- Pronunciation: PER-see-us
- Origin: Greek
- Role: Hero
- Parents: Acrisius and Danae
- Wife: Andromeda
- Children: Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Gorgophone
- Symbol: Medusa’s Head
Who Is Perseus?
Everyone knows Hercules, the great Greek hero. But not many know of the heroes that came before him, including Perseus. He founded Mycenae and became known for slaying monsters and beasts throughout the entire kingdom.
In Greek mythology, Perseus serves as a reminder of bravery and great strength. He consistently overcame obstacles of all sizes and defended his loved ones. He sought revenge when necessary and proved himself to be honorable and clever. It can be assumed that he served as a base for the development of future Greek heroes.
Perseus’ myth is one of the earliest found in Greek art. He was an important part of early Greek mythology and certainly inspired the heroes that would follow him.
Legends and Stories
There is one main myth that tells of Perseus’ story. It shows how brave, confident, and smart the hero was. It’s easy to see from the following myth how he inspired the heroes that would come after him.
The Myth of Perseus
There was once a king named Acrisius. He had a daughter named Danae. Acrisius had been warned that his daughter’s son would kill him. To prevent this from ever happening, the king locked his daughter up in a bronze tower, preventing her from ever marrying or having children.
There was a single small window in the tower. Danae spent her days being quite sad and longing for human contact. One day, a bright light shined through the window. After a moment, a man appeared from the light and told Danae that he wished to marry her. Danae noticed the thunderbolt in his hand and knew he must be a god but she didn’t know which one. He promised to turn her tower into a beautiful and happy place.
Danae agreed and before her eyes, the terrible tower was transformed into lunch fields with flowers, towering trees, and sparkling streams. One day, Acrisius spotted light coming out from the tower. He commanded his men to knock down a wall to the tower so he could see in. Once the task was done, Acrisius stormed the tower and was shocked to see his daughter holding a baby. The baby’s name was Perseus but Acrisius was anything but happy to see him. He locked his daughter and new grandson in a chest and threw them out into the sea.
The chest managed to take them to an island called Seriphos. Polydectes ruled the island. A fisherman pulled the chest up onto shore and freed the mom and son. Perseus grew up on the island and became known for his strength. Polydectes found himself attracted to Danae but she would not marry him. Polydectes wanted to force her to marry him but Perseus intervened. Because of this, Polydectes began devising a plan to make Perseus disappear and then make Danae his wife.
Polydectes pretended to marry a friend’s daughter. Everyone in the land was told to bring a gift for the happy couple. But Perseus did not have any money and did not bring a present. Polydectes pretended to be upset and began an argument with the young man. To make him happy, Perseus said he would bring any gift that Polydectes wanted. The king asked for the head of Medusa.
Perseus began to search for Medusa’s lair. He was beginning to lose hope when two people, a man and a woman, suddenly appeared in front of him. They were Athena and Hermes and told Perseus that they were siblings of his. They offered to help. Hermes gave Perseus his winged sandals for speed and the sickle that had been used by Cronus to castrate his father. Athena gave the young man her shield for protection. The siblings also helped Perseus by telling him where he could find Medusa.
Perseus set out again with a new source of inspiration. He went through several obstacles but eventually found Medusa’s lair. She was sleeping. Perseus put on the Cap of Darkness and was able to sneak up on the monster. He used the sickle to decapitate her and then carried her head on the shield. He placed it in a bag to prevent her eyes from casting their spell on anyone.
Perseus began to head back to Seriphos. On his journey, he conquered several other monsters and obstacles. On one of his adventures, he rescued a young woman named Andromeda, who became his wife.
He stopped in the town of Larisa with his new wife. He threw a discus there while playing games with the locals. It hit an old man and killed him. The old man was Perseus’ father, Acrisius, even though the young man had no idea. The prophecy did come true, even after all the effort made by Acrisius to prevent it.
Perseus and his wife arrived at Seriphos, where they met the fisherman who had saved Danae and her son so many years ago. The fisherman told them the truth about Polydectes, saying that he had never married and that it was all a trick. This infuriated Perseus, who stormed to the palace and sought his revenge. He took out Medusa’s head and pointed it at Polydectes, for anyone who looked into the monster’s eyes, even though she was dead, was turned into stone.
The king was immediately turned to stone. Perseus and his wife stayed and lived a happy life for many years. Hercules would become their most important descendant.
Perseus’ mother was Danae and his father was Zeus. His grandfather was Acrisus of Argos. Perseus was married to Andromeda and their children were Perses, Alcaeus, Heleus, Mestor, Sthenelus, and Gorgophone. Hercules was the great-grandson of Perseus.
In artistic representations, Perseus is shown as a young, attractive man wearing winged boots and a fitted cap. He is most often shown with a sickle-shaped sword, his weapon of choice.
The most widely recognized symbol of Perseus is unique to say the least. The severed head of Medusa is instantly associated with Perseus, as he was the hero who conquered her. In art work telling this part of his myth, he is shown holding the head in his left hand while holding the blade he used in the right hand.