Greek Myth - Perseus / Argive Plain

  1. Divine Line of Perseus
    **not that important except to know that he is from a divine line

    All the way back to Io (mythological time - Hera turned her into a cow, guarded by Argo, then wanders --> give birth to son of Zeus (Ephaphys) whose Daughter (lybia) sleeps with poseidon --> twins Belus and Agenor, (europa and cadmus) hate each other. Belus has Danaus (50 daughters) and Aegyptus (50 sons).

    Danaus flees to Argos, daughter Amymone searching for water, satyr tries to rape, saved by poseidon (hurls trident into a rock), then raped by him. When pulls trident out --> water. --> Swamps of Lerna (dump the 49 heads of husbands). Only two left (Hypermnestra and Lynceus) have son Abas (unimpt.) who has hostile twins Acrisius and Proteus. Acrisius king of Argos, Proteus king of tiryns (close). --> Acrisius is the grandfather of Perseus
  2. Birth / Childhood of Perseus
    Acrisius (king of Argos) hears oracle that his grandson will murder him. Locks his daughter Danae inside bronze walls, Zeus impregnates her as a golden shower. Perseus born, eventually Acrisius finds out --> put him and Danae in a box, send them out to sea, caught by kings son Dictys (fisherman) on the island of Seriphos - he grows up there.
  3. "the girls tragedy"
    • - prohibition (cant get pregnant)
    • - seclusion (in bronze walls)
    • - violation of prohibition (Zeus impregnates her)
    • - threat of death (box at sea)
    • - liberation (Dictys on Seriphos)
  4. Perseus - leading up to the quest
    - threat to a member of the family: King Polydectes (brother of Dictys) likes Danae but wont confront while Perseus is around. --> Asks everyone for a horse as a wedding present (other woman, ploy), Perseus brags that he could get him the Gorgons head (doesnt have horse). So Poly. makes him go get it

    Must prove that he is a hero, cannot not accept
  5. What is the object of Perseus' quest
    • must bring back the gorgons head
    • 3 gorgons – only one mortal – Medusa, head writhing w. snakes, boar tusks from mouth – terrifying. If you look her straight in the face --> turned to stone. They dwell far far away. Many have tried, not successfu. Live far far away - hyperborea
  6. Perseus: Magical Aids, from whom?
    2 gods come to help - Athena, Hermes (more surprising)

    • Athena gives him (actually tells him where to find the Graeae, who tell him how to find the nymphs who give him these things)
    • - the cap of darkness - belongs to Hades, makes you invisible
    • - winged sandals
    • - kibisis - wallet to carry head so he doesnt look at it
    • * she also tells him how to find the 3 Graeae
    • Hermes - scimitar (curved sword)
  7. Myth from the 3 Graeae to the slaying
    3 Graeae: very old women; only have one eye and one tooth between them, only ones who know where the nymps are - only ones who know where the gorgons are (actually their sisters). he takes their eye and tooth to get info from them, then throw eye, tooth in the lake.

    Go to nymphs and then finally to the gorgon's cave (fly over river Ocean). Uses shield as a reflector, cuts off the medusa's head as they are sleeping, gets away because he is invisible. *motif of temporary setback missing*

    Medusa was pregnant by Poseidon --> Pegasus (flying horse) jumps out of her neck)
  8. 1st ending version of Perseus': simple return
    arrives home with the Gorgon's head just in time; Polydectes is about to rape Danae (cowering in corner). Poly says prove that you've accomplished it --> Perseus shows him the head, turns him to stone
  9. Second ending version of Perseus: travels
    Goes to see the world. Flies over Ethiopia - ruled by Cepheus, Cassiopia, and beautiful daughter Andromeda. Cass. brags that her daughter is more beautiful than the nereids, so poseidon floods the city and sends sea monster. They must sacrifice their daughter to pay --> chained to a rock to be eaten by a sea serpent. Perseus goes to Cepheus and says I will save your daughter, but then i want to marry her (even though already engaged to uncle Phineus). he saves her, then they hold a banquet and Phineus tries to attack with his men, but Perseus turns him to stone.

    Perseus becomes the new king of Ethiopia, marries Andromeda and they have a son Perses

    • Finally goes back to Argos w/ Andromeda
    • Flying back - blood of Gorgon dripping on desert --> scorpions, vipers, over sea, puts seaweed to clean --> coral
  10. Perseus: the Death of Acrisious
    Goes back to Argos with Andromeda (famous by this time). Acrisius (grandpa) fells b/c heard that Perseus would kill him, but Perseus goes to find him. They are playing games (discus). P. throws the discus, kills grandpa by accident --> polluted

    Goes to king of Tiryns (Megapenthes) and says lets switch kingdoms. Perseus becomes king of Tiryns and then founds Mycenae and becomes its king.

    Happily ever after --> he and Andromeda become stars; not true immortality, but still good.
  11. Perspective 13.1: Vasari's Perseus and Andromeda
    • - Georgio Vasari - best known for his history of Italian Art Lives of the Best Italian Architects, Painters, and Sculptors - gives an idea about how people through about art in Italy at this time
    • - Painted Perseus freeing Andromeda from the rock - part of larger project to adapt large Palazzo Vecchio in Florence to living quarters for Medici family
    • - justified the mythical theme saying that even though they are fake gods, they hide allegorically the concepts of philosophy - division of the world into 4 elements
    • - followed the dangerous practice of using live nude models (start with bones, then muscles, then flesh
    • - same with Antonia Pollaiuolo - dissected bodies to understand them.
  12. Perspective 13.2 : Classical Myth and the Stars
    • - many figures from the myth of Perseus become constellations (Perseus, Andromeda, Cassiopea, Cepheus, and Ceto) - he is the only Greek hero to fly through the heavens
    • - the Greeks needed to use the heavens more than we do - for time, seasons, directions, so they organize into bodies (give mythological names) - myths provide a mythological framework for combining stars into groupings so they could be examined systematically
    • - on earth looks like stars are fixed in positions --> ancient astronomers thought they were fastened to the inside of a great sphere that revolved around earth. But some (7 planets, sun, moon) dont --> "wanderers" - pass along a group of 12 constellations (Greek "animal show) irrationally
    • - greek gods are associated with planets - belief that careful study (astrology) will reveal profound laws about the influence of the planets, who are gods. Science of the stars in their true nature/ astronomy - study of their positions
    • - Durers map based on Arabic celestial map --> translated into Greco-roman mythical forms. Some connections far-fetched (Aires - ram of golden fleece, gemini- twins are castor and pollux, Leo - nemean lion of Heracles' first labour, cancer is the crab that snapped at his ankles as he fought the hydra) Others are more obscure - Capricorn (goat horned) - Amalthea - goat who nursed infant Zeus - raised to heavens as reward)
    • - slow change of the planets positions against zodiac gives rise to the notion of ages (birth of christ -> sun from aries to pisces - symbol of fish)
  13. Observations: Perseus and Folktale
    - Danae and Perseus is closest to folktale...see "girls tragedy"
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Greek Myth - Perseus / Argive Plain
Myths of Perseus and the Argive Plain