Gorgon

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Gorgons

Nationality/Culture

Greek/Roman

Pronunciation

GOR-guhnz

Alternate Names

None

Appears In

Hesiod's Theogony, Ovid's Metamorphoses

Lineage

Daughters of Phorcys and Ceto

Character Overview

The Gorgons, three terrifying creatures in Greek mythology , were sisters named Stheno (pronounced STHEE-noh; “strength”), Euryale (pronounced yoo-RYE-uh-lee; “wide-leaping”), and Medusa (pronounced meh-DOO-suh; “ruler” or “queen”). Daughters of the sea god Phorcys (pronounced FOR-sis) and his sister and wife, Ceto (pronounced SEE-toh), they lived in the west near the setting sun.

According to legend, the Gorgons were ugly monsters with huge wings, sharp fangs and claws, and bodies covered with dragonlike scales. They had horrible grins, staring eyes, and writhing snakes for hair. Their gaze was so terrifying that anyone who looked upon them immediately turned to stone. It was said that blood taken from the right side of one of the Gorgons had the power to revive the dead, while blood taken from the left would instandy kill any living thing. Two of the Gorgons, Stheno and Euryale, were immortal (able to live forever), but Medusa was not. In one of the more famous Greek myths, the hero Perseus (pronounced PUR-see-uhs) killed and beheaded her with help from Athena (pronounced uh-THEE-nuh). When Medusa was beheaded, the winged horse Pegasus (pronounced PEG-uh-suhs) sprang from her headless neck. Athena later placed an image of Medusa's head on her armor.

The Gorgons had three sisters known as the Graeae (pronounced GREE-ee; “the gray ones”)- These old women—Enyo (pronounced eh-NYE-oh), Pemphredo (pronounced pem-FREE-doh), and Deino (pronounced DAY-noh)—shared one eye and one tooth, and they took turns using them. The Graeae guarded the route that led to their sisters, the Gorgons. Perseus, however, stole their eye and tooth, forcing them to help in his quest to find and kill Medusa.

Gorgons in Context

In ancient Greece and Rome, Gorgon images were common household decorations; their hideous faces were thought to ward off evil. They often adorned entrances to buildings as a way to protect those inside, and commonly appeared on household items like water jugs. This type of magic—where evil is kept away, usually by an unappealing word or image—is known as apotropaic (pronounced ap-uh-troh-PAY-ik) magic. Although the Gorgons are described as hideous, awful creatures, they also served as protectors against outside forces.

Key Themes and Symbols

Gorgons, as with their sisters the Graeae, usually symbolize ugliness and solitude. They have few interactions with outsiders. The Gorgons and Graeae also represent the bonds of sisterhood, since they remain together and care for one another apart from the rest of the world.

Gorgons in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Medusa is the most popular of the Gorgons. She has appeared in art by Rubens, Pablo Picasso, and Leonardo da Vinci (the two paintings of Medusa by da Vinci have not survived). Perhaps the most famous images of Medusa are the headless portrait painted by Caravaggio in 1597, and the 16th century bronze statue of Perseus holding Medusa's head sculpted by Benvenuto Cellini. The story of Perseus and Medusa is retold in the 1981 film Clash of the Titans, with Medusa depicted as a grotesque woman with the lower body of a snake. Medusa also appears in Rick Riordan's 2005 novel The Lightning Thief, a modern retelling of several ancient Greek myths.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

The ancient Greeks often associated physical ugliness, especially in a woman, with evil and an undesirable personality. What details can you find in the myths of the Gorgons that emphasize their ugly appearance? Are your culture's ideas about ugliness similar to those of the ancient Greeks? How are unattractive people treated in your society?

SEE ALSO Greek Mythology; Medusa; Perseus

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Gorgons

The Gorgons, three terrifying creatures in Greek mythology, were sisters named Stheno (strength), Euryale (wide-leaping), and Medusa (ruler or queen). Daughters of the sea god Phorcys and his sister and wife, Ceto, they lived in the west near the setting sun.

According to legend, the Gorgons were ugly monsters with huge wings, sharp fangs and claws, and bodies covered with dragonlike scales. They had horrible grins, staring eyes, and writhing snakes for hair. Their gaze was so terrifying that anyone who looked upon them immediately turned to stone. Two of the Gorgons, Stheno and Euryale, were immortal, but Medusa was not. In one of the more famous Greek myths, the hero Perseus* kills and beheads her with help from Athena*. The goddess later placed an image of Medusa's head on her armor.

The Gorgons had three sisters known as the Graeae ("the gray ones"). These old womenEnyo, Pemphredo, and Deinoshared one eye and one tooth, and they took turns using them. The Graeae guarded the route that led to their sisters, the Gorgons. Perseus, however, stole their eye and tooth, forcing them to help in his quest to find and kill Medusa.

See also Greek Mythology; Medusa; Perseus.


immortal able to live forever

* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information.

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Gorgon in Greek mythology, each of three sisters, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, with snakes for hair, who had the power to turn anyone who looked at them to stone. Medusa was killed by Perseus, and the winged horse Pegasus is said to have sprung from her blood.

In extended usage, gorgon is used for a fierce, frightening, or repulsive woman.

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Gor·gon / ˈgôrgən/ (also gor·gon) • n. Greek Mythol. each of three sisters, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa, with snakes for hair, who had the power to turn anyone who looked at them to stone. ∎  a fierce, frightening, or repulsive woman.

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Gorgons In Greek mythology, three monsters named Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa. They had gold wings, snakes for hair, and turned anyone who looked directly at them to stone. Perseus killed Medusa by using his shield as a mirror.

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Gorgon (gôr´gən), in Greek mythology, one of three monstrous sisters, Stheno, Euryale, and Medusa; daughters of Ceto and Phorcus. Their hair was a cluster of writhing snakes, and their faces were so hideous that all who saw them were turned to stone. Only Medusa was mortal. They were much represented in Greek art.

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gorgon terrible- or repulsive-looking person. XVI. Generalized use of the proper name Gorgon — L. Gorgō, -ōn- — Gr. Gorgṓ, f. gorgós terrible.