Whoever looked at her eyes would instantly turn into stone. She was banished from civilization.
The word spread of the monster, Medusa had become and eventually became a target of many warriors who wanted her head as a trophy. Many suffered the fate and were turned into stones. It was said that before turning them into stones, she only looked at them with fear and was angry at the gods for punishing her.
Later, Perseus's mother was being forced into marriage with King Polydectes who was trying to get rid of Perseus (son of Zeus), assigned him with the task of retrieving Medusa's head. In order to complete the task he required aid from the Gods. He was given a helmet by Hades (God of underworld) that would make him invisible, a pair of winged sandals by Hermes (God of trade) for him to fly up to Medusa, a bronze shield by Athena (Goddess of war) that was able to reflect the gaze of her and lastly a sword by Zeus (King of Gods) that was sharp enough to cut the head of Medusa.
Since she was the only one mortal of the three sisters he was able to slay her looking at the reflection of his shield.
At the time of her death, Medusa was pregnant with posiedon's child and when she was beheaded, her two unborn children Pegasus (the mythical winged horse) and Chrysaor (A giant) sprung from her neck.
Perseus used Medusa's head to aid him in many of his adventures and it played a crucial role in defeating the titan.
It was said that the corals of the red sea were formed by her blood which spilled when Perseus kept her head beside the shore.
Perseus further went on to save his mother and turned King Polydectes into stone. He then handed over the head to Goddess Athena who placed it on her shield.
Medusa is one the most misunderstood characters from Greek Mythology and was often looked as a hideous cruel monster. All she desired was to be a priestess and placed her trust in the hands of the one she worshiped Goddess Athena, who failed her and punished her for something she had no control over.
Even after Medusa's death she can be seen as a symbol of good as her head was used to keep evil away.
© 2019 Uzma Faizi
JC Scull from Gainesville, Florida on October 26, 2019:
I love Medusa!! One of my favorites.