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Medusa in Greek Mythology Essay

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Updated: Oct 3rd, 2021

According to Greek mythology, Medusa is considered to be a chthonic monstrous female character, the daughter of Ceto and Phorcys. Originally this character was perceived as goddess Athena aspect from Libya being the Libyan Amazons’ Serpent-Goddess. Her role in the mythology has undergone different interpretations and versions. Medusa was beheaded by Perseus, the mythological hero. According to the legend he used Medusa’s head as a kind of weapon until providing it to goddess Athena to put on her shield. In modern mythology this character is known as the expression of the evil named Gorgoneion.

According to the mythology Medusa was considered to be the only mortal person among three sisters. Originally, she was depicted as the horse having wings; later on the history of mythology shows the image of this character as the creature with wild boar tusks, black tongue, serpents instead of wings and brazen claws instead of hands. According to the legend her gaze could turn any person into stone. The character of Medusa is usually called Gorgon or in other words “Mistress of the Gate of Death”.

Speaking about symbolized character of Medusa it should be noted that this creature used to mean the female genitals together with female sexuality. From the very beginning of the Medusa mythological legend she happened to have been illustrated as a head only. It was stated that the body which was added a bit later enabled to kill Medusa. It helped to explain the origin of the disembodied head of a terror look and solute a conflict between the human fears and a man as to the female demonic sexual energy. In Ancient Greece kiln doors and ovens were decorated with the image of Medusa in order to frighten children for them not to hurt themselves.

Speaking about the analysis of the character it is important to stress that Sigmund Freud tried to involve this image into his theory in order to illustrate the meaning of the creature in modern world. According to his statements:

The terror of Medusa is thus a terror of castration that is linked to the sight of something.”

He considered that the fact of depicting Medusa in the works of literature and art in the snake form can be explained by its derivation from a castration complex. Freud stated that despite the frightening image of the character it could serve as the horror mitigation; he considered that the absence of penis is the only cause of the fear and horror that is why snakes are used in order to replace it. Sigmund Freud stuck to the point that this was a technical rule confirmation according to which penis symbols multiplication signified castration. (Levi, 2003)

The image of Medusa became the element of the Freud’s theory and human study. He stated that the snake of Gorgon was considered to be the male phallic symbol; nevertheless he managed to fail in his considerations that the woman was fantasized with a penis similar to the male one. Despite all his mistakes the conclusion as to the technical rule was generally recognized and perceived in the world of science.

The image of Medusa was also examined in Christian culture. The symbolism of this character represented the death and the dreaded enemy becoming the depiction of the Devil. The books and works of art related to the Christian culture reflected the character of Medusa as the personified image of the Sin and Death. The culture represents this mythological image as the reflection of negativity.

Having the function of the evil and horror in the Greek mythology Gorgon still continued to fulfill it in modern literature and art. The theory of Sigmund Freud regards the characteristics of Medusa as the part of the psychological study of human being. Despite all the confusions caused by his theory the Freud’s conclusions as to the creature’s nature were perceived in the mythology and modern science. (Brunel, 2000).

Thus, to sum up the purpose and the meaning of the Medusa character in the ancient mythology and modern art and literature it should be noted that this creature had negative nature. She was considered to be the embodiment of the Horror and the Evil; the death and the sin were the basic elements of the Gorgon’s characteristics. Nevertheless this image left a print not only in the myths but also in the world of theoretical science due to the theories of Sigmund Freud. The presentation of Medusa as the illustration of the female biological nature allowed to evaluate Freud’s flow of thoughts and considerations as to the function of the mythological character. The technical rule analysis managed to show the meaning of the Freud’s theory and characteristics of Medusa. So, it should be pointed out that Medusa was the great character of the Ancient mythology and remains to be the significant image in the world of modern literature and art.


Brunel, Pierre. Medusa in Myth and Literary History. Classical Publishing Inc. 2000.

Medusa. 2002. Web.

Levi, Iakov. Medusa, The Female Genital and the Nazis. NY: 2003.

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