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Facts About the Greek Mythical Creatures Called Gorgons

Shruti Bhat Mar 19, 2020
Greek mythology is filled with stories of mythical creatures who were an integral part of the ancient Greek religion. Gorgons are among such mythical creatures who played an important role in Greek mythology.
To Phorcys Ceto bore the fair-cheeked Graiae...
then the Gorgons, who dwell beyond glorious Okeanos,
at earth's end, toward night, by the clear-voiced Hesperides,
Stheno, Euryale, and ill-fated Medusa
who was mortal; the other two were ageless and immortal.

- Hesiod, a poet
Gorgons were Greek mythical creatures who were notoriously known for their grotesque and hideous appearance. Their sight could turn anyone who looked at them into stone. They were said to reside in the far west of the ocean and they guarded the entrance to the underworld.
Gorgons were so monstrous and dreadful in appearance that it gave them their name, which meant dreadful or terrible.


Medusa (ruler of queens) was the oldest of the Gorgon sisters, followed by Stheno (mighty or strong), and Euryale (wide-leaping or wide sea). They were three daughters of the sea god Phorcys, and his sister and wife Ceto, who was a sea monster. Together the Gorgon sisters were also known as Phorcydes or Phorcides.
Gorgons had three older sisters known as the Graeae. They are described as three old women who shared an eye and a tooth. The Graeae (Enyo, Pemphredo, and Deino) guarded the gateway to their sisters' home.
Some have mentioned Stheno as a woman with a thin stature with red snakes for her hair. After her transformation, she slaughtered several men. Legends say that she might have killed more men than those killed by both her sisters.
Euryale, the youngest of the three Gorgon sisters, was known for her bellowing cry, which is mentioned in the tales about Medusa's beheading by Perseus. Unlike her sisters, Medusa was born a mortal.


Gorgons were said to be both beautiful and hideous at the same time. Their presence commanded attention, while their physical appearance turned the onlookers into stone.
Many have described Gorgons as having human heads with boar-like protruding tusks and beards, not to mention sharp claws and teeth, and a protruding tongue. Their bodies were covered with scales and had a long tail. They had huge wings to fly and a whole head of snakes instead of hair.


Many believe that Gaia (mother of Phorcys and Ceto) was Medusa's mother. Whereas, others believe that she was the oldest daughter of the two sea monsters Phorcys and Ceto.
Other versions of the myth describe Medusa as beautiful beyond comparison. A certain story says that Medusa was a priestess at the temple of Athena and was devoted to a life to celibacy. Her enigmatic beauty captivated Poseidon who raped her. Enraged by her disloyalty, Athena transformed Medusa and her sisters into hideous creatures.
Perseus killed Medusa by looking at her reflection on his shield, which kept him from turning into a stone. He cut off her head and gave it to Athena. On decapitating Medusa, Pegasus and Chrysaor, the sons of Medusa and Poseidon, emerged from her severed head.
It is believed that as Perseus flew away with Medusa's severed head, the blood that dropped from the wound produced the venomous snakes that spread throughout Africa. Some stories mention that after Perseus killed Medusa, the two sisters Stheno and Euryale tried to find and kill Perseus, but failed due to the Hades' cap of invisibility that Perseus wore.
Even after Medusa's decapitation, her head could petrify anyone who saw it. Hence, Athena placed the head in the center of her Aegis, the protective shield.

Literary Mentions

Euripides speaks of the Gorgons as being dreadful monsters.

Homer mentions only one of the three Gorgons in the Odyssey, and again in Iliad, he speaks of Medusa's head being placed by Athena on her shield.
Hesiod mentions all the three sisters in his Theogony, where he describes their parents and other siblings. The word ill-fated, that he has used to describe Medusa, hints towards his sympathy for her.
The stories of Gorgons could be true or just myths. But they can be interpreted in different ways. Medusa's story tells us how one's past influences his future life, and how breaking a promise or being disloyal to oneself can change one's life completely.
Who would have imagined anything turning the beautiful Medusa into a monster? The way Medusa was killed can be taken as an example of how avoiding evil can lead to victory.