Perseus (Greek mythology)

   In Greek legend, Perseus was a famous hero, son of Danae and Zeus. An account of his birth in the tower of brass and of his journey over the waves shut up with his mother in a chest is given in the article on Danae. Perseus grew up at the court of Polydectes, king of Seriphus. Seriphus wished to marry Danae and, in order to accomplish his purpose, thought best to get rid of Perseus. He therefore sent him to conquer Medusa, believing that the youth would be slain. But Perseus was a favorite with the gods. Hades loaned him his hel­met, which made the wearer invisible at will. Hermes offered his winged sandals and Athene her shield.

    Perseus did not know where to find Medusa, so he first vis­ited the cavern of the Graeae, guardians of the Gorgons, of whom Medusa was one. The Graeae were grayhaired from their birth, and their names were Alarm, Dread, and Horror. They had but one eye and one tooth between them which they used in turn. Perseus, invisible in Hades' hel­met, watched his chance and snatched the eye as it was passing from one sister to another. He refused to return it unless the Graeae would tell him where to find Me­dusa. Following their directions he found Medusa in a cave by the sea. He waited until she was asleep, and then, not looking at her lest he be turned to stone, but guided by her reflection in his shield, he cut off her horrid head with its writhing snakes.

   Bear­ing his trophy Perseus now started to re­turn, flying easily over land and sea with Hermes' sandals. According to one ac­count he sought shelter and food of King Atlas on this trip, and, because he was refused, turned the king into stone with the Gorgon's head. It was on this trip also that he saw Andromeda chained to a rock to be devoured by a monster. Perseus res­cued the maiden and claimed her hand in marriage as his reward. At the wedding feast Phineas, who had been betrothed to the princess—Andromeda was the daughter of Cepheus, king of the Aetheopians—ap­peared with a party of warriors and de­manded the maiden. A combat ensued. When Perseus perceived that it was an un­equal one he shouted for all friends of his to turn away their eyes. He then held up the head of Medusa, when his enemies were immediately turned to stone. Perseus now returned with his bride to his mother. Polydectes was still tormenting Danae with his attentions, so Perseus turned him into stone. He then went to Argos, his birth­place, where he became king. He gave the head of Medusa to Athene, who fixed it in the middle of her aegis. At death Perseus and Andromeda became stars in the constellation of Cassiopeia.