Medusa (myth)

   In Greek mythology, Medusa was one of the Gorgons. According to Hesiod there were three of these monsters. Medusa alone was subject to death, the others being immortal. The legend runs that Medusa was a beau­tiful maiden whose glorious hair was praised until she grew vain, and at last dared to compare her beauty with that of Minerva. The jealous goddess punished her by changing her lovely curls into hiss­ing serpents. Her disposition changed also and she became cruel. All who looked at her terrible face surrounded by the writh­ing snakes were immediately turned into stone. About the cavern where she lived were many figures of men and animals who had been petrified by looking in her face. At last the hero Perseus slew Medusa. He was careful not to look at her directly, but, watching her reflection in his bright shield, cut off her head, which he carried to Minerva. Minerva placed the head in the middle of her aegis. Medusa has been rep­resented frequently in art. The most fa­mous painting of her is by Leonardo da Vinci.